How to Ground a Generator During Camping In 4 Simple Steps

How to Ground a Generator During Camping In 4 Simple Steps

Camping outdoors is a wholesome experience that sometimes feels like a rebirth. It is a chance to take a break from our usual pace of life.

If you are camping with kids, and especially teenagers, the dynamic of the outdoors changes. You will need an electrical source to charge their devices.

When you are living in a tent in the middle of nowhere, you can create your own source of electricity. How would you do that? The answer is a portable generator.

Why You Should Use a Portable Generator

At its core, the portable generator is an engine that generates electricity. It is the most reliable means of getting electricity when you are off-the-grid.

How to Ground a Generator During Camping In 4 Simple Steps

It is easy to obtain electricity from a portable generator. All you need to do is to power up the generator and plug it in an adaptor.

What Does Grounding Your Generator Mean

When you are using a portable generator on your camping grounds, the most important thing to do is to observe and practice safety precautions. It would be tragic to sustain injuries from an ungrounded generator while being far away from civilization.

Grounding is the process of wiring an electrical device to the ground. The process is also known as earthing and is meant to minimize electrocution and chances of electrical faults.

Generators that are grounded improperly pose the same risks as ones that aren’t grounded at all.

Not all portable generators require grounding but if yours does, please do it correctly.

Explanation of Electrical Grounding

When electricity flows through a circuit, electricity seeks to discharge energy by flowing into the earth.

In the electrical system of a generator, the electrical current flows through hot wires to the neutral wires.

If anything happens to interfere with the normal electrical circuit, electricity will divert to take the path of least resistance. If the generator does not have grounding, the path of least resistance could be the wrong place. This causes dangerous situations such as fires and electrocutions.

Grounding a generator provides an alternative path of least resistance to the flow of electricity.

It is called grounding because, for many electrical systems, this back-up path of least resistance leads into the ground. When it is into the ground, electricity poses little risk.

Tips on How To Ground A Portable Generator When Camping

When camping, there are safety tips you need to practice as you ground a generator.

Ensure that the Generator is Dry

The generator must be completely dry when you are grounding it. When the weather is cold and the ground is wet, do not attempt any grounding. Find a dry spot for the portable generator and a means to shelter it from moisture.

Better Safe than Sorry

The safer option is to use copper wire with an 8-foot metal rod to ground your generator. The direction of the copper wire should face away from the camp.

Resistance is King

It is recommended that you use a 0.2 ohms resistance or lower in the ground wire and metal rod.

When installing separate grounding, make sure that both the grounding and the bonding circuits are low resistance.

It is essential that the bonding connection is able to conduct electricity when lightning strikes or a short occurs.

The RV Generator System

The electric system on an RV consists of three parts:

  • 12V DC automotive system
  • 12V DC coach system
  • 120VAC coach system

RV electrical systems feature both ground and neutral wires for safety. The standard practice is to ground generators if you are consuming more than 10 KW an hour. Most RV occupants do not use this much power, hence most RV generators are ungrounded.

RV owners plug extension cords directly into their generators which are connected to their appliances. Grounding the generator is not necessary in this instance.

Tools For Grounding a Portable Generator

To successfully ground a generator, you need the following equipment:

A Copper Grounding Rod

Copper is a superb electricity conductor. The copper grounding rod is capable of safely discharging accumulated electric energy into the ground.

How to Ground a Generator During Camping In 4 Simple Steps

The standard length of rod required by most generators is 4 feet long. A longer copper rod will assist in driving the electricity deeper into the ground.

Copper Grounding Wire

The grounding wire connects to the grounding bolt of the generator. It then connects to the copper grounding rod.

The length of copper wiring you need depends on the distance between the generator and the rod. To be safe, have excess copper wiring to cover for any unforeseen circumstances.

Wire Strippers, Pliers, and Wrench

All three tools are for stripping the copper grounding wire and connecting the naked wire to the grounding rod. The wire also connects to the generator’s grounding bolt.


A hammer or any other blunt object is required to drive the copper grounding rod into the ground.

Depending on the terrain, you may need additional tools such as a spike or a shovel for excavation.

Why You Should Neutral Ground Your Generator

In an electrical circuit, neutral grounding provides the path of least resistance for aberrant current to exit and flow into the ground.

Portable generators produce very high voltages and as a result, the current generated is also high. The current is capable of destroying the neutral grounding. To prevent this from happening, put together the grounding through a high resistance path.

Generators have built-in protective relays in their electrical system. The fault current value should not be so high that it overwhelms the relay.

How to Ground Your Portable Generator When Camping

When grounding is professionally done, it will protect both you and your property from electrical mishaps.

