Last Updated: Sep 4, 2020 @ 10:35 am.

What's the best quiet generator? If you are camping, RV'ing or just looking for backup power for your home, a quiet generator is a must. And your neighbors will thank you as well.

We poured over field test data of 15 brands of generators, looking at decibel levels at 20 and 50 feet. Then we interviewed contractors to find the most reliable brands. Finally, we asked the readers of our parenting books who are camping enthusiasts for their favorites. Here are the ones we'd recommend.

FYI: We've been reviewing and rating products for the home and families since 1994. To keep things independent, we don't take money or freebies from brands we review! Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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Best Quiet Generator Camping

10 hour run time at quarter load
Lightweight, easy to use generator is quiet—50 decibels when running on eco-mode. Auto shut-off, 1 gallon fuel tank, 2000 watts great for electronics. Caveat: needs to be grounded.

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Best Quiet Generator Camping: WEN 53203i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator

Going camping? RV’ing? Tailgating?

What about charging electronics? Or perhaps powering your entire home after a storm?

A quiet generator is what you want . . . but we know, shopping for one is confusing.

To help, we checked out lab tests of generators, looking at decibel levels at 20 and 50 feet. We measured the sound at full throttle . . . and at quarter power (or eco-mode, as some generators call it).

For camping, we’d recommend a quiet inverter generator.

A quiet inverter generator provides power for a few key appliances: a mini fridge, computers, cell phones, etc. In a blackout, a good inverter generator can keep your A/C or freezer humming.

The key question: how much power do you need?

For most camping needs (say a mini fridge), a generator that puts out 600 to 2000 watts is the goal. (Later, we’ll talk about generators for backup power for a home, where a window A/C unit can pull about 1000 watts. Portable heater? 1500 watts.)

Before we get to the picks, let’s go over a few key things no one tells you about buying a generator.

  1. Pay attention to the break-in process. Yes, each generator has its own peculiarities . . . be sure to follow the break-in instructions to the letter!
  2. Storage is important! Follow the maker’s recommendations for storage. If you are buying an inverter generator for emergencies, you want to make sure it fires up when needed!
  3. Being handy is helpful. You may have to replace a pull cord or troubleshoot the unit, for example.

For the best generator for camping, we decided WEN’s 53203i is the best bet for most folks. The key feature here: it’s QUIET. When you’re camping, generator volume can be an issue . . . especially if you are in a campground with other campers nearby.

Even if you are alone, a quieter generator makes the world of difference in camping, in our opinion. Here’s more on why this model is a good choice:

What We Liked

• Eco mode is especially quiet. The lab tests we researched say this generator is about 50 decibels at 30 feet. That’s about the sound of a normal conversation . . . or the background noise of a quiet suburb.

• 2000 watt rating (2000 is start-up; 1700 running) is good enough for most camping needs.

• Lightweight at 39 lbs. It’s relatively easy to move this generator around (even though it doesn’t have wheels).

• Run time of roughly 10 hours with quarter load.

• Auto-shut off when low on oil or fuel.

• Affordable.

• 1 gallon tank.

• May require an altitude kit over 2000 feet. Why? The higher up you are, the thinner the air—and that affects the efficiency and running temperature of the generator. To solve this issue, WEN has two different altitude kits (one for 3000-6000 feet and another for 6000-8000 feet). These are separate purchases, however.

What Needs Work

• No fuel gauge. 

• Must be grounded. And unfortunately, grounding wire/rod isn’t included.

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Best For Charging Electronics

24 smartphone charges
We loved this quiet and lightweight (6.6 lbs) solution for charging smartphones and tablets. Solar panels (sold separately) can charge this unit in 6-7 hours—great for backwoods adventures!

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Best For Charging Electronics: Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240

Yes, we know as parents ourselves—expecting your kids to go without using their phones, tablets or computers is a fate worse than death.

The quietest (and best) solution to charging electronics during a power outage (or camping or RV’ing) is to use a so-called portable generator.

And technically, these really aren’t generators. These “power stations” are really super-sized lithium batteries. They store power, rather than generate it.

Good news: these portable generators can be charged by solar panels (or good ol’ fashioned A/C power). These aren’t the bigger generators that run on gasoline or propane.

So what’s best for you?

Ask yourself: what exactly do I want to power or charge?

On an extended road trip (or RV or camping), just about everyone needs to charge their phones/laptops or tablets. For small electronics, we’d recommend a portable generator that is powered by a lithium battery.

(What about more robust power needs? If you are tailgating and need to power a TV or other small appliances, then an inverter portable generator is a better bet—see the previous pick in this article.)

