Getting off the grid: Tips for camping electricity-free

Most of us have spent the last quarter of a year connected to the grid. We’ve been working and learning from home, doing dishes more often, and spending more time watching TV or playing video games. Now that some restrictions are being lifted, many people are getting off the grid – packing up their cars, trailers and RVs and heading for the campgrounds. With a bit of preparation and planning, you can enjoy an electricity-free weekend of camping with the whole family.

Whether you prefer sleeping in a tent or trailer, fans of the outdoors can all agree: camping is a great way to shake the cabin fever after months of quarantine. Many Ontario Provincial Parks are now open for camping, as are local private campgrounds, both with extra measures in place for cleaning and physical distancing.

Whether you’ve decided the time is right for your family to unplug and go camping in a public setting, or you’re just setting up a tent in your backyard for a change of scenery, this is the blog article for you. We’ve rounded up a list of ways you can save energy, take care of the environment and get the whole family involved in preparing for your next adventure. And as a bonus, we’ve included ways you can recycle these ideas back home – whether now or after the pandemic is over.

Crank up the power

Investing in a good crank-powered radio and/or flashlight is one way to add safety to your camping trip without the need for batteries or electricity. You can pick up these devices for relatively low cost – or invest a bit more in one that has both a radio and a flashlight feature. These are great for the planet since they don’t need batteries and, when you get home, make a great addition to your emergency kit.

Step it up

Most adults will agree that sleeping on an air mattress makes camping much more enjoyable, but packing electric air pumps requires a power source. Instead, get your steps in for the day, and opt for foot pumps to inflate your air beds (some even come with this feature built in). Look for pumps with different adapters so that you can bring them along on family bike rides back home in case of a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.

Don’t soak up the sun

The sun can be both helpful and annoying when camping: full sun can heat up your tent quickly and can reduce the efficiency of your cooler. Be sure to use energy from the sun for things like solar lights (a great way to add safety to your campsite at night) and battery packs, but help your cooler do its thing with this DIY cooler insulating cover. Get the kids to help make it, and bring it home to be used during picnics with friends or family BBQs.

And if your tent is relatively easy to put up, consider taking it down during the hottest hours of the day. This will prevent heat from getting trapped inside, making it cooler for sleeping in at night without the need for electric or battery-powered fans.

More than hot dogs or sandwiches

We can all agree that hot dogs and s’mores by the campfire are one of the best parts of camping, but if you’re spending more than a day or two in the woods you may want to vary up your meal plans. We’ve got you covered – here’s a menu for one whole day that can all be made without electricity:

  • Overnight oats are a great, filling breakfast that can be customized to each family member’s taste – and can be packed and eaten out of in reusable containers like mason jars.
  • Try a camping charcuterie spread with your favourite meats and cheeses, and a selection of crackers, jams and fruit. This meal is especially great if you have younger kids with you (just call them lunchables).
  • Make it a fiesta by packing some nacho chips, salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, beans, veggies and a few avocadoes. You can mix up some tasty guacamole on-site, and make a pan of nachos or quesadillas on the campfire for the whole family to enjoy.
  • Spending so much time outdoors can work up an appetite. Try these healthy, no-cooking-required snacks to keep you going all day: no-bake energy bites, apples and peanut butter (or nut-free butter for those with allergies), veggies and hummus, or trail mix.

We hope this list gives you some ideas for your next outdoor getaway and encourages you to be energy conscious as you pack up. And if a quick camping trip isn’t enough to shake the cabin fever and satisfy your urge to explore the great outdoors while reducing your footprint, maybe you’ll be inspired by Sarah, an Ottawa woman who outfitted a van and packed up her dog for a cross-Canada, energy conscious and sustainable road trip.

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