Camping with portable generators: What to Consider

Pros and cons of campsite generators

Before I purchased my generator, I wanted to be aware of the pros and cons as I was concerned about the cost. It is important to understand the pros and cons that a generator can offer you during your camping trip.

Generators can open up the world of camping. Allowing you to explore areas you would not usually visit. They can offer home comforts and reduce the stress of camping. The negative is the cost of buying, awareness of safety, and potential damage to the environment and wildlife. Not all campsites will allow the usage of a generator as they are concerned about disruption to other campers due to noise.

Why are camping generators worth buying?

There are many positives to using a portable generator during camping trips. The initial financial investment of a generator can be daunting. Compare the cost of a pitch with EHU, how many times you camp per year to the cost of a generator. You may find that a generator will be a more cost-effective way of camping.

Portable generators are not just for camping. Depending on the type of generator you purchase, you can use it in your home. My Jackery is used to charge our mobile, Ipads, and laptop whilst at home due to the increase in energy prices.

However, as with all generators, it is important to consider the impact on nature and use a generator that is between 50-60 dBs.

Why are portable generators are worth buying?

Portable generators allow you to camp in secluded areas with no EHU

Independence – generating your own electricity whilst camping will allow you to visit places you would normally reject. There are many smaller family-run, affordable campsites that do not offer EHU. A portable generator will give you freedom of where you want to camp.

More remote tent pitches are available within woodlands and giving you and your family privacy not having to worry about some degree of disturbing other campers during the evenings or early mornings.

Convenience – portable generators can provide comfort from home. Larger 1000 kW plus generators can be used to cook, run camping fridges, and provide lighting inside and outside of your tent. However, smaller powered portable generators can power fridges. You will only need a large kW generator if you want to power more items simultaneously.

Using electrical items will make your life easier and remove stress, especially if the weather is not suitable for cooking outside. If the weather is not ideal for cooking outside, I will use our hotplate hob stove inside with the door open to allow full ventilation and avoid condensation.

Plus, not having to worry about setting up a portable gas stove to boil a kettle, and being able to simply plug your kettle into a generator is very quick and easy.

Entertainment – During the colder camping season, especially if it is wet outside, it can be difficult to keep children entertained. Generators allow you to keep children entertained by powering streaming devices such as projectors or streaming directly to a portable TV.

It will also keep iPads charged and mobiles so they can watch downloaded programmes or YouTube whilst curled up in their sleeping bags. Nicholas, my son, will often watch his Ipad in bed during our trips, especially if he has difficulty sleeping. Also, in the mornings, so he does not disturb other campers.

Seasonal camping – The freedom to camp out of season allows you to book campsites at a lower cost. Generators are ideal for keeping your tent warm with a fan heater and keeping your tent alight during the darker evenings. Or, during the summer months, you can use your generator to keep your tent cool with a fan or a small air conditioning unit. However, I do recommend only a fan.

The only months we do not camp is November – January. Before I purchased our generator, mornings were often very cold and uncomfortable due to frosty mornings, heavy rain and wind. If required, I can recharge our lanterns with our generator and use our fan heater. However, you do need to be aware of condensation build-up. Ensure all the vents are open and place a cup with table salt inside. During the night, the salt will become hard as it absorbs water. Please read our article on other ways you can help to reduce condensation in your tent.

Safety – Having a generator can help in emergencies. Ensuring that it is always charged if you need a mobile to call in a crisis. Plus, it gives you peace of mind knowing that you will always have a charged mobile. Not only for emergencies for yourself but if family need to contact you urgently.

Another safety aspect is always having lights. Not only the inside of your tent but the outside area. Keep it bright, and avoid tripping and harming yourself.

What are the negatives about camping with a generator?

Noise levels – a portable camping generator must be under 60 dBs. These are classed as quiet generators. Not all generators are suitable for camping as they are loud, especially if they are above 60 dbs. The quiet generators are solar-powered. This is because they do not have motors and moving parts.

Always check the noise levels of a generator before buying. Noise levels depend on the specifications and manufacturers of the generator. Noisy generators will also have an impact on wildlife as well as disturb other campers.

Campsite restrictions – not all campsites will allow any portable generators. It is often stated clearly on their booking forms. Or they will have restrictions on the type of portable generators permitted. Approximately 80% of campsites will not allow any fuel-operated generators on site. I advise you to contact the campsite directly and ask if there are restrictions if you have a solar power generator. They will often allow you to use them. I have a Jackery solar generator, which is small and compact compared to other fuel generators. It does not cause any disturbance to other campers, which is one of the main reasons campsites do not want you to use a portable generator.

Cost – portable generators are not cheap, especially if you want a reliable and suitable generator. For a branded model, although depending on power, the price will vary. For a solar generator, expect to pay £500-£1600, including the generator and solar panels.

For fuel generators, you will need to budget for the running costs, whereas solar-powered generators can charge by sunlight.

Not only are they costly to buy, but you also have to consider their maintenance. Generators need to be maintained correctly to avoid damage and safety to yourselves. If they are not maintained correctly, you will see an increase in fuel usage.

Pollution – fossil fuel generators emit exhaust fumes and can contribute to air pollution. This is harmful to humans, the environment and also wildlife.

Safety – fossil fuel portable generators are dangerous if you have them inside your tent, so you are restricted from using them outside. They emit carbon monoxide, which is dangerous to breathe in and you can soon become overcome by fumes. They need full ventilation and mustn’t be used close to your tent. This is because they run on flammable fuel.

Fuel storage is a significant factor when deciding on a portable generator. Generators must be topped up regularly, although this depends on usage. You will need to be able to transport and store additional fuel safely.

Transporting – some portable generators are bulky. Not only will you need additional space in your vehicle, but you must also consider how you can get your generator to your pitch. Especially as a majority of remote campsites will not allow you to park near your pitch. Or you are camping in more remote areas. If your generator is heavy, you need to use a trolley or buy a generator encased in a frame and wheels for transporting.

Maintenance – Fuel generators need to be maintained regularly. Before using, you need to check your generator and perform a general maintenance check of filters. Depending on the type of generator, you will need to change filters, and hose lines, which can increase the cost of running your generator. A main service should be carried out by an experienced professional. Not only to ensure the safe working of your generator but to ensure that your generator is covered under warranty. Read our article for more information on the different time scales and what is included in the maintenance of your generator.

Final thoughts

Having a portable generator for camping will help reduce camping costs over time. However, it is essential to invest in a generator that is suitable for usage. I prefer solar-powered generators; I can use them inside my tent, and I do not need to worry about fumes. My only concern is condensation.

It is also essential to consider all options and types of generators, as many different varieties are available. I do not recommend buying a cheap generator. I advise purchasing a well-known brand and researching the brand first. Before you buy read our readers guide, providing information on the different types of generators, power output and safety considerations.

Apart from using it during camping trips, can you use a generator on other occasions? I use my Jackery portable generator for charging devices at home, as well as using it whilst we are on day trips.

Before you buy a generator, please read our article about portable generators for camping. We explain the dBs levels and different fuel types. Also, you need to ensure that the generator produces pure energy. Otherwise, it will not be suitable for running any audio equipment, laptops or projectors during your trip.

Related questions

Why are portable solar generators suitable for camping?

Solar-powered portable generators are suitable for camping as they are one of the quietest generators. They are also compact and do not emit any fumes. They are cheaper to maintain, and you do not need to worry about transporting additional fuel to keep running.

Their compactness makes them ideal for transporting. However, you will have the main body of the generator to transport. The solar panels fold and can be stored flat. The solar panels will charge your generator, and you can charge an item directly via the solar panel. However, this does depend on the model design.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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