Looking for a solar-ready generator? After surveying the camping enthusiasts among our readers and doing 8 hours of additional research comparing performance and durability, we think this is the best bet: Jackery’s Portable Power Station Explorer 240.

Yes, this generator can actually be charged by a solar panel (sold separately). And it works.

One key piece to happiness when it comes to buying a generator: setting your expectations accordingly! This model is designed to charge small electronics (that is, your phone or laptop), not a hair dryer or microwave. Here’s more on why we recommend this model:

What We Liked

• Solar panels (purchased separately) can fully charge this generator in about 6-7 hours.

• Lightweight at 6.6 lbs.

• Works for devices of 200 watts or less.

• Easy to carry around.

• Battery indicator.

• Excellent for charging smartphones or laptops. 

• 1 A/C outlet and 2 USB ports plus 1 DC port.

• Pass through charging. Yes, this model can be charged (by solar panels or A/C) and charge electronics at the same time. That’s a feature missing in other similar brands we considered for this article.

• Built in stand. Helps position the panels without having to prop them up.

What Needs Work

• Runs down too fast? We see some complaints this generator ran out of juice too soon for some folks. Part of this is setting your expectations—for example, this battery can fully charge a laptop 3 or 4 times. A smartphone can be charged 24 times.

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Best For Power Outages

9.6 hour run time at quarter load
Perfectly sized, this generator is big enough to power a TV and other electronics . . . yet efficient (1.2 gallon tank) and quiet. Two outlets plus USB port. Weights 46 lbs.

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Best For Power Outages: Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt 120-Volt Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator

Let’s talk about using a generator for power outages.

After extensively researching generators used for backup power, we realized there are two basic types of outages: short and long.

By short, we are talking about a matter of hours. Example: you happen to live in California where the local utility is doing “safety power shutoffs.” These rolling blackouts may knock out the power to your home for several hours (or half a day).

Long power outages are more likely caused by natural disasters (think hurricanes, tornadoes). These outages last for days, not hours.

This recommendation focuses on backup power for short-term outages. (Long outages require more robust solutions—typically a dual fuel generator).

For the best short-term outage backup power solution, we pick Honda’s EU2200i inverter generator.

Honda is probably the best known brand name in this space—they have good reliability, even if they are a bit pricey.

And let’s be real: when you are looking for backup power in an emergency, you really want that generator to work!

As for quiet, this generator measures just 58 decibels at 20 feet on eco-mode (low power). That’s about 10 decibels lower than other brands. (Now that may not sound like much, but trust us . . . 58 decibels is much quieter than 68!).

Here’s more on why this pick is a good choice for short-term power outages:

What We Liked

• Easy to use.

• Runs 4 to 10 hours on a single tank of fuel (depending on the load).

• Better dependability than other brands, in our opinion.

• Clean signal = can run electronics without worries about power surges.

• Quiet when running in “eco-mode.”

• Overload alarm light.

• Two household 120 volt outlets.

• Can be used as a stand-alone unit or paralleled with another generator.

• Efficient.

What Needs Work

• Changing the oil could be easier. It can be quite a mess—just a heads up!

• Louder than some folks expect. At full throttle, this generator runs at 63 decibels at distance of 30 feet. That’s similar to the noise of a conversation in a restaurant. We think this model is still a quiet solution for most folks . . . but mostly when running in eco-mode.

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Best Generator For Tailgating

10.75 hour run time at quarter power
Perfectly sized, this generator is big enough to power a TV and other electronics . . . yet efficient (1.2 gallon tank) and quiet. Two outlets plus USB port. Weights 46 lbs.

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Best Generator For Tailgating: Generac 7117 GP2200i Watt Portable Inverter Generator

And now for something fun: tailgating!

What’s the best generator for tailgating? We suggest a compact, efficient and quiet generator that can power a TV, stereo and other electronics. The Generac 7117 fits the bill—with 1700 watts of running power, this model has the right amount of juice.

Here’s more:

What We Liked

• Quiet! Generac doesn’t publish decibel ratings, but based on field tests we found, this generator is similar in volume to the Honda generator recommended above.

• 10.75 hours of run time at 25%.

• LED status light for low oil and power.

• Two household outlets plus USB port.

• Excellent for tailgating.

• Affordable (at least for this capacity and power!).

• Eco-mode.

• 1.2 gallon tank.

What Needs Work

• Can be harder to start than others, according to our research.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We survey the readers of our parenting books (2.1 million copies in print!) to narrow down the field and then do extensive additional research. We evaluate products with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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