Our Picks for the Top 4 Quiet Camping Generators in 2019.
For many of us, the attraction to camping has a lot to do with the peace and quiet of nature and the great outdoors. The whisper of the wind through the trees, melodic birdsong, or the chitter chatter of squirrels are all part of the experience. Yet camping need not be uncomfortable, a few creature comforts certainly won’t go amiss. With this in mind, we’re going to review some great quiet generators for camping.
Intro | Quiet Camping Generator
Camping generator requirements are not all the same. A large RV will have a powerful air conditioner, requiring more watts from your generator, and any number of high-watt appliances. In a tent, you may only want to use few lights and have the luxury of a TV to watch the Sunday game while you’re on vacation. While none of the generators in this review are all that powerful, the Champion 100263 could be a good option for basic RV power. The others may not be the best if you’re using an AC.
There’s one factor common to all the generators in this review. These are quiet generators, an important consideration for camping grounds. So, when reviewing these generators, I’m going to pay close attention to noise levels. In a bid to supply generators that won’t disturb you or your neighbors, manufacturers have come up with innovative solutions to reduce generator noise levels.
Improved mufflers and quieter engines have made quite a difference in this regard. Using sound insulating enclosures is one of the best advancements in quiet generator design. Inverter generators with an economy, or quiet mode, can make some difference. By lowering the engine revs, when power demand is low, these generators are quieter and use less fuel.
Noise levels are expressed in Decibels (dB). Though most generator specifications use the A-weighted decibel system (dBA). This system compensates for low frequency noise, by reducing these levels. This is because the human ear is less sensitive to low frequency noise. The dB(A) noise reading is lower than standard dB readings and this is obviously beneficial when advertising low noise levels for a generator. Little wonder then, that generator manufacturers prefer to use the A-weighted decibel system. In the end, it doesn’t make much difference if all the specs are expressed using the same noise rating system.
If you see a dB spec without the “A” suffix, it will be slightly quieter compared to a generator with the same value, using the A-weighted system. Though, the difference is hardly noticeable, unless you have particularly sensitive ears. Placing the dB specs into context (regardless of which system is used), we can consider a noise level of 60 – 65 dBA as being equivalent to a normal conversational voice. A noise level of 85dBA is about the same as an average vacuum cleaner or small lawnmower. I’ll discuss noise level regulations in more detail following the review.
2200 watt Inverter : Exceptional quiet camping generator. It doesn’t get any better than this, but it comes at a price.
Note : Read about the previous recall notice from 2019.
- EU2200i delivers 10% more power than the EU2000i – enabling you to power more of what you need, in the same lightweight, compact package. Whether it’s an extra refrigerator at home, a larger saw on your construction site, a larger TV at your tailgate party, the EU2200i gives you the power to get more done.
- The EU2200i can operate a wide variety of appliances, such as : Microwave, refrigerators, hair dryer, small AC units, and much more. Designed for portable use at home, camping, on the jobsite, or much more.
- Honda EU2200i operates at 48 to 57 dBA : Less noise than a normal conversation. Great for camping (won’t disturb your neighbors), supplemental RV power and any other activity that requires quiet operation.
- Powered by the Honda GXR120 Commercial Series engine. Exceptionally quiet, smooth, fuel-efficient performance in a small, lightweight package. At 121cc, the GXR120 is at the top of its class. Originally developed for heavy duty construction equipment. Durable and reliable.
- Double your power by running two in parallel : Connect it to the Honda EU2000ic Companion generator for additional power. Optional cable sold separately. Get up to 4400 watts of power.
- Note : The companion generator has a 30A outlet, making it the perfect setup for your travel trailer or RV. The companion generator model is : Honda EU2200ic (“c” for companion).
- Eco-Throttle System : Runs 3.2 to 8.1 hours on a single tank, depending on the load. This makes it the ideal choice for overnight power, or long-time applications.
