CAMPING & HIKING

Best Portable Generator: Shopping for the Best Backup Power System

Portable generators review
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

Need some way to bring power with you to your campsite? Want the means to keep your phone charged, light up your campsite, and cook a hot meal for your entire family? Then having the best portable generator on hand will not only make your life easier, but will also making your camping experience that much more enjoyable.

But don’t just go out and pick up the first one you find. You have to take a lot of factors into account when it comes to finding a generator that meets your needs: wattage, fuel type, and run time. By knowing what to look for ahead of time, you’ll ensure that you have enough power to meet your demands, as well as enough fuel to keep your generator running.

In this article, we will teach you how to shop for a portable backup power system that will suit your needs. Also, we have provided a number of recommended products that you should check out.

Our Top Picks

NameRunning WattageFuel TypeFuel Tank CapacityDimensions
(LxWxH)
WeightPrice
Honda 6605305000Gas6.2 gallons41.1 x 27.8 x 30.5 inches232 poundsCheck price on Amazon
Yamaha EF5500DE4500Gas6.9 gallons29.1 x 28.4 x 31.5 inches234 poundsCheck price on Amazon
Sportsman GEN7500DF7500Gas and propane6.2 gallons27 x 26.5 x 30.75 inches135 poundsCheck price on Amazon
Westinghouse WH55005500Gas6.6 gallons26 x 27.5 x 28.75 inches168 poundsCheck price on Amazon
Champion Power Equipment 411355500Gas5.9 gallons22 x 20.9 x 31.3 inches182 poundsCheck price on Amazon
Generac XG10000E10000Gas10 gallons28 x 25.5 x 31.5 inches300 poundsCheck price on Amazon
Honda EU2000I1600Gas1.1 gallons19 x 12 x 21 inches47 poundsCheck price on Amazon
Ariens 75007500Gas8 gallons31 x 20.5 x 24 inches221 poundsCheck price on Amazon
Briggs & Stratton 306075000Gas5 gallons28 x 27 x 28 inches183 poundsCheck price on Amazon
All Power America APGG100008000Gas6.6 gallons21.26 x 25.2 x 31.69 inches232 poundsCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

No matter who manufactures thae portable generator, it is going to have similar basic components. However, various manufacturers produce them to serve different purposes, depending on how many watts it can provide, the size of the generator, and the kind of fuel it uses.

Portable generator

However, keep in mind that the more running wattage you need, the larger the generator is going to be, so it’s important that you decide what you really need power for instead of expecting everything to be powered.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the important features you should be looking out for.

Watts

How many watts a generator produces will tell you what you’ll be able to power, whether you’re on a camping trip or stuck at home in a power outage. A generator that produces a large number of watts will be able to handle larger equipment or several smaller electronic devices, but care should be taken when deciding on which appliances, as going over your generator’s limit can have disastrous results.

When looking at generators, you’ll notice that there are two wattage measurements listed on every one and you’ll need to know the difference between the two.

  • Starting watts: The amount of watts a generator supplies during initial startup. Starting watts also reference powering appliances when the equipment is utilizing the maximum amount of power possible. Also called “peak power,” “extra peak power,” “max watts,” and “startup power.”
  • Running watts: The regular flow of electricity when the generator is in use and is supporting appliances or other gadgets under a normalized usage or regular workload capacity. Also called “continuous power.”

Portable Generator Watt rating

So what does all of this mean for the generator you need to get? Firstly, you’ll need to figure out how many watts you’ll need together, and that means taking into account all of the appliances and devices that require power. Add up the numbers, and get a generator that exceeds this total to account for all these devices getting the power they need.

Fuel

All generators require some kind of fuel to stay running, and the most common types are gasoline, propane, and diesel.

  • Gas is the easiest to get and is the most affordable option on the list, especially if your generator is quite small. However, it does have a very short shelf life, so you’ll find yourself having to buy a container of gas on the way to your camping site. Refueling can also be messy if you’re not careful.
  • Propane is the easiest one to carry and the easiest fuel to set up: just connect the hose and you’re ready to go. Propane canisters can be a bit hefty and take up a fair bit of space. However, it’s a clean-burning fuel so you’re saving the environment in the process, and has an indefinite shelf-life, so you can prepare beforehand.
  • Diesel is one of the most common fuels out there, and is considered to be more efficient than gas-powered generators. This is because it has a slightly longer shelf-life when in storage, and can even operate at lower temperatures, making this the perfect choice when you lose power in the dead of winter. However, diesel generators are a bit more expensive, and the fuel itself is a major pollutant.

