Everyone needs some time off from the daily grind, and off-grid camping is the perfect way to escape the bustle of daily life. If the thought of camping usually puts you off, it’s time to try out off-grid camping. It is more rewarding but comes at a cost – you need to plan meticulously and ensure you have all the best bits and bobs to make your trip enjoyable.
Off-grid camping is also known as boondocking, dry camping, and dispersed camping. Call it what you want, one thing is for sure; off-grid camping is advanced camping for those who aren’t afraid to truly experience the outdoors. Modern-day campsites provide all the basic facilities like water, electricity, cooking stations, and ablution blocks. You just have to connect your RV or trailer with shore power, and you can enjoy every facility inside your RV. It’s convenient, but is that really camping?
On the other hand, off-grid camping is done without being connected to water, electricity, or sewer services. It’s a style of camping that comes with many advantages over regular camping. It improves your problem-solving and cognitive skills (there’s a lot to think about), brings you closer to nature, and plays a vital role in the whole “find yourself” concept. It makes you happier, removes stress and depression from your mind and body, and inspires you to perform better in the real world – what’s not to love!
Real off-grid camping is an altogether different game from any back-to-nature experience you’ve ever imagined. You don’t have the basic facilities with you like electricity, water, and food – but that’s really the point. The point is learning to cater to your lifestyle comforts without using the commercially provided access – it means you have to get innovative about surviving in the outdoors because when you go off-grid camping, you’re not heading to a campsite packed with amenities. And that’s why it’s important to carry a few must-have off-grid items with you.
While it may seem like an intriguing idea to go off-grid without any compulsory supplies, it is not wise to leave yourself at the mercy of the wilderness.
To help you plan a flawless off-grid camping trip, we have researched various off-grid camping essentials and prepared a list for you. The importance of these essentials increases exponentially when you are camping without electricity. We have included only the basic items on our list as we want you to be as close to nature as possible. You’re welcome!
How to Prepare for Off Grid Camping + Must-Have Products
Portable Power Stations: A portable power station must be on the top of the camping-without-electricity checklist. If you don’t want to be disturbed by the loud noise of a generator while you’re trying to get back to nature, it’s a good idea to get yourself a high-quality portable power station.
Portable Refrigerator: A portable refrigerator will come in handy during off-grid camping. Usually, an RV has a large fridge that runs on generators. It can keep your food items cool and fresh for a very long time. However, it doesn’t go well with the spirit of off-grid camping. A portable refrigerator presents some challenges in terms of storage space and cooling range. That said, it’s a basic feature and small in size – thus perfect for off-grid camping.
Air Mattress: An air mattress is best for sleeping in a tent. No doubt, a sleeping bag can do the needful as well, but an air mattress is way more comfortable. Unlike a sleeping bag, there is no limit for maximum usage.
We have reviewed the above three must-have items in the next section of this article.
Canned Food: Canned food comes in handy when you’re far from the bright lights of all the familiar food joints and when you’re not in the mood to cook. Make sure you check the expiry date before purchasing canned foods.
Water Filters: If you are traveling with your RV, you may not need water filters or water purification tablets. However, if your RV has a small freshwater tank, you will need additional means to get clean drinking water.
Means of Protection: You will need means of protection according to the area you are camping in. It is advisable to keep a firearm with you if you are headed out to the backcountry. Not that you’re expected to be Bear Grylls in the wilderness, but it won’t hurt to carry bear spray, a sharp knife, and pepper spray to keep yourself safe.
Waterproof Tent: A waterproof tent to keep you and your belongings safe during rain or snow. We know that you can sleep in your RV as well but sleeping under the stars has a certain kind of magic.
First Aid Kit & Emergency Light: We all know their purposes – to fix up small injuries when and if they happen.
Now that you have a basic list to work according to let’s check out the reviews of the top 3 portable power stations, refrigerators, and air mattresses so you can choose the right ones for you.
Off-Grid Camping Essentials: Air Mattress
Air Mattress Buying Guide
How to Select the Best Mattress?
Picking up the right mattress involves considering various factors. We have done extensive research on the best air mattresses and picked the three best ones. Our research and testing of the best mattresses have enabled us to create a detailed buying guide. This guide will help you select the best air mattress according to your needs and eliminate the chances of making any possible mistakes. We suggest you go through the following features before making the final call.
