Caravanning Off-Grid in New Zealand Winter

Explore the slightly warmer Coromandel over the New Zealand winter seemed like a good idea. But then it rained, and rained and rained. 

I arrived at the NZMCA Coromandel Town campground, after a drive navigating the roadworks from sections washed away in previous storms. The campground was down a long driveway and opened onto a field. NZMCA is a New Zealand organisation with perks like very basic but cheap campgrounds. I left the gravel entrance and picked a spot on the other side for privacy if anyone turned up.

I knew the weather was going to turn in the next couple of days, so planned to sit it out before moving on. What I didn’t realise was the bad weather planned to hang around for a long time.

3 days of rain

It ended up being over 3 days of solid rain. I was running power off my one solar panel and a damaged battery. It was a long 3 days. What I’ve learnt from my experience in the wet New Zealand winter:

Need a new battery

I think this stay would have been manageable if I had batteries that stored more power and could last longer in wet weather. It just wasn’t working for me and I needed regular visits into Coromandel Town for a place to recharge my laptop.

Generator

I’ve slowly started to think getting a generator might be worthwhile. Something small that I could lift on my own. The down side is the noise. A bus appeared for 1 night and they apparently had a quiet generator, but I could still hear it on the other side of the campground. What are your thoughts on generators?

Running out of gas

I ran out of gas one morning, when I needed that first hot drink. Luckily there was a gas station close by to swap bottles and I had a warm cup of tea in hand soon enough.

I haven’t been cautious with my gas usage and have been using it for my heater, hot water and cooking. I’ve only used 2 bottles in 1 year, but now I’m staying off-grid, I’m curious to see how long it will last. There is room for another gas bottle and I’m considering adding it to avoid future surprises.

I was given a tip on how to tell my gas level… pour hot water on the bottle and you’ll be-able to feel which part is cold – you may even be-able to see the condensation. The colder area is the gas level.

Handy tools

Below are the two products I mention in the video that have been very helpful:

  • I have a combination shower / toilet and find the water sits at the bottom of the shower and I need to clean it after every use. I bought a window wiper that has been one of my favourite purchases so far! 
  • As I’m on solar power, I looked at my light bulbs and saw they were 10w each. I usually have two lights on in the evenings, with one light using two light bulbs. This was meaning I was using 30W of power. By changing these light bulbs, I now only use 9W and already see this helps saving power. I bought my light bulbs from Lighting Plus
Facilities in the area

One problem I’m attempting to fix is the inability to wash my hair in the caravan shower. I just don’t have enough water and I need to figure out why it’s not draining fast enough.  Looking on the CamperMate App, I visited the pools for a shower, only to find they’re closed for winter. After fretting about my dirty hair, I asked the friendly lady at the information centre and learnt there was another option at the gym. I have a new appreciation of showers connected to the water supply. All that water gushing out and no need to empty a grey water tank.

A visit to the laundromat helped with all my muddy clothes and I was able to charge my laptop. The laundromat was a great place to meet the locals and I loved how friendly and relaxed everyone was.

Checking out the NZMCA App, I found the Coromandel Town dumping station. There’s no tap at the NZMCA campsite, so I became a regular sight filling up with fresh water and dumping my grey water. Because I’m currently just using small tanks, I need to visit every second day. 

Staying on my own

I felt comfortable staying at this campsite on my own. I think this is partly from practice, as I stay on my own more often and the location felt secure. People driving past couldn’t see me, but there were people in houses and businesses around if needed.

How to pass the time

I’ve found I can easily keep myself entertained if I have enough power for my internet modem and laptop. There is always something to do. The problem is I regularly run low on power to run them and I’m currently trying to fix this.

I also love to read and have a Kindle and eBooks App on my phone.

Fear of being bogged down

As it kept raining, the water couldn’t soak into the soil and the surface water increased. My poor boots were getting saturated! Time to buy some gumboots. I was worried that when it came time to leave, the caravan would be bogged down and I wouldn’t be-able to move on until everything dried out.

I eventually became over my cabin fever and though the ground was still very water-logged, I hooked up the caravan, changed the car to four wheel drive and slowly drove off the grass and back onto the gravel.


Have you ever struggled with multiple wet days in a tiny space? Do you have any tips? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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