There’s nothing quite like the call of the open road and the adventure of off-grid caravan camping in Australia. The freedom of the trip, the beauty of remote areas and incredible caravanning spots, and the comfort of your caravan combine for a once-in-a-lifetime experience (that you can experience every long weekend or perhaps for an extended adventure!).
When you’re using your caravan to travel between towns—staying at parks with proper amenities and close to services and shopping centres—packing isn’t as critical. Here at RV Solutions however, we’re big on hitting the open road and travelling to more remote destinations. The caravans we love and sell are equipped to get to remote beaches and beautiful, outback locations—and stay there fully self-contained for weeks at a time.
In this guide, we’ll outline how to best prepare your caravan to go off-road, the essential items for a successful off-grid adventure, and give you a handy caravan packing list (to make sure that when you’re relaxing on a remote beach, you don’t realise you’ve forgotten the mozzie spray!).
Power Generation and Optimisation
Power is the lifeblood of your off-grid caravan. When it comes to travelling to remote destinations, the length of your trip is often determined by a few things; how much water you’ve got, how much food, and how much power. Whether you’re relying on solar panels or portable generators, you’ll need to manage your power wisely. The last thing you need when you’re enjoying the blissful peace of the middle of nowhere, is to be stranded without power, hours away from civilisation.
Power management looks different based on the type of caravan you have, and how advanced your setup is. Here are some of the things you need to consider when getting set up to head off the beaten track.
A Power Source
When you go off-grid you won’t be able to connect to mains power, meaning you’ll need another way to recharge your caravan’s battery bank, or access power directly. Typically your options are between a generator and solar panels.
Generators are a great power source option if you don’t get off-grid often enough to warrant investing in solar panels, and are run on either diesel or petrol. While some older generators do have their downsides like being pretty loud, modern inverter generators are quiet and can be very energy efficient. Another plus side is that when you’re using a generator as your main power source, you don’t need to wait for your batteries to charge and can instead run appliances directly. However, it’s worth considering that generators add a fair bit of weight to your caravan, which isn’t ideal for off-roading. As always, it’s critical to make sure you are within your payload, to ensure you are travelling safely.
To learn more about what generator is right for you, and how to calculate how powerful you’ll need your generator to be, read our blog about how to choose the perfect generator for your caravan.
Attaching solar panels to your caravan is another great power source option, and definitely our recommendation if you plan to get off-grid often. Solar panels are a sustainable way to charge your caravan’s batteries, and aren’t limited by how much fuel you bring on your trip. While solar panels may seem unreliable if there isn’t much sunshine, generally in Australia this isn’t a problem—especially in summer.
For the most advanced and safe setup, we highly recommend installing solar panels; even on a rainy or overcast day, there will typically still be enough particles of light (protons) coming through the clouds from the suns rays for your solar panels to generate electricity. Plus, excess energy generated on sunny days can be stored in batteries for use at a later time, if you’re particularly concerned about upcoming weather.
Plenty of Fuel
If you’re using a generator, it’s critical you calculate how much fuel you’ll need to last your trip.
The size of your generator, whether it uses diesel or petrol, and how long you plan to be off-grid will determine how much fuel you will need to bring on your trip. Before you leave, make sure you find out how much fuel your generator uses per hour, and calculate how much you’ll need to take with you from there. Be sure to bring some spare as well, to allow for emergencies or changes to your travel plans.This is especially critical if the generator is your only power source.
A Good Battery (or Two!)
Once you have your power source sorted, the next step is to decide what type of battery you’ll bring, and how many you’ll need. Typically, your caravan will run on a dual-battery system.
There are two main types of batteries to choose from, lead acid or lithium. Your choice will depend on how often you are planning to go off-grid, how much total available power you need, and your desired lifespan of the battery— ultimately, the more time you want to spend off-grid, the better you’ll need your setup to be.
Put simply, lithium batteries are your best option by far as they weigh less, have higher usable output and have a longer lifespan, among other things. While lead acid batteries aren’t our first choice, if you do choose one, the absorbent glass mat (AGM), is our recommendation.
