Should generators be allowed in National Park campgrounds?

Do you visit a National Park for some peace and quiet? Granted, that’s getting hard to do today with the crowds. But one thing that can spoil the peace is a loud generator. Granted, some are very quiet, but way too many are loud and obnoxious. 

Watch the video above to see how noisy a generator can be. Do want to be this camper’s neighbor?

What do you think? Should generators be allowed in National Park campgrounds? Yes? No? Only certain hours?

Please tell us what you think.


30 Thoughts to “Should generators be allowed in National Park campgrounds?”

  1. Bob Smith

    If you don’t like the heat, I’m of the opinion that you should either stay somewhere nearby that has electricity for your AC or go in the off-season when the weather is cooler. These are the two solutions we employ. We don’t go to most parks until late fall/early spring specifically because of the heat.

    Yes, your quieter generator may be less loud than the idiots nearby who are getting drunk around the campfire, but even those guys aren’t typically constant as a generator is. And then there’s the drifting fumes.

    As far as battery recharges, we use solar panels. These work great, even when we have to run the heater in the late season. We’ve only had one experience where our batteries ran way low (bad weather) and that was more about poor planning on our part than anything.

    I’d be OK for generators rated at certain decibel levels being allowed for certain hours in mid-day for a quick recharge. Other than that, I can think of no other reason even quiet ones should be allowed at any time. Batteries are available for medical devices. Visit parks when it’s cooler or instead of staying IN the park, stay nearby where there’s electricity (this is almost always an option, if not always), and stop disturbing the rest of us who want to actually enjoy the outdoors.

  2. Eric Eltinge

    Camped now at NASCAR SONOMA CA next to 18-foot trailer with 7,000 watt generator. Like being in a machine shop between noise and fumes. Going home.

    1. Mike Sokol

      Not all generators are created equal. Read my articles on generator noise this weekend in RVtravel and RVelectricity.

  3. Judy G.

    Has anyone had experience with needing a generator for oxygen machine use? Do those campers need to only stay at CGs where electricity is offered which can get costly?

    1. Chuck Woodbury


      The question is about bothering your neighbors. If someone decides to take up RVing, and they need electricity, then they should plan to stay where an electric hookup is available, or far from any other camper if they need to use a generator. It’s not about CAN YOU use a generator, but should you based on common courtesy.

    2. Bob Smith

      GoalZero makes several batteries upon which one can rely for CPAP machines, oxygen, etc. Completely quiet, no fumes, doesn’t annoy other campers who want to be able to sleep at night or enjoy the outdoors without smelling the fumes or the headache of hearing it run day or night.

  4. Joan Girdler

    My experience has been that there is little enforcement in national parks. Rangers seem to be afraid of confronting and enforcing the rules.

  5. Traveling Man

    After reading thru the Code of Federal Regulations (National Parks), I came across these. It might help when you visit a NATIONAL PARK to have these on hand for the Park Ranger or Campground Host::




    PENALTIES (Audi Disturbances):



    If you run into an issue such as these, don’t take matters into your own hands. Contact the proper authorities. If they fail to correct the issue, then contact one of these (bottom of page):

    1. Traveling Man

      Disclaimer…I am not totally pet or noise intolerant. From time to time, we ALL may make mistakes without realizing it. We are all there looking for a fun and enjoyable time. Most of the time, I believe in working things out with your neighbor whenever possible. I would/will only use these when the circumstance warrants. MOST everyone is friendly and understanding. If someone says something to us, we would by all means try and correct the problem. It would not be intentional. BUT, there are certain people who cannot rationalize, unforgiving and ONLY think of themselves. For those… these laws and regulations are written…

    2. Ted

      Traveling Man, Thank you for this information. This information will be printed out, and carried with us in our RV.

      Sadly, I’m sure it will come in handy. Ted

  6. Michael

    Like one of the posters, I have sleep apnea and us a CPAP machine. We full-time in a motor home and I would never consider going to sleep with the generator running. I am not a fan of carbon monoxide, even when I am somewhere that has no rules about it. In my previous motor home, I installed a 12-volt plug near the bed. Most CPAP machines run on some variation of DC volts. Mine was 12. There no point to using an inverter to create 120v AC so the CPAP power supply can convert it to 12v DC.

