Adam holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Linguistics, and creative writing has always been his greatest passion. For more than 25 years he's been working for several well-known automobile and travel magazines as an editor and expert consultant, but when Adam started his writing path here, at WisePick, it turned out that he's capable of writing practically anything about everything.
Initially being an engineering specialist, Tom has never stopped learning and acquiring other knowledge and skills. Now he’s involved in technical support for a well-known household appliances manufacturer, so no wonder he knows everything about almost everything you buy for your home.
Last updated: May 23, 2021
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If you get out camping a lot, and you like to travel light, or maybe you just like a good tailgate party every now and again, whatever the reason, a great addition to your camping gear or a good item to throw in the truck when you meet up with friends at the beach or the park – is a generator.
We’re all more reliant these days on staying online, and even when we get away from it all, we often need to stay in touch with civilization. We’ll look for the best tailgating generator in this article, because as well as keeping you on the phone and making sure you receive that important work email while deep in the woods, they offer benefits like lighting in the evening, and cooking facilities for when people get hungry. You can run a sound system off a generator for when you want the party to liven up and just about any electrical need is taken care of with a portable generator.
In this article, we’re not only going to search for the best tailgating generator, we’re also going to review them in detail and look at some of the features you need to consider when you’re choosing a unit that’s portable enough to move around easily and quiet enough so as not to disturb, but has the fuel capacity and rated output to supply all the power you’ll need for your own preferences, needs and purposes.
We’ll look at what’s out there, and some of the essential features that make an ideal tailgating generator are for you to check up in the buying guide. So, load up the truck, and let’s go take a look!
This Honda generator is hard to beat because it’s got an engine that comes in at just over 120cc, and it runs very quietly at the same time – making it a great option for tailgating parties and camping.
Noise levels aren’t bad at all either, and the Honda EU2200i is an inverter type generator – which is always great news for recreational users, and the neighbors of recreational users too. The unit operates at maximum output with a level of just 57 dB(A). That’s an audible level that’s incredibly quiet and it’s a brilliant feature to have when you’re trying to relax and have some fun with friends.
You’re also looking at a good weight with the Honda. At only 47 pounds you won’t be breaking into a sweat when it comes to moving it around.
This model also features what Honda are calling the ‘Eco Throttle’ system. That not only means savings on buying fuel, it also means that the unit will run for between 3 hours and 8 hours on a single tank, depending on what power you’re pulling from it – and that’s amazing if you just want to get on with the party and leave the fuel can on the truck.
You get a handy ‘Fuel Off’ feature too, which means your carburetor will stay cleaner for longer and your fuel won’t go stale. Coupled with the fact that this generator is parallel-capable, it’s all looking like a really good package, from a name that’s been around for a long time.
Why did it make our list?
Versatile parallel capability
Lightweight and portable
Good warranty for both residential and commercial users
The Yamaha EF2200iS is another inverter type portable generator. It runs a little more noisily than the Honda entry on this list, at a maximum level of 65 DB(A), but that’s still reasonably low noise for the power it provides.
You get some great specs with the Yamaha. Included is a fuel shutoff, so you’ll be keeping that carb cleaner for longer. This is a recoil pull start, same as with the Honda model, and although that’s not as easy as an electronic start button, this unit has had great reviews in terms of easy starting every time – and the fuel shutoff will only help with that aspect of things.
This is a slightly heavier than the Honda above, at a hair over 55 pounds, but some of that inconvenience will be covered back by its runtime of 10.5 hours on 25% load, measuring up at a modest 79cc.
There’s a fuel management system here too, which Yamaha are calling a ‘smart throttle’, and that’ll save you big on fuel costs.
You get the same power output capacity with this unit as with the Honda, but compared to Honda this unit features TwinTech™, which allows you to hook up two generators together to produce up to 30 amps of power.
The choice between the Honda and Yamaha machines is a tough one. It’s going to come down to whether you want it to weigh a little less, or if you need a couple of extra runtime hours.
What makes it stand out?
Pulse Width Modification for sensitive electronics
You can’t mention the best generators for boats or RVs without pointing out a Champion Power Equipment inverter generator. It is one of the best power equipment manufacturers and offers various models that could meet everyone’s needs. One of the best features we liked about this is that it is extremely quiet. It generates around 53dB of sound, which sounds like an electric transformer. This compact generator weighs around 39 pounds, so it is possible to take this generator out.