If a generator is incorrectly grounded, the current will travel the wrong way and the generator, appliances, and lives are ruined in the process.

There are procedures you can follow to successfully ground your generator when camping:

Install the Copper Grounding Rod

The first step is to sink the copper grounding rod into the ground at least 8 feet deep. You can accomplish this by using a hammer. Sinking the copper rod at this level ensures that the road provides better earthing.

If the ground surface is too hard to drive the rod through, pour some water to soften the ground first.

If this does not work, install the rod at an angle to the ground. However, the angle should not exceed 45 degrees.

Alternatively, use a shovel to loosen up the rough terrain and install the rod.

Strip The Copper Wiring to Expose Both Ends

With the help of a wire stripper, expose the naked copper wire at both ends of the insulated wire. Be careful to not overstrip and leave excess parts bare.

Once the copper grounding rod is inserted into the ground at least 8 feet in, it is time to add a wrapping of the naked end of the copper wire by using pliers to tightly coil the wire around the rod.

Wrap The Other Exposed End of the Wire to the Generator

Take the other stripped section of the copper wiring to the generator to complete the grounding circuit.

On the generator, use a wrench to slightly loosen the grounding bolt. Wrap the copper wire tightly around it before tightening the bolt back to its original position.

This is the entire process of grounding. It is simple but it can protect so many lives and property.

How To Keep Safe During Grounding

The process of grounding a generator is not without its risks. While you do not have to ground every portable generator, the ones you keep close to our tent require grounding.

To ensure your safety, keep the following safety considerations in mind:

  • The portable generator must never be in an enclosed space when it is powered on. Keep it outside and some distance away from your tent.
  • Place the generator away from openings such as windows, doors, or vents.
  • Never fill the generator with excess gas or diesel fuel.
  • When the generator engine is hot and running, keep it away from liquids or fuel. The two are a dangerous combination.
  • Don’t place the generator on or next to a wiring system of any sort.
  • When activating or switching off your generator, disconnect and unplug any extensions.
  • Be careful not to overload the generator. The generator is merely an alternative source of power and shouldn’t be treated as the main source of power.
  • When connecting appliances to the generator, use the correct extension cords.

Alternative Power Sources

Portable generators are convenient and easy to use, which makes them the top contenders for power sources when camping.

There are other sources of electrical power for camping in the event that you do not have a generator.

Solar Energy

Solar power is a fast-rising alternative energy source. It has bitten a chunk of the market share from the electricity sector.

Technological innovations have made solar-powered generators a reality. The generators powered by the sun generate less noise compared to diesel generators.

Another advantage of the solar generators is that in the long run, they are cheaper to operate. This makes them a good alternative for frequent campers.

Portable solar generators still need to be grounded. They will work as long as the sun is present.

Lithium Battery

Lithium polymer batteries are a rechargeable source of temporary electric power. Campers typically use this battery to charge gadgets such as phones and tablets.

Lithium batteries are excellent for powering smaller electrical devices. They must be fully charged before you embark on an outdoor trip.

A good tip is to use both portable generators and these batteries so that you can recharge and use these batteries for hiking.

Ordinary Batteries

The regular batteries provide a reliable source of temporary electrical power. Technology made these power sources even more long-lasting.

Ordinary batteries will power small devices such as radios and lights. LED light technology has ensured that batteries can now give long hours of light.

Carry extra batteries when you are packing for camping. When paired with generators, the batteries reduce the load on the generator.

The Car Battery

This is an alternative that rarely crosses people’s minds. The car battery can provide an electrical source in dire cases when you don’t have a generator.

To tap into the car battery’s power, you only need the kind of connection that plugs into the vehicle’s cigarette lighter.

The downside to using this source of electricity is that it would provide a limited voltage output. This means that certain tasks that require more than the voltage of your car may not be performed.

Another disadvantage of using car batteries as a power source is that as you keep using it, you are draining the car battery. Be mindful of that, otherwise you’ll end up stranded miles away from a service station!

Are Generators Permitted on a Campground?

Generators can be loud so it is a valid question of whether they are allowed on campgrounds.

Certain campgrounds do not allow the generators at all because of the noise they make. Other campgrounds permit them only in designated areas and during specific hours.

The National Park Service is more lenient. It allows campers to use generators under some conditions. The equipment may not exceed 60 decibels of noise at 50 feet to qualify.

Check with the campground you are visiting to inquire if the park policy allows generators. Many of these campgrounds have generator-free areas where other campers who prefer a quiet time can stay in.

