VIDEO: Our Yamaha EF3000iSEB

Posted In: Campfire Question, Camping Gear, Video

After we bought our RV, we quickly realized that electricity is quite useful. Unless you like ice-cold coffee, blank TV screens, and sweltering summer heat, you’ll want the ability to camp with substantial amounts of the stuff on hand. But since one can’t purchase extension cords in mile-long lengths, we need portable options.

What about solar? Note that I advocate “substantial” amounts of energy for RV camping. Sure, solar power may be useful for certain applications (like illuminating low-wattage light bulbs as a parlor trick) but I’m afraid it falls short of meeting our needs on a daily basis. With the flick of a switch, my wife’s jet engine of a hair dryer can completely destroy solar panels.

A good old-fashioned fossil fuel generator, however, kicks out copious amounts of politically incorrect current. So the next question becomes, “What type of generator to buy?”

There are plenty of cheap generators on the market. These are easily distinguished by the raucous clatter they emit, which sounds like a genetic cross between a defective lawnmower, an enraged banshee, and a sick moose.

Once we were camping in the Grand Teton National Park. One of our fellow campers (who was parked, oh, a half mile down the road) had one of those horrible spirit-killing generators. On the comprehensive List of the World’s Most Annoying Sounds, his generator ranks an impressive #7 (right behind Fran Drescher’s voice). Every morning at about 8AM, he would crank the thing and rattle us out of bed. It was like a county-wide alarm clock over which we had no control. Tornado sirens are more subtle.

So we wanted a quiet generator, and this led us to “inverter” technology. There were a couple of inverter generators on the market that seemed appropriate for our needs.

One was made by Honda. The Honda was red in color. “Get the Honda,” I was told. “It’s quiet, it’s reliable, and if you ever need parts they are easy to find.”

But there was a competing generator made by Yamaha. The Yamaha was blue in color.

“Get the Yamaha,” I was told. “It’s just as quiet as the Honda, just as reliable as the Honda, and it includes a ‘boost’ technology that gives you a little extra power when you need it.”

In the final analysis, Yamaha won.

Why? I think it had something to do with the color. Blue matches our travel trailer.

So, did we make the right decision? After over 40,000 miles of travel and LOTS of boondocking along the way, I have no complaints about the Yamaha. It has been quiet and reliable so far.

But my friend owns a Honda, and he also reports many months of happy, quiet, and reliable usage.

So, what about you? What brand of generator do you like the best? Is there really a “best” generator for RV camping, or is there no such animal? Blue or red? PC or Mac? Beatles or Stones? Inquiring minds want to know.

Oh, and by the way, if you buy the Yamaha (and presumably the Honda) don’t forget to also buy one of these 30AMP plug adapters. Don’t ask me why, but you can’t plug your RV plug directly into the generator. You need a 30AMP adapter. (You could also use a 30 AMP to 20 AMP adapter, but this is a bad idea.) These adapters cost about $20.

The RV plug goes into to the "female" side of this adapter plug, and the "male" side goes into the generator.

The RV power cable plugs into to the "female" side of this adapter plug. Then the "male" side plugs into the generator itself. This way you get the full benefit of your 30 AMPs.

I wish someone had told me this on day one.

Of course, there are other options. Instead of buying one 3000 Watt generator, you can buy two 2000 Watt generators. Why would you want to take this route? When you link two together, you get slightly more power. Also, the smaller generators are easier to carry (which by the way makes them easier to steal). On the downside, owning two units means you get to service and maintain two units.

Personally, I think the fewer steps involved in using the generator, the better. I like to be able to pull over at any time and easily kick on the power. Anything we can do to minimize hassle is welcome.

So, one nice addition we made to ours is an extension cord that reaches to the back of the pickup bed. Now all I do is pull out the Airstream power, connect it to the extension, and turn the generator key. (No need to climb into the bed of the truck itself).

Note that our generator pretty much never moves — it remains locked & chained in place behind the cab of our truck.

If I had it to do over again, I’d get a nice cover for it on DAY ONE. I’d also consider the remote starting package. I love the idea of starting the unit from the comfort of the Airstream (no minor convenience on a cold morning when you’re wearing a bathrobe! ;-))

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