What do you do when you’re ready for a great camping vacation and things don’t go as planned? You know that vacation where you pull into the RV park and the site you’ve reserved was supposed to have electricity, but it doesn’t.
These are almost always the vacation situations where the weather is really hot, or rainy, and you just want to have a bit of comfort. But you’re stuck with no power.
We’ve got the perfect solution. A generator for your camper or RV.
Generators are great. Not only can they save the day when your reserved camping spot isn’t as planned. But they give you the freedom to enjoy the comforts of your camper or RV when you’re far from the closest plug-in.
Even if you aren’t planning on vacationing away from developed campgrounds, a generator can be a lifesaver. In our quest to find a great generator for our own camper, we came across a number of great options.
Our favorite generators will give you enough power for your air conditioning and anything else you may need to run, whether you planned on it or not.
1. DuroMax XP4400EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
Honestly, we love that the DuroMax XP4400EH gives us two fuel options. You just never know when you’ll need to power your generator, and not be near a gas station.
The DuroMax gives you the options of powering this generator by either gasoline or propane. Your camper already has a propane tank, so in a pinch, it can be used to fuel your generator.
Run time for both gasoline and propane options range from 10 to 20 hours for a full tank, so if you limit your electrical use to just the basics, this generator will last a long time, and provide plenty of comfort.
Additionally, the dual fuel option has a few other benefits that you might not have considered:
- Lower operating cost due to lower price of propane
- Propane is clean burning and has no odors.
- Propane doesn’t foul like gasoline does so it has a longer shelf life.
There are plenty of plug options on this generator. And while we picked this one as our favorite for RVs and campers, it can come in handy in other situations as well.
The power panel has these plug-in options:
- 1x 120/240V twist lock outlet
- 2x 120V standard residential outlets with GFCI protection
- 1x 12V DC charging post
The DuroMax has more than enough power for all your RV appliances, including the air conditioner. It features 4,400 starting watts and a robust 3,500 running watts. You’ll have all the comforts of home in your RV with this generator.
One of the great features of the DuroMax generator that we like the most is the DuroMax MX2 technology. This great feature allows you to run both the 120V and 240V receptacles at the same time or give full power to the 120V receptacles. It’s the perfect versatility option for RVs and campers.
Sure, it may be a bit heavier than some of our other picks, and it is on the noisy side, the power output and the variety of options makes it our favorite choice.
- Dual fueling options
- Multiple power options
- Wheels and handle for maneuverability
- Noisier than other generators
- Poor tech support
- A bit on the heavy side
2. Champion 3500-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator
A great option for smaller campers or RVs, or for the individuals that just want a little light in the evening and can live without the air conditioner.
We like this smaller option because it is also dual fuel, but isn’t as heavy, and is RV ready, so you don’t have to work too hard to get it set up for your camper or RV. You’ll get between 4 and 14 hours of run-time with this generator using either gasoline or propane fuel.
The Champion Power Equipment generator is ready to use right out of the box. It comes with engine oil in the box, so all you have to do is fill the oil, and either fill with gasoline or attach a propane tank and you’re ready to roll.
Oh, and the generator has a low-oil sensor that will shut off the generator if the oil level gets too low. This is great for making sure that you never unintentionally damage the engine of your generator.
When running on gasoline the Champion generator has a starting wattage of 4,375 and a running wattage of 3,500. You’ll get reduced wattage when you run on propane, but the difference isn’t enough to limit what you are running in your RV.
This generator has plenty of outlets and a panel that gives you plenty of information about performance. You can monitor run-time hours, power output, voltage and hertz.
Power outlets include:
- 1x 120V, 30A RV outlet
- 1x 120V, 30A locking outlet
- 2x Residential type outlets
It is helpful to note that the base model does not come with wheels. So if you want wheels you’ll need to look at some of the higher level options from Champion.
One of our favorite features of this generator is that it is really easy to start. Not everyone loves to yank on a cord, this generator started up quick, so no hurting your arm.
- Great value for the price
- No hassle start
- Plenty of power
- Does not have wheels
- Noise level
- Only comes in yellow
3. WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
One of the things that most people don’t love about generators is the noise. Especially if you’re in a cramped campground or in that perfectly serene forest spot, a generator can be a nuisance. The WEN 56380i is a great combination of power and quiet operations.
