Table of Contents
- Off-Grid Camping Essentials: How to Prepare for It + Must-Have Products
- Off-Grid Camping Essentials: Air Mattress
- Off-Grid Camping Essentials: Portable Power Station
- Off-Grid Camping Essentials: Portable Refrigerator
- Final Word
If you’re not the type to spend your rare free moments binge-watching your favorite television series between championing lists of chores, you might be keen on a bit of off-grid camping. Perhaps you’ve already dabbled in the world of off-grid camping or are an avid enthusiast already. Whatever the case may be, the statistics tell us that millions of Americans are ditching their time-wasting methods of spending their free time and are opting for something a little more adventurous; off-grid camping.
What sets off-grid apart from “regular” camping? Off-grid camping, boondocking or dispersed camping are the names given to camping without basic facilities. You don’t have access to water, electricity, ablutions, and other basic amenities. It is an adventure in the wilderness, woods, or areas where basic camping facilities are simply not available. You are on your own, and the break from the hustle and bustle is undoubtedly worth it but still challenging.
However romanticized the thought of tromping out into the woods or wild may seem to as modern world citizens (we are bombarded with a lot of inspirational reality television), we must face certain realities! We don’t know all that much about survival away from our daily conveniences. And the only way to ensure safety and comfort is to be prepared. In an ode to preparation, this article discusses the must-have items for off-grid camping and how they can improve your off-grid experience. We also review the best portable power station for camping, the best air mattress for off-grid camping, and the best refrigerators for keeping your beverages cool and food fresh.
Before we jump to the reviews, let’s quickly consider the various essentials you will need for smooth and pleasant off-grid camping.
Off-Grid Camping Essentials: How to Prepare for It + Must-Have Products
Portable Power Stations: When you are camping without electricity, the best source for alternate power is a portable power station. It is lightweight, easy to carry around, and simple to run your essentials. The best thing about a portable power station is that it is a noiseless machine, and you can recharge it with a solar panel. Secondly, it is indoor-safe, and you can use it inside your RV and tents.
Air Mattresses: If you plan to stay inside your RV, you don’t need an air mattress. However, to enjoy the true essence (or should we say magic) of off-grid camping, we suggest you sleep in a tent or the open (if you have the guts). A sleeping bag may seem like a good option, but an air mattress is way more comfortable and has a small size (when packed). It doesn’t add much weight to your luggage, so you won’t be slowed down while lugging it around.
Portable Refrigerators: A portable refrigerator provides you with fresh food and chilled drinks on the go – exactly what you need while surviving in the wild. Most RVs already have a refrigerator inside them which is big, and you can’t move around with it. You cannot run an RV fridge on a small portable power station because it has a high wattage. Secondly, a portable power station is lightweight compared to other refrigerators. You can move it from one place to another with the help of your fellow campers.
Three most critical essentials you will need during off-grid camping:
- Comfortable sleeping surface
- Fresh food
But is there anything else required? Let’s find out.
Tent: A tent is another essential for off-grid camping. Off-grid camping tents are different from ordinary camping tents. You will need a tent according to the area you are camping in. If you are going to the mountains, buy a thicker tent. On the contrary, a thinner tent with windows is suggested for humid and hot areas.
Water Purifier: You will need a water purification mechanism. You can take along camping water filters or water purification tablets. These options can filter any water for you and make it drinkable.
Shelf Food: Arrange food supplies for you before going off-grid. However, the real fun lies in hunting and grilling your food. We don’t want you to skip off-grid camping just because you don’t know how to hunt. Shelf-stable food is a great way to keep you fed.
Means of Protection: Carry some sort of means of protection. It is best to carry your firearm for protection against wild animals. You can also carry pepper spray, bear spray, or a stick with you.
First Aid Kit: Bruises, injuries, ankle-twisting, and body pains can happen anytime while off-grid. We don’t want you to carry big bags of medicine. All you need is a basic first aid kit with some pain killer, antiseptics, and bandages.
Flashlight: A powerful flashlight will come in handy in various situations when you are off-grid. Your portable power station is meant to run only essentials. If you keep on running light in or around your tent, there is no fun being off-grid. Hence, a torchlight during the night for emergency use is the best option.
