Electricity is something we take for granted until it is no longer available. Whether it’s a sudden outage or a planned camping vacation, being without power may be a major inconvenience.
Portable generators, on the other hand, offer a flexible choice for keeping the current flowing whenever and wherever it is needed.
The majority of generators run on gasoline, although a few run on propane and a few on both. The power output level (and what you can really run from it), noise level (in decibels), weight and portability, and, of course, price are all important factors to consider while looking for one.
Although generators aren’t cheap, that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money on one. On the market, there are hundreds of portable generators. Which one do you prefer? We spent time evaluating a number of the most popular models on the market to come up with our top selections for the best portable generators in 2021.
1.Best Portable Generator: WEN 56380i
The WEN 56380i is a medium-sized portable generator that may be used for a wide range of tasks. Its silent operation and 8.5-hour runtime (at half-load) make it one of the best portable generators for home usage, but its small size and wheeled design make it suitable for travel as well.
The device’s folding handle makes it easy to move and store. This type has a power output of 3800 watts, although there are several different versions of the same generator with power outputs of up to 8750 watts. The WEN 56380i complies with EPA and CARB regulations, allowing it to be used legally in all 50 states.
With a TT-30R RV plug producing 28 amps of electricity, the machine is RV-ready. It also includes a spark arrestor, allowing it to be used in most national parks and woods. There are two three-prong 120V outlets, one 12V DC, and a 5V USB connector in addition to the 120V RV outlet.
A digital wattage metre displays statistics such as voltage, wattage, fuel supply, run time, and more in real time. The weight to power ratio is the unit’s only serious flaw. This generator is fairly heavy for its capacity, weighing 99.2 pounds. The robust handle and wheels, on the other hand, make it relatively easy to transport.
- Moderate size
- EPA III and CARB Compliant for use in all US states
- Handle and wheels for easy transportation
- Runtime of up to 8.5 hours at half load
- Quiet operation
- Fairly heavy for its size/wattage
2.Best Quiet Portable Generator: Westinghouse iGen2200
Generators are useful, but they may be rather noisy, which can pose problems no matter where they’re used. You can get dirty stares at a camping, and you might get complaints from your neighbours at home. Models like the Westinghouse iGen2200 are built primarily for silent operation. This unit’s noise output is as low as 52 dBA.
According to Yale University research, that’s around the noise level of a typical residential refrigerator. This is, of course, the quietest it can go. Depending on what you’re using the generator for and how hard you’re pushing it, noise output may be higher. The Westinghouse has an operating wattage of 1800 and a peak wattage of 2200.
This is plenty for running kitchen and other home appliances, but not for power-hungry activities such as driving an RV. It just has two 120V outlets and two USB connections, which isn’t much. Because of these two qualities, the Westinghouse iGen2200 is best suited for use as a backup generator or a lightweight camping generator.
This type also saves a lot of gas. It has a modest tank of only 1.2 gallons, but in fuel-efficient “Economy Mode,” it can run for up to 12 hours. It’s also lightweight and portable, weighing only 46 pounds, and comes with a three-year guaranteed warranty.
The dearth of outlets (it only has 120V outlets and USB connections) and a few more quality control issues than we’d like to see are the unit’s drawbacks. There are several reports of issues with a sputtering or rattling noise, which obviously disrupts the “quiet” operation of the unit.
- Quiet operation as low as 52 dBA
- Up to 12 hour runtime from 1.2 gallon tank (gas-powered)
- Can be paired with select other Westinghouse generators to boost wattage
- 3-year limited warranty
- Some units have sputtering/rattling noise issues
- Limited number and type of outlets
3.Best Portable Solar Generator: Jackery Explorer 1000 + SolarSaga Solar Panels
The majority of generators are gas-powered, while others are propane-powered. But what if you’re off the grid or just wanting to be more environmentally conscious? The Jackery Explorer 1000, in combination with Jackery SolarSaga 100W solar panels, could be the answer. The Jackery Explorer 1000 (read our complete review here) isn’t actually a generator in the traditional sense (unless paired with the solar panels).
