Getting the caravan ready for off-grid living

I haven’t properly freedom camped or lived off-grid yet! Well, except for Karamea, when I got stuck in the mud. This is partly because I didn’t have the self-containment sticker, but also because I felt like my caravan wasn’t set-up to make the experience enjoyable and easy.

I’ve slowly learnt, through trial and error, what I need to change.

I’ve found the two main items to focus on are power and water.

Power

Power is an important one. I’m about to get solar panels added to my caravan and I’m super excited.

Currently, if I don’t have a powered camp site, I run off my caravan battery.

From what I’ve recently learnt – I have a basic battery and it won’t last much longer… especially after the way I’ve treated it. I’m now saving for Lithium batteries, but they are a tad expensive.

I have experimented, and when it gets too low, the ceiling lights start to flicker… I have since learnt this is not good for the battery. Each time I run it this low, it damages the battery. But I did find out that I could last a week on the battery.

Running off the battery only allows some ceiling lights to work. I bought a basic inverter, which I plug into the cigarette lighter in the caravan, and can charge my phone and run the internet modem. But I can’t charge my laptop or use the kettle or any other power-sucking item. My stove, heater and fridge run off gas, and in theory, my hot water, but I haven’t been able to get it working yet.

By having solar panels, I am hoping to have the comforts of home while being able to stay at more beautiful and isolated sites.

I’ve recently been working in Auckland and I’ve found there are limited powered campsites nearby. When I get solar panels, I’ll have a few more options and cheaper spots too!

Water

Since living in the caravan, I have become very aware of the water I use.

There are more chores revolving around water than anything else.

I have a 52 litre tank sitting next to my caravan, which requires filling up every 2 days, using a hose. Any water I use, ends up in the external grey water tank that I then need to empty.

It’s been recommended that I don’t drink water from my caravan taps, because it runs through basic plastic piping, so I have bottled drinking water.

There have been times when it’s raining, or dark or I’m tired and realise I’ve run out of water.

It’s something I’m still figuring out what to do for freedom camping.

I’ve got a pretty good system for fulling up the water tank if there are no taps nearby. Because of my puny upper body strength, I have the tank in my car boot and full up with a hose. The hard part is lifting the tanks up into the boot. Gravity helps getting it out again.

My next issue to solve is the grey water tank. I’m planning to stay at campsites that don’t have a dumping station for waste water and cassette toilets. This means I’ll need to drive to a nearby dumping station – probably at a petrol station. You can learn where these are with CampMate. I’ve found that I can only get the grey water tank into the car boot if I empty it every day – otherwise it’s too heavy for me. This is not what I want to be doing every, single, day.

I’ve asked online, and the main response has been to get tanks attached underneath the caravan. I didn’t know I could do this with my caravan. This is something I plan to look into, but not right now. Partly because of money, and partly because I’m not sure I want it… it will mean I’ll need to move the caravan to full the tank and empty the grey water. Do I want that? Isn’t it easier to leave the caravan where it is?

I had originally thought to buy a ramp to wheel the grey water tank into the car – but it wasn’t a popular idea.

Another suggestion was to get a pump, with the idea of pumping water from the grey water tank into another tank sitting in the car. I’ve had a look and found one that is about $160 and you need to attach it to a battery. Beginning to get complicated.

For now, I’m going to just buy smaller containers that I can lift into the car… cheaper and easier. Take my time and consider my other options.


So, I’ll keep working on making caravan living as easy as possible. Once I get the solar panels, it’s time to start freedom camping!

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