Portable Generator fuel

The fuel-type you choose is really up to you, but these considerations should definitely be taken into account if you want to ensure you’re staying within your price range while still getting exactly what you need.

Run Time

This is dependent on the size of the fuel tank and how many devices you’re powering at the same time. The more devices you have connected or the smaller the tank, the more the fuel will drain, leaving you with shorter run time and increased need for refueling.

Added Features

There are other features to consider that aren’t necessary, but they can make your portable generator experience just a little bit easier. Here are just some of the few additional functions you may want to consider.

  • Electric Start/Auto Start: This feature allows the operator to simply push a button instead of having to pull a rope to get the unit started.
  • Hour Meter: This feature will help you in planning your oil changing ahead of time as it tracks just how long the engine has been in operation.
  • Idle Control: This feature allows the generator to throttle down the motor automatically in the event power is not being drawn from the unit’s alternator – this will minimize the noise the engine produces as well as the wear and tear on it.
  • Low Oil Alert/Shutdown: Some generators will have an alert system that lets you know when oil is low, others will turn off if oil gets too low and this is to protect the tank from potential damage.
  • Brush versus Brushless Alternators: The alternators in the generators on the market today are either brush type or brushless. Experts recommend brushless over the brush type because they generate cleaner power and work well with sensitive equipment.

Portable Generator Design

Best Products on Today’s Market

With the above-mentioned features serving as a basis for the kind of generator you should be looking for, it doesn’t hurt to have a list of products for you to peruse through. This list is a bit on the short side, as there are plenty of camping generators in the market, but these products were chosen to show you the best that the market has to offer.

Be sure to do your research in order to find a generator that is more suitable to your needs, and with that said, here are the top rated portable generators for your camping or personal home needs.

Honda 660530 Portable GeneratorHonda 660530

Price: Approximately $2,249

Weight: 232 pounds

Specific features: 5000 watt running; portable generator; iAVR Technology, CARB compliant; backup recoil, easy start up, electric start, and 20/240V selector switch

Best use: Job or home power backup

The Honda 660530 has iAVR technology and produces 5,000 watts. iAVR is short for Intelligent Automatic Voltage Regulator technologies, which is a feature that has been included so the flow of power remains constant no matter what load the generator is dealing with. This means less overloading or your devices fading out as the power flow drops.

To power up larger equipment and appliances, for the first ten seconds, the unit produces up to 7,000 watts. A Honda iGX390 motor, one that is excellent on fuel and commercial grade, powers the unit and also reduces emissions, so you know you’re doing your part for the environment.

PROS:

  • Quiet
  • Fuel-efficient
  • Reliable

CONS:

  • Can be considered pricey

Related: Getting a portable generator around isn’t easy, so why not consider adding the All-Terrain Wheel Kit to your arsenal? Forget about straining your back or having to find another person to help you lug your generator back and forth. The 10-inch solid tires are guaranteed to never fail you and will bear the weight for you so you can save your back muscles.

Check the price on Amazon

Yamaha EF5500DE Portable GeneratorYamaha EF5500DE

Price: Approximately $1,259.10

Weight: 234 pounds

Specific features: 4500 running watts/5500 starting watts/ gas powered/ three-year consumer warranty and three-year commercial engine warranty/ low oil alert/automatic shutdown; additional features include fold-down and locking handles, and wheels for portability

Best use: Emergency power outages; home or job site back up

The Yamaha EF5500DE is a premium generator that is well-built with features to ensure safe use during operation.

The generator has a full roll cage for protection, keeping the body protected in the off-chance you lose your grip on it. Even with the small size of this generator, it is capable of handling everyday use, allowing you to keep your devices and small appliances in your home powered.

The control panel itself is very comprehensive to use that you’ll have no trouble getting it started and set up in no time.

