Having access to electricity can make your camping experience more comfortable, but camping without electricity can open up new possibilities. You could, for instance, plan an off-grid camping trip if you’re willing to camp without electricity.
Here are a few tips to help you plan for a camping trip where you won’t have access to an electric hook-up.
Consider an Alternative Power Source
Living without electricity for a few weeks doesn’t mean you have to have no power while camping. For safety reasons, it’s best to bring an alternative power source so you can keep your phone charged in case of an emergency.
Here are some options on how to get power without electricity:
- Your vehicle’s cigarette lighter doubles as a charger. You can use it to keep your phone’s battery full and charge other important electronics.
- If possible, bring a power bank or portable charger with you. You can find inexpensive portable chargers like the Iniu 20W portable charger. This device allows you to fully charge your phone three to four times, depending on the model of your phone.
- If you’re ready to invest more, you can get a gas generator. A generator will provide you with a reliable source of power, and it’s powerful enough to run a mini-fridge or a small electric stove.
- If you’d rather avoid carrying gas, engine noise, and gas combustion fumes, you can also consider a lithium-battery-based portable power station. These can also be recharged by solar panels, or your vehicle’s 12V outlet, allowing you to be off the grid as long as you’d like (provided enough sun) without the need for refilling gas. We recommend watching this YouTube video to learn more about camping with electricity through a small solar system.
Storing Food Without Electricity
One of the main benefits of having access to an electrical hook-up when camping is that you can store food and beverages in a mini-fridge. Camping without electricity means you’ll have to rethink the kind of food you bring on your trip.
It’s possible to keep food and water bottles cold by using a cooler. Food will stay cool longer if you pre-chill your cooler and pack it with ice or ice packs. However, your cooler will only preserve food for the first few days of your trip since the ice will melt.
Invest in a durable cooler with a tight seal and quality insulation. You should also watch this video to learn how to pack your cooler.
Depending on where you’re camping, you can refill your cooler by purchasing bagged ice at a nearby store. If you have access to a grocery store, you can plan on purchasing fresh food every day or every other day to prevent it from spoiling.
What Kind of Food Should You Bring?
When camping without power, it’s best to bring plenty of staples that you can safely store at room temperature. Choose camping foods that don’t require refrigeration or cooking.
Here are a few ideas:
- Granola and cereal are ideal for breakfast and snacks. Storing milk isn’t an option, but you can bring some powdered milk.
- Stock up on dry pantry staples like beans, rice, pasta, crackers. If you want some variety, bring some quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, and more.
- Canned food is easy to store without electricity. You can bring canned fruits and vegetables, or even find ready-to-eat meals that come in cans. The downside is that canned food is often high in sodium, but it’s a practical option for some of your meals.
- Bring some nuts, dried fruits, popcorn, and chocolate chips. These foods will give you plenty of energy, and you can use them to make your own trail mix.
- Hard cheese and jerky are non-perishable foods that you can bring on your camping trip.
- Ramen noodles are another great way to add some diversity to your diet.
- MREs are another option to explore. You can find them online or in military surplus stores. MREs have a long shelf life and each meal includes different elements, like a main dish, some sides, and some snacks, for a total of 1,250 calories per MRE.
You don’t have to store these different food items in a cold environment, but you should still store your food in the shade. Prolonged exposure to temperatures over 75°F can cause canned goods to spoil.
It’s best to keep your food inside of a metal food locker if you’re camping in bear country or in an area where food could attract wildlife. Otherwise, setting up a small shelter with a tarp can provide enough shade for your makeshift pantry.
Cooking Without Power
There are different solutions for cooking with no electricity while camping. You can use a mix of the following methods if you know you’ll be camping somewhere without an electric hook-up, but it’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the following cooking techniques in case you ever experience a power outage during a camping trip.
Flameless heaters rely on a chemical reaction to produce heat. If you bring some MREs with you, you’ll get a small flameless ration heater with each meal. You just need to add water.
You can also purchase a pack of flameless heaters. Flameless heaters are small and lightweight. They’re easy to use, and they’re safe to use around your camping gear since you won’t have an open flame when you cook.