It’s more of a power bank, with a storage capacity of 1002Wh and a power output of up to 1000W. The Jackery takes about 7 hours to charge from a standard AC outlet and 14 hours to charge from a vehicle accessory port. However, for off-grid customers, it works best when combined with solar panels.
With bright sunlight, the Jackery can be charged in roughly 8 hours using two 100W solar panels. When only one panel is used, the charge time climbs to 17 hours, and severe weather will further slow the charge time. Even yet, for a solar charger, this is pretty fast, thanks to the utilisation of high-end MPPT technology to maximise power generation in all conditions.
The output is up to 1000W, which is enough to power most small electronics and appliances but not an RV or even a microwave oven, hair dryer, or induction cooker. One downside of this unit is its lesser output; another is its high cost. The Jackery isn’t cheap, and to get the most out of it, you’ll need the solar panels, which can be purchased alone or as part of a package.
The Explorer 1000 is a good alternative if you can afford the higher price tag and want to catch near-endless solar power while off-grid. If price is a deterrent, keep in mind that Jackery also offers a range of less expensive models, but with lower capacity and output.
- Easy to set up and use
- High power storage capacity
- Power small appliances, TVs, CPAP units, and more
- Fast charging time from solar panels (as little as 8 hours)
- Can also recharge from AC outlet (7 hours) or vehicle accessory ports (14 hours)
- Solar panels come at additional cost
- Lower output than others on this list
4.Best Portable Dual Fuel Generator: Champion 5500-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator
The Champion 5500-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator can work on either gas or propane, unlike other generators. This gives you more options, allowing you to rapidly switch from gas to propane and vice versa if you run out of gas. The “Intelligauge” maintains track of voltage, hertz, and other parameters, while a revolutionary fuel selector button allows you to safely switch between the two fuel sources.
However, compared to many others on this list, the display provides less information. This unit’s cold-start feature allows it to start up promptly even in cold weather. It’s a manual (recoil) start, but it’s quick and doesn’t require a lot of muscle. Moving the generator, on the other hand, might be possible given its weight of 162.5 pounds.
It’s on wheels, but the lack of a lengthy handle makes it a little difficult to manoeuvre. One 120/240V 30A locking outlet (L14-30R) and four 120V 20A outlets are available on this device.
A three-year guarantee is included, as well as lifelong technical assistance.
The noise level (reported at 74 dB, but tested as high as 81.5 dB when using gas), as well as the weight and difficulty of transporting this generator, are major drawbacks. The noise level, as well as loading, unloading, and moving it about, may be an issue for use when camping.
- Can run on gasoline or propane
- 3-year warranty and lifetime technical support
- Intelligauge display keeps track of voltage, hertz, etc
- Display lists total hours used, which is useful for keeping up with maintenance recommendations
- Can be loud – listed at 74 dB but tests as high as 81.5 dB on gas power
5.Best Portable Generator for RVs & Camping: Champion 4500-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
To power appliances and electronics in an RV, generators need to have RV-specific outputs. They also must be relatively quiet in order to not bother fellow campers. The Champion 4500-Watt Portable Inverter Generator fits the bill nicely, thanks to the 120V 30A RV output, along with the two 120V 20A standard household outlets.
The Champion is relatively quiet as well, rated at 61 dB. It can provide power for up to 14 hours using a 2.3 gallon tank of gasoline. There is also an economy mode for better fuel efficiency, which may be useful depending on how much power you’re drawing.
Like the other Champion model mentioned above, this unit comes with a 3-year warranty and lifetime technical support. The only downside is the weight to output ratio: the unit weighs 95 lbs, which is fairly heavy for a 4500W generator.
- RV Ready – 120V 30A RV, and two 120V 20A household outlets
- Quiet (61 dB)
- Up to 14 hour runtime on 2.3 gallons of gas
- 3-year warranty and lifetime technical support
- Economy mode for enhanced fuel efficiency
- Fairly heavy (95 lbs)