- Inverter technology : Stable, clean power. Produces power that is as reliable (and cleaner) as the power you get from your outlets at home.
- Automatic mechanical decompressor system significantly reduces the amount of force needed to start the engine.
- Less than 47 pounds.
- Large oil filler opening, longer spout, and larger oil drain gutter make for easier and cleaner oil changes.
- 12v – 8.3A unregulated DC output : Use when charging 12-volt automotive type batteries. (Requires an optional charging cord.)
- Oil Alert : Protects the generator by shutting the engine off when low oil is detected.
- 3 year residential and commercial warranty
Honda often tops the wish list of many generator buyers. In most instances, Honda would by my first choice for any size generator — though, they are among the most expensive of all the brands. Of the generators reviewed here, the Honda EU2200i is the most expensive. It’s also the quietest and, in my opinion, the best. As the old saying goes: You get what you pay for.
I’ll start with noise levels, as this is what the review is about. At 25% of its rated load, the Honda EU2200i has a noise level of only 48dBA. When running at maximum rated power, it is still barely audible, at 57dBA. The term whisper quiet is definitely appropriate when describing this generator.
The Honda EU2200i uses their legendary GXR120T (121cc) engine, renowned for its reliability and exceptional fuel economy. The EU2200i generates 2,200 peak watts and 1,800 rated watts. When we compare the wattage output to engine size, the GXR120T engine is substantially more powerful than any other generator with a similar output. As a comparison, the WEN 56200i produces 2,000 peak and 1,800 running (rated) watts. This output is only marginally lower than the Honda, yet the WEN uses a much smaller 79.7cc engine. By using a larger engine, the Honda EU2200i has improved durability, as the engine does have not to work as hard to deliver the same wattage.
Despite the larger engine, the EU200i is one of the most fuel efficient in terms of kilowatt-hours per gallon of fuel. It has a relatively small gas tank (0.95-gallons), yet this provides a mighty impressive 8.1-hours runtime at 25% load, and 3.2-hours at the maximum rated load (1,800W). This equates to 6.1 kilowatt-hours per gallon (KWH/G) of fuel.
Like most generators of this size, the Honda does not have an electric starter. Though it starts easily with a tug or two on the recoil starter rope. It is remarkably lightweight, at 46.5-pounds. As this is an inverter generator, you have the added benefit of an economy switch (Eco Throttle) to reduce engine revs when the output requirement is less than 25% of the rated load. This makes it quieter and saves on fuel.
Naturally, the inverter also means clean, low HD power that’s perfectly safe for sensitive electronic equipment. Using a parallel kit (sold separately), you can connect two Honda EU2200i generators in parallel to double your power output, giving a good power supply for an RV with an air conditioner. The control panel has two standard 120V household outlets and a 12 VDC, 8.3A battery charging outlet, along with a single AC circuit breaker and all the necessary warning lights. The Honda does not have an RV style outlet, it doesn’t generate the kind od wattage to warrant the larger 30A RV outlet.
The Honda EU2200i is the quietest and most fuel efficient generator of the bunch. It is probably the most reliable and durable too. When you take this into account, the high price tag is perfectly justifiable. Not to mention the 3-year warranty for both residential and commercial use, and the Honda reputation for outstanding service. Easily the top generator in its class, with a price to match.
Want to learn more? Read our indepth review of the Honda EU2200i, As far as camping goes, this is the generator to beat in terms of quality and noise levels.
Champion 100263 : Dual Fuel
- Dual Fuel Champion inverter generator
- Low oil shut-off sensor
- Electric Start with 3-Position Ignition Switch. Cold Start Technology ensures a quick start in cold weather.
- Battery included
- Quick Touch Panel allows you to access all your controls in one spot
- Perfect for RVs, camping, tailgating, your next project or backup power for your home,
- Clean Power for Sensitive Electronics (˂ 3% THD).
- Easily switch fuels with a quick turn of the fuel selector dial.