In instances where generators are allowed, you can expect the following rules:

  • Quiet Hours – This is the designated time when loud conversations, sounds, and generators are not permitted. Generally, quiet hours are between 9 pm and 8 am but it may vary depending on the park.
  • Noises under 60 decibels –This rule is found in a majority of camping grounds. You are required to keep all noises all the time, including that of generators, to be less than 60 dB. This policy ensures that campers aren’t bothered by loud droning.
  • Generator-only Hours -Some camping grounds have specific hours when you can use the generator. This rule is different from the Quiet Hours rule, and your generator must comply with both sets of rules. Generator-only hours are specific hours in the morning, afternoon, and evening. E.g. 8-10 am 12-2 pm and 5-7 pm.
  • Generators camping sites – Campers who carry generators usually have a recreational vehicle or something similar. Such campers are usually guided to a specified larger site. These sites are away from tents-only sites, which are much quieter.

Benefits of Using a Generator for Camping

During camping, it is unusual for every camper to have access to a hook-up for their campers or RVs. Generators are therefore used to provide this electricity.

Tent campers, on the other hand, can be exempt from using generators. In some cases, they may prefer to use an electric stove or other electrical devices which require having a generator.

Some modern campers have television sets or music systems. A generator is necessary to run these entertainment units.

If you prefer to camp the traditional way with only the bare basics, then you can get away without needing a portable generator.

While we have continuously seen that not all campers need a generator, others prefer to have it close in case of an emergency.

Wet weather is a serious damper while camping and sometimes it happens. When the firewood is too wet for a fire, having a generator will ensure that you can still cook a meal.

It is good practice to have a portable generator in case of an emergency, even when it doesn’t seem necessary.

Types of Portable Generators For Camping

The generator you choose depends on your power consumption needs. If you have lights and a fridge in your campsite, the generator only needs to supply at least 600 watts so you would need a low wattage generator.

How to Ground a Generator During Camping In 4 Simple Steps

  • Portable generators tend to cost less than standby generators typically used for homes. You can always find a portable generator that suits your camping budget.
  • Typically, portable generators are powered by gasoline. It is good practice to have sufficient amounts of this fuel stored away. You must add a stabilizer to the fuel if you anticipate long storage periods.
  • Other than camping, portable generators are also useful at home or anywhere on your property. You must never use it in an enclosed space.
  • Gasoline-powered generators produce high levels of carbon monoxide that quickly become toxic in a closed area.
  • If you are using the portable generator on your property, keep it 20 feet away from the house. This distance applies to air conditioning units and condensers that serve the home.

Even as you point the portable generator away from your home, it should not point towards the neighbor’s home!

  • When it rains, protect the generator with the canopy from the manufacturer made for that particular brand.
  • Some generator models come with electric starters, but the battery is sold separately.
  • Portable generators provide power from 3,000 up to 8,500 watts.

Innovations and Features to Consider for Portable Generators

Innovations have been made to make portable generators safer to use.

An increasing number of generator brands are making an effort to reduce the chances of carbon monoxide poisoning.

This is possible through an built-in sensor that causes the generator to shut off if the CO levels rise dangerously within a space.

Some portable generators are designed to emit low carbon monoxide gas in the first place. Look out for portable generators that pass the safety technology test to be on the safe side.

The following are other features to consider before you purchase your portable generator:

  • Electric start – Several brands that sell portable generators offer the option of powering on the machine with the push of a button. This is a welcoming change in contrast with the hard work from pulling repeatedly to start the engine.
  • Capacity for alternative fuel – Normally, a portable generator engine runs solely on gasoline. Others run on propane or natural gas lines. Other engines can be converted using kits.
  • A fuel gauge – The ability to check and gauge at a glance the level of fuel left in the tank is essential. This is especially useful during blackouts as well as during camping.
  • Low-oil cutoff – Although the low-oil shut off feature is mandatory in stationary generators, portable brands are adopting it as well. When the oil level falls below the minimum required, the generator powers down to prevent engine damage.
  • Multiple power outlets – The best number of outlets is four or more because it spreads the wattage load. This is extremely useful when you are camping.
  • Detachable console – Eliminates the need for running extension cords outside when you need to connect appliances to the generator.


If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you should start investing in a portable generator. The need to have one for your camping trips will soon become apparent. There are all kinds of portable generators in the market powered by diesel.

After you purchase your generator, ensure that it is grounded before every use. Sink the copper rod deep into the ground and add the appropriate copper wiring.

In the age of information, it is hard to leave behind the smartphones and other devices at home. A portable generator is the most reliable way to charge these devices. There are alternative power sources such as solar generators, lithium batteries, regular, and car batteries.

If you choose to purchase a portable generator, have it grounded properly for you and others’ safety. It is a simple yet lifesaving procedure.

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