Air Mattress Features to Consider Before Buying One
The three common sleeping positions include side sleepers, back sleepers, and stomach sleepers. Side sleepers need a soft mattress so that the spine’s natural position can be accommodated while sleeping. Almost all the air mattresses are perfect for side sleepers because the air in the mattress responds to the body changes instantly.
For back sleepers, an air mattress with a dual air chamber or maximum thickness is recommended. These mattresses provide a stable level of firmness and keep the back aligned with other body parts.
Just like side sleepers, stomach sleepers can also use any of the below-reviewed air mattresses. The stomach sleepers need comfort and instant response from their mattress.
We have included the best available mattresses, and this is why all the mattresses are perfect for all three sleeping positions.
Air mattresses are made from PVC. PVC is lightweight and holds air better than other materials. Make sure that the mattress is made from non-toxic and eco-friendly PVC. However, you must look for extra layers on the bottom for durability and additional top layers for comfort.
Size and Weight
Make sure you check the size of the mattress before buying. We suggest you not only look for the mattress size but also check out its dimensions. It is also important to check the weight of the mattress because you will be carrying it to your campsite or in your backpack.
Weight Holding Capacity
The weight holding capacity means how much weight a mattress can tolerate. If you put more weight than recommended capacity, there is a high chance that your mattress will start to deflate after a couple of hours. The best way to pick a mattress with regard to its weight capacity is to calculate the combined weight of people who will be using the mattress and compare it with the weight capacity of the mattress. We recommend buying a mattress with at least 50 pounds more weight capacity than your weight.
If you want a comfortable mattress, go with a mattress with at least an 8-inch thickness. Double layer mattresses are more comfortable than single layer mattresses, but they are also very costly. For occasional off-grid campers, we recommend a single-layer mattress.
One of the most important things to consider before buying an air mattress is the air pump. Some mattresses come with an external pump, while some have internal pumps. Some models also offer manual pumps for camping without electricity. However, the most important thing to check is the battery strength and how much time a pump will take to inflate the mattress. You must also check the recharging options and how much time it will take to get fully recharged on a portable power station.
Mattress Shopping Tips
- Check the warranty, trial period, and return policies before buying an air mattress.
- Read user reviews and ask around for referrals.
- Many brands offer online discounts; look for one if available.
- Follow manufacturer’s usage and storing instructions.
Review of TOP 3 Air Mattresses
SoundAsleep is the name of comfort and durability. Its air mattress is designed for outdoor use with a 3-minute inflation size for a queen-size mattress. You can estimate how powerful its pump is. You can recharge the battery with an AC outlet/generator, car charger, and a portable power station.
It is made from PVC with extra coated bottom for durability and protection against sharp objects. The top side is soft to touch and plush to feel. It will hug you like a soft blanket and give you a peaceful sleep.
The comfort coil technology with air beams gives you maximum comfort while sleeping. It is perfect for side sleepers, stomach and back sleepers. The maximum weight capacity of the mattress is 400 pounds. It is ideal for a couple and two people with a maximum of 400 pounds weight. The mattress deflates quickly, and you can easily pack it in the included carry bag for storage and transportation.
You get a 1-year warranty along with lifetime customer support. It is pertinent to mention that everyday use is not covered under warranty. The inflated dimensions for the queen variant are 78 x 60 x 9 inches, and it weighs only 13.67 pounds.
Aria offers one of the best blow-up mattresses. Its queen variant has more weight capacity than the mattress reviewed above. It can withstand a maximum of 500 pounds weight for two people. The inflation time of this mattress is less than 2 minutes, and it deflates in less than 5 minutes.
One of the best features is the integrated zipper duffel. You don’t need external carry bags with you. All you have to do is deflate the mattress, fold it and pack it in the integrated zipper.
The pump uses a powerful 4D battery. Please note that the mattress uses an internal pump. You will need to take extra care while storing the mattress as you may damage the pump through careless storage.
The top of the mattress has been designed to give you additional comfort and keep your sheets intact and wrinkle-free in the morning.
One issue with this mattress is that there is no warranty and customer service department. You will need to coordinate with the store guys for any issues. Overall, it is a reliable and durable air mattress and has hundreds of satisfied users.