PROS:

  • Comes with wheels for easy portability
  • Fuel-efficient

CONS:

  • Starting wattage is only 1000 more than running wattage

Related: The Yamaha EF7200DE is a much larger generator, at a higher price.  It still carries the Yamaha name, so it’s still quite reliable. This generator is built for those who are looking for a bit more power, but otherwise, you’re getting the same quality for this sturdier generator.

Check the price on Amazon

Sportsman GEN7500DF GeneratorSportsman GEN7500DF

Price: Approximately $912

Weight: 135 pounds

Specific features: 7,500 watt, 13 horsepower, 389cc OVH four-stroke engine;  propane or gas powered, electric start features, recoil start, low oil alert and shut down

Best use: Emergency backup at home or work

The Sportsman GEN7500DF is equipped to handle either propane or gasoline, allowing you to prepare adequately in the event of an emergency or when fuel is scarce.

The control panel itself comes with seven outlets altogether: 120-volt RV outlet, four household outlets, a 120/240-volt twist locking outlet for industrial power cords, and a 12-volt DC outlet. These basically cover all the devices you could ever need to use, as well as powering appliances in your home.

PROS:

  • Having your options of fuel
  • Has wheels to move it around easily
  • Long run-time for the size of the tank

CONS:

  • Very loud

Related: The Sportsman GEN4000DF also works off of both gasoline and propane, but is much smaller so it’s easier to carry around. It doesn’t sport the fancy wheels that the larger model mentioned above does, but at only 94 pounds, you’ll have an easier time of carrying this one around.

Check the price on Amazon

Westinghouse WH5500 GeneratorWestinghouse WH5500

Price: Approximately $579

Weight: 168 pounds

Specific features: 5,500 running watts/6750 starting watts, pulse-flow muffler and quiet operation; four 120 Volt outlets and one 120/240 Volt outlets. Not for use in California as it is not CARB compliant

Best use: Powering appliances and Emergency power outages

The Westinghouse WH5500 has a four-stroke engine, a manual recoil start, and a 357cc overhead valve engine, which were all designed with durability in mind.

This generator is literally a power house for its size, and is more affordable than most portable generators capable of providing this kind of wattage. It’s even capable of powering a small house for an extended period of time, and will continue to run for years to come.

The large wheels are solid, so there’s no risk of puncturing them when you take them outside, and will help you to get over the tough terrain of any campsite.

PROS:

  • Light for all the power it provides
  • Reliable
  • Very robust
  • Quiet
  • Easy to assemble and operate
  • Wheels for maneuverability

CONS:

  • No electric start
  • No hour meter for the oil
  • No protective covers for the outlets

Related: The Westinghouse WH3250RVC is a sturdier and more robust generator, sporting a 3250 running wattage that can handle just about any device you may have. It also has thick, durable wheels that make it easy for anyone to move around, and can even run for roughly 13 1/2 hours on a 25% load (using 25% of its running wattage).

Check the price on Amazon

Champion Power Equipment 41135 Portable GeneratorChampion Power Equipment 41135

Price: Approximately $747.51

Weight: 182 pounds

Specific features: 5500 running watts/6800 starting watts; a 338cc champion engine and cold start features; starts up super easy in cold weather and is equipped with fold-down handles; two-year limited warranty on the product; 120-Volt household outlets and one 120/240 Volt 30 Amp locking outlets

Best use: Powering appliances, household gadgets; emergency power outages

The Champion Power Equipment 41135 comes complete with a wheel kit to ensure the easier mobility of the unit and will operate for a full ten hours on a full tank of gas.

For this price, you wouldn’t expect such a robust generator to provide so much power, but you’ll be surprised at what it can do. The wheels are sturdy and easy to turn and manipulate, and it has plenty of outlets for all your powering needs.

Those who have purchased this generator rarely have anything bad to say about it, and they’re still working reliably many years later.

PROS:

  • Easy to maintain and to start
  • Large tank
  • Provides a lot of power
  • Reliable

CONS:

  • Not fuel-efficient
  • Loud

Related: You’re going to need a way to store and carry your gasoline around when you need to refuel, and you want a container that’s reliable. That’s why many people invest in the No-Spill 1450 Container, that holds up to five gallons of gasoline. It has precise pouring, a spout small enough to fit into any opening, and a dust cover to keep the spout clean so you don’t have to worry about contaminants.

