While any form of RV camping is sure to be a good time, camping off the grid is even more fun. However, before you can safely stay in areas outside of organized campgrounds, it’s essential to know how to power a camper off grid.
Without electricity, your camping experience won’t be nearly as enjoyable, and you likely won’t be able to stay out for as long as you’d like. So, if you want to learn how to power a camper off grid to maximize your camping experiences, you’ve come to the right place.
Advantages of Camping Off the Grid
Before we dive into learning how to power a camper off grid, let’s look at some of the reasons to do so.
More Camping Opportunities
The main reason that it’s worth learning how to power a camper off grid is that you’ll have more camping opportunities. When you’re bound by the need for an electrical hookup, you can only stay at organized campgrounds, RV parks, or on a friend’s property if they have an electrical hookup large enough to accommodate your RV.
However, when you know how to power a camper off grid, you can camp almost anywhere. BLM land, national parks, state parks, and many other areas allow boondocking but won’t have electric hookups.
Knowing how to power a camper off grid and having the means to do so is the only way to stay at these places long-term. Having this ability will open up more opportunities for you and give you an out when modern campgrounds aren’t an option.
Another big advantage of knowing how to power a camper off grid is that you’ll save money. The days when you could take your RV to an affordable campground are all but gone.
Most campgrounds charge anywhere between $30 and $100 per night, which will add up quickly the longer you stay. Campgrounds and government land that allow boondocking, on the other hand, are much more affordable.
Many of these places charge a fraction of what campgrounds do, and some of them don’t charge anything. Having the means to stay at these places will save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars down the road.
Finally, you’ll have more flexibility if you know how to power a camper off grid. If you don’t make it to an organized campground every night on your cross-country adventures, it isn’t a big deal.
You can simply pull into a Walmart, a Rest Area, or another travel stop that allows free overnight parking and park your rig. You only need electricity to stay somewhere comfortably for a night or two, and you’ll have that in spades.
6 Ways to Power a Camper While Off Grid
If you’re convinced that camping off-grid is the way to go, let’s look at six of the best options to choose from.
1. Purchase a Generator
Investing in a generator is the first and most common way to power your camper for off-grid living. Portable gas generators are great because you can carry them anywhere with your RV.
There also isn’t much difficulty to learning how to power a camper off grid using a portable generator. Simply plug whatever you want to use into your generator, and there you go.
When you’re not using it, you can store the generator in your towing vehicle, inside the RV, strapped to the back, or in a separate compartment on the back of your truck or RV.
It’s important to keep safety at the forefront when using a portable generator to power your RV off-grid. They operate by using gasoline, which is highly flammable, and they emit harmful exhaust fumes, so you should only use portable generators outside.
How to Choose the Right Portable Generator
If you want to use a portable generator to power your RV for off-grid living, it’s crucial to purchase one large enough to get the job done. You’ll have to provide power to your lights, air conditioner, outlets, microwave, and other electric appliances.
If you have a 30-amp RV, you should purchase a 2,500 to a 3,000-watt generator. If you have a 50-amp RV, you should have a 3,000 to a 4,000-watt generator.
The generator size you need depends on how many electronic devices you plan to use simultaneously. If you camp during the summer months and have a large family, a 4,000-watt generator is a better option.
If you camp alone and don’t use many electronics, a 2,000 to 2,500-watt generator is plenty. Size is the biggest concern when it comes to learning how to power a camper off grid with a generator.
The second factor to consider when making your choice is how loud the generator is. In general, most people prefer inverter generators for this reason because they’re much quieter.
However, there are many different types of inverter generators, so choose one with a good muffler. It would help if you also used a long extension cord with your generator so that you can station it far away from your RV.
The third thing to consider when choosing a gas generator is efficiency. Depending on how liberally you use your generator, you’ll blow through fuel like it’s candy.
By purchasing an efficient generator, however, that’s more eco-friendly, you won’t use as much gasoline.
Another nice thing about portable generators is that you can carry extra fuel containers. If you have enough containers, there’s no telling how long you can stay off-grid!
2. Pick a Camper With a Built-In Generator
Because of how popular off-grid camping is, many modern camper manufacturers design their RVs with built-in generators. These generators usually operate with gasoline and are very similar to portable generators in how they work.
The main difference between a portable generator and a built-in one is that all the electrical work is already done for you. Whenever you want to power your camper off-grid, you simply turn on the generator and flip the transfer switch in your RV, and you’re good to go.
In most cases, built-in generators are powered by your RVs propane tanks rather than conventional gasoline. As such, it’s vital that you keep your propane tanks full and invest in a few spares just in case.
The main downside of built-in generators is that they’re relatively pricy to operate. Propane isn’t exactly cheap, and you’ll soon see your money flying out the door if you use a built-in generator often and for an extended time.
While there are several downsides, learning how to power a camper off grid with a built-in generator is easier than using a portable generator. The work is done for you and the generator is sized according to your RV.
