Choosing the Right Generator Size for Your Travel Trailer: A Comprehensive Guide

When embarking on a travel trailer adventure, having a reliable source of power is essential to ensure your trip is comfortable and convenient. A generator plays a crucial role in providing electricity to your trailer, allowing you to run appliances, charge devices, and enjoy all the comforts of home, even when you’re off the grid. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the factors to consider when determining what size generator you need for your travel trailer.

Understanding Generator Basics

Before delving into the specifics of generator size, let’s cover some essential generator basics:

  1. Types of Generators: There are two main types of generators suitable for travel trailers:
    • Portable Generators: These generators are typically smaller, portable units that can be transported and positioned as needed. They are versatile and can power your trailer when camping off-grid.
    • Built-In Generators: Some travel trailers come equipped with built-in generators, usually larger and more powerful. These generators are permanently installed in the trailer and can provide ample power for all your needs.
  2. Electrical Needs: To determine the right generator size, you must first assess your trailer’s electrical needs. Identify the appliances and devices you plan to use simultaneously, their power consumption (in watts), and whether they run on 120-volt AC or 12-volt DC power.
  3. Starting vs. Running Watts: Appliances often require more power to start (starting watts) than to continue running (running watts). You need to factor in both values when calculating your generator’s capacity.

Calculating Your Generator Size

To calculate the generator size you need for your travel trailer, follow these steps:

  1. List Your Appliances: Make a comprehensive list of all the appliances and devices you plan to power with the generator. Include items such as air conditioners, refrigerators, microwaves, televisions, lights, and chargers.
  2. Determine Wattage: Find the power consumption (in watts) of each appliance. This information can usually be found on the appliance’s label or in the owner’s manual. If wattage is not provided, you can use online resources or power meters to estimate it.
  3. Add Up Wattage: Calculate the total starting watts and running watts for all the appliances you plan to use simultaneously. Summing up these values will give you the minimum generator capacity required.
  4. Consider Surge Capacity: Some appliances, like air conditioners or refrigerators, may require a brief surge of power when starting. Ensure your generator has the surge capacity to accommodate these surges.
  5. Size Up: It’s a good practice to choose a generator that exceeds your calculated wattage needs by a margin of 20-25%. This extra capacity provides a buffer for unforeseen power requirements and ensures your generator runs efficiently.

Example Calculation:

Suppose you plan to run a 13,500 BTU air conditioner (2,800 starting watts, 1,500 running watts), a refrigerator (800 running watts), a microwave (1,000 running watts), and lights (100 running watts) simultaneously in your travel trailer:

  • Starting Watts: 2,800 (air conditioner) + 800 (refrigerator) + 1,000 (microwave) = 4,600 watts
  • Running Watts: 1,500 (air conditioner) + 800 (refrigerator) + 1,000 (microwave) + 100 (lights) = 3,400 watts

In this case, you would need a generator with a capacity of at least 4,600 starting watts and 3,400 running watts.

Choosing the Right Generator Type

Once you have determined your required generator capacity, you can decide between a portable generator or a built-in generator:

  1. Portable Generator: If you prefer flexibility and the ability to use the generator for other purposes, such as at home or during outdoor events, a portable generator may be the best choice. Ensure it meets or exceeds your calculated wattage needs.
  2. Built-In Generator: If your travel trailer comes with a built-in generator, you may not need to make a separate purchase. Built-in generators are typically tailored to the trailer’s specific power requirements.

Other Considerations

When selecting a generator for your travel trailer, consider the following factors:

  1. Noise Level: Generators can be noisy, which can be disruptive to your camping experience and neighboring campers. Look for generators with quiet operation features or consider using a generator sound enclosure.
  2. Fuel Type: Generators can run on various fuels, including gasoline, propane, diesel, and solar power. Choose a fuel type that aligns with your preferences and availability.
  3. Runtime: Evaluate the generator’s runtime on a single tank of fuel to ensure it meets your needs, especially if you plan to be off-grid for extended periods.
  4. Weight and Portability: If you opt for a portable generator, consider its weight and ease of transport. Some models come with built-in wheels and handles for convenient mobility.
  5. Maintenance: Regular maintenance is essential to keep your generator running smoothly. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance intervals and requirements.


Selecting the right generator size for your travel trailer is crucial for ensuring a comfortable and hassle-free camping experience. By assessing your trailer’s electrical needs, calculating wattage requirements, and considering other factors such as noise level and fuel type, you can make an informed choice that provides reliable power for all your adventures. Whether you’re camping in remote locations or enjoying the comforts of your travel trailer, the right generator will keep your journey powered and enjoyable. Safe travels!

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