Travel Trailers with Generators: Who Makes the Best?
We have some helpful tips.
Typically, when you buy a travel trailer, it’s not going to have an on-board generator already installed. You’ll probably need to add one. First, you’ll need to examine your power requirements.
You may or may not have a huge demand for electrical usage while traveling in your trailer — a microwave, perhaps, and your laptop or other essential devices.
Check out the handy wattage chart near the bottom of this post. It should help clarify your needs for the best camping generator you can find. Click here to see it.
In this post, we line out three front-runners for your money when purchasing a travel trailer generator.
So, before you head off into the back of beyond, check out the best generator for camping, below.
The Top 3:
WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
This amazingly small generator is perfect for your travel trailer — small enough to fit easily in a storage compartment yet powerful enough to supply electricity to a host of appliances and devices.
This generator runs at a super-quiet 51 decibels (about as much noise as a room air conditioner), when it’s at 1/4 load.
(A quick word about this parameter — the generator will either get louder or softer automatically depending on the number of items you are asking it to power (i.e., its “load”.) This will in turn affect how loud or soft it is.)
Here are a few other benefits for those seeking to equip their travel trailers with generators.
You can maximize fuel economy by engaging something called the Eco-Mode, allowing the generator’s motor to automatically adjust its fuel consumption.
This generator weighs in at a mere 48 pounds with a convenient carrying handle to maximize portability.
With 2000 watts of starting power and 1800 watts of running power, you’ll be able to run most everything in your trailer — just not all at once. (Scroll down to see a chart detailing the wattage typically pulled by any device.)
Overall, this gets our vote as best 2000 watt generator on the market today.
Things we like about this unit:
- It’s very compact, weighing in at only 48 pounds — light enough to slide easily out of a storage compartment.
- It has 2 three-pronged AC outlets available and a USB port — increasingly necessary in our wired world.
- Usually found at under $600, it is among the most affordable options for travel trailer owners on a tight budget.
Things we found less than perfect:
- Again, it will only power a limited number of items at one time. To run more items, or to power, say, an air conditioning unit. buy either two of these units to run in tandem or a larger, more expensive unit to begin with.
- Some customers report that it’s a little louder than they expected. Remember that when you add extra items to be powered — such as a toaster or microwave — the noise level will rise.
- It only runs 6 hours at half-load.
Overall rating: 5 stars
Briggs & Stratton 30651 P2200 PowerSmart Series Portable 2200-Watt Inverter Generator
Here’s a similarly priced unit that consistently pulled high marks from customers seeking the best RV generator.
At 2200 watts, it’s a bit more powerful than the WEN profiled above, and about the same price most of the time.
However, at 59 decibels, it’s significantly louder than the WEN. But, for the tradeoff of being able to power more stuff, it might be an acceptable shortcoming.
Like other units on this page, it’s capable of powering your microwave as well as your much more sensitive laptop or other electronics (there are 2 AC outlets, a single DC outlet and a lone USB port.)
Here are a few of its other benefits:
Longer run time — This unit can run 8 hours at 1/4 load — a little longer than the WEN, which boasts 6 hours at one-half load.
Added starting power — at 2200 watts, it will quickly power up most of the items you might have brought along on your travel trailer adventure.
Things we like about this unit:
- It’s very compact and will easily stow away either in a storage bin or bungeed to a fixed object inside your travel trailer during transport.
- It’s made by Briggs & Stratton , a fiercely proud American company, in business since 1908.
- Its price, which usually comes in at several hundred dollars cheaper than other comparable units, is a relative bargain considering you’d really need to buy two of the other units on this page to power more items than this one can handle all by itself..
- With its 2200 watts of starting power, it will run your air conditioner when most others in its class won’t without extra help.
- All in all, this may be one of the most appropriate choices for those in search of travel trailers with generators.
Things we found less than perfect:
- As noted above, at 59 decibels, the unit is a bit louder than other units. But if you’re running it mainly during daylight hours and shut it off during “quiet hours” in campgrounds, it makes little difference.
- It’s a bit heavier than others in its class, weighing in at a hefty 55 pounds. Might require two people to muscle it outside if you’ve transported it inside your trailer.
Overall rating: 4.9 stars
Yamaha EF2000iSv2, Gas Powered Portable Inverter
Another highly compact unit, not much bigger than a small suitcase. Yet it is able to accommodate many of your travel trailer needs with ease.
At 51.5 decibels, it’s a tad louder than the Wen unit, but remember that every extra decibel added makes the noise output exponentially louder – though in this case, still not very noisy.
On the plus side, it weighs in at only 45 pounds — a little lighter than the WEN. But still easy to carry and manipulate.
A few other benefits:
The unit varies its engine speed based on load – improving fuel economy and reducing noise.
Using an automatic sensing mechanism that matches engine speed to load, it will run up to 10.5 hours at ¼ rated load on a single tank of gas.
Things we like about this unit:
- This new edition of the EF2000iSv2 powers many more items than its predecessor.
- As noted above, it runs far longer than many others. Again, you should be able to run it for up to 10 and a half hours at a time.
