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Old 02-22-2014, 11:02 PM   #1
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Generator operation at High Altitude? (Yellowstone NP)

Hi. We're planning our trip to the Yellowstone area for this summer. We've only camped in the midwest and as far west as Rapid City, SD in the past. I am aware that only some campgrounds in Yellowstone NP allow generator use at specific times of the day. But my question is: Will my generator even work?
We have a Champion 2000 watt inverter generator and it has worked well for the two years we've had it...but at 700-1000 ft elevation.

So, who has experience with generators at 8-9000 ft elevation?
Will my generator run at enough efficiency to recharge my two 6 volt golf cart batteries? We only plan to use lights and fans, along with the usual draws such as water pump, etc. We have no TV, etc.
Or will my Champion fail to run at all?
Is there any modification I need to, or can do to improve its operation at high altitude?
And while I'm asking questions, will my Dodge Ram 2500 with 5.9L run ok and have enough oomph at 8-9000 feet to pull my Starcraft 235fb (Jayco 23fb twin) with a weight of about 6500 lbs?
And will my body have the oomph to deal with the altitude too?
As you can see, We've been flatland campers and don't know much about camping in altitude. Your advice is appreciated.
Thanks in advance.

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Old 02-23-2014, 05:06 AM   #2
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I have camped in several locations around Yellowstone, the campground range from 6500 ft outside the park to about 8050 ft inside the park. I personally have used my generator at altitudes around 8000 ft and have not had any issues with the effectiveness of keeping batteries charged. I don't use the generator to power my air conditioner or tv/entertainment systems.

As for your truck, I am assuming the 5.9L is the diesel engine, (I think Dodge had a 5.9 gas engine in 1999). The 5.9 diesel will still have plenty of power to pull your trailer through the park at any altitude that you will encounter. Obviously steep grades will slow you down, but should not be any major issues. If it is a gas engine, you might feel some power changes, but not enough to cause issues. Just slow down a bit and take your time.

For you, acclimatization to altitude is obviously important. Stay hydrated, this will help with your adjustment period. Watch for shortness of breath, nausea, headaches, poor appetite and fatigue. If you feel any of these the best thing is to back off, move down about 1000 feet till symptoms subside, then gradually move back up to the higher altitudes. Walking and hiking may cause shortness of breath, this is normal, the oxygen percentage is still 21% even at altitude, but the air is thinner, so it doesn't feel the same, you may have to take deeper breaths to bring in the amount of oxygen you need.

My suggestion is to camp the first night outside the park at say 6500 feet or so, Jackson Hole area near Jackson Lake is around 6800 ft, West Yellowstone is 6700 ft, Additionally, if your coming from the east, Cody, WY. is 5300 ft, Cheyenne WY is around 6000 ft. So as you can see, if you strategically plan your arrival, you can help to acclimate your self without trying very hard.

Good luck, Yellowstone is awesome, expect wildlife, and make sure you follow the rules of safe distance from the animals and keep your food and coolers put away at all times, because either the bears or the park rangers will find it, either one of which will may ruin your day.


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Old 02-23-2014, 09:27 AM   #3
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We've camped many times inside Yellowstone NP and never have experienced any issue using our generator to charge our batteries. What are you using to charge the batteries? Most stock converter/chargers will do very little for you in terms of giving you a good charge quickly. Do you have an aftermarket charging system installed or a battery charger that you use? Have fun in Yellowstone, you'll really enjoy it. It has become one of our favorite spots and we have been going every year for the past 4 years now.

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Old 02-23-2014, 12:15 PM   #4
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See my sig. We live at 4700ft, and have camped from there on up to about 9500. The generator has lost enough power that it stops being able to run the A/C in the 6000-6500 ft range. That's without a hard start cap, but I want to wait until the warranty is up before I do that.
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Old 02-23-2014, 12:51 PM   #5
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You shouldn't have any problem using your generator to charge your batteries at the altitude in Yellowstone, we camp at Colter Bay campground, around 7,000 feet and have not problem using our Honda e2000 to charge the batteries. We didn't run the air, as the 2000 won't do that, especially at altitude, but don't need it in the parks during the summer. Even if it gets a little warm during the day, it almost always cools off a great deal during the evening and night so the trailer doesn't stay warm very long. As for hiking around, you will find yourself short of breath, but when you do, just stop and breath deep until you feel like moving on. All the parties in your group will feel the same way. Which direction are you coming from?
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Old 02-23-2014, 01:17 PM   #6
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Below is a post I made last June in response to a trip out west while staying at Capitol Reef Natiional Park in Utah. I don't remember the exact elevation at Capitol Reef but it's "up there". I sent the generator back and they said nothing was wrong with it so they "cleaned it up" and sent it back to me. Like you, I have no problems here at 1200' elevation. They say that the Honda generators have a carb that can be modified for high altitudes but apparently the Champions do not have this option. Once you get back from your trip, please let me know how it goes for you. We're heading East this summer but going West again next year so it would be good to know how it works for you. BEST OF LUCK!

Update on my OP: Thanks to all for the follow up posts. Since my op, I purchased a reconditioned Champion 2000 watt inverter generator. I swear it runs as quiet as the more expensive H or Y gennies. So you can now count me as an "experienced" boondocker. But wait! My first boondocking experience was great. Started gennie right up and I was as proud as any H or Y generator owner. Next boondocking experienced while listening to my beloved Cardinals on XM, the gennie suddenly stopped running. NO! I said, "this cannot happen. I have two more boondocking experiences yet to come in this two month long trip!" The next night while all the other H and Y generators are running nice and quietly, my piece of (deleted) is sitting in the bed of my truck. Numerous calls to the helpless help-line and to make a long story short, it's on the way back to the reconditioning "factory?" PLEASE don't say that I should have bought a H or Y generator. You'll only make me feel worse than I already do. This story will continue when I get "the piece of"...sorry, generator back

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Old 02-23-2014, 08:58 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the suggestions.

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