The best generators for camping and tailgating

Inverter generators are quieter and supply clean, smooth power

Published: August 07, 2014 11:45 AM

Portable inverter generators such as the $4,000 Honda EU7000is and the $3,700 Yamaha EF6300iSDE stand out not only for their high prices but for what that money buys: quiet running and the cleanest power, which is key for powering sensitive electronics and appliances in the home. In addition to powering households during blackouts, a lower-wattage inverter generator can also come in handy for recreational use at campgrounds and tailgate parties. And while Honda and Yamaha are key manufacturers of these products, engine maker Briggs & Stratton has introduced a pair of inverter generators aimed at the same market.

Our generator Ratings include only models you can connect to a transfer switch, which itself gets permanently wired to your home’s service panel. But for the many instances away from the home where a 7,000-watt generator would be overkill—and a low-wattage inverter insufficient—a 1,000- to 3,000-watt inverter generator can supply all that’s needed without raising a racket. Briggs & Stratton’s two new models are the P3000 PowerSmart Series model 30545, about $1,200 on, and the P2000 PowerSmart Series model 30553, about $650.

The P3000 model 30545 is rated for 3,000 starting watts, which supply the surge some items need when they power on, and 2,600 running watts. Both models have efficient overhead-valve engines, low-oil shutdown, and recoil start. Briggs & Stratton claims 10 hours of run time, but that’s at only ¼ load. At 84 pounds without gas, it has two handles for lifting plus a luggage-style, telescoping handle. For connections, there are four 120-volt household outlets; a 120-volt, 30-amp locking outlet; a 12-volt DC charging outlet, and a USB port. You can also run two units in parallel for roughly 4,800 watts at 120 volts; a parallel kit costs an extra $100.

With 1,000 watts less for surges as well as running, the P2000 model 30553 is claimed to run up to 6.5 hours, again at ¼ load. Its tank holds a gallon of gasoline (compared with 1.5 for the P3000). This model weighs only 56 pounds without gas. It has two 120-volt outlets and a 12-volt DC accessory battery-charging outlet.

Briggs says both units’ wattage levels are ideal for powering lights, a radio and TV, small appliances, and portable electronics. But keep in mind that even a relatively quiet inverter generator might not be welcome at all campgrounds. As with any generator you plan to take to a park or campsite, check your destination's regulations before making your plans.

For a home generator you won’t take on the road, we’ve tested more than 40 portable and stationary (standby) models. Check out our buying guide before narrowing your choices using our generator Ratings.

—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

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