To learn more about the different types of batteries available, and what would be best for you, head to our blog about Lithium vs Lead Acid Batteries that delves into the nitty-gritty details.
A Way to Charge Your Batteries
No off-road caravan camping essentials list is complete without the right battery charger – without it, your power source and battery types won’t mean a thing! The type of battery charger you’ll need to have will depend on the power source you’ll be charging your batteries from.
In most caravans, the charger should be hardwired in the electrical cabinet, accessible to turn on via a switchboard somewhere inside the caravan. If this is the case, we recommend checking which type of charger you have hardwired, and making sure it’s the one you need. While it is possible to use a charger that isn’t hardwired, we really recommend getting one installed permanently. If your caravan doesn’t have a battery charger hardwired, get in touch with us to give you a hand installing one.
If you’re using a generator as your main power source, you’ll need to bring an AC-DC charger. AC to DC chargers are also necessary if you plan to draw power from plugging into a caravan park at any point along your journey.
If your main power source is solar, or you want to use your car’s alternator for power, a DC-DC charger is the way to go. Make sure you remember to match the voltage of your battery to the voltage of your DC-DC charger (12v or 24v).
Power management is one of the most critical parts of your off-gridding essentials, and it’s worth taking the time to invest in a proper setup. While organising your power management is a big task, the good news is that there are off-gridding caravan outfitters like us who can get your caravan ready for going off road for you. The even better news is that if outfitting a caravan isn’t up your alley, you can come and check out our top-of-the-line range of off-grid-ready caravans on site.
To learn more about the ins and outs of power management when you’re off-grid caravanning, take a look at our article on how to power a caravan off-grid.
Australia’s heat makes water management crucial, especially on an off-road trip to remote areas where the nearest drinkable water could be hours away.
While caravan water tanks usually ensure you always have enough for drinking, cooking, and washing, it’s important you calculate exactly how much water you’re going to need, and then bring extra.
Adequate Caravan Water Tank
When preparing your caravan camping essentials it’s critical to know the size of your caravan’s water tank. Once you know how much water your caravan can carry, you can calculate whether you need to bring any extra water.
As a general rule, we recommend allowing 10L of water a day, per person, for everything from drinking, cooking, showering and laundry. However, it’s worth noting that this is a very broad calculation, and it’s worth considering how much water you typically use and making adjustments to your calculations from there. You can use this to figure out how much water you need to carry on your trip.
It’s because of this rule that some of our fully-equipped off-road caravans for sale come with water tanks as large as 200L and beyond. Some Wonderland RV’s also come equipped with an additional dedicated drinking water tank.
Extra Water & Accessories
If you’ve calculated that your caravan water tank isn’t big enough to last you the whole off-road trip, you’ll need to bring the right amount of spare water in tanks or jerry cans. And as with power, more water is always better, in case of an emergency or change in plans. When preparing your packing list, it’s a good idea to also bring along a few accessories, like insulated water bottles for taking with you outside the caravan, water purifying tablets, and a portable shower system if your van isn’t self-contained, which are all available at all major camping stores.
Having a well-equipped caravan kitchen is vital for an enjoyable off-grid trip. Being able to cook up a storm in the perfect remote location, anywhere, at any time, is all part of the caravan camping experience. To make sure your kitchen is well set up, consider if you have the following.
Full Gas Bottle
Most caravans will have a compartment that holds your gas bottle for cooking. Before you head off on your trip, it’s essential that you remember to check you’ve packed your gas bottle into its compartment, and see how much gas is left in it. We recommend taking a full gas bottle with you on your off-grid adventures.
Other Kitchen Essentials
Beyond appliances, when it comes time to pack the kitchen for your off-road trip, use this checklist as a guide:
- Pots & pans – medium-sized is ideal, but if there are a lot of people to cook for on the trip, consider larger ones.
- Utensils – things like an egg flip, pasta ladle and tongs come in very useful on the road.