- Gas : 192cc Champion engine produces 3400 starting watts and 3100 running watts,
- Will run for 7.5 hours at 25% load.
- Propane : 3060 starting watts and 2790 running watts
- Will run for 14.5 hours at 25% load (20-pound propane tank)
- Smart Economy Mode, which can reduce the electrical load, providing quieter operation, extended engine life and better fuel economy.
- Outlets : 120V 30A RV (TT-30R), two 120V 20A household outlets (5-20R), a 12V DC automotive-style outlet with dual USB adapter, plus a propane hose with a built-in regulator.
- Operates at 59 dBA from 23 feet – about the same noise level as normal conversation.
- Optional Champion Parallel Kit provides a quick clip-on connection which allows you to increase output by connecting up to two 2800-watt or higher inverters. Also included is a standard 50-amp RV outlet with power to start and run two 15,000 BTU RV air conditioners.
- Fully assembled with foldaway handle for easy storage and built-in handles and never-flat tires for easy transport.
- EPA certified and CARB compliant Champion dual-fuel inverter generator
- 3-year limited warranty and FREE lifetime technical support.
✓ View or download the MANUAL for the Champion dual fuel inverter generator (model: 100263).
NOTE : Use only standard 20 or 30 pound capacity LP tanks with Type 1, right hand Acme threads.
There are numerous reasons why anyone might see the Champion 100263 Dual fuel inverter generator as their best option. This generator pushes out a pretty impressive 3400W peak power, and 3,100 running watts. This makes it more powerful than the average inverter generator. The price is very reasonable too, costing roughly the same as the less powerful Honda EU2200i.
Versatility is another reason why many will rate the champion 100263 above the other generators in this review. Being a dual fuel (hybrid) generator, you can use either propane or gas as fuel. Since you’re likely to be using propane for your cooking and heating when camping, it can be very convenient to use the same fuel for your generator. You won’t have to transport gas, which is more volatile, increasing the risk of fire. The only downside to using propane is the lower output – 3060 peak watts and 2970 running watts. You probably won’t be able to power a 15,000 BTU air conditioner, when using propane. Running on gas, this generator should be able to provide enough power for a 15,000 BTU AC. Though you wouldn’t have any reserve power for other appliances. If you’re using a 10,000 BTU AC, the Champion will have enough power to run additional low-watt appliances.
Double your power | Run in Parallel
The Champion 100263 is powered by a 192cc, 4-stroke engine. The 1.6-gallon gas tank is a convenient size, providing 7.5-hours run time at 25% load (775W). This fuel consumption is not at all impressive though. Compared to the 6.1 KWH/G provided by the Honda EU2200i, the Champion is quite thirsty, at only 3.6 KWH/G. A 20-pound propane tank will provide 14.5-hours run time at 25% of the rated load.
Noise levels are a perfectly acceptable 59 dBA, measured from 23-feet away. It is noticeably quieter when using the Eco-mode. One of the many benefits of an inverter generator. Apart from the expected 120V household outlets, the Champion 100263 also has a 120V 30A (TT-30R) outlet, making it a more convenient option for RV owners. There’s the additional benefit of a 12VDC battery charging outlet. Like the other inverter generators, this model has parallel connection ports. What I really like about the Champion parallel kit (sold separately) is that it includes an RV ready 50A outlet, which can also be great for connecting to your home via a transfer switch. You have the added ease of an electric starter with a recoil starter as a backup.
The Champion 100263 is quite heavy, 95.7 LBS. Then again it is substantially larger, and more powerful, than the other generators in this review. Fortunately, it has 5.5” wheels and two sturdy handles running the entire width of the generator at the top. It is, therefore, quite portable.
As one of the cheaper inverter generators, the Champion 100263 offers you a lot for your money. It is quiet, has all the advantages of inverter technology, and the benefit of dual fuel operation. Despite being a very affordable generator, this model has a 3-year warranty. This is an unexpected surprise, at the price.
