Organising off-grid power can be a confusing business, which is why we’ve put together a list to help you find the best suitcase generators for your next adventure.
Alternative living has never been bigger than it is now. With the costs of housing and services continuously on the rise, it seems that many of us have finally had enough.
There are so many ways that you can generate electricity while living off the grid that it can be tough to choose the best one. We’ve already covered the best solar panels for your travelling tiny home, which is great if you live in sunny climates.
But what if you’re planning to spend time away from the sun, in the depths of a forest perhaps? What happens if you’re planning a trip to the Nordics when it can be dark for large portions of the day?
That’s where knowing which are the best suitcase generators comes in handy!
All You Need To Know About Finding The Best Suitcase Generators
What Are Suitcase Generators?
For those of you that haven’t heard of them before, you’re probably wondering how you could possibly get power from the same thing that you stick your clothes in when you go on holiday.
Suitcase generators are devices that give power anywhere without having to be plugged into a solar panel or a mains electricity outlet. They are the perfect companion for an off grid adventure and mean that you can work or create on the go no matter where you are.
They’re called suitcase generators because of the handle on the top of the product. They are carried, as you may have guessed, like a suitcase or briefcase. They are light, compact, and a great solution for vanlifers who don’t frequent campsites.
How Do They Work?
Most of the best suitcase generators in our list below run off gas/petrol or diesel, depending on which part of the world you are from. Some of them are dual fuel, meaning that they can also be run from a propane canister.
By pulling a cord, you fire up the generator just like you would start the motor in your car or camper. As long as there is fuel inside the generator, then you can have power for any type of device (up to a certain wattage, but we’ll get onto that soon).
Is There A Smell?
There is a small smell of burnt fuel, but it’s nothing like the kind of smell that comes from your car exhaust.
The general idea is that you would keep you would put your suitcase generator outside your van, away from your camping area.
Does That Mean That Suitcase Generators Are Loud?
The old models used to be, but the newer models all have ‘super silent’ somewhere in their names or descriptions. They have exhaust mufflers and are designed to be quiet to avoid disrupting your peaceful vacation.
Of course, they aren’t going to be completely silent, hence the need to put them a little bit away from your camping area. Once inside your van, however, you definitely won’t be able to hear them.
What Can I Use Them For?
You can use suitcase generators for any device that needs to be plugged into mains power. We’re talking anything from a phone to a portable spin-dry washing machine.
They’re great as a full-time solution for off-grid homesteads or digital nomad workers who need to charge/run lots of equipment for their work while on the road.
The unit that you buy will depend on how many watts you need when kickstarting your appliances, however.
What Does Running Power Mean?
Just like the best 12V inverter models out there, suitcase generators have a running power that they can operate at. If a generator runs at 2,200-watts, then it can cope with devices up to that power rating.
Let me explain…
Let’s say that a 60-watt lightbulb takes 60 watts of output from your generator. If you plan to light up 10 of these, then you’re going to need a generator that has a running power of at least 600-watts. Anything less than that and your lights won’t work.
Likewise, if you want to work a circular saw that is 1,000-watts, then you need a generator that is at least 1,000W to be able to work it. In this instance, going for something a little bigger like a 1,500w motor might be advisable.
You also need to make sure that your suitcase generator has the correct peak power rating too.
What On Earth Is Peak Power?
Nearly all devices require an extra bit of power to get them going when you turn them on. This is called peak or surge power.
You won’t need to worry about this too much. Just remember that if you’re maxing out your generator with a tool, then it’s going to mean that you need to upgrade to the next size.
How Do I Work Out Which Of These Suitcase Generators Is Best For Me?
There’s an easy way to figure out which of the many suitcase generators out there is right for you. It requires a small calculation, but it’s easy once you know how.
You need to have a think about what the biggest thing you’re going to be plugging into it is, and then buy a generator that can cope with that wattage input.
But what if you don’t know the wattage?
You can work out a device’s wattage as long as you know the volt and amp rating. If you’re in America, the volt rating for most appliances will be 120V. In the UK, 240V.
It’s easy to find the amp rating of a product – just look in the advertising online or in the booklet that comes with your device.
Then, all you need to do is follow the simple formula – Voltage x Amperage = Wattage.
Let’s put this into practice.
You’ve got an electric drill that has an amperage of 7.2. You’re reading this from America, so your voltage is going to be 120V. 120 x 7.2 = 864.
Now you know that your drill draws 864-watts, so you need a generator that has a watt rating over that figure.
Bear in mind that if you want to run two drills at once, you would need a generator that can cope with twice that amount.
Ok, lesson over! Let’s take a look at the best suitcase generators on the market and get you kitted out with one for your next trip into the wild!
The Generac GP3000i is a 2,300W generator with a surge power of up to 3,000W! The advanced ‘Power Rush’ technology delivers up to 50% more starting capacity, making this one of the best suitcase generators for families that need to power big items on the road.
This generator boasts quiet inverter power, so it won’t leave you with a horrible ringing in your ears. It makes use of technology that reduces unwanted noise, all while producing ‘Truepower’.
Truepower is clean power that won’t damage your delicate and expensive electronics. It’s like the pure sine wave power that we get from inverters. The Generac is only 59.5 pounds, which is the same as 270 blueberry muffins. Plus, it can be connected together with a second unit in parallel for extra power!
The Westinghouse iGen2200 has a running watt rating of 2,200W and a peak power of 2,500W. It comes with two 120V outlets, two USB ports, and it only weighs 48lbs. That’s the same as carrying 145 Guadeloupean bananas!
This generator is both insanely quiet and fuel-efficient. Its noise output is rated at 52 dBA. To put it into perspective, that’s the same as an electric fan. A diesel truck is 100dBa.