3. Install Solar Panels
One of the most eco-friendly methods for learning how to power a camper off grid is by using solar panels. Solar panels have been around for several decades now, but they’re starting to skyrocket in popularity.
Traditionally, solar panels have been installed in homes to provide occupants with free electricity. Nowadays, however, more and more RVs are getting designed with solar capabilities so that you can easily install them if you’d like.
If you want to use solar panels to power your RV, you’ll also have to invest in a battery bank. The more batteries you have in your bank, the more solar energy you’ll be able to store.
Here’s how to power a camper off grid with solar panels.
- Install the solar panels on top of your RV’s roof.
- Install the charge controller for the panels inside the RV near the battery bank.
- Connect the appropriate-sized electrical wire from the solar panels to the controller.
- Run a second electrical wire that connects the charge controller to the battery bank.
- Plug the wire from the solar panels into the charge controller, and you should be good to go.
The cheapest long-term option is learning how to power your camper off-grid with solar panels. You’ll have to spend significant money up-front for the panels and the batteries, but the electricity they generate will be free.
4. Purchase a Solar Generator
Learning how to power a camper off grid using a solar generator is similar to using solar panels. In fact, solar generators are kind of like a combination of solar panels and a traditional portable generator.
You use solar panels to harness energy from the sun. This energy gets transferred from the panels to the solar generator, which converts it into usable electricity.
The advantage of using a solar generator is that you can generate energy in several ways.
- Use solar panels
- Plug your generator into an outlet and charge it, similar to how you would charge a battery.
- Plug your generator into a DC car outlet so that it can store energy for future use.
Solar generators work similarly to how solar panels and a battery bank does. Energy gets transferred to the generator, which converts it into electricity you can use to power your RV.
In addition to solar generators, you can also use solar power stations. They operate the same way as generators but are smaller and usually cheaper.
As with traditional generators, it’s important to purchase a solar generator that’s large enough to accommodate your RV. Size is the biggest obstacle to learning how to power a camper off grid with a solar generator because they aren’t quite as powerful as gas generators.
5. Invest in Fuel Cells
If you want to learn how to power a camper off grid with the latest technology, you should consider investing in fuel cells. Fuel cells are the latest and greatest in terms of renewable energy and are now available to RVers for off-grid use.
Essentially, fuel cells use chemistry and physics to convert a form of energy into electricity. Fuel can come from different sources, such as propane or hydrogen, but it’s usually in the form of a gas.
The downside of using fuel cells to power your camper is that they’re extremely expensive. If you can afford it, however, fuel cells are the way of the future and one of the best methods for powering your RV while off the grid.
6. Wind or Water Turbines
The sixth and final method for how to power a camper off grid is to use wind or water turbines. While wind and water turbines are the cheapest and cleanest way to power your RV off grid, they aren’t the most practical.
You’ll need a constant supply of water or wind to power them, and they often don’t produce enough energy to power your rig. If you use wind or water turbines, it’s good to have an additional backup power source such as a generator or solar panels.
What Else do You Need for Off-Grid Living?
While learning how to power a camper off grid is step one to off-grid living, there are other considerations to keep in mind.
Fresh water is even more important than electricity. While you can survive without air conditioning and your TV, you won’t last very long if you don’t have fresh water to drink and cleanse yourself.
Unfortunately, fresh water isn’t usually available when camping off the grid. In most primitive areas where electricity isn’t available, water likely won’t be available either.
Therefore, the only way to have a supply of fresh water on hand is to fill your freshwater tank before you head out. Adding water to the tank will increase your load and slow you down, but staying alive and clean is worth it.
While you don’t technically need a bathroom to stay alive off-grid, you do need one to retain your sanity. Luckily, most RVs come equipped with bathrooms and large wastewater tanks.
Wastewater tanks hold the waste of both your bathroom and your kitchen. Therefore, it’s essential to have a reasonably big wastewater tank to stay off-grid for longer.
You’ll also want a heat source if you plan to camp off-grid in cold climates between fall and winter. Luckily, most newer RVs are equipped with propane furnaces that don’t require electricity.
However, if you don’t like the idea of using propane, you should invest in a secondary heat source. Space heaters, electric heaters, and portable heaters are all excellent options.
Extra Food and Water
Finally, you’ll need plenty of extra food and bottles of water for extended off-grid living. Learning how to power a camper off grid is essential, but having the food and water necessary to sustain off-grid living is just as crucial.
Wrapping Up on How to Power a Camper Off Grid
As you can see, there are several ways to learn how to power a camper off grid. You can use anything from generators to fuel cells to solar panels.
While there are a number of ways to power a camper off-grid, it’s essential to choose the method that you like the best. To do that, you should take an in-depth look at each of the ways in this article before making your choice.
To learn more about off grid living, check out How to Live Off the Grid: The Compete Guide.