Small generators that put out less than two thousand watts are useful for hobbies and recreation. They don’t provide enough power to run multiple appliances during blackouts because of their limited capacity, but their big advantage is their portability. Contractors, campers, farmers, and other people needing to work out in the field or areas with no electricity, will find them helpful in running a few power tools, work lights, and other equipment.
Some of the best brands for small, sub 2,000-watt generators include WEN, Honda, Westinghouse, Yamaha, Buffalo Tools, Pulsar, and Echo. Most small generators are incredibly portable and quiet. They are typically not the best as a backup power source but are great for recreational use.
Many of the smallest portable generators are inverters because they are more fuel-efficient and provide clean power for sensitive devices such as phones, laptops, and other electronics. Inverters generate alternating current (AC), convert it to direct current (DC), and then back to AC. They are generally more expensive than conventional portable generators because of their more complex processes but can save money on fuel and are much quieter.
The Best Small Portable Generators
There are a ton of small portable generators on the market, but here are eleven of the best generators that are both powerful, small, reliable, and extremely portable.
|Generator||Weight||Running Watts||Run Time||Loudness|
|WEN 56125i||31.6 lbs||1,000||5 hrs at 1/2 load||51 dB|
|WEN 56200i||48 lbs||1,600||9.4 hrs at 1/4 load||53 dB|
|Sportsman 1000i||20.3 lbs||800||6.3 hrs at 1/2 load||62 dB|
|Honda EU1000i||28.7 lbs||800||7 hrs at 1/4 load||50 dB|
|Yamaha EF1000is||27.9 lbs||900||11 hrs at 1/2 load||47 dB|
|Lifan ESI 860i-CA||23 lbs||600||3 hrs at 1/2 load||58 dB|
|Westinghouse iGen 1200||33 lbs||1,000||9 hrs at 1/4 load||52 dB|
|ECHO EGi-1200||30 lbs||1,000||5.2 hrs at 1/2 load||64 dB|
|Pulsar PG1202S||25 lbs||850||8.5 hrs at 1/2 load||65 dB|
|WEN 56105||39 lbs||900||5 hrs at 1/2 load||95 dB|
|Buffalo Tools GEN1000||38 lbs||800||6 hrs at 1/2 load||62 dB|
1. WEN 56125i Portable Inverter Generator
This little generator puts out 1250 starting watts and 1000 running watts. This means that it will power a device that requires 1250 watts to start up, but it can only provide 1000 watts of power when running continuously. It is an inverter generator, so the energy is clean and can safely charge sensitive electronics such as cell phones, cameras, camping lights, or computers.
It runs on gasoline and has a 0.7-gallon tank, providing around five hours of runtime at half-load. It makes less noise at fifty-one decibels measured from twenty-two feet away than a window air conditioner or everyday conversation. For this reason, it is good for hunting, camping, and tailgating.
The Eco-Throttle mode improves fuel efficiency because the generator adjusts its fuel consumption to match the load. Its control panel has two three-prong 120V sockets, two 5V USD ports, indicator lights, and parallel connection ports. You can link two of them to run in parallel using the WEN 56421 Parallel Connection kit, which is sold separately.
It comes with a two-year warranty and an automatic shutdown when the fuel or oil level is too low. An overload protection feature prevents damage to electronic devices and the generator itself. It measures 17.25 x 9 x 15 inches, is EPA III and CARB compliant and costs less than other generators in its class. Several online reviewers have given it five stars, and its overall rating based on ten reviews was four stars.
2. WEN 56200i Portable Inverter Generator
The WEN 56200i is at the upper range of small portable generators with 2000 start-up watts and 1600 running watts. With noise levels at around fifty-three decibels, it is very quiet and recommended for campgrounds, tailgating, and construction sites. It weighs forty-eight pounds and has an eco-mode feature that allows the engine to adjust fuel consumption based on load automatically.
The runtime on quarter load is 9.4 hours, and fuel tank capacity is one gallon. You can use it in parallel with another WEN inverter generator with the aid of a WEN Parallel Kit. Since it produces clean power, it can run tablets, mobile phones, laptops, and other sensitive devices. The engine is 79.7 cc, and it has two 120V three-prong receptacles, one 5V USB port, and one 12V DC output.
One satisfied reviewer says he wouldn’t recommend it for commercial use, but for camping, it works well. He uses it to power his TV, a small fan, and refrigerator simultaneously in his camper van in eco-mode. The oil needs changing every twenty-five hours, but it sips fuel, and it starts on the first or second pull every time. When putting it into storage, you should always empty the carburetor first.
