Travel Trailers with Generators: Who Makes the Best?

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What generator do I need for my travel trailer?

You have come to this site — perhaps after visiting many others — seeking answers, not a sales pitch.

We hear you. We’ll share with you what we know from interviews with other travel trailer owners around the world, and from information found in countless RV blogs.

We’ll tell you what perhaps the other sites won’t. That in purchasing anything from a ten-foot popup camper to a deluxe fifth wheel rig, you have likely gone beyond the power needs of tailgaters and tent campers.

What’s the difference?

Well, you still like to sit around a campfire, maybe even every evening. That hasn’t changed. But you also like to be able to go inside after dark and take a hot shower. Or grab a cold beer from the fridge. Or power up your laptop and surf the web. Or pop some corn in the microwave and watch a DVD.

And you would like to do this without worrying about whether your generator will stop working under the added load.

In short, you want a generator that will supply the kind of raw power required to run a rooftop 13.5K air conditioner — but won’t fry your smartphone while it’s charging.

Here’s a video that explains the difference and also speaks to the next question about size.

 

Calculate your own power needs

The video explains very well how to calculate your — or your family’s — power needs while you’re out there in the back of beyond.

To help with that, though, here’s a list of appliances and devices usually found in travel trailers. Put together your own list — and don’t forget to multiply your running wattage by 3 to find out how much wattage will be drawn from the generator when each device or appliance starts up.

How portable should it be?

We’ll be honest again. For you and your needs, portability should not really be high on your list of concerns. The power requirements of a travel trailer packed with energy-hungry devices should be. Portability? That’s what wheels are for. Or better yet, strap your new generator down in the back of your pickup — or on a specially attached cage on the rear of your trailer, and settle in.

But wait. What generator should I buy?

Here’s our recommendation for best overall value in a travel trailer inverter generator. It’s the Champion 3100-Watt RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator with Wireless Remote Start.

It has a phenomenal Amazon rating and features you may find extremely useful, such as a remote start and long run time (8 hours) on a single tank of gas.

And it’s quiet — a normal  conversation would be its equivalent most of the time at 58 dB. About the same as the Honda listed below, and a whooole lot cheaper.

Finally, it has more than 250 five star reviews and an unheard-of 86% approval rating overall. If you’re looking for your first — and only — travel trailer generator, this could be it.

Again, not trying to convince you one way or another, Well, maybe we are, But you did stop by looking for recommendations,

Here are a few more of its many features:

  • Wireless Remote Start – Included key fob allows you to start and stop your generator from up to 80 feet away
  • Convenient electric start with 3-position ignition switch
  • Battery included, plus quick touch panel allows you to access all your controls in one spot
  • Frequency: 60 Hz. clean power for sensitive electronics 
  • RV ready with a 120V 30A RV, plus two 120V 20A household outlets with clean electricity (less than 3% THD) and 12V DC outlet with dual USB adapter
  • Ultra-Quiet Operation – 58 dBA is just right for travel trailers and RVs, especially in campgrounds where being a quiet neighbor is important.

Is it perfect?

Will it run absolutely everything in your travel trailer all at once? Almost. Some appliances would need to be turned off before starting another.

But for the money and the ROI, we think it’s worth looking into as a primary power source when you’re off the grid.

To find a solution that will power absolutely everything at the same time, keep scrolling. But if you also want it to be relatively quiet, and relatively inexpensive, you’ll find yourself coming right back here.

The only downside.

It’s not what anyone could call “portable”. At a hefty 96 pounds, it may require two people to lift. But its rear wheels and sturdy handle do make it transportable when you get it onto the ground.

Many travel trailer owners solve the weight issue simply by locking it in place in the bed of their pickup — or on a  cargo carrier that mounts to the rear chassis of the trailer. (Click here to see photos). Just be sure to secure the generator safely for transport with rubber straps, and heavy duty bike lock chains to prevent theft.

See this generator on Amazon here.

