The reality of trailer life is that you won’t always have access to shore power. That means you’ll either need a solar panel setup or a portable generator to keep your batteries charged. That’s not all portable generators do, though. They also allow you to run larger appliances like your A/C unit.
When camping in a new travel trailer or a used camper, having a portable generator makes a big difference. That’s because many travel trailers don’t have built-in generators, as you’ll find on most Class A Diesel RVs and some toy haulers.
Why Choose a Portable Inverter Generator?
An inverter generator provides electrical power you can use in your RV to utilize your RV air conditioner and other important features. You can buy non-inverter generators, but the power isn’t what you want for RV appliances and household electronics. Ensure you’re looking at an inverter generator, and you’ll be good.
What Size Portable Generator Do I Need?
Before purchasing your generator, you should think about the power output you’ll need. If you get by without many electronics, you can probably buy a smaller portable generator. These are generally less expensive and have a lower power output.
If you have a somewhat high power demand, you’ll need a generator with moderate to high power output. These are usually larger in size and come with a higher price tag.
Your RV’s power requirements will dictate the minimum size for your portable generator.
- 30-amp Recommendation: Minimum 3,500-watt generator
- 50-amp Recommendation: 6,000 to 8,000 for class A RVs with dual ACs; 10,000 to 12,500 for Class A RVs with three ACs
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so read more tips for choosing a portable generator to help determine the best-sized generator for your needs.
5 Awesome Portable RV Generators
With all that in mind, here are five portable generators that would be great for travel trailer use:
1. Honda EU2200i Portable Inverter Generator
- Surge Watts: 2,200
- Running Watts: 1,800
- Weight: 47.4 pounds
- Dimensions: 20.0″L x 11.4″W x 16.7″H
Honda makes some of the best portable generators out there. They’re notoriously quiet, fuel-efficient, and produce high-quality power ideal for RVing and camping.
The Honda EU2200i Portable Generator offers a good amount of power for a reasonable price and operates at 48 to 57 decibels. It’s also small enough to fit in many travel trailer storage areas or easily in the bed of a pickup or in the cargo area of an SUV.
It’s equipped with Honda’s patented CO-MINDER technology, which automatically shuts the generator down before carbon monoxide (CO) levels pose a threat. It’s fuel-efficient and can run for up to 8.1 hours on a single gas tank.
2. Champion 3500 Watt Dual Fuel Inverter Portable Generator
- Surge Watts: 3,500
- Running Watts: 3,150
- Weight: 95.7 pounds
- Dimensions: 25.1″L x 17.3″W x 18.3″H
If you need a little more power, the Champion 3500 Watt Dual Fuel Inverter Portable Generator is another good option. The Champion name is well-known and respected, and this generator is still small enough to fit in many storage areas, the bed of a pickup, or the cargo area of an SUV.
The unit makes about as much noise as the Honda generator, operating at roughly 59 decibels from a distance of 23 feet. Because it’s a dual-fuel design, it can operate on gasoline or propane right out of the box, although run time will vary based on your fuel choice.
It runs for about 7.5 hours using gasoline at a 25% load. On propane, it will run for about 14.5 hours at a 25% load. While it’s approaching 100 pounds, it’s equipped with handy roller wheels, making maneuvering the generator into a specific position easy.
3. Cummins Onan P4500i Inverter Portable Generator
- Surge Watts: 4,500
- Running Watts: 3,700
- Weight: 98 pounds
- Dimensions: 24.5″L x 18.25″W x 20.5″H
Cummins is another highly trusted brand in the world of RV generators. Many of their models are built into Class A motorhomes, but they also make several excellent portable inverter generators.
The Onan P4500i portable generator is comparable to the Champion generator in size and weight while offering a bit more power for your RV appliances and electronics. With a 3.4-gallon fuel capacity, this efficient generator can run for up to 18 hours at a 25% load.
Its noise level is rated at 52 decibels, and it comes with a remote-starting capability that allows you to fire it up from more than 100 yards away. If you’re traveling to mountainous regions, remember you’ll need a separately sold carburetor kit to operate this generator above 2,000 feet of elevation.
4. Generac IQ3500 Portable Inverter Generator
- Surge Watts: 3,500
- Running Watts: 3,000
- Weight: 109 pounds
- Dimensions: 23.7″L x 18″W x 21.7″H
The Generac IQ3500 Portable Inverter Generator is filled with technology and innovation. Its ultra-quiet operation ensures you won’t disturb anyone at the campsite. The integrated PowerRush technology delivers more starting capacity, allowing you to do more with less. The electric start operation guarantees a smooth and seamless power-up sequence each time you use it.
Regarding care, you’ll love the LCD display, which lets you easily track maintenance intervals so you can always stay up to date. If you forget and the unit runs low on oil, a built-in safety feature will turn the generator off to prevent damage. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to conserve fuel, simply activate the economy mode, which reduces both noise and fuel consumption.
The Generac IQ3500 provides up to 3,500 watts starting and 3,000 watts running, but if you need more, you can hook up two units in parallel for double the power.
5. Cummins Onan P2500i Inverter Portable Generator
- Surge Watts: 2,500
- Running Watts: 2,200
- Weight: 48 pounds
- Dimensions: 19.75″L x 10.5″W x 18.25″H
If you want to keep your generator compact, the Onan 2500i inverter generator is a great model to compare with the Honda EU2200i. They are similar in size and weight, but this generator offers slightly higher surge and running wattage ratings.
It can also be wired in parallel with a second P2500i generator if you need double the power while maintaining the portability of two smaller generators. It’s double-insulated to run at a rating of 52 decibels and provides 10 hours of running time at 25% load on its one-gallon fuel tank.
Ideally suited for charging smaller electronics, it also features a small rubber mat for placing items while charging. In terms of ports, you’ll have one 20-amp AC outlet, one 12-volt DC outlet, and two five-volt USB ports to choose from.
If you plan on RVing in a used motorhome where you won’t have shore power, ensure you can keep your travel trailer’s batteries charged. A small generator, like one of the ones shown above, is perfect for your camping needs.
RV Generator Adapters
You may need an adapter to connect your camper to the generator. Generators come with various outlets, which may (or may not) match up with the shore power cord on your camper.
The two most important things to watch out for are amperage rating and plug style. If the amperage rating of the camper does not match the generator receptacle or if the generator uses a locking receptacle, you will need an adapter.
Here are some of the most common RV power adapters you can use to connect your generator to your RV’s power cord:
If you need a different adapter not listed above, check out our full list of power cords and adapters.
How to Operate a Portable Generator Safely
Once you select a powerful portable RV generator, you must learn how to hook it up and use it safely. Here are a few more resources to get you started:
The right portable generator will make you more self-sufficient on your next RV road trip. You won’t have to rely on external power sources and you’ll be able to boondock for extended periods without draining your RV battery.
Which portable generator do you use on your camping trips and why? Leave a comment below!