Check the price on Amazon

Generac XG10000E Portable GeneratorGenerac XG6500

Price: Approximately $2053.50

Weight: 300 pounds

Specific features: 120/240 single-phase voltage and a brush alternator; 10,000W rated watts and 12,500 surge watts; gas operated

Best use: Job or home power backup

The Generac XG10000E allows for hassle free, easy start up and comes with a plug-in battery and battery charger pack. And with the large tank, you won’t have to worry about running out of fuel anytime soon.

The generator is also equipped with a PowerBar display so you can monitor the available power and it will automatically shut down when the oil pressure is low. This way you avoid ruining the generator and losing power when you need it the most.

Overall, the XG10000E is certainly not the quietest portable generators around. However in terms of reliability and quality, this generator delivers.

PROS:

  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Great quality product

CONS:

  • Heavy
  • Instructions for use are unclear
  • Can be noisy

Related: If you do choose a gasoline-powered generator, it’s important that you keep a bottle of Sta-Bile Fuel Stabilizer around. It allows the fuel that’s already in your generator to remain fresh so that you don’t have to drain it out before refueling. It extends the shelf-life up to two years, so that your generator will start without any problems, no matter how long it’s been since you last used it.

Check the price on Amazon

Honda EU2000I Portable Generator with Inverter

Honda EU2000I

Price: Approximately $999

Weight: 47 pounds

Specific features: 1600 watt portable inverter generator; recoil starter 59 dB of noise, quiet operation

Best use: Powering computers and electronics, appliances and household items; emergency power outages

The Honda EU2000I is probably the smallest generator you’ll find in this list. It’s so handy, you may never see another camping trip without this little guy at your side.

It runs very quietly, so you won’t disturb your neighbors at your campsite and it fits so easily in the trunk of your car. It only weighs a paltry 47 pounds, so there’s really no heavy lifting involved.

However, because of the small size of this generator, you shouldn’t rely on it too heavily to take care of your large appliances. At only 1600 watts, it’s only capable of handling smaller devices.

PROS:

  • Quiet
  • Easy to maintain

CONS:

  • A little expensive
  • Constant refueling

Related: Need to charge some 12-Volt batteries? The Honda Charging Cables will take care of that for you. These 10-foot cords can be used with any Honda generator, so there’s never the need to buy new cables if your generator needs replacing.

Check the price on Amazon

Ariens 7500 Watt Portable GeneratorAriens 7500 Watt

Price: Approximately $899.98

Weight: 221 pounds

Specific features: 12 Volt button start feature; three-year consumer warranty on the unit in question, as well as a 90 commercial engine warranty

Best use: Emergency uses, powering some appliances, and camping

The Ariens 7500 comes with one 240 Volt Twist Lock 30 amp, four 120 Volt outlets, and is powered by a Honda engine that is not only reliable, but also provides plenty of power.

And you won’t have to worry about the unit running out of oil; an alert light will turn on when the oil becomes dangerously low, allowing you to refill when you need to instead so that there’s no guesswork involved in the process.

The Auto Voltage Regulation (AVR) will also keep your electronics safe, by preventing those dangerous voltage spikes that can fry them. That’s always a risk when using a generator, but this model was designed with safety in mind, for both you and the appliances you’ll be powering.

PROS:

  • Easy to start
  • Has a very long runtime
  • Steel frame protects the chassis
  • Large tyres make it easy to move
  • Quiet operation

CONS:

  • No fuel gauge
  • Heavy

Related: In order to keep your generator in proper running condition, you’re going to need some motor oil, so why not go with the brand many customers choose?  The Briggs & Stratton Easy-Mix Motor Oil also serves as a fuel stabilizer in order to prevent residue from accumulating and will keep your drainage plug clear.