The iGen 2200 can run for up to 10-hours on a 1-gallon gas tank. That’s a great power-to-fuel ratio that won’t cost the earth to run. There’s also an economy mode for maximum efficiency too.
You can keep track of all of your fuel, power output, voltage output, and time left until you next need to fill up via the handy onscreen display. Best of all, this generator meets loads of regulations including being CARB compliant.
3. WEN 56200i
The next device on our list of the best suitcase generators is Amazon’s ‘generator of choice’, and it’s not hard to see why.
The WEN 56200i weighs 50lbs, which is the same as 8-billion grains of sand for any beach enthusiasts out there. At 18″ x 11″ x 18″ it’s pretty compact too, so won’t take up much space in your campervan.
The Noise level rating comes out at 53 dBA which is very low, making this a great unit for using if you don’t want to annoy other boondockers or while stealth camping. It provides 1,600-watt running power and 2,000-watt surge power.
If you’re looking to power sensitive devices such as computers and televisions while off-grid, then you’ll be pleased to know that this generator produces clean power from it’s two three-prong 120V receptacles. The same goes for the 12V DC port and the 5V USB port too,
This next entry in our list of the best suitcase generators might look like a digital radio, but it is in fact a super-sleek power hub. This is the quietest generator of the 10, boasting a dBA rating of 51.5. That’s the same as an extremely quiet refrigerator.
At 41.4 pounds (or 7,407 table tennis balls to be exact), the Yamaha EF2000iSv2 can produce 1,600-watts while running. It has a 2,000-watt peak power rating and comes with a smart throttle which improves fuel economy.
This little portable power hub measures just 19.3 x 11 x 17.9 and is CARB compliant. It’s perfect if you have a smaller camper or day van, and other camper owners will seriously appreciate the super-quiet muffler system.
It looks pretty nice too!
Next up we have the Rainier R2200i, a suitcase generator with 1,800-watts of running power and 2,200-watts peak power. You can get 13 hours of running time from the 1.3-gallon fuel tank, and it comes with an economy mode for making every drop of gasoline count.
This unit produces 52 dBa, another product that is only as loud as an electric fan. It can power everything from phones to power tools and contains two 120V household outlets, one 12V DC outlet, and a neutral floating grounding port.
At 44lbs, the easy-grip handle makes it feel like you’re carrying 998 sushi rolls (which weigh the same – can you tell I’m having fun with this weight comparison site!) You can stick this in your trunk, carry it on a walk, or even stick it in a backpack without feeling the strain.
Backed by a 3-year-warranty, the R2200i is EPA and CARB compliant and comes with low oil and overload alarms. It’s a great choice and one that we’d be happy to use on future adventures.
Honda are a huge name in the world of suitcase generators, and you may well have seen one of these Honda EU2200i units outside campervans and RVs while on your travels.
This is one of the most popular choices that vanlifers opt for, but it’s also one of the most expensive. This product will cost you just over $1,000, making it the most expensive generator on our list.
The price is so high because of the Honda GXR120 engine inside the unit. That’s a serious bit of kit and comes with lots of safety features to keep your product alive and kicking for longer.
Still, with an operating level of 48 to 57 dBA, which is lower than most average conversations, you’re getting a product that is reliable, quiet, and has been tried and tested by vanlifers the world over.
At 40lbs (or a stack of 91 vinyl records), this is the lightest generator in the list. It runs at 2,200-watts and can be doubled up for a whopping 4,400-watts with another unit.
The next unit on our list of the best suitcase generators is the A-iPower SUA2000iV. It has a running power of 1,600-watts and a peak power of 2,000-watts.
At 58 dBa, it’s a little louder than most of the other suitcase generators that we’ve looked at so far, but still not so loud that it would wake a hibernating bear from its slumber.
This generator comes with a ‘low idle’ mode to increase running time and is perfect for charging up expensive equipment. It’s small enough to fit in a cupboard or footwell and is ‘RV’ ready.
Oh, and it weighs the same as 55 mask and snorkel sets (that’s 44lbs).
Could this next unit be the champion of all suitcase generators? It is in name, at any rate.
The Champion Power Equipment 100402 2000-Watt Dual Fuel Generator is a winner for anyone who wants to use propane instead of diesel, or if you run out of one fuel type but have another one handy.
This 1,600-watt unit can be used straight out of the box with ease. It has a peak power of 2,000-watts and runs at 53 dBa. It has a low-oil shutoff sensor and a neat control panel that lets you monitor fuel consumption and power.
This 47.6lb generator (the same as carrying 31 iPads) has an impressive running time of 11-hours too! Result!
This next range or suitcase generators look a little like the tiny droids that zoom around the Death Star. Take a look at the Briggs & Stratton P2200 Power Smart Series power hub, a portable device with 1,700-watts running power.
This generator has a peak power rating of 2,200-watts and produces a tiny 3% of harmonic distortion. That means it’s safe for charging your expensive laptop computer. It can run for 8 hours on a 25% load, which is around 450-watts of current draw.
The ‘Super Lo-Tone’ muffler keeps this product nice and quiet, and the variety of USB and household outlets will cover all of your gadgets with ease. It has a carry handle that can be used by two people, making the 54.6lbs (42 basketballs) easier to manage.
Last, but by no means least, we have a range of suitcase generators that sound as though they could form their own super hero team.
This Mech Marvels generator produces 53 dBA and is both EPA III and CARB-Compliant. You’ll get 1,600-watts running power and 2,000-watts peak power, all from this small but mighty powerhouse.
The clean sine wave technology in this generator is perfect for everything from lightbulbs to laptops, and at 46lbs (695 bunches of roses), it’s not exactly going to weigh you down (or be as thorny as the roses).