Active Era has one of the best mattresses for lone off-grid campers. It offers comfort, durability, and versatility at a low price. The single-size mattress measures 38 x 80 x 8.5 inches and weighs 8.36 pounds. It is ideal for individual use, and you can easily pack it and place it in your backpack without any hassles.
The inflation time is only 2 minutes, and one of the unique features of this mattress is a manual foot pump. You can use the foot pump when you don’t have electricity or the battery drains out. Yes, it will take some effort to inflate it manually, but it is better to sleep on a mattress than on the ground in your tent.
You can recharge the air pump with a USB cable, wall socket/generator, car charger, or a portable power station. The mattress’s top layer is coated with a waterproof flock and skin-friendly material to reduce PVC contact with your bare skin. The bottom layer is protected with thick puncture-resistant PVC to protect the mattress from harsh objects.
It also has a built-in pillow that comes out after completely inflating the mattress. It is a very useful feature as you don’t need to carry additional pillows. The mattress thickness is 8.5-inch which is slightly less than the two mattresses reviewed above. The box contains a carry bag along with the mattress and the pump.
The warranty period is one year, and you get a lifetime customer support service.
Off-Grid Camping Essentials: Portable Power Station
Portable Power Station Buying Guide
How to select the best one for you?
Buying a portable power station requires careful deliberation of various key factors. If you ignore these factors and hurry in on the purchase decision, you may end up with the wrong power station. Hence, we have created the following buying guide to help you make the right call.
Portable Power Station Features to Consider Before Buying
Output wattage is the most important factor to consider before buying a portable power station. It will decide how many and what size appliances you can run on a power station. One should always calculate the power needs before buying a portable power station. For example, if you only want to run a portable refrigerator and charge your phone, a smaller power station will be ideal for you as it will be budget-friendly and highly portable.
Battery Type and Capacity
The second most important factor is battery capacity. Bigger power stations have more powerful batteries that provide more backup than smaller batteries. Moreover, we recommend lithium-ion batteries over lead-acid batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are more durable, reliable, and lightweight than lead-acid batteries.
Battery Recharging Features
Check out how many ways you can recharge the battery and how much time a battery will take to fully charge on a particular recharging mode. If you plan to recharge the battery with a solar panel, look for a portable station with a built-in MPPT controller.
Make sure that the available outlets on the power station are enough to run your off-grid appliances. You may need adapters with some power stations for Type-C USB cables. When you are camping without electricity, it is always better to choose a power bank that offers a maximum number of outlets.
Almost all power stations are highly portable. However, powerful models are heavier than lower output ones.
Warranty, Certifications, and Safety
Look for warranty, certifications, and maximum safety features in a portable power station. The safety features include overload protection, battery draining, and overcharging protection. Some portable power stations also feature a battery management system that extends the battery life.
Portable Power Stations Safety and Operation Guide
- Never overload or drain your battery 100%.
- Don’t run your power station in the outdoors when it is raining.
- Always run appliances smaller than the maximum output wattage of your power station.
- Check your unit periodically and follow the manufacturer’s instructions at all times.
Review of TOP 3 Portable Power Stations
The power station weighs 37.9 pounds and comes with an ergonomic carry handle for easy mobility. These features enhance the power station’s usage off the grid. The unit produces 1200 watts maximum (for 2 minutes) and 1000 watts continuous watts. You can run various appliances on this power station, including a mini-fridge, air mattress pump, mobile phones, laptops, blenders, coffee makers, and many more (under 1000 watts).
The best thing about this power station is that it comes with a super-powerful 1500Wh lithium-ion battery. You can recharge the battery with a solar panel (6 hours on a 200W solar panel) and a wall outlet/generator (7-8 hours). Such a low solar recharge time is made possible with the built-in MPPT controller. The battery has 2500+ lifecycles before it reaches 80% capacity.
You get two 100V AC outlets, one 12V DC outlet, two C-type USB outlets, and two 5V USB outlets. On the control panel, there is an LCD for monitoring the unit’s working along with the power buttons. You can also use the power bank while it is recharging. The package includes a solar charging cable, AC charging adapter, user manual, warranty card, and the power station.
