Quietest Portable Generators for RV & Camping


Generators are the most practical and useful addition to an RV. If you want to run the air conditioner, fridge and other appliances that require a steady stream of power anytime you like, it’s a vital addition. Not to mention that it can save your life in emergency situations.

While there are many features to consider when buying a generator, a big one to consider is the noise level. Especially if you’re going to use any camping grounds. Many don’t allow generators at all because of the severe noise pollution they typically produce. Others allow them as long as the noise is not too severe.

But if you’re operating a quiet generator that makes only 50-60 dB of noise, your family and neighboring campers will both be grateful for having a considerate guy or gal like yourself around.

Having said that, manufacturers typically don’t mention the noise level of their generators. They mention it almost exclusively only when their product is quieter than the rest of the competition.

But in addition to that, a team of researchers went the extra mile and tested many generators to find the quietest ones on the market. They used decibel meters to determine the difference in noise and deliver the news on which generators are objectively the quietest.

I went through the available information from manufacturers and from tests and selected the top 5 generators for RVs. They’re of different power, price and have distinct features. So chances are that on this list you’ll find one that is both quiet and suitable for your other RV and camping requirements.

1. Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel RV Generator – Quietest & Best Buy Option

Calling your company and product a champion is a bold move. But in this case it’s entirely justified. This is the hottest generator of 2018., and for a few very good reasons:

QUIETEST OPERATION

Champion RV generator is the quietest one at the moment under load. It’s decibel range is around 59 dBA at 23 feet distance. Of course, it an vary slightly depending on the power output.

This decibel level is quieter than most portable air conditioners and household refrigerators. Basically, you could be reading a complex book by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (now that’s a mouthful!) without the noise ruining your concentration.

DUAL FUEL SYSTEM

When you’re on the road, you want to have as many options as possible for fuel. In terms of practicality, dual fuel generators are therefore the safest ones. They can run equally well on gasoline or propane.

Most other generators don’t have the dual option so you’re left with only one type of fuel, usually either gas or propane.

EQUIPPED WITH A BATTERY FOR EASY ELECTRIC START

The Champ boasts an easy electric start thanks to the battery. We all know that some generators struggle when starting. Luckily, inverter generators are better than conventional ones in this regard, and Champ is leading the charge.

CAN BE CONNECTED TO ANOTHER GENERATOR

This is a powerful 3400 watt beast, so you probably won’t ever need this option. At least not for powering standard RV appliances. But it’s useful to know that the Champion is also Parallel Ready.

Meaning that it can be connected to another Champion inverter generator of 2800 watts or more for increased power output. This makes it a great backup option for a regular household as well.

SEAMLESSLY POWERS AIR CONDITIONERS

Many RV owners opt for a 2000W generator. There’s a good reason for that. They’re more affordable and usually quieter. Plus, they can power the standard RV appliances effectively.

However, a 2000W generator will inevitably struggle powering a stronger AC unit. An air conditioner that is between 12 000 and 15 000 BTU requires a 2800-3500 watt generator. Anything weaker than that and it becomes problematic.

If you plan on using the air conditioner in your RV, it makes little sense to buy a weak generator that can’t start it during those hot summer days. With 3400W of starting power and 3100W running power that can last up to 7.5 hours, the Champion can power an air conditioner without any fuss.

INVERTER TECHNOLOGY HAS MULTIPLE BENEFITS

There are a number of differences between traditional and inverter generators. I’ll address them later on in this article.

But here are some benefits of inverter technology that this Champion generator has. They all stem from the fact that it can run on the “Economy Mode”. This means that the generator can automatically determine how much power it needs to produce. So there is always an optimum production of power.

What does this mean in practice? It means quieter operation, smaller expenditure of fuel and also extended durability, since the engine works at an optimal difficulty. All of these details can also be controlled manually through the Quick Touch Panel, which has all the control settings.