WEN’s 212cc, 4-stroke OHV engine has a 3,800 watt start, and runs at 3,400 watts. The generator is EPA II and CARB compliant which means that it makes clean energy so you don’t have to worry about frying your electronics when running on generator power.
Expect the WEN to have a nice 8.5 hour runtime with a 50% load. Outlets on this generator include:
- 1x 120V NEMA TT-30R RV compliant receptacle
- 2x 120V standard residential outlets
- 1x 12V DC receptacle
- 1x 5V USB port
The WEN 3800W generator does have a nice feature in its fuel shutoff system. This system will use all of the fuel in the carburetor before shutting the generator down.
Our biggest disappointment? It only uses gasoline, so no option for using propane as a backup.
The WEN is one of the quietest generators on the market, and it has a great run time in a compact package. While a little pricier than some other generators, you’ll not be disappointed in its performance.
- Push button start
- Low decibel level
- Multiple outlets
- Not dual fuel
- Only comes with a 2-year warranty
- Higher price
4. DuroStar DS4400E Gas Powered Portable Generator
If you are looking for a bit more power from your generator, then you’ll want to consider the DuroStar DS4400E generator. This generator will give you plenty of run-time with its dual fuel operation, and multiple plugin options.
The DuroStar has a nice, powerful 210cc OHV engine. It cranks out plenty of power, with 4,400 starting watts and 3,500 running watts, you’ll be surprised at how many appliances you can run on this little workhorse. The engine also has a low oil shut off feature, so you won’t burn up the engine if you happen to get low on oil.
Like our top pick the DuroStar also features the MX2 technology which allows you to run both the 240V and 120V receptacles at the same time. Or give 100% power to both 120V receptacles. This setup is perfect for RVs and campers.
The power panel on the DuroStar has plenty of outlet options for a variety of uses. Outlets include:
- 1x 120/240V twist lock outlet
- 2x 120V standard residential outlets with GFCI protection
- 1x 12V DC charging post
The DuroStar is easy to start and features one of the largest gasoline tanks we’ve found. We do wish that it was a little lighter weight, but the sturdy wheels make it easy to move around. The DuroStar is not as loud as some other generators but is still louder than we’d like for using in the woods when you want a little peace and quiet.
- Lots of power
- Large fuel tank
- Solid safety features
- Noise level
- Not great support
- Bulkier than others
5. Westinghouse iGen4500 Inverter Generator
When it comes to names that you can trust, Westinghouse is an established name in electrical appliances. The Westinghouse iGen4500 is a nice, compact generator for your RV or camper, and it is really reliable to boot.
The iGen4500 is another clean running, clean power producing generator. It is EPA and CARB compliant so you don’t have to worry about your electronics with this generator.
This generator has 4,500 starting watts, and runs at 3,700 watts. This gasoline powered generator has some nice ease of use features like a telescoping handle, a remote start option and the ability to start by recoil in a pinch.
The LED power panel provides users with plenty of information and plenty of plug options. The digital display rotates between power output, total runtime hours, estimated run time remaining, fuel level and voltage. The iGEN4500 includes these outlets:
- 1x 120V TT-30, 30 Amp RV rated outlet
- 1x 5-20R, 120V residential outlet
- 2x USB outlets
We did find that the ability to combine the iGEN4500 with other compatible Westinghouse generators into a single output unit was unique and could be a great option if you need to use a generator for powering your home in an emergency.
It’s a bit of a disappointment that this generator isn’t dual fuel, but as far as efficiency goes, this compact generator works great and is super quiet.
Besides being quiet, this generator is easy to use, and has really great push button and remote start options, so you won’t be yanking on a cord when the weather is crummy and all you want is some heat.
- Push button & remote start options
- Easy to read LED display
- Compatible parallel ports
- Higher price
- Not dual fuel
- Not good tech support
How to choose a generator for an RV air conditioner?
So, how did we pick our five favorite generators?
We considered a number of product features that we thought were important when it comes to picking a good generator for your RV or camper.
Ok. We’re going to make you think about your middle school algebra class. Wattage is all about math. If you want to make sure that you get the right generator to power all the things you need, you need to calculate how many watts you’re using compared to how many watts are produced.
Before you run out and buy just any old generator, do the math. All of your RV appliances and lights have a wattage value. Calculate the wattage for what you need to use, and find the generator that will comfortably cover your needs. We also recommend picking a generator that has a little extra wattage so that you can add appliances without a problem.
