Travel Trailers with Generators: Who Makes the Best?
Is this your first camping trailer?
If it is, then welcome to the wonderful world of RVing. You’re going to have many questions. and among the first will probably be one about electricity.
Camping trailers are divided into two groups: those that come with a generator already on board. And those that don’t.
If you’ve already determined that your new (or gently used) trailer falls into the second category — those without a generator on board — then you’re going to need one.
We can help.
In this guide, we will be acquainting you with basic knowledge about the kind of portable generator you’ll need, what items they will power up and run, and how much you can look forward to spending.
There are several different makes and models of portable generators to choose from, and you’ll want to make a good investment.
SPECIAL NOTE: Need a good book to read this summer? Visit our Virtual Bookstore for Daily Deals. Return to this page by clicking The RV Life in the Menu toolbar up top.
We have some good advice.
First, make a list of your power needs. Some are obvious, like the small refrigerator and/or microwave built into your camping trailer.
But the less obvious needs are the ones you’ll notice first if you don’t have the ability to charge and run them. Chief among these items will be your laptop, tablet and/or smartphone.
For those, you’re going to need something called an inverter generator.
What’s the difference?
Charging something as delicate as a smartphone is trickier than running, say, the fridge or your 12,000 btu air conditioner.
Ideally, you’ll want a generator that can do both, producing what’s known as a “pure sine wave” electrical current — one powerful enough to crank your AC, but gentle enough not to fry your sensitive electronics.
I don’t have an air conditioner. I just need something basic.
If your needs are few — just the small fridge and microwave installed in your trailer, plus a few odds and ends requiring very little wattage, then great. Skip this section and scroll down.
We’ll recommend two of the same three small generators everyone else on this Google search page is talking about.
But before you scroll down, please listen to this.
We’re going to give you some sound advice that you probably aren’t going to receive from the other folks that Google pulled up to answer your search query today.
There very well may come a cold, snowy night this winter when you’ll wish you had spent just a bit more up front to get a portable generator that can easily power all your camping trailer needs — AND keep your house lights and heat on — plus anything else you might want while you await the slow return of regular power to your home.
Get our drift?
You’ll be very glad you had the foresight to get a more powerful unit — particularly right now when many are on sale — and you can maximize your investment.
Doesn’t it make more sense to get a unit that can do it all right now — if it doesn’t cost that much more?
Here are your options, ranked one, two and three, based on what we think will most benefit you — both in your camping trailer and during that wintry week when your power is off.
Our Number One Recommendation – Your Best Value
Champion 3100-Watt RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator with Wireless Remote Start
This is your chance to get this Lexus of portable generators at Honda Civic prices — roughly half the regular list price.
At an amazing 3100 watts, and a fairly subdued 58 decibels, this unit will work beautifully both at home and in the back of beyond, powering your travel trailer quietly and efficiently.
Plus, it has a remote start.
This is a bonus feature we guarantee you’ll appreciate. It comes with a remote key fob starter. How great will that be when you don’t want to put on your long johns just to trudge outside and pull a starter rope?
This power-packed inverter generator will keep virtually every appliance you’ve got running for an extended period of time. Just top off the gas tank every eight hours or so (that’s at one-quarter load, which will get you through most nights. Plan on refilling more often when everything is up and running during the day.)
Here are the specifics:
- Packed with clean power for your most sensitive electronics, featuring two 120V 20A household outlets along with two vital USB adapters for extra electronic versatility.
- It’s also RV-ready with a 120V 30A outlet and a handy 12 volt DC outlet — in case your car battery needs a jump or a complete recharge.
- Ultra-quiet operation – No need to keep the neighbors awake – either at home or at the campground. Its 58 dBA noise rating makes it perfect for RVs, tailgating, your next project or as backup power for your entire home.
- Features 3100 starting watts (the amount of power required to “start” any appliance from the furnace to the fridge — and everything in between.)
There is a small downside.
Weighing in at a hefty 95 pounds and sporting rear wheels, it’s more trans-portable than truly portable.