VOLT GUARD

Volt guard is a nice safety addition to this generator. It’s an inbuilt system of protection for your devices from any sudden voltage spikes or power surges.

EASY TO MOVE AROUND

At 95.7 pounds, this is an average weighing portable generator. It’s pretty easy to handle and move around. It has the standard handle on the upper part and 2 wheels on the back side. Moving it from place to place is like moving luggage through an airport. Actually, just thinking about airports makes me anxious so let’s move on.

LONG WARRANTY

On top of the 3 year warranty, Champion offers free lifetime technical support from experts. Although generators can last for over a very long time, it’s certainly reassuring to have a long warranty and support if needed.

IT’S RV READY

Champion generators are RV ready, so there’s no need to purchase an adapter to plug in your RVs power cord.

AFFORDABLE PRICE

Along with the quietness, the affordable pricing of this generator is perhaps its most appealing feature. The Honda, Yamaha and Briggs & Stratton generators are also quiet and create impressive power output.

But unfortunately for buyers on a budget, the price matches their power and the longstanding positive reputation of these companies.

When compared to these generators, the Champion is clearly a more affordable option, while still providing the important features you’d expect from an versatile RV generator.

Here’s a video review by an RV owner, showing the Champ in action:

All in all, this is one of the quietest portable RV generators available today. It’s also been getting reassuring user reviews for quite some time. To check out the price and customer reviews on Amazon click here.

But this is not the only quiet generator on the market. There are 4 other challengers that all bring something different to the table. So keep reading to see what they have to offer.

2. Honda EU3000iS Super Quiet Generator – The Most Reliable Generator

If you know anything about generators, chances are that you’ve heard about Honda. Along with Yamaha, it’s the most reliable and well recognized manufacturer in this field by a mile.

They couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make their own quiet generator and EU3000iS is the top of the barrel. It’s a 3000 watts, 120 V unit with an electric start inverter, just like the Champion generator.

The decibel range provided is between 48-59 dBA, but further tests have shown that it can go a few points higher depending on the power output.

However, it vibrates less than other models due to the tough structure surrounding the motor, making it even quieter in practice.

Users of this generator have commented that it’s indeed SUPER QUIET, and one user has set it on the balcony without it causing any disturbance to his household or neighbors.

But you should really hear it for yourself. This video shows how it sounds from up close and from a distance:

This generator uses only gas for fuel. This is a small downside, but that’s usually the case with stronger portable ones. The upside is that it’s VERY fuel efficient, as it can run up to 20 hours on only 3.4 gallons of gas.

Overall, this is a quiet and reliable generator that can power an air conditioner of up to 13 500 BTU, as well as any other appliances in an RV. Due to the inverter technology it can also provide stable power to computers and laptops.

While 3000 watts is a lot of power, you can actually double it if you need to by purchasing another EU3000iS and using a parallel cable. This way the duo would generate 6000 watts of power!

Honda or Champion?

In comparison with the Champion generator, this Honda model falls short in one area – the price. Although it’s a reliable and powerful option, it’s also a more significant monetary investment.

But if you’re set on getting a tough generator from a proven company like Honda, it’s the best option available. A one time investment that is bound to pay off down the road as the parts won’t wear down as easily as thy would on most other generators.

I haven’t found a single negative comment about this Honda model. Even the Youtube comments where you’d expect mostly pissed off users of a product to comment are almost all positive.

Only one comment stuck in my mind. The person mentioned that the pull cord is expensive to replace so it’s best to be careful when using it. I assume he was pulling too hard and it snapped. Other comments on Youtube and forums can be boiled down to this statement: “They don’t make them like this anymore!”, as it seems that people can get emotional and nostalgic about anything, including Honda generators.

Are you interested in this powerhouse? Check out the current price and more information on Amazon.

3. Yamaha EF2000iSv2 Gas Powered Inverter Generator – The Most Portable Option

When I say “most portable” I’m mainly referring to its dimensions and weight. This is a 2000 watts generator and it’s smaller than the other ones on the list.