Appropriate Clothes: Pack your bags according to the area you are traveling to. Always keep an additional jacket when camping in chilly regions. You never know when things can get out of hand.
Other Equipment: Some people need medical equipment like a CPAP machine, inhalers, and nebulizers. Never leave out any such critical equipment and ensure that you have the appropriate means to run them. The best way to power a CPAP machine is a portable power station.
We have elaborated the must-have items for off-grid camping. It is time to review the 3 best portable power stations, air mattresses, and portable refrigerators.
Off-Grid Camping Essentials: Air Mattress
Air Mattress Buying Guide
An air mattress is a critical must-have on off-grid camping. We don’t want you to buy the wrong one. Hence we have prepared a buying guide so you can make the right decision. Our buying guide revolves around all the features you need to consider before buying a portable air mattress. Let’s check them out.
Air Mattress Features to Consider
The common sleeping positions are side sleepers, stomach sleepers, and back sleepers. Almost all the air mattresses go well with the three sleeping positions. However, back sleepers will need extra thickness for a comfortable sleep. They can opt for a double-layer mattress, but it is very costly. For stomach sleepers, Aria portable mattress is an excellent option.
Side sleepers need softer air mattresses. Soft air mattresses instantly respond to the change in body position and keep the spine aligned with the rest of your body. All the mattresses reviewed above are ideal for side sleepers.
If you are a stomach sleeper, you will need a stable and firm air mattress. The ideal mattress must respond and shape according to your body position. All three mattresses reviewed above are recommended for stomach sleepers.
Some people are tall, some are bulky, and some need more space to sleep comfortably. Therefore, you must check the size of the mattress before buying one. Apart from checking the variant (queen or king), you must look at the dimensions of the mattress as well. A few inches can make a lot of difference and impact the comfort level.
Mattress experts recommend a minimum of 8-9 inch thickness. If you are looking for extreme luxury, then go with a double-layer mattress with a thickness of 14-15 inches, but it is costly. All of the mattresses reviewed above are highly comfortable and will provide you a peaceful sleep.
Most air mattresses are made from PVC. You can’t do much about it. What you can do is look for mattresses made from eco-friendly and harmless PVC. If the mattress has additional top layers for comfort and water-proofing, it is always better than a mattress with plain PVC as the top layer. You must also look for additional protective layers at the bottom.
Weight Holding Capacity
It is the maximum weight an air mattress can handle. The best way to avoid any confusion while buying a mattress is to calculate your weight and add 40-50 pounds. For example, the total calculated weight is 420 pounds; then, you will need a 500-pound air mattress.
Inflation and Deflation Time
No one wants to wait for 10 minutes before their mattress is ready for sleeping or ready for packing. Therefore, you must select a pump that has the lowest minimum inflation and deflation time.
Inflation time depends on pump strength. So, it is better to buy a pump with a powerful battery. However, you will be running the pump on a portable power station. Therefore it is necessary to check the wattage of the pump and match it with the power station’s output. Moreover, manual pumps come in handy when you don’t have a power source with you.
Some Tips and Tricks for Mattress Shopping
- Look for discount coupons and bundle offers for mattresses.
- Read the trial and return policy before buying a mattress.
- Read out the user manual, warranty statement, and assembly guide.
Review of TOP 3 Air Mattresses
The camping series mattress from SoundAsleep is an amazing option for two campers. It comes in queen and twin variants. The dimensions for the queen variant are 78 x 60 x 9 inches, and it weighs 13.67 pounds (packed weight).
The mattress comes with comfort coil technology to provide maximum comfort and give you a peaceful sleep after a tiring day. It is made from eco-friendly PVC with extra coating on the bottom for increased durability and leak resistance. The inflation time of the mattress is only 3 minutes through an external pump. The pump and cables are included in the box. The pump is operated on a rechargeable battery charged from a portable power station, wall outlet, or car charger.
The maximum weight capacity of the mattress is 400 pounds, and it is ideal for two healthy adults. All you need to do is clear out space, spread the deflated mattress, turn on the pump, and wait for 3 minutes before you can fall asleep in a super comfy mattress.
