Currently Wandering » Outdoor Family, Adventure Travel, Simple Living - Family of 5 Traveling the United States in an Airstream.

With Power Comes Great Freedom – We Have a Generator!

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It is now easy to see how stressful it was to always make sure we stayed at campgrounds with electric hook-ups.

“Big Sur? Ummm… maybe we could make it one night?”

“That boondocking spot looks awesome, but I don’t think we’d last very long.”

Some of the best campgrounds we’ve seen or heard about are tucked away with no utility hookups. Or the best campsites within a campground are the non-hookup/tent sites.  As a self-contained trailer that should be no problem, but our power consumption is such that we drain our batteries easily after only 1 or 2 nights. Powering laptops (the big one), the furnace fan (also huge), and other miscellaneous devices and lights really takes a toll. We also don’t have an inverter in the Airstream, so none of the regular, three pronged outlets will work while we are on battery power (hairdryer & blender probably being my top two appliances). We do, however, have DC USB plugs for our phones and tablets, and one DC power cord that we share between our two laptops. So, we can get power to those, just not for very long until we are drained.

We contemplated the solar vs. generator question long and hard and decided that while solar might be a cleaner, more environment conscious way of getting power, it is also more of a financial commitment and more logistically complicated, and we weren’t ready for that. So, we bought a generator. After talking with multiple other full time families, we settled on the popular Honda EU2000i and we absolutely love it. Quiet, efficient, small (comparatively), starts easily and runs great.

The best thing about having this guy is that we no longer worry about what utilities the campground will have. Coupled with a few water jugs to schlep water from a spigot, we can now go 4 or 5 days easily before we run out of gray water tank space. We immediately put it to use and stayed in Samuel P. Taylor State Park near Point Reyes National Seashore back in March of 2014. As a reward for our portability, our site was beautiful, covered with shade from the tall redwood trees and it drizzled rain on and off with some serious cloud cover. We loved being in a beautiful place where solar power would not have met our needs.

Is solar out of the question? Not at all. Pulling the generator out of the truck and plugging it in is a bit of a chore, but so is constantly tilting solar panels to match the angle of the sun (not to mention climbing up on top to clean them!). We imagine a future with both. We’d love at least one solar panel on top of the Airstream to keep our batteries topped off. However, we don’t want to have to leave the Redwood Forest because our shady spot isn’t pulling in enough power. We will likely end up with both, to give us the best possible options as we travel.

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  • Nick Rudnev - Do you place it right next to your Airstream or do you run an extension cord to keep the noise down? TnxReplyCancel

    • Jess - Its not a long cord – but we do try and place it farther away from the Airstream and open windows. Its amazingly quiet!ReplyCancel

  • Andreas Duess - We just had our solar setup serviced, our charge controller was playing up, and I am surprised by just how much power we’re now getting from our old 100 Watt panel. With regular use, the batteries are almost always at 100% on a sunny day.

    Of course we are not full timing, so our power requirements are probably somewhat lower than yours and on a rainy day or in the shade all bets are off.

    I’ve been thinking about getting a Honda generator myself to give us even more freedom on where we camp. Like you, I think the combination of solar and a backup generator is probably the sweet spot. ReplyCancel

  • Theo - Personally, i will prefer to camp with a solar system instead of a generator set because the sound of generator normally get me very irritated.

    ThanksReplyCancel

    • Jess - Agreed. However, we like to stay in nice shady spots where solar isn’t as useful (Samuel P. Taylor in the rain comes to mind!). I think we will eventually have both – solar for most of our needs, but we can pull out the generator when weather or location inhibits the use of our panels.ReplyCancel

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