It weighs 44.1 pounds and takes up about 2.2 cu. ft. of space. There’s even a slick black cover available specifically for this generator, making it easier to conceal and carry (it’s best to conceal your power from prying eyes after all!).

This is an inverter generator, which means that it starts up easily every time and produces clean energy. It also has Pulse Width Modulation (PWM), ensuring that there is no more than 1% of voltage variation. This makes it safe for powering smaller and more sensitive appliances like laptops and computers.

Oh, but I almost forgot to mention the noise level. This generator uses a muffler, which decreases the sound further. It’s rated at 51.4 dBA at 1/4 load. It’s the quietest tested small generator on the market.

On top of that, it’s fuel efficient, because like Honda EU3000iS, it regulates the power output based on the power requirements. This further reduces noise due to sheer practicality. It also increases the running time of the engine. The average run time is 10.5 hours on a tank of gas at 1/4 load.

The only downside of this Yamaha generator is that it’s only 2000 watts. If you’re looking for a smaller generator than it’s a great option because it’s quiet, doesn’t take much space and saves on gas. But for a larger RVs and more demanding appliances, you’ll probably want to get a stronger model. Especially if you plan on using 13.5000 BTU or stronger air conditioner.

With that being said, this generator can also be connected to another one of its kind or an older Yamaha model to deliver more power. So it could potentially go up to 4000 watts. If you have a Yamaha generator available already, than connecting the two would be a good option even for larger RVs.

And finally, it’s CARB compliant, meaning that it produces clear energy and doesn’t stink up the environment. It is EPA and CARB compliant in 50 states, so no one can give you the dirty looks for being rude to Mother Nature.

Although this is a small generator, it’s incredibly durable and quality based. Just like Honda, Yamaha is the top generator company in the world and they take their reputation seriously. So there’s really no risk with getting this generator, as long as its powerful enough for your RV and camping needs.

To check out the price and customer reviews on Amazon, click here.

Also, check out this video to get more familiar with the settings and how it looks in real life:

4. Briggs & Stratton P3000 Inverter Generator – A budget version of Honda EU3000iS

This gas-powered generator can power an AC units with no problems. With 3000 starting watts and 2600 running watts output it’s pretty powerful. But don’t expect it to power the AC unit and other appliances at the same time, because it’s not as good as Honda EU3000iS

However, it’s much more affordable as you can see for yourself. So what are some pros and cons?

First of all it’s louder. According to the tests, it produced 61 dB at 20 feet under no load and 74 dB with a 1500 watts output. This is still quieter than traditional generators, but it’s also louder than Honda and Champion.

But the plus side is that it has the “Quiet Power Technology”. Basically, there’s a switch on the generator, and when you want less noise, you simply flip the switch and the generator will produce a few decibel levels less.

What does this “quiet power technology” actually do? Well, it’s a fancy way to say “inverter technology”. So the engine adjusts to the exact power output that’s needed instead of producing more power than is being spent. When operating on Quiet Power Technology the noise falls down to 58 dB, which is the decibel level of a normal conversation.

What are the benefits?

First of all, it’s around 10 pounds lighter than the Champ, at 85 pounds. But the main one in my opinion is fuel efficiency. It can last 10 hours at 25% load on 1.5 gallons of gas, making it on par with Honda in this regard. The difference is that Honda has a 3.4 gallon gas tank, while this one has 1.5 gallon gas tank.

So if you plan on running the air conditioner 24/7 it would tiresome refilling all the time. So the Honda gas tank can last 20 hours and this one 10 hours. Both are fuel efficient, but the difference is more in practicality for those who want a constant power output.

This model has 4 household outlets, 12-volt 30-amp locking outlet with RV adaptor DC charging outlet and the standard USB port making it pretty versatile for smaller appliances and mobile phones.

