How Big Of A Generator Do I Need For My Camper



My First RV Generator

There are all kinds of questions you need to answer before purchasing an RV or travel trailer.  Because there are so many RV accessories you have to buy after the fact to enjoy your new camper.  The most overlooked RV accessory is a generator because people don’t ask themselves, “How big of a generator do I need for my camper?”  Buying a generator is a lot like buying an RV.  You need to understand where & how you’re going to use your generator because there’s a lot of varying types of generators on the market today.  From the recreational RV suitcase generators that will most likely need to be run in parallel to operate an A/C unit to your heavy-duty pull behind construction generators.  If your visiting this site your most likely looking for a portable lightweight quiet generator for your camper.  Which should have you asking yourself how big of a generator do I need for my new camper?

From 1000 watt to 5000 watt generators. How are you supposed to know how big of a generator you need for your camper? Come check it out. Complete with a guideline, rv generator maintenance tips and step by step guide on how to choose the right size generator for your new camper, RV, travel trailer or 5th wheel.

My first RV generator was an Onan 4000 from the 1970s that kicked on but didn’t power anything.  After a couple of half-ass attempts trying to find someone to repair it I ended up going with two Ryobi 1800 watt generators from Home Depot.  For 7 years I lugged those things around from one camper to the next.  One destination to the next.  All over the countryside.  Proud how great they looked and functional they were.  Ironically they only got used one time for 3 days.  I wasn’t a boondocker back then.  I stayed at campgrounds, and when that got too annoying I found private RV hookups off of local facebook groups.  For far cheaper than any rent or campground fees.  I made a classic new camper owner mistake by buying a camper accessory without actually thinking about it.  I spent close to $1,000 on two Ryobi 1800 watt generators plus another couple hundred on the parallel kit so that I had a big enough generator for my camper.




How Big Of A Generator Do I Need For My Camper

Back then there were no websites or youtube channels to teach you about RVing and how big of a generator you need for your camper.  It was either information your friends and family had, or how trusting your salesman was.  Thank goodness I didn’t encounter a commissioned based salesman or my RV mistake might have been far greater than what it was.

So let me help you avoid the RV generator camper buyers remorse cycle.

Guideline to Determine How Big Of A Generator Do I Need For My Camper

  1. You need 3400 watts or more to run an air conditioner
  2. 1500-2000 watt generator will run everything else in your camper
  3. Generators below 1000 watts may struggle to operate a microwave or multiple appliances at once
  4. Cheap Chinese suitcase generators can run as low as $150, but they are NOT meant for heavy constant usage
  5. Rechargeable inverter power sources only last 3-4 hours and can take up to 10 hours to recharge
  6. One tank of gas will allow most generators to run 8-10 hours.  Inefficiency mode generators can run up 14 hours
  7. All generators will fill the air with engine noise of 50-80 decibels. Your hood fan above your oven is louder than that
  8. Generator noise can easily be canceled out by purchasing a generator muffler or building a muffled generator box
  9. A five-gallon gas can is your best friend.  Especially if it was made before the government instilled safety features on a plastic jug
  10. A $200 solar kit; a couple $100 batteries and a $200 inverter makes no noise and will power up everything you need besides an A/C

The only deciding factors that you should take into account when trying to determine how big of a generator you need for your camper is the level of comfort and destination.  If your destination is a campground they will have all the hookups necessary, and if your boondocking what do you need to run and for how long?  Most generators can power your camper for up to 14 hours, but who needs 14 hours of constant electricity?  The only appliance in a camper that requires constant electricity is the air conditioner.

How Big Of A Generator Do I Need For My Camper


More Questions to Help You Determine The Right RV Generator For You

So if you don’t plan on sitting inside all day you can get away with purchasing a smaller generator for your RV.  The average RVer owns a 1500 watt-2000 watt generator, and some of these generators are strong enough to power a window unit A/C.  The more frugal you are with electricity the smaller, cheaper and quieter generator you can purchase.

When someone asks me how big of a generator do they need for their camper.  My response is always the same……Where do you plan on going?  Unless you want to look like a “Clammpit” your not going to bust out the generator in a Walmart parking lot, and if you’re going to a developed campground they will have shitty wifi you want with reliable electricity.


If you don’t have an air conditioner you don’t need a big expensive generator.  Almost all of the appliances and comforts of campers run off of 12-volt electricity. Unless you’re going to be full-time boondocker who is completely reliant on the air conditioning a couple of extra deep cycle 12 volt Marine/RV batteries might be all you need.  An inverter with a couple of 110 wall outlets is far cheaper, lighter, quieter and just as reliable.  Especially with a solar-powered battery charger setup.

BEST BOONDOCKING GENERATOR

There is no single “best” boondocking RV/Camper generator, but I get this question a lot which is why this is the 2nd blog post I am writing on it in less than a month.  The best RV generator on the market is the one that fits your needs and allows you to grow into not out of.  So I recommend the Dual Fuel Champion 3400 watt generator.  One of the quietest lightweight heavy-duty portable generators on the market that can run on both propane or gasoline.  Call up their overly jolly customer support, and order a $14 adapter so you could run your new generator off of natural gas.  Never have to worry about filling up the gas can again.  There are very few products that impress me, but the Dual Fuel Champion Generator is built for the rugged environment of RV life.  From forgetful kids to rowdy drunken campground parties or even the surprise storm that just rolled in.  Champion built a generator that can withstand it all.