The mattress is covered with a 1-year warranty and a lifetime customer support service.
If you need a bigger mattress with more weight capacity, Aria inflatable air mattress is an excellent option. The queen-size mattress measures 82 x 61.5 x 9.5 inches and can withstand up to 500 pounds. The dimensions and weight holding capacity are far superior to the mattress reviewed above.
The mattress takes only 2 minutes to inflate. It suggests that its pump is super powerful. The internal battery-operated pump supports 4D batteries. The batteries can be charged with a power station, car outlet, and wall outlet. The deflation time for the mattress is only 5 minutes. So you won’t have to wait much before packing the mattress in the integrated zipper duffel.
The mattress’s top layer has been designed to give a real-mattress feel and ensure that your sheet stays where they are and stay wrinkle-free.
One flaw with this mattress is that no warranty information is available, and the customer service is not up to the mark. Other than this, it is a great mattress.
The 3rd mattress on our list is best for single campers. The fun in solo off-grid camping is multiplied when you have a comfortable air mattress to sleep on. The Active Era mattress measures 38 x 80 x 8.5 inches and has a packed weight of only 8.36 pounds.
The inflation time is less than 2 minutes. You can inflate the mattress with a battery-operated pump or a manual foot pump. The foot pump makes this mattress versatile as you can inflate it when the battery dies out or you don’t have a power source with you.
You can recharge the battery with a portable power station, car charger, or a wall outlet/generator. The top layer of the mattress is water-proof and skin-friendly for superior comfort. The bottom layer has been thickened to provide more resistance against sharp objects.
The mattress has a built-in raised pillow that gets filled with air when fully inflated. You won’t need an additional pillow with this mattress. The mattress offers a 1-year warranty and comes with a complimentary carry bag for easy transportation and storage.
Off-Grid Camping Essentials: Portable Power Station
Portable Power Station Buying Guide
A buying guide helps you make an appropriate purchase. If you don’t know what you want from a portable power station, the chances are that you will end up with the wrong one. Hence, we have created a buying guide to help you make the best purchase decision.
Portable Power Stations Features to Consider
The most important thing to consider before buying a portable power station is the power output. We recommend you make a list of all the essentials you need to run during an off-grid camping tour. For example, you need 400 watts for your essentials. So, a portable power station with at least 500 continuous watts output will be best.
Battery and Recharging
Check the battery type, strength, and other features like BMS, MPPT controller, recharging modes, and recharging times. You can charge all portable power stations with a solar panel. We recommend you buy one with a built-in MPPT controller and BMS. Overall, a lithium-ion battery is better than a lead-acid battery as it lasts longer.
Unfortunately, not all power stations offer all of the outlets. However, you must look for the outlets that you will need the most. For example, if all your devices have Type-C USB cables, there is no point in buying a power station that doesn’t have a type-C outlet unless you are comfortable with buying an external convertor.
Weight, Dimensions, and Portability
Check out the machine’s dimensions and confirm that it will fit in your allocated space in your RV. As you can use a power station inside your camp, it is better to check the weight and handle of the unit. These features facilitate mobility.
Certifications and Warranty
You will frequently use your portable power station indoors. Make sure it has all the certifications that make it safe for indoors. Moreover, a warranty will come in handy in case the machine starts to trouble you.
Portable Power Station Safety Tips and Usage Guide
- Observe your unit randomly while it is working.
- Never run it in rain or snow.
- Don’t overload or run machines with more wattage than the power station.
- Turn off your power station before the battery drains out 100%.
- Always follow the user manual for safety and operational guide.
Review of TOP 3 Portable Power Stations
Maxoak EB150 is one of the most powerful portable stations currently available in the market. It delivers 1200 watts peak output and 1000 continuous output. The maximum time for peak output is 2 minutes. It means that if you apply more than 1000 watts to the power bank, the unit will shut down in under 2 minutes. The 1000-watt output is perfect for running various appliances such as a mini-fridge, air mattress pump, blender, coffee maker, CPAP machines, laptops, and phones.