Despite of its size and weight, it’s easy to move around due to the luggage design. There is a telescoping handle on top, and 6-inch wheels making it easy to move on rugged terrain, like a campsite.

There is also the nice addition of an LCD display, which displays all the needed metrics such as power use, maintenance reminders and run time.

Just like other generators on the list, it also has a parallel port, allowing the option of connecting another same or similar generator to produce even more power.

There aren’t really any bad sides to this generator as long as you’re aware of its power potential. Some users were not happy, because they were led to believe it’s equally powerful as Honda and that it could power up their entire RV together with the air conditioner. Well, that’s not really the case, and the price reflects that.

But the biggest upside is the price. It’s way more affordable than Honda EU3000iS. So I just wanted to mention the Briggs & Stratton P3000 as a more affordable larger generator for RV and camping.

Here’s a short and concise video review by users:

5. Pulsar 2000W Gas-Powered Inverter Generator – Best Low Budget Quiet Generator

Champion is the quietest generator and a happy medium in terms of other features and price. Honda is the strongest quiet generator, but also the most expensive one. Briggs & Stratton P3000 is a cheaper alternative to Honda and Champion. Yamaha is the overall best small generator on the list.

So where does this Pulsar generator fit in on the list? I’ve added it to the list because it’s an affordable small generator that is also quiet. It produces only 59 dB at 10 feet away when under load. It’s comparable to the small Yamaha generator in terms of power output, but it’s also cheaper.

It’s the best option for those on a tight budget who need a smaller RV generator to power their window AC unit and other appliances. So it won’t work for stronger air conditioners, but it can power the smaller ones just fine.

These are the important features:

  • 2000 peak watts and 1600 watts running power
  • can work for 6 hours non-stop half-loaded on 1.18 gallons of gas
  • weighs less than 47 lbs, and has a practical design for easy handling
  • very quiet, at only 59 dB under load
  • stable inverter technology produces stable electrical power for charging mobile phones, laptops and other sensitive devices
  • has the parallel port for combining with another generator to produce double power
  • has 4 outlets, including a USB port for charging and powering multiple devices at once
  • comes with a 12V charging cable, spark wench, oil bottle and funnel
  • 1 year parts & labor limited warranty

Some other features are low-oil shut off and recoil start, together with the before mentioned voltage regulator which ensures clean and regulated power output.

Don’t think that the price is an indicator of weaker quality. This generator is getting almost exclusively positive reviews from customers, many of them comparing it to their past Yamaha and Honda generators. It’s comparable to Yamaha in terms of power output, it’s easy to use and it’s light enough to transport and move around without straining any back muscles.

Check out how it works and sounds (switch to 9:05 to hear it):

Pulsar is another great generator company, and they produce reliable products all the time. This is a small generator and the price reflects the power, but the features are all top quality and what you’d expect from the latest inverter generator.

If the smaller power output is an issue, buying one more and connecting them together can increase the power output to a whooping 4000W while still saving you money in the process.

To see the current price and customer reviews on Amazon, click here.

Buying Guide & FAQ – Portable Generators

1. How much power do I need for RV and camping?

The answer to this question depends highly on your RV air conditioner. Because your AC unit needs more power than any other RV appliance.

It takes more power to start the air conditioner than it does to run it. So the minimum wattage of the generator should be equal or higher than the starting wattage of the air conditioner.

So a 13 500 BTU air conditioner will need approximately a 3000 watts generator to start and run successfully. Also be aware that generators have a different starting power output and running power output.

The running output is usually 200-300 watts lower than the starting output. So a 3000 watts generator might have 2800 watts running power output.

So for powering the air conditioner and other appliances at the same time, take the required power requirements of other appliances into consideration when buying as well.

It’s definitely better to have an extra 800-1000 watts left over for other appliances than to have to swap between powering the fridge and the AC unit because there’s not enough power for both.

