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Have you ever dreamed of getting away from it all? Has society driven you mad and you just want to drive away and stay off the grid for a while and not have to deal with the normalness of life?
I often have this problem myself and want to escape the world as we know it. I decided I would remedy this problem by creating an off-grid camper of my own to use whenever I feel the need to get away.
I don’t live in mine full-time but it does give me an option to get away as needed for when I have had enough.
If this sounds good to you, the first question you may be asking is, “what is an off-grid camper?”
An off-grid camper is a camper designed to allow for sustainable living without being connected to the electrical grid. It can also allow someone to manage without being connected to water or sewer by using a portable water management system and a composting or other portable toilet solution.
Although any camper can be used in an off-grid setting, some campers do not have systems, such as solar or a generator, that will allow the convenience of electrical energy while camping.
Portable versions of these conveniences can be used but some campers are already built with the off-grid lifestyle in mind and include built-in systems.
While living off the grid has its benefits, there may also be some disadvantages to this lifestyle. Our society is not accustomed to this type of living in the modern age that we are in.
It can be a wonderful experience for short-term living but those who want to live off-grid long-term will need to put a lot of thought into it before taking the plunge.
What Is Off-Grid Camping?
In order to understand an off-grid camper, let’s look at one of the basic forms of camping.
Off-grid camping is the type of camping that you may think of when you think of staying in a tent and living on a minimal amount of supplies. In this type of setting, you are not connected to any kind of electrical source or any type of water, gas or sewage.
In this primitive camping set up, you will normally pack in your water and use it from a jug that contains freshwater. There is no need for sewage since this type of camping calls for using the bathroom that nature provides.
In this case, the sewage may be a hole in the ground that you use to do your business.
This is a very simple style of camping and allows you to disconnect from the normal way of life that we are used to living. This can be a great break from the normal routine and many people make this a yearly fun event that the whole family can enjoy.
It can also be done in a camper which is a step up from tent camping.
An off-grid camper will allow you to live with more of the comforts that you might be used to while still maintaining the off-grid lifestyle that you would when tent camping.
Your camper may not have electrical hookups, gas, water or sewage that is connected. You will need to provide these for yourself in a way that is limited and not in constant supply as it would be if you were connected to a grid.
Typical Camper Set Up
In a typical scenario for a camper, you will be parked in a location where the grid is accessible for the camper. Most RVs or campers have connections for electrical service, water, gas, sewage and other amenities such as cable television.
Most RV parks have hookups that you can connect to and these services are provided to you in a similar way that you are used to in a normal house.
This makes camping much more sophisticated than the basic tent style camping we talked about above. This on-grid way of camping allows you to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature while conveniently being connected.
This makes even the most worldly urbanite feel more comfortable in the wild.
Some would argue that this is not camping and in order to have a proper camping experience, you must experience it completely off of the grid.
This is all subjective and different people prefer different things so each style of camping is fine. The best way to camp is the way that you prefer and that works best for you and your family.
Off-grid camping is also known as boondocking and has become a popular term in recent years as more and more people explore this alternative lifestyle. Boondocking allows you to park in certain areas that are off the beaten path and not connected in any way to the rest of the world.
These Boondocking places can be anywhere and are often discovered on public lands as well as private land with permission.
The Bureau of Land Management provides a map of public lands that you can use for the boondocking experience. However, these locations are mostly in the Western United States and you’ll need a different way to discover locations on the east coast.
I have boondocked on farms of people that I know who have allowed me to stay in my camper van. I have also used Hipcamp to pay for private locations on other people’s property that have made for a great boondocking experience.
This type of camping is amazing and allows you to enjoy camping at its finest.
What Does An Off-Grid Camper Look Like?
An off-grid camper looks just like any other camper and, in fact, any camper can be used to go off the grid.
Just because a camper has connections to be used with the grid doesn’t mean that they have to be used. You can park in the camper and utilize the grid or you can stay off the grid and enjoy camping as you would if you had no access to any modern conveniences.
You might just enjoy your time with some sort of portable electrical power and a jug of fresh water. Bathroom and shower facilities are also easy to manage in an off-grid setting.
What Is The Best RV For Boondocking?
As mentioned above, any RV can be used for Boondocking but some may be set up better than others for this type of living.
One of the main features that the best RV will have is a portable way to use electrical energy. This may be in the form of solar or it could be a portable gas generator.
Smaller RVs such as Class B motorhomes (camper vans) are great for boondocking. These types of small RVs contain a minimal amount of living space and generally have the systems you would need to make for a pleasant off-grid experience.
Since these RVs are smaller, they are easier to drive into locations that may be off the road and in a more obscure area. Driving a large motorhome into a boondocking location off the beaten path may prove to be difficult.
Travel trailers make great boondocking campers because they provide you with a comfortable place to live but allow you to do it disconnected from a grid.
One of the great benefits of travel trailers is that you can set your travel trailer up in an off-grid location and then use your towing vehicle to wander off into town to enjoy the night out or to restock on supplies.