The portable power station has a powerful 1500Wh battery. Once fully recharged, the battery will go a long way with you while you are off the grid. You can recharge the battery with a solar panel and AC outlet/generator. The time needed to recharge the battery is 6 hours on a 200W solar panel and 6-7 hours on a wall outlet. The built-in MPPT controller reduces the solar recharge time. The lithium-ion battery has 2500+ lifecycles until it reaches 80% strength. You can use the power station while it is being recharged.
The control panel offers two 110V AC outlets, two C-type USB, two 5V USB, and one 12V DC outlet. Other features on the control panel include a display screen for monitoring battery percentage, input, and output watts. The unit comes with a 2-year warranty, and the package includes a solar charging cable, AC adapter, and a user manual.
Goal Zero is a well-reputed portable power station brand. It produces power stations to meet the needs of various people. Today we will discuss its Yeti 400 portable power station. Yeti 400 delivers 600 watts peak and 300 watts continuous output. The power output is low and will only run a few of your essentials like a mini-fridge (under 300 watts), CPAP machine, air mattress, and recharge your phone.
The battery capacity is 400Wh. Instead of a lithium-ion battery, the power station has a lead-acid battery. The best thing about this power station is that you can connect additional batteries with this model to get more runtime while you are off the grid. You can recharge the battery in 3 different ways. It will take 5-6 hours on a wall outlet/generator, 8-12 hours on the solar panel, and up to 13 hours on a car outlet. You cannot use the machine when it is being recharged. No pass-through recharging limits the use of a power station when you are in your RV or camping.
There are two USB outlets, two 110V AC outlets, and a 12V DC outlet. The LCD keeps you aware of the remaining battery, input, and output watts. The BMS keeps the unit safe from overheating, overcharging, and 100% draining.
Jackery offers one of the best portable power stations. Jackery’s Explorer 500 is an ideal option for camping without electricity. The unit delivers 1000 watt peak and 500 rated watt power. You can run any appliance under 500 watts on this power bank. It is ideal for a maximum of 2 campers. You can power a CPAP machine, portable fridge, air mattress pump and charge your phones and laptops.
The battery capacity is 518Wh, and it uses a lithium-ion battery to provide you with an impressive backup time. You can recharge the battery with a solar panel (8-10 hours on a 100W panel), a wall outlet/generator (6-8 hours), and a car outlet (10-12 hours). You don’t need to worry about charging it before leaving your home, as you can charge and use it simultaneously. Just connect the charger to your carport and use the power station on the go.
The outlets are one AC outlet, two DC ports, one carport, and 3 USB-A outlets. Apart from the inlet ports, the control panel also features a power button and a display screen. The display screen keeps you aware of the remaining battery, input, and output watts.
The battery management system controls and keeps the lithium-ion battery safe from overcharging, overheating, overloading, and 100% drainage. It is a lightweight and compact device. You can easily move around with this unit. A super-comfortable and rubber-grip handle makes lifting the unit super easy.
Off-Grid Camping Essentials: Portable Refrigerator
Portable Refrigerator Buying Guide
You don’t buy a portable refrigerator now and then. Therefore you must make sure that it has all the features you need. To help you make the best purchase decision, we have listed all the critical factors you need to look at in a refrigerator.
Portable Refrigerator Features to Consider
The most important feature to consider is the refrigerator capacity. If you are a group of travelers or frequently plan camping trips with your family, you will need a big refrigerator. Dometic will be best for you. For 1-2 campers or solo RVers, Costway is suggested as it is affordable, compact, and lightweight.
Families will need a machine that can keep the frozen entrees frozen and fresh food items fresh. You will also need to keep soda cans and water bottles. So we recommend going with a dual-zone refrigerator such as Dometic. If you only want chilled beverages, buy a single-zone refrigerator and save some money.
Make sure that the refrigerator you are buying can be powered with a portable power station or with the 12V DC outlet. When you are off the grid, you may need to run the refrigerator on a power bank. So, you must ensure that its wattage is lower than the maximum output of your refrigerator.
Dimensions, Weight, and Portability
Check the available space in your RV before buying a portable refrigerator. If you plan to carry the refrigerator in your camp/tent, analyze the weight and portability features. Off-grid refrigerators are heavy, and you will need an extra pair of hands to move them.