Here’s a table of approximate power requirements of common appliances and devices. Use it to estimate how much power you need in order to run multiple appliances at the same time.

2. What is the best type of fuel for a portable generator?

Most portable generators run either on gas, propane or they have a hybrid/duel-fuel option like the Champion generator. There are also diesel and solar powered generators available. But I’ll focus on gas and propane only because they’re the most often used fuels.

Both gas and propane have some positive and negative features:

GASOLINE – Gas is the most readily available fuel, and generators that run on gas are usually less expensive. But it has some downsides as well. Gas generators need to be refueled more often than diesel or propane ones. Gas also has a shorter shelf life, and it starts to break down and absorb moisture after a month or so.

This doesn’t mean that it can’t be used after that period. In fact, it can last for several years. But the generator won’t run optimally on old gas and it can wear down parts of the engine faster. So if you don’t use the generator frequently it’s worth adding fuel stabilizer to keep this from happening.

Having said that, gas is affordable and efficient, as it offers 125 000 BTU per gallon. It’s more efficient than propane and slightly less efficient than diesel. It’s the most popular type of fuel for portable generators.

PROPANE – Also known as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), propane is another popular option, but a bit different. It requires a tank separate from the generator. It can be a stationary tank that gets refilled by a service truck, or a tank commonly used for heaters and grills.

The great thing about propane is that it doesn’t degrade over time in storage, so it’s great if you use the generator every once in a blue moon. But it’s less efficient than gas, offering only 91 300 BTU per gallon. Still a solid option for RVs and camping and as a general emergency backup.

It’s obviously best to have a duel-fuel option. With a duel-fuel generator, gasoline can be used for more general application, because it’s more affordable and efficient. And propane can be used as a better emergency backup because it won’t downgrade over time in storage.

3. How to make a generator quieter?

What if your generator is too loud? Well, you can make it quieter by using your own brain power and a simple toolkit. Here are some ways to do it:

1# Regular maintenance

After a long period of use, some parts can get worn down and might need replacing. Furthermore, screws can become loose due to vibrations and tightening them can reduce the noise back to its original level.

But if the generator is too loud from the get-go, then using a few standard soundproofing methods can help.

2# Place the generator in a soundproof box

The most effective noise reduction method for generators is a DIY soundproof box (video showing how it looks and the sound difference).

This is a wooden box (usually from plywood or MDF panels) that you can build yourself. From the inside, you can place soundproofing material that is designed to block impact noise.

Impact noise is the low frequency sound made by vibrations on the surrounding surface. So the impact noise is what happens when the motor vibrations resonate on the structure of the generator.

To prevent this noise from freely traveling into the surrounding environment, you can cover the box from the inside with Mass Loaded Vinyl by using a spray adhesive.

However, you’ll need to make a few holes (not too big) on the box so that fresh air can come inside to prevent overheating. And also for any parts of the generator that have to extend outside of the box you need to make adequate holes.

So while this is typically called a “soundproof box”, it’s not soundproof as long as air and sound can come through any holes. But what do you think is quieter? A generator that is not in a box or one that is? Of course the one in the box will be much quieter.

How big should this box be? You should know the dimensions of the generator before doing this project. There should be a few inches of free space on all sides when you place the generator inside. Again, to prevent overheating but also to more effectively reduce noise.

All of the materials and tools can be bought at Home Depot, Lowes or basically any other hardware store.

For soundproofing material I recommend using Mass Loaded Vinyl (available through Amazon) because it’s a great impact noise blocker and easy to cut to size. Also, any leftovers can be used for soundproofing other devices or rooms in your home or any vehicle parts, including the engine compartment.

3# Place an anti-vibration mat under the generator

A generator that is vibrating on a hard surface like concrete will make tons of noise. So if you don’t have a cushy grass surface available, using an anti-vibration mat is the best solution.

