The Big Lap gets you more in sync with nature than any other travelling, but some days you just need modern technology. Whether it be for a movie night with your family or to attend your weekly remote job meeting. Luckily this doesn’t mean you always have to stay at paid camps and pay for a powered site! Free camping is available for those reliant on power too!
Meet generators – your new best pal for free camping all over Australia. If you’re facing generators for the first time – like many other Lappers, don’t worry. We have a comprehensive guide to help you make the best choice for your needs and where you can use them. Let’s dive in!
What Generators Actually Do?
Generators are a helpful device that allows us to have electrical energy literally anywhere. Dating back to the 1830s, they’ve endured a lot of transformation and are no longer bulky and permanently installed in your backyard.
How do they work? They take another fuel supply, whether diesel, gasoline, natural gas or solar power and convert it into electrical energy. You can use that energy to run your appliances, charge your phone, camera or laptop.
What To Look For When Buying a Portable Generator?
Before leaving your home in pursuit of an excellent portable generator, there are some things you need to consider.
Power & Outlets
Take a look at how much power your appliances need to run and the type of power they need. Depending on the generator’s size, it might not produce enough electricity to run your devices.
Consider the type of outlets you need. Smaller generators with 1200 watts of power, for example, will usually have a few 120V AC outlets and USB ports. The larger generators ranging around 4000 watts can come with 240V plugs and additional 120V outlets. Since you’re taking the generator with you camping, make sure it has proper GFCI protected outlets.
THD & Clean Power
THD stands for total harmonic distortion. Harmonic distortion is important to keep your appliances running without damage. The unwanted harmonic distortion needs to be under 6% to avoid damage to the electrical circuits.
Generators with “pure sine wave” or “clean power” instead of THD have a more predictable and stable voltage level. However, they’re also more expensive and come in lower watt units.
Type of Use
Most generators come with up to a year warranty which is good if you’re an irregular user and plan to stay mostly at paid camps. Any reputable brand of generators can provide you with a device for casual use. But free camping means you’ll use the generator almost daily, so you’ll need a generator with a legitimate commercial engine. They come with an extended warranty of more than a year in most cases but are also more expensive.
When it comes to the fuel tank, consider how much fuel the generator needs to run, how long are the distances between the petrol stations, and how often you will use it. Most of them run for 7 to 9 hours at 50% load. So a larger tank means a heavier generator but longer hours of use.
Carbon Monoxide Detection
The latest models come with a carbon monoxide detector that works way more efficiently and faster than those we have installed in our houses. The sensor is placed near the engine, and once it measures a high level of emission, it shuts down the generator. However, you have to point the exhaust away from the sensor so it won’t produce false readings.
You can pick between a traditional starting generator where you pull a recoil cord on the engine or an electric start. While the electric start engines are more convenient, they come at an extra cost.
Everyone knows it – generators can be annoyingly loud! Diesel generators are louder than those running on gas, and solar ones are the quietest. The greater power the generator carries, the louder it will be. Even if you don’t mind the noise, your camp neighbours will appreciate the quieter model.
Wheel Kit & Lift Hook Bar
You’ll be carrying many things here and there while you travel, so why not make the generator more convenient. Get a model that comes with a wheel kit and lift bar so you can easily unload it and move it around anytime.
Types of Generators
As we mentioned, generators used to be an alternative power source you install in your backyard to keep your home appliances running when power outages happen. Today we have two main types of generators: portable and standby. Since we’re talking about a generator suitable for your travels, we’ll focus on the portable category.
Portable generators are the minimised version of the real deal which means they come with smaller capacities. They still produce power to run your hot plate and prepare dinner when campfire or barbeques are not an option or keep the lights on in your camper after sunset. All types we’ll mention below are portable, but different in the type of fuel they use to produce electricity.
Inverter generators are relatively new to the market but very popular. They come with an electronic upgrade that automatically adjusts the engine speed to the demand. By not working at full speed all the time, the inverter generators use less fuel and produce less noise. Inverter generators provide greater fuel efficiency and cleaner power; they’re easy to maintain and have low noise emissions. You’ll find them mostly in a petrol version.
Diesel generators are fueled by diesel and can provide more power than gasoline run generators. They’re more cost-efficient and have a low burning temperature which preserves the health and longevity of the engine. They can run in lower temperatures but only if they’re filled with winter diesel fuel. Regular diesel fuel can freeze and prevent the generator from running. However, the lower cost of running comes with more harmful emissions that can be dangerous if inhaled.
Gasoline run generators are a good choice for those facing generators for the first time or who have a limited budget. They’re pretty straightforward to operate but have high emission rates. Gasoline is also a more expensive fuel than diesel, natural gas or propane. Therefore, gasoline generators are more suitable for infrequent users.
Natural Gas Generators
Natural gas generators come at a higher price but can last for years when properly maintained. They’re a more eco-conscious choice than diesel and gasoline generators, but the choice on the market is limited. They’re also troublesome when it comes to using in colder weather.
Solar generators are battery-powered generators that recharge via solar panels. They’re more expensive but come with free and renewable energy. Most of them have built-in solar panels or come with detachable solar panels which you can rotate for better sun absorption. They’re not as reliable as they don’t work in dark, shaded and gloomy weather and have a real lower power output. Solar generators are a good choice if you plan on rarely relying on backup power.
Hydrogen generators are the newest addition to the market, and understandably, the limited supply comes with higher prices. These generators are created with internal fuel cells to provide good fuel efficiency management. They produce a higher power output and are more damage resistant than other models.
Best Generators on the Market 2021
Here are some of the best options (and at the best price!) on the market currently that are worth your consideration.
The Briggs & Stratton P2400 is a light and powerful petrol inverter generator designed to meet all your caravanning needs using “pure sine waves”. This generator has a 3.7-litre fuel tank capacity, easy starting, quiet operation, overload alarm, low oil alert and automatic shutdown. For your needs, you have 2 x 240V 15amp sockets, 12V-5A fully regulated auxiliary outlet with USB adapter and a parallel connector port. The Briggs & Stratton P2400 comes with 3 years Limited Domestic Warranty and a year Commercial Warranty. This set comes with a generator cover and a starting kit – a bargain!
Yamaha EF2000iS is a petrol inverter generator with the optimal combination of size, performance, and fuel economy. It has a 2,000-watt maximum power output and 10.5 hours of continuous work at a 25% load with a full tank. One of the greatest perks is the quiet operation at 51dB.
It comes with a low-oil automatic shut down, over-voltage protection, and economy switch to keep the power low and running longer. The best part – this premium brand offers 4 years’ warranty!
Cromtech specialised in portable generators that come at a great value per price. This model of a petrol generator comes with an eco-mode that adjusts the output as the load requires and lowers the noise. It comes with 2 x 15Amp outlets, a USB port low oil and overload alarm, a complimentary dust cover as 1 year warranty. Since it’s another inverter generator, it will provide you with ultra-clean power suitable to run sensitive electronic equipment.
Related: How To Use WikiCamps