BEST RV GENERATOR

I think my praise for the Dual Fuel generator from Champion is endorsing enough but is it the right generator for you?  I have a 30-foot travel trailer with a 12-foot slide out.  Double vanity bathroom and a massive air conditioner.  It will absolutely do the job you need it to do, but its probably overkill.  If you’re asking “how big of a generator do I need for my camper/RV ?”  You need to look at the logistics of your RV.  Do you have slideouts? A/C unit? Three flatscreen TVs?  Microwave?  Coffee maker?  You only need a generator big enough to run the RV appliances you have.  Don’t be like me and lug around two suitcase generators for 7 years only to use for 3 days total in the winter while waiting for a campground spot.

What is the best RV/Camper generator?  A lightweight fuel-efficient portable RV generator that’s made of heavy-duty material to power your rig and recharge your electronics.  1500 watt generator for smaller rigs and 3000 watts or more for larger rigs.  How big of a generator do you need for your camper is solely dependant on the appliances within your camper, and the destination where you will be using your camper.   

RV Generator Tips

Portable generators make it possible to stay comfortable in the great outdoors, but these wonderful devices require some maintenance to continue providing you the comforts you desire from RV life.


My number one RV generator tip is Lucas Oil.  Period.  If you learn nothing else from me take not of Lucas Oil Additive!

Most people have ever never heard of this, and just buy the cheapest oil they can find.  My first RV taught me a lot of RV lessons, and the first lesson that money pit from the 70s taught me was that you can buy magic in a bottle for less than $15.  Lucas Oil is an oil additive that coats your engine even better than synthetic oils.  That first RV I bought would go through gallons of transmission fluid on a daily basis until a backyard mechanic told me to add one pint of Lucas Oil to my next refill.  Like magic in a bottle, my transmission never leaked again, and never sounded better.  Since then I have been replacing one quart of oil with that magic in a bottle called Lucas Oil every 3,000 miles on my vehicles.  They sound better, last longer and run better than all of my friends.

A couple of weeks ago at the free campground in Columbus, a gentleman was complaining is Honda generator was always shutting off, and not outputting the power it used to.  Covered in oil stains we checked his 1980s power supply into my generator hospital.  After emptying the old oil and adding 1 quart of Lucas Oil she fired right up.  Purring the rest of the day away followed by, “I haven’t heard this old generator run this smooth in years.”

AOWANDERS RV Generator Tips

  1. Use Lucas Oil
  2. Run at least a 100 hours with oil when brand new before changing your generators oil
  3. Change your RV generator oil once a year or every  250 hours for optimal performance
  4. Use synthetic oil and older models use oil made for high mileage vehicles.
  5. Clean out or replace the air filter every couple of years.
  6. Clean the carburetor before camping in elevation.
  7. Replace the spark plugs every 3 years.
  8. The more preventative maintenance you do the longer your RV generator will last.
  9. RV maintenance is simple! No task takes more than 20 minutes or more than 1 screwdriver


How Big of a Generator Do I Need For My RV

The most popular RV generator in campgrounds across the country is the newer suitcase Honda generators.  From boat owners to camper owners seems like everyone has one.  They all do the same thing though.  Every generator on the market provides electricity for 8-10 hours from one tank of gas and ranges in decibels from 50-70ddb. Some RV generators will have cool options. Like wireless remote starts, smartphone app or digital screens.  I even saw one that had a switch to turn it into a water pump.

The most popular size of RV generators is either 2000 watts or 3000 watts.  Just depends on the size of your camper, and what your trying to power.  Without ever seeing your rig or knowing how you camp I would say you’d probably be fine with a 2000 watt portable lightweight quiet RV generator that includes a fuel efficient mode.  This type of RV generator can be found all over the internet for less than $500, and I’m sure if you look in your local craigslist section there probably less than $200.


Happy Travels and if you have in questions leave them in the comments below, or follow this link to all of my RV Life Tips and Articles.



2 Comments

  • Aw, this was a very nice post. Helped me figure out precisely what size generator I need for my new camper, and helped settled the tiny arguement between the wife and I about whether or not a generator is a camper accessory. Which I won of course because if its not an onboard generator than its the #1 camper accessory. Like you said if you want the comforts of home you need something to power your tiny home, and we are now the proud owner of a Honda 2,000 watt ultra quiet suitcase generator for our Kodiak travel trailer. Thanks for all the great RV advice you have shared on your travel blog.

    • Elton,

      Thanks for your kind words and sharing your experiences with the rest of the community. How are you liking the ultra quiet Honda 2,000 portable generator? Is it big enough to power your Kodiak travel trailer? Did you follow my advice or how did you finally figure out that was a big enough generator for your camper??

      Happy camping,

      Adam

Leave a Reply

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.