 A few more recommendations

 

Take a look at the Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator with Electric Start.

At 3400 starting watts, and 3100 running watts, it will keep you cool by starting and running your 13,500 BTU rooftop air conditioner — or even your top of the line 15,000 BTU AC — and still supply enough power for just about everything else.

It also has dual fuel capacity — gasoline or propane — extending the running life on any day or night.

Plenty of other features, but we’ll just mention a few:

  • Has a low oil shut-off sensor
  • Electric start with 3-position ignition switch
  • Noise level :59 dBA at 23 feet. 
  • Up to 7.5 hours run time on gasoline
  • RV Ready with a 120V 30A RV port, plus two 120V 20A household outlets and 12V DC outlet with dual USB adapter

Find it on Amazon here.

For those with plenty of disposable income…

The decision on which 3000 watt generator to recommend  for well-heeled campers is easy. If you have plenty of money left over after buying your travel trailer, by all means get a Honda Power Equipment EU3000IH1A (why do they have all those numbers and letters in the name?)

They’re only a couple of thousand dollars. But even we have to admit they’re probably worth it. Among other things, they are very quiet. No less than 57 dB (about as noisy as a conversation) and no more than 65 dB (approaching the level of street noise or perhaps a radio).

And they can run, uninterrupted, for 7.5 hours straight without a refill on a single tank. Just about enough to last all night.

And how much do they weigh?

Oops, you’ve got us there. It’s a hefty 88 pounds. But it does come with wheels. Little tiny ones. See them in the picture?

But we said we weren’t going to try to sell you anything. So…

Here’s the short list of other features:

  • Starts up recreational vehicle air conditioning units up to 13,500 BTUs
  • Exceptionally portable, sporting 2 handles and wheels, the EU3000i Handi can be rolled to your destination, plus loaded and unloaded very easily by 1 or 2 people

See this generator on Amazon here.

6500 Watt Generators: Our kick-ass recommendation

The Briggs & Stratton 30675A Q6500 Inverter Generator – 6500 Starting Watts QuietPower Series Portable Generator. 

This big boy is probably overkill for a camping trailer, but will certainly provide an abundance of power at a reasonable cost.

Primarily designed for use as a backup home generator, it can also run almost 14 hours on a single tank of gas and, even though powerful enough to run everything in your home during a power outage, is nevertheless quite safe for sensitive electronics as well.

Is it quiet? Well, at 66 dB at 1/4 load, that equates it with, according to the chart below, a bit more than a casual conversation and more towards the sound of a vacuum cleaner. So, is it quiet? We’d have to say no. Will it power everything you could possibly turn on and leave running? Oh, yeah.

Just don’t fire it up in a campground.

Find it here.

Wait. We’re not done.

We know we said the 2200 watt inverter generators don’t pack enough juice for serious travel trailer consideration, but…

If you hook two of em together, you get a whopping 4400 watts of clean, usable power — for everything from your 15,000 BTU air conditioner to your microwave to your DirectV receiver, All at the same time.

Are they powerful? Yep. Are they quiet? Not when they’re run in tandem, which is what we are suggesting. But if you’re way off grid, in the back of beyond, who cares? Fire them both up, have a chilled glass of wine under the stars and relax, knowing you’ll be able to sleep in fully air conditioned comfort all night.

Sweet dreams!

A final word about power requirements

Even at 3000 – 3400 watts, it would still be a good idea to know how many watts — generally — each of the most common electrical items in a travel trailer consumes. Here y’go!

Use this chart as a general rule of thumb.

And,here’s an informative chart about noise

Do I need to know anything else?

Yes, here are a few things, since we still have room on this page. Just in case you’re dead set on just making do with one of the 2200 watt inverters…

.

Remember the starting surge

As you’re totaling up your own list of appliances and devices, don’t forget to add a column for starting wattage, which will generally be about 2.5 to 3X as much as running wattage.