Another highlight of the unit is its control panel which comes with 2 x 120V outlets. This generator can charge various mobile devices and small household robots such as heaters, juicers, coffee makers, fans, etc. Although it is a very lightweight mobile generator, its panel also features an Economy mode. The Economy mode reduces gas wastage and allows it to run more efficiently. Also, this is a dual fuel generator; it uses gasoline and propane.
If you want extra power, this small inverter generator might be the best option for you. The Champion Champion 200961 Generator comes with all the features you would need and expect from a small portable generator for home, boating, RVing, or camping use. With a 3-year warranty, this remarkable generator will give you several years of use.
Ok, so we’re going up the price scale with the Champion entry, but we’re also travelling up the ladder in terms of power and specifications. This unit is in a different class for power output than the previous three generators on this list, although it remains firmly within the tailgating arena.
With the Champion Power Equipment 100263 generator you take a step up in maximum power output to a whopping 3,100 watts constant running, and 3,400 watts start up. That’s a lot of grunt and it’s reflected in the outlets that are available to you on this model. You get a 120V 30A RV socket, along with two 120V 20A household outlets – and 12V DC outlet with dual USB adapter. That’s not a bad array of options.
This is a quiet generator too, despite the power it puts out, and it runs at just 59 dB(A), which compares very well indeed with some of the weaker generators on our list.
You get a big 192cc 4-stroke motor in the Champion, which will run for about seven hours on one tank of fuel. And talking of fuel, this is a dual-fuel unit, which offers great benefits in terms of running costs.
One of the nicest convenience features here is electronic starting, which will be nice for those early morning moments when you just want to get some coffee on the boil, and you don’t necessarily want a work-out.
Safety features include a valuable low-oil cut off sensor, which might just save your bacon.
You trade off performance and power against weight with this generator. It comes in a little under 99 pounds, and that’s up the very high end of a tailgating generator.
Weighing in at a relatively modest 46 pounds is the next portable generator on our list, and it’s the Generac GP2200i. This is a model that again sits in the middle of the price scale for tailgating generators, and it runs an 80cc engine that puts out 1700 watts of constant power, peaking at 2200 watts for starting power.
This generator is parallel ready, and it has a 12-gallon tank that can run at one quarter power output for nearly eleven hours.
There’s a decent selection of outlets on this device and the overall shape and size of it makes it easy to carry and store between use.
A word of warning, especially if you’re going to use your new portable generator for tailgating. The manufacturer doesn’t specify a noise value of any kind for this product, but we found out that it’s a bit over 60 dB(A) when fully loaded.
There have also been a few problems reported with the Generac in terms of general build quality, poor warranty backup and service arrangements, and even with faulty recoil chords and trouble starting the unit.
In terms of specifications, this compares well. In terms of cost and reported problems and issue – it does not.
The Ryobi RY12300BTA has a long name and a reasonably long list of features to its name.
If you go for such things, this unit features Bluetooth technology which allows you to adjust and control things such as shutting off remotely, and enables monitoring of fuel level, power consumption and remaining run-time, by using any iOS or Android device.
This is another inverter type portable generator, and the fuel efficiency system incorporated in this case also gets a catchy name. This time, it’s ‘Idle-Down’.
You get rear wheels as standard with this unit, unlike some other efforts that require a separate kit for that, and even though it weighs in at 56 pounds, it means moving it around on the ground will be a bit easier.
This Ryobi generator is fully parallel capable, and because the unit starts out with a peak power output of 2300 watts, that gives you the potential to create quite the power source if you do decide to double up.
There’s a reasonably small 80cc engine here, but it does throw out a fair bit of noise when you run this unit hard, and that measures at just under 68 dB(A), which is getting up the available scale for a tailgating generator.
Again here, there’s a 1.2-gallon tank that gives about ten hours of run time at 25% power consumption, and the array of ports and outlets is good. Starting is carried out via a standard recoil chord.
The last generator on this list is the WEN 56200i and it’s a decent little unit for not too much cost. This has an 80cc 4-stroke engine and the generator puts out 1600 watts rated, and 2000 watts at peak power – comparing well to similarly sized units on the market.
Under quarter load conditions, the WEN entry throws out 51 dB(A) of noise and this unit is fully parallel capable (WEN 56421 is a separately available kit for parallel connection).