Another reviewer also said it was suitable for camping but slightly tall compared to the equivalent Yamaha and Honda generators. He really liked the economy mode feature, which you can activate via a rocker switch. It has a USDA-approved spark arrestor, so it is safe to use in forested areas. Its overall rating is just over four stars with one thousand seven hundred and sixteen ratings.
3. Sportsman 1000i Inverter Generator
This generator is one in the Sportsman Series, a brand owned by US-based Buffalo Tools, and is also an inverter with a rating of 4.3 stars out of five. It has 1000 start-up watts and 800 running watts, which puts out less power than the WEN. The fuel type is unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of eighty-seven or higher.
The fuel capacity is 1.1 gallons, and the engine has a recoil start. It comes with a one-year warranty that may be limited, weighs only 20.3 pounds, and is made in China. There is one 120V A/C outlet and one 12V D\C outlet, and the engine noise is around 56 decibels at its lowest and less than 62 decibels at its highest.
You cannot run this generator in parallel, and it has no fuel gauge. It has a spark arrestor and low oil and overload protection. With a full tank, it can run for around 6.3 hours at half load. It is one of the more fuel-efficient generators in its class, with estimated fuel consumption of 0.1 gallons per hour at fifty percent load.
Reviewers have said that it is well worth the price as it puts out a decent amount of power for its weight and size. One user ran two small fans, a portable refrigerator, and a CPAP machine at night and said the unit’s weight was impressive. He ran it for over sixty hours, and apart from stops for refueling and oil level checks, it ran continuously.
It can be used for camping to power an RV refrigerator and will run an electric drill with six hundred running watts and nine hundred starting watts. Recommended uses include camping, tailgating, and handcrafting hobbies.
4. Honda EU1000i Inverter Generator
The Honda EU1000i is ideal for running lights, fans, a TV or small appliances, and power tools. With a noise output of around fifty decibels at twenty to thirty feet, it is very quiet and weighs only 28.7 pounds. It has a 4.5-star rating and runs on regular unleaded gasoline.
Honda is one of the most esteemed brands in the portable generator market, but it is also pricey compared to others in its class. This generator’s fuel tank capacity is 0.6 gallons, and it has a runtime of around seven hours on a quarter load. At full load, the runtime is approximately three hours.
The generator puts out 1000 starting watts and 800 running watts and has a Honda GXH50 four-stroke, 49.4 cc engine. You can use it to power a portable heater of 15 000 BTU, an RV refrigerator, a laptop, or a hand drill. There are two AC 120V output sockets and a 12V DC output socket.
There is only a recoil start, and it is easy to carry in various terrains. You can run two in parallel if extra power is needed. It comes with a two-year warranty. It is excellent for camping trips and small DIY tasks to safely power sensitive electronics like cell phones and computers. There is low-oil and overload protection.
Honda generators are made from good-quality parts and are likely to last for years. One reviewer said it is so quiet that it is easy to forget that it is running. Another said it could operate everything in his trailer except the microwave. One of the downsides is that it is attractive to thieves, so it should be secured when camping.
5. Yamaha EF1000is Inverter Generator
At 27.9 pounds, this little generator is highly portable. It has a fifty cc, OHV four-stroke engine that delivers 1000 starting watts and 900 running watts and is best for camping, boating, RVs, DIY projects, and tailgating. There are two AC outlets and one 12V DC outlet, which helps charge batteries.
Volume output at twenty-three feet is around 47 decibels, and the unit is CARB and EPA compliant. At a twenty-five percent load, the runtime can be over 11 hours to run throughout the night. It runs on gasoline and can run for up to twelve hours on economy mode without refueling. The generator comes with a three-year warranty when not used commercially.
The gasoline petcock allows the carburetor to run dry when you want to store it, preventing stale fuel from sitting for long periods and causing problems. A Smart Throttle senses the load and adjusts the revs accordingly to ensure greater fuel efficiency and noise reduction. In addition, there is an acoustically engineered noise reduction system that makes it one of the quietest portable generators in its class.
An Auto Warm-up feature increases the engine speed for a few minutes to ensure smooth power delivery with cold start-ups. Reviewers gave it a 3.9 out of five stars, with one reviewer noting that it was significantly cheaper than the Honda and started quickly every time.
Another reviewer warned that while it is a really nice generator, it might not be a good backup generator for an RV because you should not use the 12V output to charge batteries of a higher capacity than 40Ah. Also, if you use this generator in the mountains, the engine may require a high-altitude carburetor kit to ensure correct operation above 4000-foot altitudes.
It had several five-star reviews from users who commented on its fuel efficiency, quietness, reliability, and portability.