In other words, take your appliance’s running wattage and multiply it times two and a half or three to see how much power each item will attempt to draw from your generator in the first few seconds it’s starting. (We’re suggesting a range just to be sure — you won’t know for sure what your device draws upon starting or running unless you buy an inexpensive electricity monitor, which we recommend.

Here’s an example

So, if you’re turning on your refrigerator/freezer for the first time, you would take its running wattage — average 800 watts — and multiply it by 2.5 to 3 = which means it will try to draw between 2000 and 2400 watts of power when you plug it in.

Your generator had better be at least that powerful or it will shut down. Will a 2200 watt inverter generator handle it? Many forum participants have said it will.

But you’d best not have anything else plugged in when you start your refrigerator. Or microwave. Or coffee maker.

Watch your running wattage as well

And be careful what devices or appliances you try to start and run while these big energy users are running. By doing the math, and not exceeding your maximum running wattage you can get by with a 2200 watt generator, such as the three we noted earlier.

Do we recommend a 2200 watt generator as your sole source of energy? No. Because pretty soon, you will get tired of always having to do the mental math necessary to keep from overloading your little unit.

However…

We will say that a good alternative to buying one of the higher wattage units we recommend below, is the acquisition of two 2200 watt — or even 2000 watt generators. Then, link them together for double the energy supply.

That way, we suppose, if you want to separate them some night and just have one unit powering your laptop or portable TV out under the awning, or providing quiet music by the firepit, or whatever, you would have that option available.

The three units we reference above have cables and kits you can purchase to make parallel linking possible.

Let’s see. What other questions?

Ah. How best to hook your generator(s) up to your camping trailer or travel trailer.

Your trailer, if new, should have come with a thick power cord, probably about 20 feet long, with 30 amp connectors on each end (one male, the other female). If you don’t have one, here’s an inexpensive one on Amazon.

Simply position your generator(s) at least 15 feet away (the full 20 feet is better), or leave them mounted in the basket or in your pickup bed. On the Champion, there is a built-in receptacle for a 30 amp cord. On the 2200s, which just have 110 AC plugs, you’ll need this “dogbone” adapter. And if you don’t know what a “dogbone” is in RV parlance, watch this homemade video. It explains stepdowns and stepups pretty well — situations you may encounter in RV parks or elsewhere.

A short, practical lesson in power capacity

Bear with us as we try to sum up and simplify the practical application of a 4000 watt — or 4400 watt — output. This should give you some idea of the real benefits of a much larger power output. Sorry if it feels like high school algebra.

With 4000 starting watts and 3500 running watts (37.7 amps starting and 33.4 amps running) you can easily start and run a 13,500 BTU air conditioner (expending 1250 watts or 14 amps) and leave quite a bit of capacity left (2250 watts/19.4 amps) to start and run a number of other devices/appliances:

So, after firing up the AC, feel free to start the coffee and then, when it’s all brewed, heat up your sausage biscuit,

Coffee Maker (4 cup – 10 cup)      650-1200 watts  5.7-10.4 amps
Microwave  (on high power)    1100-2000 watts 9.6-17.4 amps

Even with 4000 watts, though, best wait til you’re done with the coffeemaker and microwave before starting to heat water for your shower.

ElectricWaterHeater (6 gallons) 1440 watts 12.5 amps

Anything else?

That leaves 810 watts/6.9 amps capacity left while the water’s heating up. You can cruise the Internet, listen to a CD or watch a DVD, charge your cell phone, shave, and even throw something in the crockpot for dinner.

Laptop 50-75 watts 0.4-0.7 amps
CD/DVD Player 35-100 watts 0.3-0.9 amps
TV – 25″ Color 300 watts 2.6 amps
Cell Phones 2-6 watts 0.1 amps
Shaver 35 watts 0.3 amps
Crockpot 250 watts 2.2 amps

See how it works?

That’s the advantage of more — rather than less — generator output. If you can remember the example above and then just glance at the power chart from time to time for awhile, you’ll quickly get a feel for what you can safely run at the same time.

