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Can I Use My Portable Generator at Overnight Parking Spots?

Staying in an overnight parking spot typically means not being able to plug into a power pedestal. Often, when RVers aren’t plugging their RVs in, they’ll use portable generators to power their RVs.

So you may be asking yourself, “Can I use my portable generator at overnight parking spots?” It’s a common question that RVers and campers ask.

Let’s take a look!

What Is a Portable Generator?

A portable generator uses gas, propane, or diesel to create power. The size of the generator determines how much power it can create. It can allow you to create power whenever it isn’t easily accessible.

Portable generators are a cost-effective option for those looking to boondock or enjoy some off-grid camping. Whether this means quick overnight stops on the way to your next campground or extended boondocking trips on public lands, a portable generator is a great tool to have available.

Even if you’re in a campground with power, you never know when a storm or an electrical issue can knock out power. 

Pro Tip: On the hunt for the perfect portable generator? We uncovered Which Camping Generators Are Decent, Better & Best.

Can I Use My Portable Generator at Overnight Parking Spots?

While a portable generator can power your RV, it’s not always acceptable to run it. Let’s look at a handful of places you might park your RV overnight and if you can run your generator.

Rest Areas

You may come across a rest area while RVing that allows overnight stays. These locations are common places for those driving semis and other large vehicles to stop to stretch or get some rest.

However, should you run your portable generator at an Interstate Rest area?

You should first look for any signage telling you whether or not they’re prohibited. If not, running your generator is typically acceptable.

Due to the proximity to the highway and the coming and going of large trucks, it’s likely not to cause a disturbance. You’ll want to minimize your use to make it easy for you to leave. You’ll likely not want to leave your generator unsecured at a rest area to avoid it disappearing. 

Rest area by highway road in Alabama.

Business Parking Lots

Some businesses like Walmart and Cracker Barrel are generous and allow overnight parking. Depending on the location and the amount of others parking overnight, you may or may not be the only one to create distance.

It’s typically best to limit your generator usage when in these lots. It’s not acceptable in most cases. Unless you’re the only RV in the lot and the business is closed, don’t run your generator.

You want to be able to leave quickly and not disturb others.

Truck Stops

If you find yourself staying overnight at a truck stop, you’ll need to park amongst the semi-trucks and other big rigs. Many of these trucks will idle for the entire night.

Therefore, running a generator will likely not cause much disturbance for others around you.

However, you shouldn’t leave your generator unsecured. Expensive items tend to disappear when left unattended.

Reserved Boondocking Parking Spots

Some of the best overnight parking spots are through membership programs like Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome. Each site is unique and very different from the next.

If you’ll need to use a generator during your stay, it’s best to look at the host’s rules when making the reservation. Hosts may restrict generator usage to avoid disrupting their business or inconveniencing neighbors.

One great thing about some of these locations is that there’s a chance they may provide power for a small fee. Some locations can host multiple travelers, so make sure you consider your generator usage if other travelers are stopping for the night.

SUV and travel trailer lit up at night while camping.
Always be cautious when running your generator overnight.

Can You Run a Generator While Sleeping? 

Yes, you can run a generator while you’re sleeping. However, you should take a couple of precautions to stay safe. The exhaust from a generator can be dangerous. You should always make sure your generator is pointing away and is downwind from your RV. 

The exhaust should blow away from not only your RV, but any other RVs parked near you. Some RVers have had close calls with carbon monoxide poisoning by running their generator while it was under their RV.

How Do You Secure a Generator When Camping?

You want to make sure your generator stays safe while you’re camping. The best way to do this is to keep it out of sight. Keeping it covered in the back of a truck bed or locked storage compartments are both great options.

If you can’t do either of those, it’s a good idea to chain it to your RV. Feed a chain through a handle and over an axle of your RV. While someone could take your generator if they wanted to, the chain and lock will make it at least somewhat more complicated.

Portable generator in front of big RV
Always position your generator downwind and pointed away from your RV.

Where Is the Safest Place to Put a Generator? 

The safest place to put a generator is downwind and pointed away from any RVs. You want to avoid the toxic gas from blowing into the RV and potentially poisoning anyone inside it.

Keep your generator a safe distance away, and make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your RV. You should test them twice each year to ensure they’re functioning correctly.

Pro Tip: Are you ready for a generator DIY? Check out these tips on How To Convert Your Gas Generator To Propane in 9 Easy Steps.

How Many Hours Can You Run a Generator? 

Some RVers run their generators 24/7 while camping, usually when running an air conditioner or an electric heater. Some generators can last for thousands of hours when their owners follow the recommended maintenance and service schedule.

The key to a long-lasting generator is to run it regularly. You don’t want it to sit for extended periods not getting used. Using a fuel stabilizer will also help avoid clogs in the fuel system and extend its life. 

Is a Portable Generator Worth It on a Road Trip?

Having a portable generator can allow you a bit more freedom on a road trip. You can find some pretty epic places to camp while using your generator to power your RV.

This can help you avoid paying expensive camping fees and camping in a crowded campground. Whether you want to run your air conditioning or simply keep your battery charged, there are plenty of great portable generators on the market. 

Have you ever had to use a portable generator overnight? Drop a comment below!

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