6. Lifan ESI 860i-CA
This generator is one of the smallest out there and weighs only twenty-three pounds. Start-up watts are 700W while running watts are 600W. It has a four-stroke 40cc OHV engine that provides three hours of run time at half load. Noise levels at twenty-three feet are around fifty-eight decibels. There is only one AC outlet on the control panel and a 12V socket for battery charging.
It is an inverter, so it is safe to use with delicate appliances such as mobile phones and laptops. There is a low-oil feature and an overload preventing circuit breaker. A full tank of fuel yields up to five hours of operation, and it has a recoil start. The fuel tank holds 0.4 gallons of fuel.
Walmart reviewers gave it 2.7 stars, while reviewers have given it only 2.6 out of five stars. One said that although it is a great generator, its assembly leaves much to be desired. The electronics were clean, and none of the internal components looked shoddy, but the manual isn’t good, and the one he ordered came with a broken ignition coil mount, a broken exhaust manifold, and a black spark plug. Another said he used it for around fifty hours before it bricked itself.
7. Westinghouse iGen 1200 Portable Inverter Generator
The Westinghouse iGen 1200 weighs only thirty-three pounds and has a good build quality. It puts out 1000 running watts and 1200 start-up watts and is CARB-compliant. Noise levels are as low as fifty-two decibels, and it will run for up to nine hours on its 0.8-gallon gas tank at a quarter load. There is an economy-mode feature for maximum fuel efficiency, and you can run it in parallel with another Westinghouse inverter generator.
There is a three-year limited service warranty for residential use, and the control panel has two 120V household power outlets. There are two USB ports. The ignition system is electronic, and it has a recoil starter and a manual choke. It has a four-stroke OHV Westinghouse engine and adjusts its engine speed to match the load.
Reviewers have commented that its price is a few hundred dollars lower than a comparable Honda generator and noted its high portability. One person who used it to power his RV said he was delighted, and several others gave it five stars. One person can carry it easily. It comes with a tool kit, oil, and funnel and has a spark arrestor so you can use it in forested areas.
It compares very favorably with other generators in its class, and the estimated fuel consumption is around 0.09 gallons per hour.
8. ECHO EGi-1200 Inverter Generator
At only thirty pounds, this generator is even lighter than the Westinghouse iGen 1200. However, at sixty-four decibels, it is quite a bit louder. Fuel capacity is 0.69 gallons, and it runs on gasoline. It is EPA approved and CARB-compliant and has a spark arrestor, making it safe for forested areas.
At fifty-percent load, it runs for around 5.2 hours which means its autonomy is relatively low. Estimated fuel consumption is 0.13 gallons per hour at half load, so its fuel efficiency is good. It doesn’t have an electric start but is parallel capable. It’s got 1000 running watts while starting watts are 1200W.
It has a 60cc OHV four-stroke engine and a recoil starter and comes with a three-year warranty which may be limited. Two AC outlets, three DC outlets, a 12V receptacle for battery charging, and two 5V USB ports. Price-wise it is about average for its class.
There are no reviews at the time of writing, but it is great for camping and tailgating.
9. Pulsar PG1202S Portable Generator
The Pulsar is not an inverter generator and is not ideal for use with sensitive electronics such as mobile phones and laptops. It puts out 1200 peak watts and 850 running watts and has a 72cc two-stroke engine. The run time on fifty percent load is around eight and a half hours, and it has a noise rating of sixty-five decibels at twenty-three feet. Two-stroke engines always run on a mixture of oil and gasoline.
The generator weighs in at thirty-five pounds and comes with a carrying handle on top. It has a recoil start, two 120V AC outlets, and one 12V DC outlet. One reviewer who gave it five stars uses it to power his boiler and circulation pumps during power outages and small power tools when away from the house. He said it starts on the second or third pull every time.
It is equipped with circuit breakers to prevent overload, and it is CARB-compliant and EPA-approved. Price-wise it is inexpensive and is recommended for hunting, fishing, boating, and camping.
Another satisfied customer said he’d had his for ten months, and it had never let him down. After using it, he cuts the gas valve off to ensure that the carburetor empties of fuel before storing it and says the quality looks pretty good. He has powered a drill press, large shop fan, band saw, bench grinder, angle grinder, radio, and three fluorescent lights on it. Its overall rating was 4.2 out of 5 stars. It did get a few negative one-star reviews from people who said it broke quickly and wasn’t worth the money.
A few Walmart reviewers gave it five-star ratings in 2021, and its overall rating was 3.4 stars.
10. WEN 56105 Portable Generator
The WEN 56105 is another one that is not an inverter and has a two-stroke engine which means it runs on a mix of gasoline and oil. The noise rating is pretty high at 95 decibels from twenty-three feet away, and the generator has no DC output. It weighs thirty-nine pounds and has a sixty-three cc engine that delivers a running wattage of 900W and a starting wattage of 1000W.