The manufacturer claims that the 1-gallon tank will enable running time of six hours at a 50% loading rate – which is modest compared to some other units.
The whole WEN 56200i weighs in at just 48 pounds, which is a great tick in the box for this unit, and you won’t break your back moving this thing from place to place.
In terms of outlets and ports, the WEN portable generator has two 3-prong 120V sockets, and a single 12V DC outlet. You also get one handy 5V USB port, which is great for charging portable devices and phones.
The WEN generator isn’t going to win any major prizes but it’s a great option if you’re on a budget and will do most stuff that you want a tailgating generator to do, without giving many frills and thrills.
Now that you’ve learned about our seven favorite generators for tailgating, let’s discuss some specific features that make a generator great for tailgating.
You won’t go too far wrong if you just keep a few things in mind when you’re choosing the best generator for tailgate parties. Don’t buy too much power capacity, because it’ll increase the weight and size of the unit. This will make it heavier and bigger – and less portable.
Try to find a unit that doesn’t need attention every five minutes to monitor oil levels and power output. The more automation, the better the party.
The less noise, the better. You don’t want the loudest thing at the gathering to be your new generator. So, while keeping an eye on how much power you need, don’t go over the top and that’ll keep the noise levels down. You may even want look for the best inverter generator for tailgating, if noise is one of your primary concerns, because inverters are a lot quieter than traditional types.
Outlets. It’s important to think about what you’re going to connect and run from the generator, and to make sure that it provides enough of, and the correct outlets and ports for what you’re going to need.
Do you need a special generator for tailgating?
The answer to this question is yes, you do. Generators designed for other uses tend to produce more noise when they’re running, and a good tailgate generator should run as quietly as possible. You’ll also find that portable generators that incorporate fuel efficiency measures are usually quieter running, because they’ll monitor the demand on the generator and adjust the fuel input to suit. So, the generator will run more quietly, at less revs, whenever it’s able.
The best tailgating generators will also be a lot more portable and lighter than other models in a range or on the market.
Another great option to look for, if you’re intending to run quite a few things off the generator at a party, or when camping out, is a generator that allows parallel connection. This just gives you the option to beef up your available wattage, while still only dealing with small and portable units. You essentially end up with a much bigger generator, made up of two or more units that are easy to move around.
Important features to consider before you buy a generator for a tailgate party
Consider weight, size and noise level. But also bear in mind the factors that will work against keeping those three things at lower values. Such as wattage required, and how many devices and appliances you’re going connect. Somewhere in the middle is your ideal generator, as small and lightweight as possible, but with enough grunt to do the job.
It’s as simple as adding up the wattages of what you want to run, and then looking at units within the right range. Give yourself a bit of extra capacity and you’re set.
Fuel options: gas, propane, or both?
A factor to consider here is availability, and ease of that availability. Go for a fuel that’s going to be east to find and buy – it’ll save you time and hassle and keep you partying longer.
This obviously desirable, because without the engine running, you’re dead in the water.
Cheap is great, but not if it’s going to break down every time you turn around.
Fuel tank capacity and runtime
This will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and from budget point to budget point. It’s obviously going to be great to have a machine that’ll run for hours and hours without attention, and it obviously promotes partying if you can just forget it, leave the fuel can stowed, and get on with having a great time. This can be a weight factor, though. And it’s almost better to let that fuel tank run fairly low before you have to move your generator when the party is over, because dry weight is always going to be lighter to move.
More outlets mean more versatility, and more appliances or devices running at any one time. On smaller generators, you’re going to be looking at lower voltage outlets and some USB ports. Bigger generators are more likely to feature more mains voltage ports.
You’ll need to consider carefully what you want to run off your tailgate generator before you take the plunge, because outlets and ports available will differ from model to model. There’s no use buying something with loads of big power outlets if all you need is a hub for charging devices like phones and tablets – likewise, USB ports are going to be little use to you if you want to run big stuff, like cooking appliances for instance.
Think before you buy – what will you be looking to hook up to your new generator?
Less is more when it comes to noise. And that goes for if you’re trying to find a bit of peace and quiet in the countryside, or if you’re looking to whip up a storm of a party or hold a social gathering. Nobody wants to hear the drone of a generator.
Size, weight, and portability
You want enough power and you want the generator to do its job without overloading it, but you’ll be weighing that up – literally, against how big and heavy it is, and in turn how portable the machine is. By nature, you want it to be as mobile as possible, and you don’t want it to be a physical strain to lift it – because you’ll be doing that frequently.