We’ve all been there. It’s a beautiful peaceful evening at your favorite campground, and then someone turns on their generator. While generators are nice, it’s not nice to be that neighbor that ruins the peace.
When you’re shopping, consider the decibels of your generator. Lower decibels will make your neighbors happy, and are really a more peaceful option for you as well.
Generators can be big. And by big we mean, heavy. Not all of us can heave around a hundred pound plus generator. So if you’re not made for moving around big things, do consider a smaller sized generator.
Now, to be frank, this may mean that you sacrifice some wattage, but if you can’t move around your generator to get it working with your RV or camper, what difference does it make if you can run a small city with it?
This goes hand in hand with size. Big generators aren’t easy to haul around, and they may not fit well in your car, RV or pick-up. Also, if your generator doesn’t have things like sturdy wheels and good handles, you’ll find that it isn’t easy to move around even if it does fit in your RV, camper or vehicle.
Most generators are powered by gasoline. This is pretty standard as far as generators go. However, getting 10 gallons of gasoline isn’t always convenient, and if you’re in a pinch, a generator that has a different fuel option would be great.
We really like dual fuel generators. They run off of gasoline, and most frequently propane. All of our RVs and campers have propane tanks, so in a pinch you can disconnect your propane and use it to fuel your generator.
No matter what kind of fuel your generator uses, if it sucks gas then you’re probably spending more money than you need. Most generators will give you an anticipated run time in hours. Look for generators that will run for the most time on the given fuel.
If you don’t want to pack a bunch of extra fuel, efficiency is key for getting the most from your generator.
While price isn’t necessarily a guiding factor when it comes to selecting a generator, it also isn’t a factor you should overlook. There are some really great generators out there with smaller price tags. However, if you really want reliability, a good warranty, and a generator that is quiet and easy to use, you’re going to pay more. And that’s OK. When it comes to generators, you really do get what you pay for.
Frequently asked questions
Why use a generator for an RV air conditioner?
If you can avoid using a generator for your RV air conditioner, we recommend you should. However, if you’re in a pinch and its really a hot miserable day at your favorite camping spot, a good generator will save the day.
Generators are made to carry heavy electrical loads. Many standard size generators have enough capacity to power a small home, so it makes sense that if you want to run your RV or camper air conditioner without plug in power, a generator is your best option.
How do I know which generator will work with my model air conditioner?
Watts are the key to knowing how much power your generator will create. Knowing if a particular generator will work with your camper’s air conditioning is a matter of math. Check in your owner’s manual for the wattage of the air conditioner.
Add that to all of the other appliances that you’ll be running in your RV or camper (including lights), and this gives you the total wattage your generator should make to run your air conditioner plus other essentials. We recommend that you look for a generator with a bit more power than you need. This allows you to add other appliances if you want.
What outlets or plugs do you need?
Consider what you really need your generator for, when it comes to plugs. If you’re using your generator to power your RV or camper, then you’ll want your generator to have a 120v or 240v outlet. This will allow you to use your generator to power all of your camper electrical features, just like if you were plugged into power at a campground.
If you want to use your generator outside of camping, look for handy features like 30 and 50 amp plugs or USB ports for charging your electronics.
How long does a generator fuel last?
This question doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. Each generator is different, and if your generator is a dual-fuel generator, run time can vary between the different fuels.
In general, from our research, we would say that most mid-size generators will run between 10 and 20 hours on a single tank of fuel. Of course, smaller generators will have a shorter run time. Conversely larger generators can be expected to run longer.
If run time is important to you, make sure you do your research before you purchase, to ensure that you’re getting the right generator for your needs.
How complicated is it to install a generator?
Installing a generator is no more difficult than plugging your camper or RV in at a campground. Make sure that you have the right plug-in adaptor for your RV or camper, the rest is just plug-and-play.
How long should my generator last?
Generators have the potential to last a long time, provided they are cared for appropriately. When you buy a generator, the owner’s manual will come with instructions on how to properly maintain your generator for best performance. Following these instructions will ensure that your generator works well and lasts a long time.
Do I need to have a warranty?
A warranty never hurts. We would recommend that you always look for products that come with good multi-year warranties against manufacturer’s defects. While we hope that higher priced products like generators will be well made, there is always a chance that you’ll end up with a lemon.
As with other warranties, make sure you read the fine print so that you know exactly what is covered and what isn’t. This will save you a ton of frustration and money.