- Excessive oil consumption was a complaint voiced occasionally by customers. This is not a deal-breaker, though, as the number of five-star reviews far outweigh lesser ratings.
- The price seems to run higher than others in its class. At nearly $1,000 when checked recently, it would seem to be at a sizable disadvantage to others that are comparable in features at a lower price. Not ideal for those in search of the best deal in travel trailers with generators.
NOTE: Overall, this unit gets our vote as best generator for camping trailer.
Our Overall rating: 4.8 stars
Will these units power my microwave, laptop and other devices?
In a word – yes. Generally, any unit with starting output of 1800 watts will do that job nicely. Just need to perhaps stagger the times at which you plug them into the unit.
And remember to keep an eye on the wattage use chart below.
Will they power my air conditioner?
In a word — no. Not unless you hook them up in tandem with another unit — or buy a unit that puts out at least 3,000 starting watts.
|Refrigerator or Freezer (Energy Star)||1200||192|
|Furnace Fan, gas or fuel oil||500||300|
|Dishwasher (Cool Dry)||540||216|
|Electric Range (8-inch element)||2100||2100|
|Clothes Dryer (Electric)||6750||5400|
|Air Conditioner (10,000 BTU)||2200||1500|
|Monitor (LCD style)||30||30|
|Hot Water Heater||4500||4500|
|Garage Door Opener||1420||720|
Estimate calculator courtesy Honda Power Equipment
How quiet is “quiet”?
For the most part, this means extremely quiet. Your neighbors in the next camping spot will thank you for not keeping them awake at night or spoiling the outdoor ambiance around a campfire.
(Of course, you might ideally want to put your unit at least 20 feet away from these kinds of outdoor gatherings to reduce any need to talk louder to your friends.)
And after all — you came camping to get away from noise, right?
To add perspective, here’s a handy chart — all numbers represent decibels:
- 10 Totally Quiet Soundproof room, Threshold of hearing
- 20 Very Faint Whisper, Ticking of a watch
- 30 Faint Quiet conversation
- 40 Faint Residential area without vehicle traffic
- 50 Moderate Normal office noise or the whir of a laptop computer
- 60 Moderate Normal conversation
- 70 Loud Normal street noise, Average radio, Vacuum Cleaner
- 80 Loud Car noise @ high speed, Police whistle
- 90 Very Loud, Symphony, Truck without muffler, mower
- 100 Very Loud, Home lawn mower, car horn @ 16 ft.
- 110 Extremely Loud, Close to a train, Chain Saw
- 120 Extremely Loud, Thunder, Diesel engine room, Car Horn at 3 feet
- 130 Deafening, Threshold of pain, Causes immediate ear damage
- 140 Deafening, Jet aircraft, Artillery fire
Key considerations regarding travel trailers with generators.
What if power goes out in my house? Can I use this generator there?
If your expectations are relatively minimal — like keeping the lights on — these units will work. Again, check the wattage requirement chart above to see (a) how many watts it takes to start an item and (b) how many it takes to keep it running.
By doing the math, you’ll quickly see that if you want to power your whole house, you’ll need a bigger (probably less portable) generator.
We’ve only listed super-quiet portable units on our list, because if you’re going camping, that’s what you and your neighbors will expect.
As a rule of thumb, any generator putting out around 51 to 52 decibels will do the minimum required in a snow, ice or windstorm if your home’s power goes out.
But if you want to also run the big appliances — like the electric range or the hot water heater — get a second unit or a bigger, less portable generator. These run in the 58-59 decibel range.
Here’s a great option for both camping and home backup
At a whopping 3100 watts, and a fairly subdued 58 decibels,this unit will work beautifully both home and afar. It also has a remote start.
In fact, if space is not a huge consideration, you might look seriously into buying it instead, even though it wasn’t specifically designed for travel trailers with generators.
This power-packed generator may indeed be all you need.
A few practical tips on tying into your breaker box
And just in case you need the knowledge…
An article on Instructables.com outlines your options:
“Automatic transfer switches will sense a power loss, start your standby generator and automatically move your load to the generator. These are awesome – but very expensive and require a full time dedicated standby generator.
“Manual transfer sub panel switches are a good option. They are less expensive than the automatic transfer switches (Starting around $300) and can be used with a portable generator. They typically only cover a few breakers which was problematic for me.
“Breaker Interlock is the option I chose. It is National Electric Code compliant and is in my opinion the least expensive and most flexible option.
“My setup cost was just under $150. In this setup you use a breaker to energize your existing breaker box. Switching it on is easy and safe.
“My wife did an unassisted dry run in under 5 min – which included getting the generator out of the building.”
And, finally, unless you’re a pretty good Do It Yourself handyman, you probably should hire an electrician to prep you for the possibility of having to power your home with a portable generator.
Need a WiFi connection while camping?
Speaking of laptops and tablets — and cell phones — how can you get a WiFi signal while camping? Take a look at this post on the three top solutions.
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We appreciate you stopping by and hope our insights have proven helpful. If you have had a good experience with one of these units — or another generator — feel free to send us a note.