Likewise, on a camping trip or when loading up the car or the truck for a tailgate party, space is nearly always limited because you’re hauling lots of gear. So, a good tailgate generator shouldn’t end up being too big because you went over the top on power. Keep it as small as you can for the power you require – that’s your best generator for tailgate parties.
Features like these might save your life, or at least save the party from fizzling out due to lack of lighting and power. Look for a generator that has low-oil shutoff. This basically means that it’ll have a device inside that monitors the oil level and shuts off the engine if it drops too low. It can save the engine from being damaged beyond repair, because engines need lubrication – often smaller engines need it more. This feature is a great thing to have in a situation where you just want to have some fun and take the power for granted. Hardly anybody goes camping or starts a tailgate party because they want to spend time tending to a generator and taking oil level measurements.
Another great feature that falls under the safety section is overload protection. This is a system that gets built into the machine to monitor how much power is being drawn at any given time. In an extreme situation, this feature can stop a fire from happening, because it’ll cut power when a dangerous amount of load is put on the generator, that could cause short circuit, or make the generator overheat. Not only will this feature keep the machine operating only within recommended guidelines, and keep it from harm, it’s also another set-it-and-forget-it option that means you can join the party and not worry about power.
We love a warranty. The longer is always the better when it comes to warranties, and the length of warranty can be a good indicator of a manufacturer’s confidence in the quality and build of their product. Just remember to maintain your generator as per manufacturer guidelines, or that warranty will be void, and it’ll no longer matter how long or comprehensive it is.
The more safety features and dials you get on your machine, the better. A dipstick for the oil will allow you to easily monitor levels before each use – and an auto-oil shutoff is ideal, if you can get one.
A fuel gauge will be more useful than you can ever possibly imagine and will make keeping the generator running when you need it easy.
Keep the generator on a level and solid surface whenever you can. Keep it clean and dry and be gentle with when transporting it. It’s a great idea to get a strap on it if you’re moving it around in the back of a truck.
How much do tailgating generators usually cost?
As with most things, there’s a range in price out there. The most expensive generators for tailgating, or in any class, are nearly always going to the Honda and Yamaha models. Expect to pay somewhere around the $1000 mark for the bigger brands in the marketplace.
There’s also a mid-range with tailgate generators, and brands like Champion tend to sit in this band. You’ll be looking at $600–$700 when you’re searching within this range of products.
You can also find budget orientated generators for tailgating, and you’ll find operators like Wen sitting down at this end of the market. You can pick up generators in this bracket for as little as $400–$500, as a guide.
A parallel capable generator offers you a massive advantage, not only in terms of how much power you can supply, but also in terms of how versatile your setup is. It basically allows you to retain the benefits in portability and reduced noise levels that smaller generators offer, while being able to parallel up and create a larger unit that can throw out all the power you’re ever going to need. It’s a bit like having six small batteries in a device. Each individual battery doesn’t increase in size, weight or power capacity – but when you parallel them all up, you end up with a larger power source. This feature offers all the advantages of portable power generation, with more versatility.
Try to keep it as quiet as possible. One of the main points of a generator that’s specifically for tailgate use, along with portability, is that you don’t want it to drown out the conversation or the music. Think of it like a socially acceptable generator.
The answer to this is nearly always, as far as possible. Even outdoors, fumes can linger around and they’re never good for people. Noise too, even with the quietest running of tailgate generators, is still noise. Portable generators are great to have, and you may even be proud of that new purchase, but it doesn’t need to be the center of attention at your party. Keep it only as near as you need to, and let it do its job.
So, there you have it. We’ve looked at the best tailgating generators and the Honda EU2200i, which came out at the top of the list. It’s a great all-round portable generator that’s in the goldilocks zone for tailgating and light camping use.
Next on the list was the Yamaha EF2000iS , which can ran a very close second and on features and performance it’s hard to separate the top two generators on this list. A careful study of capacities and options on each model is going to be the best way to judge which one is best for you.
If you don’t have a thing for either of our top two picks here, then the number three option might be the one that gets the tailgate party started for you. That unit was the Champion Power Equipment 200961, and in terms of being a suitable and reliable generator for tailgate use, it wasn’t half bad.
Whichever you choose, and wherever you may roam – we wish you happy tailgating!