Check the price on Amazon

Briggs & Stratton 30607 Portable GeneratorBriggs & Stratton 30607

Price: Approximately $779

Weight: 183 pounds

Specific features: 1650 series OHV 342cc engine; 5000 running watts and 6250 starting watts; rated and is in accordance with the CSA and the PGMA; the unit comes with a two-year limited product warranty

Best use: For use with multiple appliances; natural disaster; power outages

The Briggs & Strattion 30607 is a gas-powered portable generator that has been discontinued by the manufacturer, but is still available on the market. The unit is sold with a wheel kit making it easier to move it around despite its size.

The size of the tank allows the generator to run for about ten hours before needing refueling. That’s a long runtime so you can get the most out of your electronic appliances.

This unit is known for being very hard-working and dependable, no matter what kind of situation you find yourself in. Take into account that they provide generators to over 100 countries all over the world, they have a reputation for producing quality generators that are designed to last and withstand anything you can throw at them.

PROS:

  • Easy to start
  • Fairly quiet
  • Comes with a meter to inform you when servicing is needed
  • Affordable

CONS:

  • Loud when starting

Related: If you’re looking for a small generator capable of handling your smaller electronics, then you may want to consider the DuroMax XP2000iS. It’s extremely easy to carry and move around, and provides 1600 running watts for you to choose in any way you choose. It comes with plenty of USB ports for you to charge your cellphone and mp3 player, and has a smart throttle that minimizes fuel consumption when it’s not in use.

Check the price on Amazon

All Power America APGG10000 GeneratorAll Power America APGG10000

Price: Approximately $799

Weight: 232 pounds

Specific features: one 12V DC environmental tag, one 120/240V twist outlet, 1-120 Volt twist lock outlet, and two twist AC Duplex 120 Volt outlets

Best use: For emergency power backup and job site power

The All Power America APGG10000 generator offers enough power to serve all your electricity needs until you can restore conventional means of power. With 8000 running watts; 10,000 starting watts and 120 volts, this gas-powered generator is like no other. It has a long runtime, given the small size of it, so you can worry less about running out of fuel.

In terms of noise, the unit produces about 76dB which is equal to the sound of music in a room or a passenger car passing by about 25 feet from the listener at a speed of 75 miles per hour. It’s not the quietest, so you may want to exercise care when around this unit, especially ear protection.

PROS:

  • 11-hour runtime
  • Engine shuts off when oil is too late

CONS:

  • Lacking reliable customer support
  • Only has 1-year support, while other brands have 3
  • Loud

Related: If you’re shopping on a budget and need something a little less bulky and heavy, then you may want to consider the All Power America APG3004. This tiny unit provides 800 running watts, which is more than what most people need to power their electronic devices when camping. It only weighs in at 44 pounds and it’s easy to store in your trunk when you’re heading out on your trip.

Check the price on Amazon

Overview

Discovering which generator will serve your needs best is clearly a process. So, before you start shopping, it pays to know exactly what you want to power. It also helps to have a close approximation as to what you need when there’s an emergency power.

Take Portable Generator with you

So do you feel that any of these generators meet your needs? Considering getting one for your camping needs or for emergency use in a power outage? Tell us what you think of any of these products if you have experience with them or if there is another generator you think we should review in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Andrew Richardson

    The Honda EU20003162 is freaking awesome! I would wager that we’ve probably used this generator more than most people. Our family lived off the grid for over 8 years and a generator was our only source of electricity. We had bigger generators & we tried cheap two stroke tiny generators but the Honda EU2000i was what we eventually went to and fit our needs PERFECTLY for everyday use.

  • Daniel Carraway

    The Honda is a very reliable brand, that’s why a lot of users swear by its performance. I personally love the easy start-up and the noise is kept at a tolerable level. The Honda EU20003162 is also affordable and you get a top-notch product!

  • Marcus Brown

    I originally bought this Honda generator because I love camping in the mountains a lot. Keeping it cool overnight isn’t a problem when the vent fan is moving air. So I’m keeping it around for emergency power for winter. But, recently I feel like bringing it during camping quite burdens me, for I only need my GPS to be charged. So I bought this Voltaic Fuse 4W solar charger. It is really rugged (which I like) and is relatively compact.

  • Daniel Carraway

    When you’re planning on camping, travel light but make sure you have all the essentials. Sometimes, all you really need are the basic things so you may want to plan ahead. Choose compact generators that you can take with you on trips without being a burden to you and your family.

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