Run Your RV Camper Off Of A Gas/Propane Generator
Gas generators are popular among RV campers since they can provide electricity even if you’re dry camping out in the boonies.
Some gas generators have outlets that you’ll find at campgrounds, the 30 and 50 amp plugs, while most have the more standard household 15 or 20 amp outlet.
The 15 and 20 amp outlets are very similar in the way they look, while the 30 and 50 amp plugs look more different from one another.
Today I am going to help you figure out how to plug your gas/propane generator into your RV, travel trailer, teardrop trailer, fifth wheel, or whatever vehicle you have that you need to power.
I’ll also share the best generators for RV camping, both powerful ones and the very quiet models that won’t make as much noise. You can use the table of contents below to get to where you need to go and feel free to leave a comment with any questions you might have.
Now, let’s get going.
How Do I Know Whether I Have A 30A or 50A RV/Trailer/Fifth Wheel?
It can be hard to know if a cable is a 30 or 50 amp based on the way it looks, so here are a couple of other ways to figure it out.
The first way is to look where you plug in the power cable on your RV. This sticker tells me the outlet is for a 30A connection.
You can also tell by looking at the breaker panel inside your RV or camper. A 30 amp electrical system has one switch, while a 50 amp system has two switches. In the picture below, it tells us that it’s a 30A electrical system since the Main = 30.
Now that we’ve figured that out, let’s take a look at how we can connect the camper to a gas generator.
If Your RV/Trailer Has A 15 Amp Plug (Standard Household AC Outlet)
Some newer teardrop trailers and vans don’t have either a 30 or 50 amp plug, but a standard 15 or 20 amp.
This means that you just need to use a regular extension cable to plug your small camper into a generator. A cable like the Iron Forge Cable 25 Foot Lighted Outdoor Extension Cord is a good option that is safe to use outdoors.
It’s a 10 gauge, 3 prong extension cable available in 25, 50, and 100 feet versions. One of the best features compared to other extension cables is the fact that is has a light to show whether it’s receiving a current or not.
Since it’s a 15A 125V cable it can handle up to 1875 watts. If your generator supports it, you could run a small air conditioner with this cable.
If Your RV/Trailer Has A 30 Amp Plug
The 30 amp plug is common on travel trailers and fifth wheels. It’s also the most common plug to find at a campground. While there are gas generators that have 30A plugs (as we’ll see in my recommendations down below) since most generators only have 15A or 20A outlets, you’ll need an adapter to plug your camper into it.
I use a dogbone adapter like the Camco Heavy Duty RV Dogbone 15A to 30A. You’ll see that Camco has a lot of different styles of adapters for all kinds of setups, but this is the adapter that will let you connect a 30A trailer to a 15 and 20 amp outlet.
This adapter will let you connect the generator to a 30 amp trailer/fifth wheel with a cable like the Proline Heavy Duty 30AMP RV Power Cord.
If you would rather use a 15A extension cable, you could use a Malxs 15A Male to 30A Female Adapter. With this, you could use the Iron Forge Cable 25 Foot Lighted Outdoor Extension Cord.
Some RVs and campers have a built-in power cord, then you would only use the Camco dogbone adapter.
If Your RV/Trailer Has A 50 Amp Plug
Large RVs, travel trailers, and fifth wheels usually have a 50A plug. These vehicles need it due to larger air conditioners (sometimes several) and more power-hungry appliances like a residential fridge, microwave, and other appliances.
To connect a 50 amp plug cable to a generator with a 15 amp AC outlet, you’ll need the Camco 15 Amp Male to 50 Amp Female.
You could use this adapter to plug your camper into not only a generator but at campgrounds as well that only have a 15A outlet, or if you’re visiting a friend’s house and want to plug into their outlets.
The adapter would be used with a 50 amp electrical cable like the Camco 50M/50F Locking Adapter.
If Your Generator Has A 30 Amp Plug
There are generators out there with 30, even 50 amp plugs. One popular dual-fuel RV ready generator is the Champion 3400-Watt Portable Inverter Generator (click to view on Amazon).
The Champion 3400-Watt can run a 13,500 BTU air conditioner. Champion also makes a Champion Parallel Kit so you can connect two Champion generators 2800W or larger together and run one or two 15,000BTU RV air conditioners.
See Also: RV Depreciation Rates Per Year
A generator like this is compatible with your 30A RV camper or trailer if you have a Proline Heavy Duty 30AMP RV Power Cord.
If your generator has a 30A twist-lock plug, you will need a 30A 4 Prong to 30A female.
If Your Generator Has A 50 Amp Plug
If you have a generator with a 50 amp plug, you can use your regular 50A cord. Like the VETOMILE 30Ft 50Amp Cord.
If Your Trailer Has A 50A Plug, But Your Generator Has A 30A Plug
It’s possible that your RV has a 50 amp plug, but your generator has a 30A output. Then you would need a Camco RV 30 Amp Male to 50 Amp Female Adapter. Your regular 50A cord would plug into this adapter, then the adapter would plug into the generator.
If your generator has a 30A twist-lock plug, you will need a 30A 4 Prong to 50A female.
If Your Trailer Has A 30A Plug, But Your Generator Has A 50A Plug
If your RV has a 30A plug, but your generator has a 50A, you’ll need the Camco RV 50 Amp Male to 30 Amp Female Adapter. Your 30A cord would plug into this adapter, which would then plug into the 50A output on your generator.
Best Gas/Propane Generators For RV Camping
You can spend weeks researching gas generators to try to find the best one, it felt like I did before I bought mine. I now have experience with WEN, Honda, and Champion generators, so my recommendations will be based on what I have tried and my impressions.
