How To Use A Portable Generator For Camping

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Camping is an extremely popular pastime and for many, the further away from civilization that you can get, the better. However, in these remote locations it can be quite difficult to setup camp, keep things cold or even see what you are doing it you don’t have power outlets nearby. However, with the use of a portable generator, these issues are easily solved.

The main problem is however than many of us run out and purchase one without actually knowing what to do with them once we get them out there. So let’s have a look at some of the ins and outs of it all as we check out how to use a portable generator for camping below…

What is a Portable Generator?

how to use a portable generator - generator in mud

Ok, so to start from the beginning, a portable generator is a small, usually gas-powered engine designed to produce electricity. For camping, they are typically used to supplement or provide electricity for tasks such as charging devices and supplying power to the campsite.

Portable generators range in size, fuel type, power output, and starting method. Most usually operates much like a car engine, using gasoline or diesel fuel to generate electricity. Others however are charged via other means such as a solar panel or traditional power socket (before you leave home of course). For camping, they typically produce between 1000 to 4000 watts.


As above, generators produce electrical currents measured in watts (W) so as you start to plan your needs for camping, you will need to determine your wattage requirements. Now, there is a lot to this and to be honest it can get quite technical however for the purpose of this post, we can look at it as follows:

1. Read the wattage output of the generator (I.e. 2000W)

2. Determine the total amount of wattage that your appliances will run.

For example, my fridge/freezer runs at 1.6 amps which converts to around 380W. So if I wanted to run the fridge and charge my phone (roughly 25watts) then at 400W I will de good. However, if you are running an air conditioner as well, then it will have a starting wattage and a running wattage – if the starting wattage is 1280W, then you will need to add that to the others which takes us to 1680W. In this case, a 2000W should run it all fine.

Of course if you are looking to purchase a portable generator, then work out the wattage of everything you want to run (I would add lights to the above of course) then choose the right size to match.

Note: Most appliances record their electricity usage outputs in amps. Click here if you need to read more about this or work out how much your appliance runs in watts.

How to use a portable generator for camping

Ok, so once you have everything ready to go, let’s have a look at some of the things to consider as we go to use our generator:

Pick the best location

As we know, campsites that don’t have access to power are often remote, hard to reach places. Portable generators are perfect for camping because they can easily be moved with you to different parts of the camp with you however even though most are fairly quite these days, try and consider the following:

  • Try and place them in a spot away from other campsites
  • Generators like to be set flat so that fuel tanks etc. are level.
  • Keep them outside the tent and away from windows, doors, or vents to avoid carbon monoxide buildup.
  • Most generators are water resistant, not waterproof so keep them on a raised platform to avoid water from getting sucked into the cooling fans etc. Oh, and avoid leaving them out in the rain.
  • Never leave the generator unattended – switch off if you leave the campsite for any length of time.

Hint: Charge a portable power station to your generator to keep important appliances running while you are away from the campsite.

Running your generator

In general, running or charging electrical appliances on a generator is the same as in the home. However, in an effort to avoid power surges or damage to your appliances, then the following steps should be undertaken in order:

  1. Check owners manual for any specific needs.
  2. Fill fuel tank and make sure there are no fuel leaks (or recharge battery if needed).
  3. Make sure there are no power cords attached (this is a must as this is where power surges can damage appliances).
  4. Start the generator as per manufacturer instructions.
  5. Attach power cords one at a time.

Do not overload the generator (see wattage outline above) and always check fuel levels and wattage outputs as needed.

how to use a portable generator - pull start generator


As with all fuel powered engines, there are some maintenance steps to be undertaken to keep things running as smoothly as possible. In most cases, any servicing or repairs should be undertaken by a licensed professional in order to maintain warranties etc. however in general, you should:

  • Always store upright.
  • Do not let gas/diesel sit in the fuel lines (most good brands allow you to shut off the flow of gas before you turn it off to assist with this).
  • Change the oil as per the manufacturer’s handbook if applicable.
  • Clean dust, grass and mud off with a damp cloth – especially on engine parts that heat up during use.


There you have it, how to use a portable generator for camping. I hope it was helpful, and as usual, please let me know of your experiences with them below.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun


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4 thoughts on “How To Use A Portable Generator For Camping”

  1. I never thought there was such a thing as portable generators. This will actually come in handy not just for camping but for other things too. Is it also powered by petrol? I should definitely get this for myself as my country is always experiencing load shedding. Thank you so much for this review, I truly appreciate it 

    • Hi Daniel – yep, they can run in petrol (gas), diesel or even propane.  Many do use them  in the home for emergencies or extra power sources in the shed as well.


  2. This is very interesting, but aren’t they dangerous? Do I have to take any precautions(apart from the mentioned before)?- like, for example, is it ok, if I leave it near a campfire? Because if it uses fuel of gas… does it needs a special treatment?

    I don’t really go out too much, but I think they can also be useful for electric house needs. 

    • Hey Natalie – Yes they do have gas tanks etc. but they are manufactured to be quite safe – They just need to be in a ventilated area and not left inside a tent – or near a fire



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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.