Chances are, if you are traveling in an RV or trailer then you are working on a battery system, which means you need power. A lot of campgrounds offer full electric hookups or charging stations, but occasionally you will need your own generator to supply that power.
So, do campgrounds even allow generators?
Some campgrounds do allow generators but they will usually there will be generator-specific campsites. Generators can get pretty annoying because of their volume, so some campgrounds just don’t allow them. If the campground offers electric hookups, use those instead.
We will go over the details of what types of campgrounds allow generators, what the generator etiquette is, as well as why this might be something that even needs rules in the first place. And, as a bonus, we will throw in some ways to quiet your generator, which will help campgrounds want to allow them.
What Do You Use a Generator For?
First of all, why do you even need a generator? Basically, you should only have to use a generator when a full hookup campsite is not available. And even then, if you have solar power energy (something we will go over a little later in the article), you still might not have to use a generator.
For instance, if you have a smaller trailer, like a tent trailer, you should not have to get an extra generator. You could most likely get away with the battery that is already installed if you plan on only camping at full hookup campgrounds.
When it comes to fifth wheel or motorhomes, a generator can help power individual devices or help charge the camping vehicle in a place where there are no electric hookups. Just be sure if you are using it that you are not bothering anyone around you with the loud noises the generator creates.
All in all, it is recommended that you only use the generator for smaller appliances. You can hook it to your camping vehicle’s smaller appliances, like hair dryers, toasters, microwaves, etc. to avoid a long period of loud noise.
So, now that we know the reasons you would want a generator, you can decide based on the rest of the article if it is worth it for you and your specific camping trip to take and use a generator.
What the National Park Service Has to Say
According to the National Park Service, which, of course, pertains only to national park campgrounds,
“Generators must conform to National Park Service regulations pertaining to audio disturbances, which states that “motorized equipment or machinery cannot exceed a noise level of 60 decibels measured on the A-weighted scale at 50 feet” (36 CFR 2.12). Generator use and battery charging by engine idling is prohibited in generator free areas.”
Also, in national parks, generators are prohibited during quiet hours. In most cases, there are specific rules for what loops within the campground allow generators, as well as which campsites, whether group or single, allow them.
For those specifics, you will find all the rules of each individual campground by visiting their website or giving them a call. Generally, if you are camping at a national park, you should be able to rely on the rules listed above. But, of course, since there are always outliers, some national parks don’t allow them. Research before you go!
Campgrounds That Allow Generators
Turns out, most campgrounds that allow generators only allow them in specific areas. You will get the best information by calling the specific campground before you arrive, but you should always follow camping etiquette when it comes to generator use.
If the campground is a full hookup campground, often they don’t allow you to use your generator at all. When you have the electric hookup available, it is a better option for everyone if you use the hookup instead.
Campgrounds also seem to prefer that the generator be permanently installed in the camping vehicle. While some campgrounds may allow portable generators, it is becoming less and less common.
The best thing you can do if your camping vehicle needs power is to go to a full hookup campground and use the electric power they provide. But, of course, this is not always an option. If you have to use the generator, you should know the right way to do it.
- Always follow the rules! Campgrounds will have their own quiet time hours, which means no generators during that period of time. The campground might even have generator-specific rules, and if so, heed to those as well.
- If you plan on using your generator, do not park right next to another RV if there are plenty of other spots open. Generators can get loud, and you don’t want to bother the people around you.
- Be extra courteous to your neighbors if you have a generator. Introduce yourself and let them know that you will have to use the generator to power your camping vehicle, and make sure that is something they are okay with. If they aren’t, consider moving to another site.
- If your generator has any exhaust, get a pipe so that the smoke moves away from your neighbors.
- Only use the generator when you need it! There is no reason for the generator to be on the whole time you are camping, even when it is not quiet hours.
- As a more general rule, generators use up a lot of gas! If you want to help the environment, yourself, and your fellow campers, only use the generator to recharge the camping vehicle’s battery at the end of the day.
Why the Generator Rules?
Quite simply, the noise a generator gives off is what we call noise pollution. Most people go camping to experience nature, to enjoy the sounds, smells, and sights. If a loud generator is growling during the camping trip, you lose a big part of the experience. You don’t want to be the cause of that loss for someone else.
And not only does the noise disrupt the peace other campers or you might experience, but it also bothers the birds and animals around you. A loud noise like that can cause many animals to leave, therefore disrupting the natural atmosphere around the campground.
You always have other options when it comes to all the devices you think you need in nature. For instance, even if you think you can’t live without your coffee in the morning and you need a generator to make it, you could instead use a propane camping stove.
So, even if the campground permits generators at certain hours, that doesn’t mean you have to leave the generator on that whole time. If you really need to use it, just be conscientious of how and when you are using it, and what you could use instead.
If a generator is just not seeming like it is worth the hassle after reading this article, here are some alternatives that could help keep you and your fellow campers happy.
First and foremost, even if you have to pay a little extra for a campsite with electric hookups, it is worth it. You won’t use the gas a generator requires, you won’t bother your group or other campers around you, and you honestly might save some money that you would have otherwise spent on gas.
Having a solar panel can really help cut down on generator use. There are a lot of good models for camping vehicles and they do a good job of at least charging the vehicle, so you only have to use the generator in smaller increments of time, like for charging an appliance when you need to use it.
However, if you get a really good solar panel, it will have enough power to charge several devices at once. As an alternative, the solar panel helps you and the environment—a win-win situation.
Make the Generator Quieter
So, even though it is probably best to limit generator use, if you find that you need one, you have options for quieting the device.
Consider the location of the generator. Keep it far from other campsites and keep it far from your own if it bothers you as well. Make sure it is placed on a surface that does not amplify the noise.
You can also soundproof your generator with rubber material or soundproof casings to keep the noise to a minimum. As an alternative, you could create a generator shelter by placing a quiet generator box over it.
Really research the product to know if your higher watt generator has the technology to keep it quieter. If not, then you will be safer getting a lower watt generator.
You can also change the direction of the exhaust pipes and see what angle makes the noise as quiet as possible. And, you can always buy an inverter generator, or other specific quiet model, to help you along the way.
So, yes, campgrounds often allow generators, but only at certain times and they expect that you won’t use them for a long period of time. Now that you know some ideas to keep the generator quiet or eliminate it altogether, you should be able to make camping great for not only you, but everyone around you.
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