The product links below will take you to the generator’s product page on Amazon.com.
WEN 56125i Inverter Generator – If you want to plug your RV into a generator to charge your trailer batteries, watch TV, run a small space heater, furnace, toaster, a small coffee maker, and charge electronics, the WEN 56125i is a great quiet option. It has an ECO-mode that will adjust the engine speed to what it needs, making it a quiet yet powerful generator. It has a pure-sine wave inverter, two AC outlets, and two USB ports. Will not run your AC or microwave.
WEN 56200i Inverter Generator – This is the generator I ended up buying. I chose this one over the 56125i because I wanted to be able to run my RV microwave. It can’t run my RV AC, but that wasn’t a necessity to me, it might be possible with an EasyStart that I’ll talk more about down below. I haven’t had any issues with my WEN generator after a year of RV full-timing. All I’ve had to do is add gasoline and oil. I keep it on ECO-mode and it stays conversation-quiet until I turn on the microwave and then it’s a little louder. I’m happy with it overall.
See Also: Best Portable Power Station For Camping
Honda EU1000i – I used a Honda EU1000i before I bought my WEN so I could use my microwave. This is the quietest gas inverter generator you can buy. It has two AC outlets and an ECO-mode that makes it even quieter. Honda generators are extremely reliable and will last a long time even if you don’t take care of them.
Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Generator – This is an inverter generator from Champion that has a 30A plug. It will run most 13,500 BTU air conditioners and some 15,000 BTU ACs. Dual fuel means that you can use either propane gas or gasoline. If you connect two with a Champion Parallel Kit you can run two 15,000 BTU ACs. The Champion 3400-Watt is louder and heavier than every generator above but more powerful.
DuroMax XP12000EH – If you’re looking for power, above all else, the DuroMax XP12000EH will do the job. It’s a 9500W/12000W surge gas/propane-powered generator with a 30 and 50 amp plug. It also has two 120V 20A outlets. This generator is large enough to power a whole home.
What Other Adapters Are Good To Have As An RV Traveler?
In addition to being able to plug your 30/50A trailer into a 15A AC outlet on a generator, you can use the same adapter to plug your camper into any 15A outlet you run into, or at home in your garage.
Another adapter that is good to have if you visit campgrounds with hookups, is the Camco 30 Amp Male to 50 Amp Female which will let you plug your 50A trailer and cable into a campground outlet that is a 30A.
There is also one that is the other way around, the Camco 50 Amp Male to 30 Amp Female. This adapter would be useful if you set up at a campground that only has a 50A outlet, but no 30A.
I haven’t been to any campground that only has 50 amp outlets, but I have been to campgrounds that only have one of each that is supposed to be shared between two campers, and that is when an adapter like the one above can be useful as well.
Another product that is very important for your RV electrical system’s safety is a surge protector. There are a lot of surge protectors being sold that people believe will stop surges, but they will actually only tell you whether the electrical wiring is correct or not.
I wish the companies would be a better job at explaining the difference between the two, but I can tell you which surge protector I have that protects against actual surges.
The one above is for 30A connections, the one below is for 50A.
The surge protector plugs into the outlet at the campground, and then you plug your 30 or 50 amp cable into the surge protector, which then plugs into your RV camper.
It’s one of those purchases that you don’t really want to do, but risking frying your entire electrical system in the RV is the alternative.
Can I Run My Air Conditioner/Microwave With A Gas Generator?
I recommend at least a 3000W gas generator to run a 13,500 BTU RV air conditioner, and at least a 3500W gas generator to run a 15,000 BTU RV air conditioner.
A microwave can be run with a 2000W generator.
It’s also possible to run an RV air conditioner with a good quality gas engine if you install a Hutch Mountain MicroAir Easy Start on the air conditioner unit.
Hutch Mountain advertises that you can run up to a 15,000 BTU RV AC with a Honda EU2200 (click to view on Amazon) if you have a Micro-Air Easy Start installed on the AC.
The video below by Micro-Air shows how you can do the installation yourself.
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How Many Watts Do 15A, 30A, 50A Support?
It’s important to know how many watts each of these amperages support. When you’re going to use a specific device like an air conditioner or a microwave, what matters the most isn’t only what amperage the cable is capable of handling, but how much your outlet or generator can handle.
Just because you plug a 50A cable into a 15A plug doesn’t mean it can now handle 50A.
So how many watts can these outlets and plugs handle?
Regular household outlets that are 125V and 15A support up to 1875 watts (125*15).
A 30 amp plug at a campground or at home that is 120 volts can handle up to 3600 watts (30*120).
A 50 amp plug at a campground or at home that is 120 volts can handle up to 12000 watts (120*50*2)
Why times two?
The 50 amp plug at a campground might not sound like a big step up from the 30 amp since it’s only a 50% increase between 30 to 50, but a 50 amp plug is actually a lot more powerful than a 30 amp.
A 50 amp RV circuit is two 50A 120V lines, while a 30A is only one 30A 120V. So the 50A can actually handle 100A in total. This is why it’s powerful enough to run two RV air conditioners and large appliances.
Can I Run An Air Conditioner Off Of A 15A Household Outlet At Home?
I don’t recommend doing so, since a standard 15A outlet can only handle up to 1875W, and air conditioners will use more than that to get started.
If you have a 20V outlet in your garage, it might work since it can handle up to 2500W, but I still wouldn’t recommend doing so. I would have somebody install a 30 or 50 amp plug instead.
Let me know down below if you have any questions.