What Do I Need For Off-Grid Camping?
This type of camping can be very simple or you may choose to have systems in place that allow you to live a more “normal” existence.
Let’s look at a few of the systems that campers might have in place.
Off-Grid Electrical Power
The typical off-grid electrical power set up is usually comprised of a solar system. These systems use solar panels to harness the energy from the sun to charge a bank of batteries that can then be used as electrical power for your devices.
Whether it is a portable solar system or one that is installed permanently in a camper, a solar system is usually enough to power most of your needs.
An example of an off-grid electrical power system is the solar system that I have in my camper van.
This system allows me to power all of my devices and anything that I run on a typical basis. It allows me to power my lights, refrigerator, fans, water pump, TV and other devices that need regular charging.
It provides me with plenty of energy to live as I normally would without being connected to the grid.
When I am in my camper van, my electrical power does not come in from wires from a utility company. Instead, all the power that I need comes directly from the sun and it is mine to use as I need it.
It is free energy that the sun provides. The only cost is the initial system that has to be in place so that you can turn that energy into a useable form.
Another popular way that people receive energy off the grid is by using a gas-powered generator. Although these are not is convenient or quiet as solar-type, they can be very effective in powering everything that you would need during an off-grid excursion.
Off-Grid Water Supply
The water supply system in an off-grid situation is really simple. It usually involves having a freshwater holding tank that must be filled from a source and then used from the holding tank.
In a way, this isn’t off-grid water since the water comes from a utility source. The only way one would be able to collect water off of the grid would be to gather it from rain or a spring source or other natural water source.
Most people do not do this and water is typically retrieved from a source that brings in water from a municipal utility service.
However, in this situation, the water must be managed as you are not connected to the utility and cannot use an unlimited amount of it. You must ration your water in a way that allows it to last for the entirety of your camping trip.
My water supply in my camper van consists of a 16-gallon freshwater tank that gets filled from whatever water source I can find.
Once it is filled, I can use it throughout the van until it runs out and then I must find another source for filling the freshwater tank again.
Off-Grid Bathroom And Shower
When you are boondocking in an off-grid location, nature becomes your bathroom. In this situation, you are asked to be more primitive and use the bathroom in the way people did before household plumbing existed.
For some people, this isn’t an option and they prefer to use a more sophisticated system. In off-grid campers, one of the main features is sometimes a composting toilet.
These are a popular option for those who choose to live off-grid for longer periods.
These types of toilets give you some type of dignity when you are ready to relieve yourself. Rather than squatting in the woods, you can sit on a normal toilet that allows you to do your business as you would in a modern home.
In this way, living off-grid becomes much more manageable for those who do not want to wander off into the wild to do the most basic of tasks.
The only problem with this is that you will need to dump the composting toilet and clean it out from time to time. The same can be said with a portable cassette toilet or other systems.
This can often be a messy and gross job so there is no escaping the reality of how unpleasant bodily waste can be.
For showering, there are many options that one might use. I have a full-featured shower in my van that uses water from my freshwater tank to allow me to take normal showers.
Another popular way that people shower is by using an outdoor camp shower that hangs onto something and uses gravity to pour water out onto you similar to the way a normal shower would.
These types of showers are often heated by the sun so you get to experience a warm shower even when you do not have an electrical or gas water heater.
There are also temporary structures that can be utilized for privacy and these can make for a pleasurable shower or bathroom experience when out in the wild camping.
Off-Grid Heating & Cooking
On cooler nights, you may need some source of heat. When you are not connected to the electrical grid or a natural gas source, you are on your own to provide a solution.
Many people turn to propane heaters that can either be run by a larger, dedicated propane tank or one that uses disposable one-pound tanks.
Mr. Heater provides some popular models that are used in campers and tents and can heat a small area quite well. These can allow you to stay warm on those cold nights while out in the middle of nowhere.
When it’s time to cook meals, a portable camping stove that uses one-pound propane tanks is the go-to solution for most.
My favorite is the Eureka Ignite stove. I have been using this stove for a while in my van and it does a great job.
These are easy to use and do not take up much space in a camper. They can be used when needed and then stored away easily when not in use.
When off-grid, a campfire makes a great cooking stove as well and can be a great way to have a delicious meal and keep warm at the same time.
Living off-grid can be a very rewarding experience for those who are tired of the systems that society has put into place. Making things work on your own and not being dependent on a grid can be a satisfying feeling.
This type of living can be enjoyed in nearly any type of camper. An off-grid camper doesn’t have to be anything special but for best results should have a minimum of an electrical source, water source and a way to shower or use the bathroom.
A way to cook is also needed but this can be accomplished with a portable camping stove or even a campfire.
This lifestyle is becoming more and more popular as more people challenge the status quo and seek to live a more adventurous existence.
Living off of the grid provides you with a way to go back into time and enjoy living the way more primitive generations lived.
I suggest trying it out for yourself. No matter what camper you have, portable systems can be put into place and will allow you to take your camper off of the beaten path and enjoy an off-grid living experience.