So getting it stowed safely for transport aboard your travel trailer may be a challenge. But between you and a spouse, son or friend, it is easily managed. And whenever you reach your camping site, just place it outside, fire it up with your thumb-driven keyfob and settle into your favorite patio chair.
And in between camper outings it will be standing ready to keep everything in your house on in case of Mother Nature’s wrath.
Things we like about this unit:
- It’s loaded with power, running just about anything you can hook up to it simultaneously.
- It has two USB ports –which comes in very handy for charging tablets, phones and other electronics.
- At only 58 dBA, it’s actually quieter than the much smaller unit we recommend below.
- And, finally, the remote start is a great feature, particularly on cold nights.
Things we found less than perfect:
- We liked pretty much everything about it except its weight — which doesn’t become much of a factor unless you’re camping every other weekend. At times like that, when it might be a challenge to get up and down the steps, we remember that the reason we got it is to have it ready in case of the power outage that will come eventually — sooner and more frequently to some portions of the country than others.
- One innovative idea written about by a creative Amazon buyer: secure the unit with sturdy rubber straps to the tongue of the trailer for a no-fuss solution to transport.
Our Number Two Recommendation – The Best of the Portables
Briggs & Stratton 30651 P2200 PowerSmart Series Portable 2200-Watt Inverter Generator
Here’s a sale priced unit that consistently pulled high marks from folks seeking one of the best RV generators on the market.
At 2200 watts, it’s a bit more powerful than the WEN profiled below, and about the same price most of the time.
However, at 59 decibels, it’s a little louder than the WEN – though about the same as the Champion unit mentioned above.
Like other units on this Google results 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. But about the same as the Champion.
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. Just not your AC unit.
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.
- It’s a relative bargain considering the fact that you’d really need to buy two of the WEN units to power more items than this one can handle all by itself.
- Use our wattage chart to do the math on what and how many appliances you could power at one time with this unit. HINT: Remember that if you stagger-start the larger appliances and just look at running wattage, which is much lower, you can even power a number of items in your home with this generator if need be.
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 55 pounds. But it’s an absolute lightweight compare to the Champion.
Our Number Three Recommendation – The Best 2000W Generator
WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
This amazingly small generator is great for your travel trailer — small enough to fit easily in a storage compartment yet powerful enough to supply electricity to a host of small appliances and devices.
This generator runs at a very quiet 51 decibels (about as much noise as a room air conditioner), when it’s at 1/4 load).
(A quick word about this “load” 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 of either buying travel trailers with generators already installed — or buying a portable one. like those on this page.
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.)
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 microwave or even a toaster — the noise level will rise.
- It only runs 6 hours at half-load – not optimum for travel trailers generators.
Our Number Four Recommendation – A Lightweight But Pricey Portable
Yamaha EF2000iSv2, Gas Powered Portable Inverter
Here’s another highly compact unit, not much bigger than a small suitcase. Yet it is able to accommodate many of your travel trailers’ generator 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 — making it one of the best RV generators in this regard.
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. .
Will these units power my microwave, laptop and other devices?
Second to the question, “Do travel trailers have generators?” is the question in the headline above.
In a word – yes. Generally, any unit with starting output of 1800 watts will power up those devices 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 2,200 starting watts — more if your A/C unit pulls more BTUs.
For a look at different wattage requirements, view this chart:
|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.)
After all — you came camping to get away from noise, right?
To add perspective, here’s a handy chart about noise — 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, or car horn @ 16 ft.
- 110 – Extremely Loud. Close to a train or 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 and best generator for camping trailer.
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 — all these units will work.
The exception of course being the Champion unit at the start of this review. It WILL power most everything.
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 one of the bigger (and probably less portable) travel trailers’ generators.
We’ve only put super-quiet portable units on our list, because if you’re going camping, that’s what you and your neighbors will expect.
However, as a rule of thumb, any generator — on this list or an other — 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.
Finally, a few practical tips on tying into your breaker box
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.
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.
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.