If you are looking for moderate power with lightweight and compact size, the Goal Zero Yeti power station is a feasible option. The power bank weighs only 29 pounds and can run a mini-fridge, air mattress pump, mobile phone, and laptop without any issues.
It uses a 33Ah lead-acid battery to supply you 300 continuous watts and 600 peak watts. You can run any appliance under 300 watts with this power station. The lead-acid battery can be chained with other same-size batteries for more runtime during off-grid tours. You can charge the battery with a solar panel (6-12 hours), a wall outlet/generator (4-6 hours), and a car outlet (10-13 hours). One limitation of this machine is that you can’t use it while charging it.
The unit offers two 110V AC outlets, two USB outlets, and a 12V carport, along with recharging inlets. It has safety features like overcharging protection, overheating, and low battery protection. The LCD displays battery percentage, input, and output watts.
Explorer 500 is an ideal balance between weight and power. The unit weighs only 13.32 pounds and can deliver 1000 watts peak and 500 watts rated power. What else do you need from a portable power station?
It comes with a powerful 518Wh battery, capable of running your small appliances (under 500 watts) for a long time without any problems. You can use it to light up your mini-refrigerator, air-mattress pump, CPAP machine, and other appliances.
You can recharge the 518Wh battery with a solar panel (9-10 hours on a 100W panel), AC adapter/generator (7.5 hours), and car adapter (6-8 hours). You can use the power bank and recharge the battery simultaneously. The BMS protects against overcharging, draining, overheating, and over-voltage.
The outlets on this power station are three USB-A ports, two DC ports, and one AC outlet and inlets for recharging. Please note that there is no Type-C USB outlet, and you will need additional adapters to connect modern-day phones with the power station. Other features on the control panel include an LCD and buttons to control the power bank.
Off-Grid Camping Essentials: Portable Refrigerator
Portable Refrigerator Buying Guide
How to Pick the Best Refrigerator For You?
We suggest that you buy a refrigerator that you can use for off-grid camping and as a secondary fridge/freezer in your home. A mini-fridge is an excellent way to keep a steady supply of chilled beverages in your room, garage and workshop.
Let’s deliberate on some of the critical features of portable refrigerators.
Check out the capacity of the refrigerator and compare it with your needs. It will be difficult for a layman to understand cubic feet measurement units. Hence, you must check the number of cans/bottles, boxes a refrigerator can hold. In this way, it will be easier for you to get the right-sized refrigerator according to your needs.
Check out the temperature zones in your refrigerator before buying. If you plan to keep ice cream or other frozen entrees in your refrigerator along with soda cans, bottles, and fresh foods, then go for a dual-zone refrigerator. Otherwise, a less expensive single-zone refrigerator will be best for you.
Power Source and Wattage
Most portable refrigerators can be powered with AC or USB/car outlets. However, during an off-grid trip, the most common power source is a portable power station. Hence, you must check the wattage of the refrigerator and compare it with your power station.
Door Design, Dimensions, and Portability
Most portable refrigerators come with a top-door design as it saves space and allows easy access inside the refrigerator. Make sure you check the dimensions of the refrigerator so that it can easily fit inside the allocated space in your RV or car. Portable refrigerators are comparatively heavy than other off-grid camping essentials. Hence, they are a bit difficult to move around. When you are searching for a portable power station, look for one which you can manage easily.
We recommend that you never buy a machine without a warranty cover. Portable refrigerators are used outdoors and are at risk of malfunctioning. A warranty at such times will come in handy and save you from spending hundreds of dollars on repairs.
Review of TOP 3 Portable Refrigerators
Domestic’s portable refrigerator is a unique and excellent machine. Its features make it stand out from the rest. The refrigerator has separate compartments for the freezer and fridge, making it a feasible option for families traveling in an RV or a large group of people who need extra space in their refrigerator. You can also select freezer/fridge mode on both compartments according to your needs. It gives you more room than any other mini-cooler.
The total capacity is 2.4 cubic feet, which is equal to 133 cans. The compressor can reach a maximum of -7°F. The top-door design ensures easy access, and you can easily keep and take out stuff. The dimensions are 34.92 x 19.49 x 18.58, and it weighs 68 pounds. The weight-capacity ratio is in line with other refrigerators on our list.
