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Craftsman Generator - Power The Run

Posted in Product Reviews on December 1, 2002
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Photographers: 4-Wheel & Off-Road Staff

People love power, especially when they control it. Usually we speak of power as it refers to our 4x4s, but we've recently been on an electrical trip, using power tools on the trail. Sure, many of you have had air tools that run off an A/C compressor, and maybe have the 110-volt DC outlet that comes with the Premier Power welder. But what about the other appliances that take AC power and would be nice to use back in camp instead of on the trail?

Here's the deal. When you're off the trail and in camp, the lack of electricity for electric power tools, lights, and other conveniences can just be a drag. Sure, we've all improvised, but wouldn't it be handy to have 110 volts of live juice flowing to your electrical appliances just like at home? A few of the chosen have a nice motorhome with a big generator and all the other luxuries of life. But for the rest of us, we've found a portable generator that makes life a bit easier.

The Craftsman Camping Generator (PN 32910, $499.99) turned out to be our savior for many reasons. We first got the little 1,000-watt hummer for general duty farther away than an extension cord could reach. Sure, but on the trail, you ask? OK, if you have a fullsize rig and a reason to haul it around, the generator weighs only 55 pounds and measures about 18x13x14 inches.

It's not practical in a little vehicle, but for base camp use when fishing, hunting, camping, and wheeling this little tyke fits the bill. Our biggest worry was the noise, but at 63 dB, you can actually be next to it while it's running without going deaf. With two 7.5-amp 120-volt AC receptacles and a 12-volt 8-amp power port, this generator is the ticket.

Using It
Our first test of our new toy was to see how fuel-efficient it was, as 6.4 hours on 1.2 gallons of gas is what's claimed. We used it on and off for two nights at about three hours each, and didn't fill it back up till the following evening. We know different loads will give different results, but we were still impressed at how little gas it used.

Our biggest problem is that we always want to plug more power in, but 1,000 watts is a surge rating with 900 watts continuous. We just got greedy a time or two which flipped the breaker on the control panel. A simple reset and a dose of reality let us know not to overload the little jewel.

Let There Be Light
At our most recent desert debacle, we decided to throw a feast for some of our friends and used the generator to power lights. We looked to Craftsman again for a portable yet powerful set of illuminators. Our choice was the dual quartz lights on a tripod with a nice carrying case (PN 83986, $79.99). The two heads are completely adjustable, and each head has two bulbs at 300 watts each. This means you have a choice of 300, 600, 900, or 1,200 watts of daylight available, all on a sturdy tripod. We've bought the cheapy light sets at the local discount stores before and were never satisfied with the quality. The Craftsmen set is well built and it all fits into a killer plastic case for handy storage and transportation. Again, it's a bit much for little rigs to carry around but makes for the perfect setup at a base camp. We also found that the generator would power all four bulbs at 1,200 watts (although not recommended) if we turned them on one at a time and let the generator stabilize.

Thomas Edison didn't invent electricity, but he sure made it convenient to work in 4x4s at night by inventing the incandescent light bulb. In one weekend, we used the generator and lights along with grinders, drills, and other power tools to fix one rear wheel bearing, one rear tire carrier, one front axleshaft, and a steering box bracket. That's a lot of in-camp repairs that allowed a few people to limp their rigs back home rather than succumbing to the hook, all in the name of convenience. Thanks, Tom.

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