Power On The Go: Generator vs Battery

So, you want to plan your dream power system for your caravan or 4WD. Which is the better option: a generator or battery?

Whether you're heading off for a weekend adventure or going all the way around the block, you need to consider how you'll keep things powered up on the road. The truth is, both batteries and generators come with pros and cons.

Let's see how they stack up in our generator vs battery review:

Pros of Generators

  • 240V output available. You can run 240V appliances directly from your generator.

  • Generators run on fuel. As long as you have fuel, you have power.

  • Can run appliances that draw a high current. We're talking about power tools, kitchen appliances like microwaves and hair dryers/straighteners.

  • Can run sensitive gear. Inverter generators provide safe 240V power for sensitive electronic gear, like laptops and camera equipment.

  • No installation required. Simply fill 'em up, start 'em up and watch as they keep your devices running.


Cons of Generators

  • Noise, emissions and restrictions. There are definitely quieter generators to choose from. But however quiet the generator is, you'll still hear that tell-tale rumble in a tranquil campsite - especially at night. Because of this, lots of national parks, campsites and public places won't allow generators, or put strict time restrictions on their use.

  • Fuel. You can't run your generator without fuel, so you always need to carry enough for your power needs. This also adds to the cost of running a generator.

  • Heavy and bulky. It completely depends on the model, but many generators can be bulky and heavy. You'll typically need two people to move them around.


Benefits of Batteries

  • Silent operation. Batteries don't make noise. No noise means no restrictions.

  • Compact and lightweight. Just as with generators, the weight of your battery depends on which type you choose. For lightweight and compact design, you specifically need to buy a lithium battery. AGM lead acid batteries are a heavy choice.

  • Free to run. If you're using your battery with solar panels, it's essentially free to power your gear. Sunlight doesn't cost a cent!

  • Can be cheap to set up. You can go as cheap or expensive as you like with batteries. But if you only need a basic set up, this won't break the bank. (Please note, how much you spend on your battery setup will reflect the efficiency and weight of the battery).

  • Can be very portable. If installed in a battery box, you can use your battery between other vehicles. This makes it a portable power option.

Generator vs Battery
Enerdrive Lithium Battery Setup (Photo Courtesy of Pro Touring Concepts)


Cons of Batteries

  • Installation required. Compared to generators, battery set-ups can be confusing for anyone who hasn't done it before. Many setups require installation and some level of wiring. But there's a lot of advice out there to help. Enerdrive has also release DIY Installation Kits and Canopy Systems to make this process easier!

  • Limited application. You're limited to the appliances a battery can power. Unlike with generators, high current appliances can be a limiting factor.

What Will My Camping Battery Run?


Our Advice: Generator vs Battery?


Before you make your choice on any power option, answer the following questions:

  • What appliances do you need to power?

  • How much will your appliances draw?

  • How big is the generator or battery bank?

  • For batteries, how much charge will the solar panels put into your battery bank?

We ask these questions so you can work backwards to see whether a generator or battery suits your application. Plus what size generator or battery you need.

Let's explore some general scenarios and what setup is suitable:


For a simple camper trailer, van or camping setup for trips lasting five days or less, you should be able to power your basics with a good solar and battery combination. For example, a 40L portable fridge/freezer, mobile phones, iPad, and LED lighting.

If you aren't in the position to do a full installation or want something portable we recommend buying a camping power pack that's ready to plug and play, like this one from EcoFlow.

It includes a EcoFlow DELTA Portable Power Station (105Ah@12V) and an EcoFlow 110W Monocrystalline Folding Solar Panel in one easy kit!

Two cheaper alternatives are the EcoFlow River600 Portable Power Station (24Ah@12V) Bundle with 160W Monocrystalline Folding Solar Panel and the EcoFlow River600 PRO Portable Power Station (60Ah@12V) Bundle with 110W Monocrystalline Folding Solar Panel.

However it is important to note these are only a 24Ah and 60Ah power pack compared to the pack above which comes with a 105Ah power station!


Want To Go Bigger?


Let's say you want a setup like the above, but want a few more luxury items, like a coffee pod machine. Is it possible?

Yes, we've seen customers achieve this with a lithium battery, 240V inverter and solar combination, such as the 200Ah lithium battery with DC to DC charger and 190W Enerdrive twin pack solar panels. 

The big advantage of 200Ah is that it has enough power for a 2000-watt inverter. That means you can run a pod coffee machine for those all-important camping brews.

Pro tip: if you are looking for an all-in-one off-grid setup solution, check out our Enerdrive Ultimate Off-Grid 4x4 Bundle. Simply choose the number of solar panels you'd like from the accessories list and you'll be off-grid ready!

Now, what if you are going on a longer camping trip with multiple families? Whats the better option: Generator vs Battery?

This is where an inverter generator becomes your go-to power option. A 2200W - 3400W inverter generator will silently purr away in the background, directly powering fridges, freezers and lighting. It can even be used to top up everyone's battery during the trip.

We recommend the Yamaha 2200W, Cromtech 2400W, and the Briggs & Stratton 3400W inverter generators.

What About A Caravan?


If you're travelling in a caravan, you should have a battery and solar set-up as a basic requirement. If you can, switch to a lithium battery for better performance on longer trips.

In addition, a small inverter generator is also required to ensure you can top up batteries, run an air conditioner (check out this blog for advice) and run high powered appliances, such as power tools.


Our Verdict: Generator vs Battery


Our perfect set-up actually includes both a battery AND a generator. This allows you to run all of your appliances and ensures you still have power even if you run out of fuel or experience bad weather!

Need helping selecting which models are suitable for your application? Give one of our product experts a call on 1300 400 122.


DISCLAIMER* Please note, this advice is general in nature and we strongly recommend consulting the product manual and where relevant, a professional installer.

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up