They’re used for treadmills, washers, fridges and any other appliance that vibrates on the floor. You’ll definitely want to use a rubber mat that is at least 1 inches thick. This one is most commonly used for generators.

Here are some other ways to quiet a generator.

4. Conventional generators VS inverter generators – what’s the difference?

Some people wonder why does a weaker inverter generator cost more than a conventional one that’s twice as strong? Well first of all, the inverter generators are much quieter. They utilize special mufflers, soundproofing materials and a quieter engine than traditional generators.

An inverter can also control the speed of the motor according to the power demands, while a conventional generator always runs at a constant speed (usually 3600 rpm). This makes inverters quieter also, because the motor adjusts the speed (and sound level) according to the required power output.

So while a quiet inverter generator can produce 58-65 dB, a conventional one typically doesn’t go below 70 dB, and is usually even louder. This is one of the reasons why an inverter is a much better choice for RVs and camping.

Because a conventional generator has to work at a constant speed it also wastes a lot of fuel. Therefore while the starting price of inverters may seem excessive in comparison, they are a more economically viable option when long-term fuel expenditure is considered.

Another major improvement is that inverters are designed to mirror pure sine wave, providing a constant safe stream of voltage. So they’re safer to run for laptops, monitors, cell phones and other small electric devices.

Basically, inverters are all around better, utilizing the latest microprocessors and electronics to run more efficiently and with less noise.

Conventional generators are still used in many households where noise is not an issue as a backup power source. However, it’s pretty rare to see anyone use it for RVs because they are way too loud and impractical.

All the quiet generators in this article are inverters and they boast all the features mentioned here.

5. How to connect a generator to an RV?

Some generators are RV ready, like the Champion generators so the plug on the generator fits the power cord from the RV perfectly. But most of them are not RV ready, so you need to use a simple adapter to connect them.

Connecting a 2000W generator

A 2000 watt generator has a standard 120 volt 15 amp outlet, which are also found in RVs and houses. To plug in your 30 or 50 amp RV power cord, you’ll need an adapter that matches the power cord.

So how can you know if you have a 30 or 50 amp power cord? Look at how many male prongs are sticking out. The 30 amp cord will have three, and the 50 amp cord will have four prongs.

Connecting a 3000W generator

These bigger generators usually have a 30 amp 125 volt outlet that also isn’t compatible with an RV power cord. So you’ll need to use an adapter that can plug into this 30 amp 125 volt outlet.

So again, to know whether you have a 30 amp or 50 amp RV power cord, check how many prongs it has sticking out. If it’s three prongs that means it’s 30 amp, and if it’s four prongs then it’s a 50 amp cord.

Here is a standard generator adapter with 3 prong and 4 prong options.

How to protect the generator from bad weather?

Working a generator through rain or snow is a bad idea. You know, electricity and water don’t match really well, and you could get electrocuted.

But there’s one way to prevent this from happening while still running the generator. And that’s by using a waterproof generator cover.

I’m not talking about some small piece of cloth that only cover the top. Your generator should be able to work under almost any weather conditions so that your needs and comfort are not compromised while you’re outdoors.

One excellent generator cover that fits large and small portable generators is the GenTent:

This a great solution if you don’t want your generator to depend on dry weather.

Finally Thoughts

This article has covered 5 excellent generators of different power output and price. One thing they all have in common is high quality and quietness. They are the quietest portable generators in their respective price and power categories.

The buyer guide and FAQ cover the most important topics you should know about portable generators and how they function. I’ve also given you some ideas on making the generator quieter by using soundproofing materials.

I believe that the Champion generator would be the best option for most RV users who have stronger power requirements but aren’t willing to spend over 2k on a Honda generator. For those who need only 2000 watts of power, the Yamaha and Pulsar are both great options. Hope this helps!

 

Peter Bone

Soundproof expert and a staunch opponent of noise. This website is a free source of information on how to 'keep it down a notch'. I update the content regularly to keep up with advancements in the soundproofing industry.

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