However, they’re best for heating up individual rations. They’re a good option for MREs or for warming up a can of food, but they’re not convenient for boiling enough water to make pasta for a large group of people.
Portable Gas Stoves
A portable gas stove like this Coleman gas stove is probably the easiest way to cook food when you don’t have access to electricity. You can adjust the heat and use the burners to prepare a wide range of food and even make camp coffee with a percolator.
The downside is that you’ll have to bring some gas canisters and store them safely. Besides, a gas stove can take up some space and might not be convenient if you’re backpacking or hiking.
In spite of these few drawbacks, it’s still the easiest and most versatile way to prepare your meals if you don’t have access to an electric hook up.
Roasting your food over a campfire will make for some unforgettable memories. You can bring a campfire swing grill or use the ashes to create a cooking hearth for food wrapped in tinfoil.
Campfire cooking can take longer compared to other methods, and you’ll have to gather burning materials, start a fire, and maintain it long enough to cook your food. Besides, some national parks and camping grounds prohibit campfires.
If you decide to cook your food over a campfire, make sure you follow the safety rules presented in this video.
How to Stay Warm or Cool Without Electricity
Fans and heaters are small luxuries that help you regulate your temperature when camping. However, camping without electricity means you’ll have to get by without these items.
Here are a few tips to help you stay warm:
- Invest in high-quality camping gear. A tent with an insulated lining will make a huge difference at night.
- Choose the right size for your tent. It will be easier to stay warm in a smaller tent.
- Bring a camping mat to create a layer of insulation between the ground and your sleeping bag.
- Dress in layers. The air you trap between each layer of clothing will warm up because of your body temperature and help keep you warm. Besides, it’s easy to remove a layer of clothing to avoid overheating.
- Wear some socks, a hat, and some thermal underwear to bed. These items will help you to stay warm in your sleeping bag.
- Bury a water bottle in the ashes of your campfire and bring it inside of your tent or sleeping bag to stay warm throughout the night.
- Eating snacks rich in carbs and healthy fats will make you more resistant to low temperatures.
If you’re dealing with hot temperatures during the day, make sure to stay hydrated and avoid overexerting yourself. Set up your tent in an area where you’ll have plenty of shade.
If temperatures remain high during the night, you can remove the rain fly from your tent. Look for a tent with some zippers that you can open to create some cross-ventilation, and think about getting a tent with as much mesh material as possible.
Additional Tips for Surviving Without Electricity
Here are a few additional things to consider when planning a camping trip where you won’t have access to electricity:
- Will there be personal hygiene facilities at the campground where you’ll stay? If not, bring some personal cleansing wipes to stay clean when you are camping.
- You’ll need plenty of batteries to see at night. Invest in a quality flashlight for a reliable source of light at night and bring more batteries than you think you’ll need. We also recommend a reading light clip so you can spend your evenings reading.
- Keeping your phone charged at all times might not be possible. Bring a map of the area and a compass in case you can’t use your phone’s built-in GPS feature.
- There are plenty of ways to have fun while camping, even if you don’t have access to electricity. If you’re camping with children, plan a few campfire games and activities in advance.
- Research the area in advance and figure out if there are any stores or coffee shops where you can go to charge your phone or simply spend a few moments in the AC on a hot day.
Not having access to electricity when camping requires you to take additional steps when planning your trip. Here’s why electricity is important when camping.
1. Do All Campsites Have Electricity?
A majority of campsites offer electricity hook ups. You’ll also find water and sewage connections. Most campsites offer these amenities for RV owners and to make your camping experience more comfortable.
However, some campgrounds don’t offer these amenities or have a few campsites without access to electricity that are generally available at a lower price.
2. Why Do You Need an Electric Hook Up When Camping?
It’s possible to camp without electricity, but there are some advantages to picking a campground with electric hook-ups. One of the main benefits is that you’ll be able to bring a mini-fridge to store your perishable food. Keeping your phone charged will be easier. For those who need to use medical devices, having access to electricity is crucial.
3. How Long Does a Portable Power Station Last?
A portable power station is a convenient option for keeping your phone charged and powering small appliances. These devices can provide you with anywhere from three to ten hours’ worth of electricity depending on their capacity and on how many devices you plug in.