    My current coach has enough battery to power the CPAP, fridge, and anything else for a day before they need to be charged. A CPAP is not a good enough reason to run the generator.

  7. Traveling Man

    This is an unfair question since there are not a lot of choices to answer with…

    On one hand, YES. They should be allowed to “RESPONSIBLE” RV Generator owners. If you have the muffler properly installed and run it for the time necessary, then YES, they should be allowed. If they are like this one, then NO. And anyone noticing this abuse should have contacted the campground Ranger or Park Host and had it shut off and/or the tenants removed. This is an example of an IRRESPONSIBLE RV Generator Owner!

    1. Traveling Man

      Going further…It’s 100 degrees on the coast and 90’s at night. Humidity is in the upper 80% range. So….We should not be allowed to run generators?

      What if we are the in the park all by ourselves during the off-season? Do it matter then?

      I’m still advocating for RESPONSIBLE RV Generator ownership. NOT IRRESPONSIBILITY! Apply common sense. Make sure your generator is working and maintained properly. There are established db levels. Strive for that db level or lower. Don’t put your generator on the side of your neighbor. It’s your generator. Run it on your side.

      Surveys like this are not an actual reflection for the possible conditions that exist.

      1. Ted

        “Common sense”……Let’s make this noisy issue common sense.

  8. Dan

    It’s either camping or not! If you want TV and AC – GO HOME.We spent the eclipse weekend next to a pair of sites occupied with hillbillies from hell. They ran their pair of cheap and loud generators ALL DAY. They ran both from 6:59 AM to 10:30-ish Most of the time they weren’t even there! I don’t ever want to go through that again. I have a built in generator and we never ran it all weekend. It was 75 degrees at the hottest. They brought a 6’x6′ outdoor movie screen and viewed B grade movies with the sound cranked up. When that wasn’t running, they blared country music loud enough for any outlaw country star to go bat-s*it crazy. I love country but am thinking about switching to Rap after that weekend. The ranger could not prevail and was too afraid of the tattooed, knife caring morons to motivated them to decency. Most of the neighboring left the camp early once the eclipse was complete. It’s been a couple weeks and I’m still cranky!

  9. Lynelle

    This poll is a moot point since National Park campgrounds don’t allow generators to run at night anyway. It’s up to the individual campgrounds to determine quiet hours, not campers. The video was during the day. It’s… well… night and day. This generator sounded like it was having problems, not just a loud generator, but a broken one. Don’t know why he left it on since it needed repair (irresponsible camper that probably never changed the generator oil or did maintenance on it). I’ve camped at lots of national parks, state parks, and private campgrounds and haven’t heard a generator this bad. Most generators are quiet.

    1. Traveling Man

      That particular generator sounded like it was about to run out of gas. It was near empty after it had been running all day.

      The really SAD part of this is that the owner will likely never see this or accept responsibility thereof….The only hope is that OTHER owners might consider this post the next time they camp.

      The same could EASILY be said of pets…Who wants to listen to barking dogs all day OR NIGHT? Many go for the peace and quiet mother nature has to offer. NOT for bear brawls, loud barking dogs, LOUD generators running, trucks that sound like the muffler has been taken off, Loud TV’s or Music playing, etc. ESPECIALLY in a Nat’l park. Would you do this at home? If you do, you’re likely to incur a fine from the City you live in. The same SHOULD apply at Nat’l parks.

  10. jeff

    We were stuck next to a camper running a contractor generator ALL DAY besides the noise the exhaust blew right at us.
    Besides restricted hours I believe a vertical exhaust should be required.

  11. Paula DiGennaro

    We are full-time RVers in our 60’s. We dreamed of RVing and enjoying all types of RV parks and camp grounds once we were of age to kiss our jobs good-by and hit the road. Just before we headed out, having sold our home in OH, my husband had some heart problems and he was diagnosed with a fairly common problem…sleep apnea. A C-PAP is now a way of life for him to sleep, or he could stop breathing completely when he lays down to take a quick nap or sleep at night. We’re finding that many military campgrounds forbid RV generators running at night which keeps him from enjoying places he had always wanted to visit and stay. Same would go for the Nat’l & State Parks if they put in limited generator hours or forbid generators – we just couldn’t go there. I have asthma and need air conditioning but if we can’t run AC I’d just try to exist without it somehow and use my inhaler more. I do agree that perhaps a low decibel restriction would work, particularly for C-Pap users. But I’d like to stress to those wanting to completely restrict generators…beware you never know when you’ll be diagnosed with sleep apnea and be medically required to use a C-pap. Then you’ll be out of luck at those “no generator” parks as well. Why not a “generator” area and a “natural” area, or just low decibel requirement. But please don’t restrict generators completely.