Excellent 2000W camping generator. Very affordable. Save money.
- 6 hours run-time at half-load.
- Whisper quiet operation (51 dB); as quiet as a normal conversation.
- ECO Mode: It automatically adjust its fuel consumption as devices are plugged in or removed from the generator.
- EPA III and CARB Compliant.
- 79.7 cc 4-stroke OHV engine. Produces 2000 starting watts and 1600 running watts.
- Great for campgrounds, construction sites, tailgates and power outages.
- Lightweight: (Product Weight) 48 lbs. / Shipping Weight: 54 lbs.
- Generates clean power (pure sine wave) enabling you to safely power your sensitive electronics.
- Includes: (2) three-prong 120V receptacles, (1) 12V DC receptacle and (1) 5V USB port.
- Total harmonic distortion to under 0.3 percent at no load and under 1.2 percent at full load.
- Low-oil and low-fuel automatic shutdown.
- 2-year warranty.
- Link two generators together using a parallel kit (WEN 56421) (sold separately).
✓ View or download the MANUAL for the 56200i.
Finding a good quality inverter generator for under $500 can be a challenge. Well, the WEN 56200i meets this with cash to spare. This is not only the cheapest quiet generator that we’re reviewing, it is more than capable of meeting most camping power requirements.
Generating 2,000 peak watts, and 1,600 running watts, this generator will give you the power needed to run a small 120V refrigerator (or a room air conditioner), along with a few other appliances and lights. The 79.7 cc engine appears to be quite reliable and fuel consumption is average. The 1-gallon gas tank is sufficient for 6-hours run time at 50% rated load (800W). This works out to 4.8 KWH/G.
As far as being a quiet generator, the WEN56200i makes the grade. The noise level, measured at 25% load, is a perfectly comfortable 51dBA. I assume this would be with economy mode engaged to lower the engine revs, thereby reducing the noise.
Power outlets are fairly standard, 2 X 120V household outlets, a 12VDC battery charging outlet, and a 5V USB port. It also has the option for parallel connections. This generator is easy enough to start using the recoil starter, there’s no electric starter. A compact design, and a weight of only 48 LBS, make the WEN 56200i delightfully portable. A molded handle at the top allows for comfortable carrying.
As a small quiet generator, the WEN 56200i is perfect for camping, tail gating, and basic power for the home during an outage. It’s one of the cheapest in its class, yet the general quality is of a high standard for a light to medium-duty inverter generator. The 2-year warranty is more than one would expect for a generator this cheap.
Portable Power Stations
Even quiet generators aren’t exactly silent. Some camping sites forbid gas generators altogether, regardless of how quiet they are. For a completely quiet generator, portable battery power stations, or solar generators could be the answer. While most of these are small, very portable, units with a low power output, they can be useful to keep the lights on at night without the noise of a generator. They’re also great for charging devices, like smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
Silent Battery Generator | Sun Joe SJ1440SG
Looking at an inverter generator vs portable power station, there are pros and cons to both. Using a gas generator means that you are not restricted by battery time. Provided you have sufficient gas, you can run the generator for as long as you need. A portable battery power station can only run for as long as the batteries allow. You will need access to a 120V power socket to recharge the battery, and this usually takes around 8-hours. Most portable power stations are able to charge the battery using solar panels. This is a great solution, as long as you have adequate sunlight. Many have the option of charging the battery using the auxiliary socket in your car. Though again, this can be limited if the engine isn’t running whilst charging the portable power station.
The alternator, used to keep your car battery charged, needs power from the engine. Without this, your car battery will discharge and may not be able to start after charging your portable power station for 8-hours or more. This is basically the same as leaving the car stereo and lights overnight.
