One of the biggest attractions to caravanning is undoubtedly the freedom it gives you to go where you want for holidays, when you want. However, even though it gives you a measure of freedom, if you stick to the official and popular caravan and camping sites, particularly those with electric hook-ups and lots of amenities, it may not feel as rustic as you were hoping it might.
What can you do to make it feel more ‘back to basics’? Consider caravanning off grid. You may feel that it is not possible or incredibly difficult to do that in this country. At Caravan Helper, this is one of the areas of caravanning that interests us most and we are here to help show that rather than being impossible, it is actually easier than you might think.
Yes, there are a lot of changes you have to make to your tourer outfit, but with our guide we hope you will feel more confident about researching it more and even giving it a try.
First things first, before we dive any deeper into this subject, it’s best we discuss what we, and most other people, mean when we say ‘off grid’.
What is Off Grid
Off grid, in reference to caravanning, generally means that you are living, for however long, in your caravan as self-sufficiently as possible and most importantly, without an electric hook-up. Although everyone’s interpretation of off grid caravanning will be different, it generally also means that you don’t go to a site with all the amenities, like a shower block and make use of solar power as an alternative to electricity, though most with caravans that feature gas appliances still use them.
Some people go completely off grid and do not rely on a site’s water supply, toilets or anything like that at all. It really depends how basic you want to go. The main concerns, aside from packing enough of the right food and clothing, is power and water.
As you would imagine it, those who go off grid tend to favour investing in solar panels of some kind. One of the biggest misconceptions about the use of solar panels in the UK is that there might not be enough sunlight. The fact is that all pv solar panels will definitely work better when there is more visible sunlight However, in order for them to work sufficiently well, they just need a reasonable degree of daylight, not sunlight. And unless you intend on going crazy and heading on a wild or off grid caravan trip during the darkest shortest days of winter, this is generally not a problem.
The type of solar panelling you buy will very much depend on your available budget, but as it is likely you will be using electricity for numerous things, it is best that you don’t scrimp too much on this expense. A good medium-priced solar panel offering 100-watts of power is often enough for an average sized caravan. That is even if you are using electricity for items like phones, radios and televisions.
Tips for Getting Best Out of Solar Panels
- Track the sun throughout the day and move your panelling as required to ensure that the sun, whether it is particularly bright or not, is hitting it.
- Keep a close watch on the battery voltage
- Always unplug items when you are not using them. Even if you have switched them off, you should still unplug them completely from sockets as they will still be drawing a small measure of power.
- That also includes the amplifier for your caravan aerial, if you are using one.
As noted earlier, water is a major concern when you are doing any form of camping. But, if you are going to do any kind of off grid-style caravanning, it is something you definitely need to give some thought to. Whereas some people still make use of the fresh water supplies offered at even the most basic caravan and camping sites, many other people, those who prefer to take a wild caravanning approach, need a more robust solution if fresh and clean water is not available.
In that kind of situation, investing in an Aquaroll, if you do not already have one, is a good idea. This can help extend the capacity of the water tank in your caravan to a generous 70-litres. Obviously, you need to bear in mind that Aquaroll freezes when the temperatures are lower.
Expect to Use More Gas than Normal
It is likely that you will use more gas than you normally do if you are trying to caravan off grid. Although central heating might not be required in the middle of summer, you are probably still going to want it on during the night when those much colder temperatures set in in early spring, late autumn and if you are brave, winter. Even if you are not using the central heating, you will obviously still use your gas fridge and need to heat water up for showers and washing etc. Unless you have a completely electric setup. Similarly, you may choose to do a lot of cooking on gas.
Although there are guides online and advice available about how much gas you should take, you should download the Calor Gas app for at least one of your mobile devices. This can show you the nearest stockists of gas for when you need to restock and top-up the supply.
Though this can increase the cost, it is still balanced out in terms of how much you can save in the cost for pitching up at a basic site. This can cost anything between £5 and £15, and that is per unit per night, not per person. So, a significant saving can be made caravanning off grid.
Organise Food Properly
You are unlikely to have access to the same kinds of amenities that are available at more luxury caravan sites, such as electric hook-ups and even convenience stores. As a result, you need to plan the food you are going to take for your time away and make sure you have enough for emergencies too. What you take will depend on how you plan to cook and prepare it. It is better to be over-prepared and have too much food than not enough, especially if you are pitched up in the middle of nowhere.
Benefits of Caravanning Off Grid
If you are not sure whether you want to participate in off grid caravanning, it makes sense to look at some of the benefits. Some of the most common that draw people to this style of caravanning, includes:
- Cheaper form of caravanning, as noted above.
- Much quieter than normal caravanning, as the sites you have access to are not frequented as much. Wild caravanning is easier.
- So rural, quieter and you benefit of escaping the crowds.
Caravanning off grid can be exciting. It can also be overwhelming and intimidating. However, we hope with the guide above, that we have helped to give you some ideas about what you need and why. At the very least, we hope it gives you some pointers in the right direction to have as enjoyable an experience as you can.