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A portable generator makes camping easier and power outages less stressful.
Having a portable generator around is a great idea for a number of reasons: it makes camping more manageable, it's cheaper than a permanent generator (plus, it can be stored when not in use), and it will save the day if you're prone to unexpected power outages. Storms, tornadoes, and even extreme heat and cold winter days can cause power outages. Going without power can lead to spoiled food, exposure to uncomfortable temperatures, and more — and you won't have access to kitchen appliances, electronics, and sometimes even a water source. A portable generator uses gas or solar to produce electricity to power your essentials when you need them most.
To find the best portable generators, we considered cost, how long they could supply an electric charge, and the types of appliances and devices they had the ability to power. The first decision to make is deciding if you want a gas generator or a solar generator. When deciding between solar and gas, note that gas generators will work for bigger appliances like air conditioners, heating units, fridges, ovens, and more — but you can't keep them inside the house. Gas generators must be plugged in at least 20 feet away from the home or campsite to keep carbon monoxide risk low. Gas-powered generators must be used carefully, but many recent gas models do have sensors that detect the presence of carbon monoxide and will automatically turn the machine off. We prefer gas generators because they do more, but if you're deterred, solar generators can work for smaller appliances like electronics, small fans, and electric cars. While they won't reliably power up large appliances, they can be safely kept indoors, they're smaller, and are generally much more affordable. Consider these for apartments, small campers, and emergency kits. Check out our top picks for portable generators below:
1. Our Top Pick for Homes & RVs
A good rule of thumb to remember is that 1200 watts is the minimum wattage needed to power up a portable A/C unit. Powermate's gas-powered generator has 4500 starting watts and 2600 running watts, so it's powerful enough for a few small appliances. Powermate's gas generator requires a 5-gallon fuel tank for a 19-hour run-time at a 25% load, which means that if you power this to its full capabilities, it will run for around 5 hours — so keep that in mind if you're prone to longer stretches of no power and keep fuel around for easy refills. This model has wheels for easy portability, and it has a safety feature that will alert you and stop the power if the device senses any carbon monoxide. It's also easy to turn on with a dial, and it has a fuel gauge so you can see how much power you have left. There's also a gas shut-off valve so you won't lose any gas while you're storing it in your shed.
It's a fantastic option that will work well for camping or the home — and we love that it's a more affordable choice than some other models, but has all the specs we'd want in a quality generator. Use it for bench tools, large appliances, small appliances, small electronics, well pumps, A/C units, and more.
2. The Best Budget-Friendly Generator
This budget-friendly generator has 1200 Watts, which is the perfect amount of power for camping trips and powering up small appliances. Store this PowerSmart option in your RV or truck for camping trips — it weighs about 40 pounds and can be used for both household appliances and devices like phones and tablets without risk of damage. It operates quietly, too. One happy customer wrote: "I needed a generator so I could run certain items like my pellet stove, refrigerator, lights etc. Did a lot of research and found that the PowerSmart Generator was getting great reviews. Once I un-boxed it and set it up, this little generator started right up and is very quiet compared to others."
This may keep one or two kitchen appliances running for several hours, however it won't power an entire home. Make this your go-to generator for camping or to power one key room in your house. It can run for five hours on 50% load, so be sure to have gas ready — and note, because it doesn't have automatic shut-off, make sure you keep this outside and away from your home or camper.
3. A More Expensive Option We Love
Honda's EU2200i generator is actually a smart generator: just download the app to monitor the generator from anywhere. With it, you can start/stop it from your phone, monitor operation, and even get notifications when it needs to be serviced with things like oil changes. It has a an automatic circuit break for device protection, a continuous carbon monoxide monitor that will automatically shut off the device if needed, and it makes less noise than a conversation between two people. Yep, it's that quiet. Plus, it's easy to use: it has a decompressor system that makes it simple to start the engine up.
This runs up to 8.1 hours on a single tank, which will only require less than a gallon of gas. It weighs around 47 pounds and is the simplest, most safety-oriented pick of the bunch. It will power up a number of appliances and reviewers say it even works on two teardrop campers at a time. If you're willing to spend, this is more than worth it.
4. The Best for An Emergency Kit
This lightweight, portable power station is the best choice for an emergency kit: keep it in your basement, car, or RV for unexpected outages — if you're on the fence about paying for a generator but want some extra piece of mind, this is the option for you. It's a solar generator — buy the solar panel here — and a lightweight power station that can be charged via outlet or car. It will charge phones up to 24 times without needing a recharge, as well as laptops and tablets. However, it can also handle small appliances like portable heaters, kitchen appliances like coffeemakers, and small heating plates. It's the best option for apartments, car camping, weekend camping trips off the grid, and other needs for smaller electronics.
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