Do I Need a Generator to Go RVing?

You may need a generator to go RVing if you won't have access to shore power or solar panels
Whether you need an RV generator will depend on how you plan to camp.

If I need a generator for my RV, what type of generator should I get?

This is a very common question for most of those new to RVing or those considering boondocking. By the end of this blog post you will have an idea of whether you need a generator to go RVing.

Well the best way to answer this question there are some other variables you will need to determine first.

3 Things to Consider Before Buying a Generator for your RV

What kind of camper are you?

Full Time RVer – If you are a full-time RVer, it makes sense to purchase a generator. Having one opens up to so many possibilities when it comes to camping locations and situations. Not to mention, generators can be surprising affordable.

Now, you will definitely find detractors to that statement. Happily Ever Hanks, a full-time RV couple that posts videos on YouTube, would tell you that you can certainly full-time without a generator. They don’t have one and either camp at a place with electrical hookups or make do with what they have.

Part-Time or Weekend RVer – As a part-time RVer or weekend RV warrior, you may want not need a generator. However, if you plan to primarily boondock or primitive camp without electrical hookups, then a generator may be useful. If you are new to RVing, take your RV out with you on a few short trips. Many RV batteries are charged and recharged while connected to the tow vehicle. So, for short overnight trips, you may not need a generator.

What Type of RV do You Have?

The type of RV you have will greatly impact the need for and size of an RV generator.

Class A RV or Motorhome – Most motorhomes will come with a generator already installed. Frequently, these RV generators are large diesel generators that tap into the diesel fuel your motorhome already uses. So, if you have a Class A motorhome it is unlikely that you will need to purchase a separate RV generator to go camping with.

Fifth-Wheel or Travel Trailer – Most trailers do not come with an RV generator. Your fifth-wheel or travel trailer should come with rechargeable batteries to run some of the electronics of your trailer. As with all rechargeable batteries, your RV batteries will need to be plugged into a power source to recharge. This can eitehr be shore power or a generator. If your RV is not connected to shore power, such as when boondocking, a generator will be needed to start and run your microwave and AC unit.

Travel Trailers Parked on Grassy Lot

Van – A van needs a generator in order to run appliances and electronics beyond the RV’s battery life. There are plenty of compact and portable options for an RV generator that are perfectly suited for van-life.

Where and How do You Plan on Camping?

Campgrounds with Electrical Hook-Ups – Many RV campgrounds offer electrical hook-ups. So, if you are planning to exclusively stay at campgrounds with full electrical hook-ups, a generator is not needed. However, not all campgrounds have RV sites with hook-ups, so keep that in mind before making reservations. Occasionally, even campgrounds that offer electrical hook-ups ay not be operational for some reason or another. In those cases, having a generator would still allow you to have power.

State or National Parks – Many national and state parks will offer campsites without full hook-ups. Finding campsites with full hook-ups in such parks is rare. So if you want power, you will need a generator. One thing to note is that a low noise rating on your generator is important when it comes to state and national parks.

Boondocking or Primitive Camping on BLM Land Boondocking requires the use of a generator, especially if you do not have a solar set-up. Even with a solar set-up, you may find that your AC will either not start or drain the RV batteries too quickly to be of use.

Which Generator is Right for my RV?

Now that you have reviewed how you plan to camp, where you plan to camp, and what type of RV you will be camping in, it’s time to review the types of RV generators available to you. We will be creating a post for generator types at a later date. In the meantime, check out these resources in the next paragraph to get you started.

There are several types and many brands of generators out there. Before we purchased our generator, we researched RV generators extensively on Generator Bible. It is great resource to learn about and compare over 500 different generators. We’ve also compiled an RV generator guide that goes over the basics for those new to portable RV generators.

The RV Generator We Purchased

Before hitting the road in our RV, we determined we’d be living in our RV full-time. We also decided we’d purchase a fifth-wheel and would primarily boondock. We’d budgeted less than $1000 to purchase a generator. We knew we’d have room to store the generator under our fifth-wheel or on the bed of our tow vehicle.

Given these factors, we purchased an open-frame inverter generator. Specifically, we purchased the Westinghouse iGen 4200 Hybrid Open Frame Inverter Generator.

Updated January 2023: However, that generator seems to have been out of stock for quite a while now. So, we’ve linked to something similar below instead. Westinghouse 12500 Watt Dual Fuel Home Backup Portable Generator.

This generator has an electric start which reduces the cost and weight compared to generators without an electric start. While our generator is a bit louder than others but it still operates within the noise level requirements issued by most national and state parks. We also like that it it came RV ready with a 30-amp outlet.

This only required us to purchase a “dogbone” electrical adaptor (shown below) so that we could hook it up to our 50AMP fifth-wheel and run our electronics and appliances.

Camco RV Dogbone Electrical Adapter

Before purchasing a generator, do some research, do some camping, then you’ll be able to find the right generator for you.

If you are still on the fence about what type of generator to purchase, we’d love your feedback regarding what we could add to this post to make it more helpful!

Comment below: Did you decide if you need a generator? If so, what type of generator did you decide to buy for your RV? What do you like/dislike about it?

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