- Plates & bowls – we recommend purchasing collapsible plates and bowls to save on space and weight in your caravan. If you aren’t buying collapsible crockery, then we suggest bringing plates and bowls made from a material that won’t break easily, like plastic or melamine. There are also a lot of options on the market nowadays that fit into each other to save space, and square shapes vs round are best to ensure no dead space is left for those that are poor on storage space.
- Non-perishable food – anything that comes in a can and doesn’t need to be kept cold is fantastic for saving fridge space and power.
- Can opener – on that note, making sure you bring a can opener with your non-perishables is critical.
- Food storage containers – simple, but easy to forget. Making sure you come prepared with enough containers to store leftovers in. Top tip: leftovers make for great, easy meals when you’re travelling from one location to the next.
- Knife & cutting board – you’ll need these for nearly every meal.
- Kettle, tea & coffee – There’s nothing better than waking up in the middle of nowhere and soaking in the view with a cuppa in hand.
Bottle opener – For cracking open a cold one at the end of a big day of travelling (or, let’s be honest, any day when you’re off-grid!)
Waste management is an important aspect of caravan camping, particularly when you’re off-grid. Proper waste disposal is not just about convenience, it’s about protecting the environment and leaving your beautiful camping spots the way you found them. There are a couple of things you need to make sure you can dispose of your waste properly on your trips:
Grey & Black Water Tanks
It’s important you have a way to store your grey water (from your showers and sinks), and black water (from the toilet). Most caravans come with their own tanks attached, which is critical for your caravan to be self-contained. By having grey and black water tanks, you won’t be restricted to campsites with amenities, which opens up a world of off-grid possibilities.
If your caravan doesn’t have waste tanks, get in touch with us today about installing them for you!
The accessories you are required to bring to assist with waste management will differ depending on how equipped your caravan is, and whether it is self-contained. Consider the following checklist when it comes time to pack:
- Good quality camp toilet (if your caravan isn’t self-contained)
- Biodegradable toilet paper
- Rubbish bags
- Toilet chemicals
- Hand wash & sanitiser
Safety and Emergency Preparedness
When you’re caravan camping in remote areas, particularly off-grid, safety is always the number one priority.
Along with ensuring you have enough power and water, before you set out on your next off-grid caravan adventure, make sure you have these general items packed in case of an emergency:
- Well-stocked first aid kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Basic tool kit
- Communication devices in case of an emergency when you’re out of phone reception, such as an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) and a personal locator beacon (PLB).
- Sunscreen and hats
When you travel off-grid, the risk of getting bogged or stuck in a tricky situation is there. As long as you have the following recovery equipment with you, you should be able to get yourself out of most sticky spots you might find yourself in:
- Winch & tree trunk protector for self recovery
- Wheel ramps/chocks
- Shovel to dig away any sand or mud
- Max trax are also a popular option
Towing & Driving Equipment
To ensure you can drive and tow your caravan in the safest way possible throughout your trip, it’s important to bring the following items:
- Towing mirrors to fit to your towing vehicle
- Tow bar
- Wheel chocks
- Tyre pressure gauge
- Spare tyres and jack
- Tyre repair kit
- Portable air compressor
Tip: Create a Caravan Checklist and Packing List
Before you set off on your trip, we highly recommend creating a caravan essentials checklist and packing list for your specific trip, to ensure you don’t forget anything. This should include everything from this article that is relevant for your caravan, as well as food supplies, clothes and other personal essentials.
Want the Full Off-Grid Setup? Get us to Outfit Your Caravan!
Getting fully setup with all these caravan camping essentials is a massive job. If you love the idea of getting off-grid, but don’t love the idea of all that work, we can outfit your caravan for you with everything you need to hit the unpaved roads!
With over 200 years of combined experience in the caravan industry, and a passion for the adventure that lies in exploring beyond the beaten path, there’s no team better equipped to bring your caravan up to it’s ultimate, off-roading potential. Get in touch today to see how we can get to work transforming your van.
Thinking a new caravan that’s purpose-built for off-gridding might be the best solution for you? We can help with that too; reach out to our knowledgeable team to chat about your options, explore our caravan sales Perth, and get your caravanning show off the road!