Warranty and Certifications
Warranties give you peace of mind while using portable refrigerators. Hence, an extended warranty is better than a limited one. However, refrigerators with 1-2 years warranty are costly. Secondly, you must check the certification as well. If you live in California, make sure that the refrigerator is certified for California.
Review of TOP 3 Portable Refrigerators
One of the best portable refrigerators comes from the hours of Dometic. It has enough space to accommodate 4-5 off-grid campers. The machine offers separate freezer and fridge compartments and gives you the freedom to select the running mode for both of the compartments. It means that you can select freezer mode for one or both sections or run freezer and fridge simultaneously.
You can easily keep up to 133 cans in the 2.4 cu. ft. capacity. The top-door design saves space and allows easy access when you are in your RV. It has features like LED light, a drain plug, and a carry handle, making it a versatile and user-friendly machine. The unit is made of thermoplastic polymer inside the door is insulated to retain the cooling to the maximum.
You can connect the machine with a 12/24V DC outlet or a 100-240V outlet. One of the best and unique things about this refrigerator is managing it remotely with a mobile application. You can control temperature and monitor the battery with your phone. You can also use digital controls to set the running modes and temperature.
The unit weighs 68 pounds, and you may need a fellow camper to lift it with you. The compressor provides maximum cooling of up to -7°F. Your frozen entrees will stay frozen, and fresh food items will stay fresh without any worry of going bad.
Whynter’s portable refrigerator is also an excellent machine to take along off-grid camping. It has a capacity of 2.12 cu. ft. or 107 cans. The capacity makes it ideal for 2-3 individuals. It is a smaller unit reviewed above and measures 18.25 x 28 x 21 inches with 57 pounds. The side handles make this unit easy to lift and move around. However, you will still need help for easy and safe mobility.
The single door with a lift-up opening mechanism has a separate freezer and fridge compartment. The unit can be powered with a 12V DC or 110V AC outlet. You can run this machine on an appropriate portable power station without any worries.
The unit operates between -6°F to 50°F with a quick cool (-8°F) feature. You can adjust the temperature with the help of buttons and monitor it on the LCD. It has special safety features which start to beep when the power input decreases below the threshold level.
You can also get maximum performance from the unit when it is tilted to a maximum of 30 degrees. This feature comes in handy when you don’t have ample storage space in your RV and may need to tilt the unit a bit to adjust it. It has one year warranty and is ECL certified. It operates silently at 45 dBA.
If you are looking for a lightweight and one-person use off-grid refrigerator, then the Costway portable refrigerator is a feasible option. This machine has a capacity of 70 quarts and allows you to keep up to 99 cans or 20 wine bottles without creating any storage mess. All of this comes under $500. It is one of the most affordable refrigerators on our list.
The refrigerator has a user-friendly design with two top-opening doors. You will find two top grooves and one side storage box for storing your stuff. The unit has a built-in LED and user-friendly temperature controls for easy operation. The stainless steel handles make it easy to lift and move around the unit.
You can run this machine on a 12/24V DC outlet and 100-240V AC outlet. You can easily connect this machine with a portable power station or a generator, and it will give optimum performance. You will find a DC cord, AC adapter, a wine opener, metal basket, and a user manual.
The optimum operating temperature is 10°C to 43°C, and the cooling range is 22°C to +10°C. Please note that you cannot use this machine in California.
A power source
Means of protection
Food and portable refrigerator
You can run your essentials with a portable power station. A portable power station is the best option because it is lightweight and charged on a solar panel.
For couples, Aria Portable Inflatable Air Mattress is best. For solo campers, we recommend Active Era single mattress.
It all depends on your needs. If you plan on running only the essentials, Jackery Explorer 500 is the best. For heavy appliances like coffee makers, blenders, portable fans, MAXOAK Portable Power Station EB150 is suggested.
Dometic CFX75DZW is recommended for large groups or families. For 1-2 people or individuals, COSTWAY Portable Car Refrigerator is an affordable and reliable option.
Camping brings out the best in you. It imparts problem-solving, improves your mood, and increases your productivity in the real world. If you want to get the most out of your off-grid camping adventure, heed the above advice – you won’t regret it.