There is one AC outlet, and it is CARB-compliant and EPA-approved. Its noise levels may not meet noise limits for National Parks, which is sixty decibels at fifty feet. Some campgrounds don’t allow generators at all, but some will allow limited use of quiet generators. However, this one is probably best used for activities other than camping due to its high noise levels.
11. Buffalo Tools GEN1000 Sportsman Generator
This is not an inverter generator and has a two-stroke engine. It weighs thirty-eight pounds is not suitable for sensitive electronics. It puts out 1000 surge watts and 800 running watts. Noise levels are around sixty-two decibels, so it is pretty quiet for a conventional portable generator.
Engine run time is six hours at half load, and for fuel, it uses a mixture of oil and unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 87 or higher. The fuel tank capacity is 1.1 gallons, and it has a recoil start. It has a limited one-year warranty and is light enough for a single person to carry with a convenient carry handle. There is overload protection and an automatic low oil shutoff, and it is sold with a toolkit.
It is CARB-compliant and EPA approved. It is inexpensive but has only one AC outlet and no electric start or spark arrestor, so you cannot use it safely in forested areas. Fuel efficiency is not that great at an estimated 0.16 gallons per hour. Its overall rating is three out of five stars. Some reviewers said it was a good little generator for the price, while others advocated against buying it.
The carburetor should be run dry before the generator is stored.
What to Look for When Buying a Small Portable Generator
When buying a small portable generator, you need to think about what you want to use it for and where. There are many attributes and features that you must pay attention to when choosing a small generator, so here are a few especially important things to consider during your search.
Noisy generators don’t go down well in campgrounds and parks, so if you’re going to use them for recreation, bear this in mind. Some campgrounds won’t allow a generator at all because they disturb the peace.
A fifty-decibel generator is very quiet and operates below the level of normal conversation in a home to give you an idea of loudness levels. You can compare sixty decibels to the sound of laughter or the noise of people in an office. Anything over sixty decibels is starting to get loud, and seventy decibels, the sound of a vacuum cleaner, for instance, is unpleasantly loud.
A portable generator operating in the fifty-decibel range is barely noticeable. When the manufacturer specifies a generator’s noise levels, the sound output is most often measured from twenty-three feet away. You can hear a sixty-decibel generator from several hundred feet away.
Conventional generator engines running on gasoline or propane run at full speed regardless of the load. In contrast, inverter generators can adapt the engine speed to the actual load, making them a lot quieter.
Conventional generators also do not have much sound-dampening built-in, and the mufflers are usually cheap and noisy. Therefore, small portable generators are best used around the house to power lights, fans, and other non-sensitive appliances or out in the field for small tools, crafting equipment, and pumps.
It is better to buy an inverter generator to use at campgrounds and parks, even though they are more expensive. Anything above sixty decibels is likely to get you into trouble, and you usually cannot use it by camp rangers and neighbors.
Many people buy a generator with the wrong expectations and get frustrated when it doesn’t meet their power needs. You should always do your research, armed with a rough calculation of how much power output is necessary for your particular activities. Small camping generators cam power lights and portable refrigerators but don’t expect them to power your RV’s air-conditioning unit.
Small generators weigh a lot less and can usually be carried without much effort by one person. This makes a difference if you are going solo fishing or hunting. Portable power stations are not covered in this article as they are not, technically speaking, generators but large re-chargeable batteries that you can use to transport a certain amount of power to sites away from home.
Small portable generators can provide emergency operation of fridges and freezers, preventing food spoilage during blackouts and have low running costs. However, they have small fuel tanks, so you need to think about run time and refuel often. They are all designed for temporary use, so they may not be suitable if you have prolonged power outages in your area.
If you only want it for the odd outdoor event or tailgating party, then a small portable generator will fit the bill. They will only power the bare minimum for household appliances and are probably not ideal as backup generators compared to their medium-sized relatives. You must manually start them, and you cannot use them indoors because their carbon monoxide fumes are deadly.
The type of environment in which you will be using the generator is also a consideration. If you are exposing it to rough weather conditions, look for one with sturdy housing. If you need a portable generator to power a home office for long periods, it would be better to get a medium-sized or even large one if you have frequent power outages. The small ones are only really suitable for emergency use.
Small portable generators are available for various applications ranging from hobbies and recreation to small construction jobs and DIY projects. They have the advantage of being highly portable, fitting easily into the trunk of a car or the bed of a truck, and inverter generators can power essential electronics such as laptops, cell phones, cameras, and routers. Most of all, they generally have much lower noise levels than their larger cousins.