2200 Watt Generators: Option 1

We know this is probably not a brand name you recognize. But in terms of dependability , power, and cost, it’s the one we feel you should consider first.

It’s the highly rated Generac 7117 GP2200i 2200 Watt Portable Inverter Generator.

Delivering a solid 2200 watts starting power and 1700 watts running, it has a number of benefits that consistently earn high marks at Amazon — and with other travel trailer owners.

It’s very portable, coming in at a mere 46 pounds. You’ll be able to stow it — along with its twin — easily either in your trailer or in your carry vehicle.

And it will even start and run a 13,500 BTU roof-mounted air conditioner all by itself, if there are no other major appliances running at the time.

Because there may be times when you must be a good neighbor and not rattle any windows with the sound created by both units hooked together.

Finally, it’s at the lower end of the costs spectrum, retailing for only about $550 when last we checked.

Here are a few special features:

  • Quiet, Compact, Easy to use.
  • Starting watts: 2200
  • Running watts: 1700,

In addition:

You can feel free to power up a host of other devices even when the AC unit is running if you’re in solo generator mode. This could include:

  • Blender
  • Cell phone charger
  • Can opener
  • CD/DVD Player
  • Laptop
  • Tablet
  • Printer
  • Crockpot
  • Satellite Dish & Receiver
  • TV – 25″ Color
  • Refrigerator/Freezer (turn off the AC for a moment while the fridge starts,

Bottom line

We give the Generac the top spot over any other 2200 watt unit simply because it’s the most complete package. Power. Quiet. Inexpensive. And, again, if you want, you can buy two of them for a total power output of 4400 watts for only about $1,000.

Click here to visit its Amazon page


2200 Watt Generators: Option 2

It’s a petite, though expensive, generator that we have named to the No. 2 position among our recommended 2200 watt generators.

The Honda EU2200i Super Quiet Inverter Generator has an unheard of Amazon rating of 4.9 stars over about 100 reviews.

In fact, if it weren’t double the price of both our No. 1 and No. 3 2200 watt Picks, we would have given it our unqualified blessing as No. 1 among the 2200 watt class of portable generators.

Of the 100 or so reviews currently posted on Amazon about this generator, 85 are raving 5-stars. And the only 2 negative reviews we found were extremely vague about their specific complaint.

One customer says it’s the “best generator ever,” adding that it powers his 13,500 BTU air conditioner “with no problem.”

Another ups that by declaring that he hooked his Honda 2200 watt generator up to his Grand Design Fifth Wheel camper that has a 15,000 BTU roof air conditioner, and says it powered the AC plus all his lights.

And, a third says he powers his 23-foot RV with the generator. “They’re the best, no question. Worth the price.”

We must admit that it seems to have a lot going for it.

Weighs about 47 pounds, and operates at 48 to 57 dBA, which is less noise than a normal conversation.

This unit will run from 4 to 9 hours on a single tank of gas — depending on the load — and can be bungeed inside the travel trailer for safe transport to your campsite.

It has all of the features and benefits of the Briggs & Stratton and Generac generators, but is a bit quieter and weighs just a pound more than the Generac

Bottom line

Do you get a good ROI on such a large investment? Yes, we believe you do. These generators are well-designed, well-built and will probably last as long as you own your travel traIler.

Click here to see it on Amazon

 

2200 Watt Generators: Option 3

It’s the 2200 watt Briggs & Stratton 30651 P2200 PowerSmart Series Portable 2200-Watt Inverter Generator. 

It’s very portable, riding easily somewhere in your travel trailer at only 55 pounds.

It’s also at the lower end of costs for a highly rated, Made In America portable generator. Cost? Only about $550.

Here are a few special features:

At the flip of a switch, something called Quiet Power Technology will automatically adjust engine speed to reduce noise, save fuel and run longer. At just 59 decibels at 25% load, this inverter generator is very quiet.