You can run the refrigerator on 12/24V DC or 100-240V AC outlet. One of the advanced features of this machine is mobile connectivity. The Domestic mobile application allows you to monitor and adjust the temperature, battery, and voltage. You can also set the freezing modes/temperature through the digital panel on the unit.
If you are looking for a smaller and lightweight, portable refrigerator for your off-grid camping needs, then you don’t need to look any further. Whynter’s FM-65G is a perfect option. With a capacity of 2.12 cubic feet or 107 cans, it is ideal for off-grid camping. The single-door model has separate compartments for the freezer and fridge.
The refrigerator’s cooling range is -6°F to 50°F, and it can run on a 110V AC outlet or a 12V power source. The powerful compressor produces a power boost to provide a rapid cooling to -8°F. It is a powerful machine, but it still keeps the energy cost low and makes sure that it doesn’t eat up all of your power station’s energy. The built-in LED shows the operating temperature and other working parameters of the unit.
It comes with two built-in handles for better mobility. It measures 18.25 x 28 x 21 inches and weighs 57 pounds. It is a versatile machine and keeps the cooling going even when tilted at 30 degrees. The rugged walls and insulated lid make it a durable refrigerator. The sound level is 45 dBA.
We know that not everyone can afford high-priced portable refrigerators, and this is why we have included a portable refrigerator under $500 on our list. Perfect for on the road, camping travel and more, the impressive thing about this machine is that it has all the features of a high-end refrigerator and is still pocket-friendly. It measures 26.5 x 18 x 21.5 inches and has a maximum capacity of 70 quarts. You can keep 99 soda cans or 20 wine bottles in this refrigerator. The optimum working temperature is 10°C to 43°C, and the cooling range is -22°C to +10°C.
There are two separate freezer/fridge compartments in the refrigerator for storing fresh foods, ice cream, frozen entrees, water bottles, beer cans, and many more things. The unit comes with 2 doors allowing easy access while keeping and taking out your stuff. With the two-door design, you can easily open the refrigerator in narrow places. Such features increase the machine’s usability, and you can easily open the door in your car or tent. The design includes two top grooves and one side storage box to provide you more storage space. Compartmentalized storage space is way better than undivided storage space because it allows you to fetch your things easily. The built-in LED allows taking out things in dark places.
The power source for the Costway portable refrigerator is 100-240V AC or 12/24V DC outlet, and you can set the temperature on the digital control panel. The box includes a DC cable, AC adapter, basket, wine opener, ice bag, user manual, and warranty information.
One limitation of this machine is that you cannot use it in California because of some certification issues.
Check Out More Of Our Portable Fridges Reviews
5 Best Picks for Portable Camping Fridges
The Ultimate RV Refrigerator Buying Guide: Our 6 Best Picks
A portable power station is the best and most widely used device to get power during off-grid camping tours. It is lightweight, can be charged on solar energy, and provides ample power to run your essentials like mobile phones, mini-fridge, air mattresses, and CPAP machines.
Each camper will have unique preferences. However, a portable refrigerator, air mattress or a sleeping bag, mini-fridge, some clothes, and shelf-stable food are the most important things to take along.
There are various ways to keep your tent cool without electricity. Some of them are listed below:
Choose polyester or nylon tent
Dome-shaped tents allow air to circulate
Setting up the tent under the shade
Allowing the air to circulate
Removing the rainfly
Using battery-powered fans
You can keep hot water bottles, use blankets or use battery-operated heaters in the tent. You can also close the tent’s door to stop cold air entry.
It all depends on your needs. If you want more power, then go for high output portable power stations. Otherwise, Jackery Explorer 500 is the best portable power station for camping.
For individuals, Active Era is best. For couples, SoundAsleep and Aria portable mattresses are the best.
All the portable refrigerators reviewed above are the best in their class. If you need more space and advanced features, go for Dometic CFX75DZW. For mid-size refrigerators, Whynter FM-65G is best. If you are on a tight budget, we recommend going with COSTWAY Portable Car Refrigerator.
We are positive that all the off-grid camping items and must-haves are now at your fingertips. It is time to clear your schedule and pack your bags for a lifetime adventure. The wilderness awaits you. All the best!