    1. Darrel

      Batteries and an inverter will easily solve the CPAP situation. Yes, I use one as well.

      1. Dan

        Ditto the battery/inverter solution! I am 64, have acute sleep apnea and severe asthma and I think you overstate the severity of the problem .. We simply elevated the head of the bed several inches the apnea problem was solved.. I take an allergy pill daily and avoid leaving the windows open. We RARELY use the generator which produces enough noise & exhaust pollution to aggravate your health problems. Maybe a nice hotel room would work better if you really need the comforts of home.

    2. Bob Smith

      There are completely quiet solutions for CPAP and other legitimate medical needs. GoalZero, for example, makes batteries large and small that will run CPAP machines for multiple nights without need for a recharge. Pair this with a solar panel or two (yes, I know, dependent on weather) and you will solve 90% of your concerns without disturbing wildlife or the people around you.

      I’ve found that 99% of people with generators only want them so they can watch TV all day AND NIGHT, blare loud music, and act like a campground is their personal party spot.

      Ideally, generators would be banned entirely. But certainly placing restrictions on them (db levels, emissions levels, must be within 2 ft of your rig, etc) are a viable compromise.

  12. Joel Vinson

    I don’t see anything wrong with less than 59 dB, myself. IMO, parks should offer electrical hookups and that would be that. I didn’t buy an RV with an A/C to sit there and sweat. Have a tent if you don’t want electric. I can understand the contractor generators being to loud, but almost all inverter generators are pretty dog gone quiet.

  13. Jerry Liszak

    If you cannot survive on battery power you should stay at a RV park outside a National or State Park.

    1. DaveM

      That’s silly. I stay at Forrest Service CGs for extended stays most of the summer and run my small generator in the afternoon to keep the batteries charged for lighting and the heat or fan. It is unfortunate that CG etiquette is not required to license an RV.

  14. Wolfe

    Even my 10KW “contractor grade” generator isn’t that loud, and he’s probably getting terrible power with it backfiring. Instead of arbitrary hours that can impinge on life saving reasons to run it, I’d favor decibel limits on what a ‘sane’ RV generator sounds like at 100 feet — maybe even a simple tier system like:

    Generators < 50db all day OR over 80F at night (inverter or my quiet standard RV Genny). This level of noise is less than my neighbor's insipid fire-talking.

    Generators < 70db (cheap RV Genny) 2hr around each mealtime (enough to cook and cool in less extreme heat). Not all day, but not so little that it could result in possible health issues from not running it long enough. I hardy think a camper requiring CPAP or respite to reasonable temperatures should be denied the ability to camp by arbitrary generator bans or even hour restrictions if their generator is a reasonable hum. Most RV gennies are much quieter than playing kids, barking dogs, drunken partiers (insert your own pet peeve here). There just aren’t enough powered sites to all get one by choice, unusually extreme weather mangles intended plans, etc.

    – louder beasts, never. For Pete's sake, 55db yellow Champions are $250!!

    1. Bill's Son

      And who would check decibel levels? Imagine the complaints!

      1. Traveling Man

        Park Rangers, Camp Hosts, bring your own meter and report it to the proper authorities. Inconsideration is unacceptable.

        So you are advocating live with it or else?

  15. MScott

    Generators should not be allowed to run at night at any state, regional or national park campground. Camping means enjoying nature and it’s sights and sounds. Park officials should have the authority to disconnect abusing generators.

    1. Traveling Man

      Remove abusers from the park. If the rules state that Generators have restrictions or are against the rules, Park Owners, Rangers, Camp Hosts need to do the job that they are responsible for. If they can’t, THEY need to be replaced.

      If we accept “tolerance”, count me (and thousands of others) out. We simply should refuse to patronize a campground that can’t do their jobs. EVERYONE gets a copy of the rules at the gate when they enter. By making payment, you accept the rules as they are written.

      If a campground wants to accept loud and obnoxious noise, then post it on the rules. I guarantee that I will not patronize this type of park.

      Fair enough?

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