In addition:

This little workhorse runs 8 long hours at 25% load, allowing it to run uninterrupted all night. It has two 120 volt AC outlets, in addition to a USB adapter and a 12 volt, 5 amp DC outlet, in case your car battery needs a jump.

Another very important feature is its parallel port,which makes it possible to hook this generator up with a second unit, effectively doubling your power output to a robust 4400 watts, and eliminating the need to count every amp and running watt. But you already knew that.

The bottom line: 

 

You can feel free to run all your minor appliances and devices while one major appliance is running on this generator, whether it is keeping you cool, or keeping you warm, or heating water for an indulgent, long shower.

Click here to visit its Amazon page   

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Still wondering what an inverter is? Watch this video.

A final note

There are other portable generators out there which we looked at carefully, but elected not to recommend due to:

    • High price relative to power output
    • High noise levels
    • Mid to low Amazon ratings and complaints

Power output chart for travel trailers

Appliance Running Watts Amps @ 115V
Air Conditioner – Roof Top
–7,000 BTU 600 8
–10,000 BTU 700 10
–13,500 BTU 1250 14
–15,000 BTU 1500 14.5
Blender 300 2.6
Blow Dryer (Hair) 900-1500 7.8-13
Cell Phones 2-6 0.1
Can Opener 120-300 1.0-2.6
CD/DVD Player 35-100 0.3-0.9
Clock Radio 50 0.4
Coffee Maker (4 cup – 10 cup) 650-1200 5.7-10.4
Corn Popper 275-600 2.4-5.2
Computer/Monitor 100-400 0.9-3.5
Laptop 50-75 0.4-0.7
Tablet 2-6 0.1
Printer 60-240 0.5-2.1
Crockpot 250 2.2
Curling Iron 300-800 2.6-7.0
DVD Player 40-60 0.3-0.5
Electric Blanket 500 4.3
Electric Fry Pan 1200 10.4
ElectricWaterHeater (6 gallon) 1440 12.5
Fan 40-300 0.4-2.6
Furnace Fan (1/3 HP) 1200 10.4
Heating Pad 250 2.2
Hot Plate 1200 10.4
Iron 1000-1500 8.7-13.0
Microwave (600 to 1000W) 1100-2000 9.6-17.4
Power Converter 575-800 5.0-7.0
Refrigerator/Freezer 400-1200 3.5-10.4
Satellite Dish & Receiver 200-250 1.7-2.2
Shaver 35 0.3
Space Heater 1000-1500 8.7-13.0
Stereo 30-100 0.3-0.9
Toaster 800-1500 7.0-13.0
Toaster Oven 1200 10.4
TV – 25″ Color 300 2.6
TV – 19″ Color 160 1.4
Vacuum 200-1100 1.7-9.6
VCR 40-60 0.3-0.5
Waffle Iron 1200 10.4
Washer/Dryer 600-1900 5.2-16.5

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What if power goes out in my house? Can I use these generators there?

travel trailer with generator

Yes, all these units will work. Either by pairing or, in the case of the Champion generator, all by itself.

Again, check the wattage requirement chart below to see (a) how many watts/amps 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 during an outage, you’ll need one of the bigger (and probably less portable) travel trailers generators. Or a pairing of two smaller units.

Finally, a how-to guide to tying into your breaker box

Just in case you need the knowledge…

Watch this video and prep for a power outage before it happens.

rv wifi booster

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.

Subscribe to receive other pertinent — and unique — reviews. You should see a signup form in the right hand column, or perhaps at the bottom of this post.

Last thing:

We appreciate you stopping by and hope our insights have proven helpful. If the information has been at all helpful, and you decide to buy, we’d appreciate your using one of our links. We’re members of Amazon Associates and receive a small commission for every sale. And, ff you have had a good experience with one of these units — or another generator — feel free to leave a comment below.

Thanks so much!

FINAL NOTE: We make no guarantees about your personal experience with any of these generators. We’ve offered pros and cons on each one. Read those and consider carefully before buying.

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