Self-sufficient camping – that’s when you don’t need anything else that a house, or caravan park would normally provide. You’re able to provide all of those things yourself.
I’m talking about the basics like: food, water, shelter, warmth and going to the loo, and let’s not forget about the disposal of all the waste we create; rubbish, waste water and human waste.
Our intention is to be able do self-sufficient camping as often as possible. We have two reasons for this; 1) it’s generally cheaper, because you’re able to take advantage of free or cheap camping that doesn’t provide any (or minimal) facilities and 2) it will hopefully enable us to get away from hordes of people, because you know, we like peace and quiet.
Food & Water
Food – I think we’re all pretty clear on what we need food-wise. It’s pretty easy to store the non-perishable food. It’s the perishable stuff that’s a little bit trickier. Your two options are basically either a portable fridge (I talk about different types of fridges and how they work here) or an esky. The problem with an esky is that your time is limited by how well insulated the esky is and therefore how long the ice will last. The difficulty with the fridge is providing the power, but we’ll cover that in the ‘Power’ section below.
Water – Not just drinking water, but water to cook with, do the dishes, brush your teeth, wash your hands, and wash your feet before getting into bed.
Determining the amount of water to take is always going to be an open question. The most common ‘catch-all’ answer I’ve seen is 10L per person per day. However… and this is where ALL the variables come in… it depends on whether you intend to shower every day, and whether you have another water source, a river, lake or a spring even. If that water is suitable for washing and cooking etc, then you will only need enough water for purely drinking water.
We’re hoping to buy a camper trailer that already has a water tank built in. All the ones I’ve seen are between 70-100L so that would take care of Ben and I for quite a number of days, I reckon? (For non-metric readers – 100 litres is about 26 gallons). But… I’m also a little bit fussy when it comes to drinking plain water, I hate it if it’s got any weird tastes in it, so we’ll likely also carry some drinking water bought from the supermarket.
Battery – We’re going to need power for three main things: keeping the fridge going, recharging our laptops, phones and other electronic devices, and lights. Powering the lights isn’t as important as the other two (I mean, there’s always torches) but powering the fridge and electronics are going to be pretty crucial for us to be able to camp self-sufficiently. We’ll be set up with the dual/auxiliary/portable battery system that will be recharged via driving and solar panels. I’ve written a post all about this over here.
Generator – If you don’t have a battery system then you may be taking a small generator with you. I don’t have any advice on that one, we don’t plan on taking one so I’ve not done any research. I suppose you just need to make sure you take enough fuel for it, make sure it’s serviced correctly and be conscientious of using it when there are other campers in the (hearing) vicinity.
Toilet & Shower
Toilet – I never ever thought I’d be compromising on this part of our set-up… but when this trip started to become a reality I realised very quickly that demanding a flush toilet and a hot shower would mean that our trip was possibly years away (in order to save up enough for a rig with those features). So we’re going to be taking a porta-potti for those times where the free/cheap camps don’t have a pit toilet, and a shower tent that can be used to shower as well as provide some privacy when using the porta-potti.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m not overly keen on either public toilets, pit toilets (we call them ‘long drops’ in NZ) or the tiny little porta-potti. But I get the feeling I’m going need to get over it real quick. It’s either ‘get over it’ or stay where we are, working the same jobs, for another couple of years.
Yeah… I’ll get over it.
Ladies only (gentlemen, you might like to skip this next bit) – I’m pretty sure our route planning (which I suspect I’m going to be doing all of anyway) is going to include caravan park camping for a specific couple of days every month. A park where there’ll be flush toilets, nice showers and a laundry room.
I’ve seen many bloggers recommend a menstrual cup. I haven’t used one myself but it’s touted to have many benefits like it’s more comfortable, leak proof, you can leave it in for longer than a tampon and they are certainly more environmentally friendly than any of the disposable products. Might be worth checking out. Sorry if that’s all TMI!
Okay gents, it’s alright to come back in now. We’ve stopped talking about girl things…
Shower – campground showers, a wash in the river or lake (with environmentally appropriate soaps, if you must use soap), a solar shower in the privacy of our shower tent, or a bucket shower in same said tent. If worst comes to worst, a wet flannel on the bits that matter the most. ‘Nuff said really, huh.
Rubbish – take it out with you, don’t leave it behind for someone else to deal with. Pretty basic stuff, but I’ve read plenty of accounts of people finding rubbish strewn all over the place, even remote camping sites! I refuse to believe that people are really that callous, so that leaves me with the conclusion that they’re either dumb or naive. If that’s the case, then all we can do is inform them. Also, make sure birds and animals can’t get to your rubbish bags… cos they WILL get in, and they WILL make a mess!
Waste Water – this will vary with each camp site. Sometimes you can empty waste water on to the surrounding grass, other times you’re going to need to capture it all and take it out with you. Just make yourself aware of the conditions of your campsite. If you’re free-camping somewhere then common sense will surely prevail and you won’t do anything to contaminate the water-ways or environment.
This article has some good tips on how to dispose of waste. Australia So Much To See
Toilet Waste – This is the most distressing topic to me. If there are toilets provided, then of course, use those. If not, then watch this video that explains where to dig, how deep to dig etc. Camping Toilet tips, Bush Toilet & Portable toilet options
I swear, if I see anyone leaving toilet paper behind (like, just leaving it on the ground) I am going to Lose. My. Shit. I might even throw my shit at them! This is basic human decency, I do not want to see your poo-stained toilet paper or your soiled sanitary pad, and I certainly don’t want it blowing into my camp site. Sorry, I’m getting worked up. I know most people are not like that AT ALL. It’s those few that just don’t know, or worse, don’t care.
Peace & Quiet
It’s funny, a couple of my favourite bloggers/youtubers have mentioned how they have this awesome bluetooth speaker that is perfect for the campsite, ensuring that they are never without their favourite soundz while setting up camp or enjoying a blazing campfire.
That’s my worst nightmare.
I know this is just personal preference, but when I’m out in nature I prefer to hear nature, even when she’s particularly quiet. But I know that there are others that are not like me. They get enjoyment out of music, it lifts their spirits and I’m not gonna deny that it can foster a sense of community in a group of people (as long as they all like the same music).
But given the choice between music and no music, I will choose no music every time. Hence the reason why being self-sufficient is so important to us, so we can mostly get away from the crowds and enjoy nature. (We’re not anti-people! We just enjoy conversations around a campfire or laughter while watching a sunset, not so much rowdy parties with thumping music.)
Is there anything else that is needed for self-sufficient camping?
Saturday 5th of January 2019
Evidently U forgot the most important item which solves masses of problems - a small shovel. Then you have a tidy loo, place to put waste & scraps - even somewhere to put a camper's DVD player! Have fun, tho being an Aussie, we did all that in Europe & Norway + UK twice in old VWs whilst writing & selling our Live for free books + with paying passengers. Lot o' fun & enlightenment.
Saturday 5th of January 2019
True Pat! We've used our little shovel (we named it 'The Amenities Spade') quite a lot; although some campsites wouldn't class it as being 'self-sufficient' I don't think. :-)
Wednesday 31st of May 2017
Have to agree about the music vs peace and quiet. btw, I read the ladies only part, sorry!
Wednesday 31st of May 2017
Haha! I'm sure you'll recover, in time, Tim. :-)