Most portable power stations don’t provide much power, generally around 200 – 450 watts. So, you’re limited to low watt electronic devices. There are some solar generators that can compare to portable inverter generators with regard to output power, up to 3,500W or more. These are not particularly large units; but require extra battery storage to provide power for a reasonable time. The extra batteries are large and heavy. This impedes their portability somewhat.
Portable power stations providing 200 – 300W can be as small and lightweight as a portable radio. This makes them fantastic for hiking and backpacking. Most have compact solar panel kits designed for carrying in one hand. They fold up into a unit that fits easily into a backpack. For RV owners, these small battery power stations are very popular as a nighttime power source. You can switch the generator off and still have basic power for LED lights, a laptop, or even a small LCD TV.
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240
- Capacity: 240Wh (16.8Ah, 14.4V)
- Battery Type: 67000mAh Lithium-ion Battery
- Input: 8mm DC, 12V~30V (42W max. )
- AC Output: 110V, 200W (400W peak.)
- Car Port: DC 12V, 10A , 120 Watt
- USB Outputs (2): 5V, 2.4A (each)
- Weight: 6.6 lbs
- Dimensions: 9.05*5.24*7.87in
The Jackery Explorer is the perfect companion for a hiking a trip and camping. It’s as portable as it gets, measuring only 9” X 7.8” X 5,2”, and weighs a mere 6.6-pounds.
The power station has a high-grade 240 WH lithium ion battery, rated for up to 500 cycles at an 80% average discharge cycle. There three options for charging the battery. Using the 120V wall charger, or the 12V car charger supplied with the Jackery, it takes 8-hours to charge the internal battery. An optional solar kit is sold separately. This will allow you to charge the battery in about 10-hours of full sunlight.
The Jackery Explorer 240 has an internal inverter that provides 200W continuous power, with a surge capacity of 400W. This is supplied using a single 120V AC power outlet on the side panel. It also has 2 X USB ports and a 12VDC, car cigarette lighter style output for 12V lights or a portable camping refrigerator. Information, like battery level, charge status, and output watts, are clearly displayed on an LCD screen.
Although you don’t have a lot of watts, the nifty little Jackery can keep a laptop running for around 8 – 10-hours; or charge the battery about 4 times. You can watch TV for about 5-hours, with a reasonably efficient TV, or charge smartphone batteries more than 17 times. It’s compact and light enough to take anywhere. Or it can be kept in the car for emergency power at any time. With a 2-year warranty, the Jackery Explorer is of a good quality standard.
Noise Level Restrictions in US Campsites
There can be no doubt that quiet generators are preferable, whether in a residential neighborhood or campsite. But what, if any, are the noise level restrictions for campsites in the US? This turned out to be a difficult question to answer and took some research.
Generally, noise level restrictions in US campsites are at the discretion of the campsite management. The enforcement of any regulations regarding noise levels seems to be quite casual. If no one complains about noise, campsite managers would rather not intervene.
Most private campsites, and those in national parks, have a quiet time. This is generally from 10PM to 6AM. Though there is no specific definition of what you may or may not do during these hours. It is assumed that campers will follow a basic campsite etiquette.
The only documented regulations that I found when researching noise level restrictions for campsites, was a document issued by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service in 1992. Although this is an old document, and may be outdated, it specifies the noise levels regulations for generators used in campsites.
According to this survey, the US National Parks Service (NPS) is the only recreational agency that has specific noise level regulations for the use of generators. Though, after searching their website, I could find no mention of these, other than the normal “quiet hours” rule, stating that the use of generators should be kept to a minimum during this time. So, it all seems to be quite vague.
Be that as it may, the noise level restrictions for generators (as stated in the above-mentioned document) is a maximum noise level of 60dBA from a distance of 50 feet. If this is the only guideline, then the quiet generators that we’ve reviewed all fall well within the required noise level regulations.
Private campsites will have their own regulations, some prohibit the use generators, regardless of how quiet they are. It would be best, when planning your camping trip, to contact the campsites you intend visiting and obtain their rules and regulations.