If you’re an avid camper or tailgater, you probably understand the importance of a good generator that can travel with you. If you live in an area where weather is likely to cause occasional extended power outages, you might know that a generator can keep essential power-driven applications going, like the refrigerator or space heaters. With prices that start at a few hundred bucks and go up well into the thousands, finding the right generator to meet your needs can seem tough. Knowing what to look for before you shop can help you sort through your options and make you less likely to make a decision based on inflated hype or bells and whistles you might not need.
If you’re looking for a whole-home, or standby generator, be prepared to spend a minimum of around $3,000 (plus installation) for a quality model. Higher-end, higher-capacity models can cost $20,000 or more, so this is definitely an investment to be considered carefully. Standby generators connect directly to your home’s electrical feed, allowing it to power anything connected to your breaker box. These generators can run on propane, diesel, or natural gas (via a direct connection to your home’s existing line). Standby units detect power interruptions and automatically start up and stay on until regular power resumes. As the price range might indicate, standby models are available in smaller sizes that will only power a few circuits at a time or much larger models that can actually power your entire home. When looking for a standby generator, don’t assume you have to buy a model that will power everything. Instead, look for a model that will power just what you need to get through anticipated outages. Do you really need to run all of your appliances, gadgets, and gizmos, or will you be okay with something that keeps the fridge and few essentials going?
In addition to the considerable cost of standby generators, you also need to consider positioning and clearance requirements as well as noise level. Larger generators can have a sizeable footprint and also require a few feet of clearance on all sides. Homeowners with smaller lots might have trouble fitting larger units on their property. As with portable generators, standby generators can be quite noisy. While it’s true that you’ll only use them during occasional power outages, you still should do your best to understand exactly how loud your generator will be, especially if your neighborhood or town has any noise ordinances.
Standby generators can absolutely run for days, even weeks at a time, but will require a good bit of regular maintenance if used in this manner, so make sure you understand what you’ll need to do to get the most out of your investment.
Portable generators tend to be much more practical for most people. They’re great for camping or RVing, and many can also be used to run a few of your essential household items. Before looking for a portable generator, decide exactly what you’ll need it to power. This will allow you to determine how powerful your generator needs to be.
Once you know how much power you need, you’ll be able to decide what your generator’s power source will be. The most common generators are powered by unleaded gasoline. You can also find models that run on propane, diesel, or natural gas. Natural gas requires a source, which can be hard to find if you want your generator for traveling, but a natural gas unit could work if you’re looking for a generator that will be for home use only. As with vehicles, different generators burn fuel at different rates. Burn rate will depend in part on how many applications you run, but be sure to get a solid idea of how much fuel you’ll need to keep on hand to meet your needs.
Noise is something to be considered with portable models. Some are built to run more quietly than others, but you’ll probably pay extra for really quiet models. An exhaust kit can help with noise and keep you safer by directing exhaust fumes up and away from the generator.
If you and your family are avid wilderness campers or you’d like to take your family “off the grid,” you’re probably hoping to find holiday gifts that will be practical, but still kid friendly. Given that most kid-oriented holiday marketing revolves around the newest toys and electronic gadgets, it can be hard to come up with gift ideas that will help advance your kids’ survival skills and still keep them excited about opening presents. Below, you’ll find a few ideas that just might do the trick.
Paracord bracelets are made from the same woven nylon cording that’s been used in parachutes for decades. They contain between 8 and 20 feet of cord woven into a wearable bracelet. In camping or survival situations, having extra rope that handy can be a huge benefit. You can use the rope to help build a bow and arrow or animal trap, create a tourniquet or fasten a splint, secure your belongings, start a fire, or rig an improvised shelter. In a pinch, it can be used as fishing line. And, of course, rope comes in handy if you’re faced with a tough climb. In addition to being super useful, many people also value paracord bracelets as a fashion accessory.
Teaching kids how to use a compass can help keep them safe while on wilderness trips of all types. There are compass/watch combos that can make it easier to ensure that the compass stays handy instead of being lost with other belongings in an emergency or forgotten altogether. Most kids will value having their own compass because of the feeling of empowerment that can come from knowing how to use it.
Hand-warming hot packs can be a great addition to any cold-weather hiking, hunting, or fishing trip. They can be even more valuable in the event that your child is ever lost in the wilderness during frigid weather. Cold hands can make tougher work of things like climbing and fire-building. Many handwarmers can easily be slid into socks or shoes to help keep feet warm, too, which can help keep body temperature up.
Most kids would love to have their own tent and mess kit. Having their own tent adds to the sense of adventure and independence. A mess kit that belongs only to them can seem more special, and giving them the task of caring for and keeping track of it teaches responsibility.
Another piece of gear that any kid would love is an honest-to-goodness wilderness-worthy backpack. Giving them their own backpack for storing their gear and other essentials can can add to their sense of independence and teach responsibility.
A whistle and a portable lantern or good flashlight can be lifesavers if your child is ever lost in the wilderness. Walkie-talkies and more advanced handheld radios are something all kids love that can help the family stay connected when camping.
For older kids, you can also consider giving them their own hunting, utility, or multi-purpose knife since a good knife is always going to be more of a necessity than a luxury.
Buying your kids books about camping, the wilderness, or outdoor survival can give them something to stave off boredom on rainy days and teach them important lessons. Consider books about identifying plants, navigating by the stars, or MacGyver-type improv tips and tricks.
If you’d like this holiday season to be more about the lights in the night sky and less about the glow of electronic gizmos, you’re sure to find the perfect gift for any kid, no matter your budget.