campers on campsite

How to survive an unplugged camping trip

In today’s post, Senior Marketing Specialist Sheila Wiebe shares advice on how to completely power down (pain-free!) on your next camping adventure.

Seasoned backcountry country campers: this article is not intended for you (though you might find it funny). We’re talking to front-country and car campers in this one.

When researching this topic, I realized there are lots of articles about alternative power sources when camping on a non-electrical site.

But did you know that you can actually camp/ live comfortably without electrical power?!

Some campers actually plan trips with full intention of surviving sans power. Yes…even in the front country!

Remember those mostly vacant sites as you toured around the campground last summer? Yep, those basic sites that come with a picnic table or two, and a fire pit. That’s it. You’ll find these areas more private and quieter (no humming air conditioners, or TVs).

So now that you have convinced your family, spouse, or friends that a non-electrical campsite is the way to go – here are my suggestions on preparing for the trip.


coffee pot

No one likes a coffee drinker before they have had their first morning cup of joe.  I use a metal percolator coffeepot over a propane stove or campfire. A french press will impress your coffee connoisseurs. Not a bad idea to pack a jar of instant, just in case (but who likes instant over fresh perked?).

Keeping food cold

You are going to need blocks of ice, two medium/large coolers and a small one.  One of the bigger coolers is for everyday food (milk, cheese), the one you are going to be in and out of often.

child looking in cooler

The other big cooler holds frozen meat (you’ll only be going into this one once a day). Portion out your meat ahead of time. Freeze in plastic bags or containers. Then wrap with tinfoil and layers of newspaper. This will help insulate the items and keep them frozen longer.

The small cooler is for beverages. This one is opened and closed often and will need to be refreshed with cans, juice boxes and ice more often.

Freeze your juice boxes and water in your Nalgene water bottles (without the lids when freezing). They ice helps keep other food cold, and when they thaw you will have a nice cold refreshing drink.

Keeping your cool

No air conditioning? No problem.

Be crepuscular… Plan activities for the morning and later in the evening when it’s cooler. Bonus: at these times, the light is better for photographs and you’re more likely to see wildlife.

Naps in the shade are a great way to spend the midday. Hammocks are great for this (though please practice Leave No Trace principles if hanging a hammock and use your “Tree Saver” straps)!


Other tips to stay cool?

  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Go for a swim (don’t forget your sunscreen and hat!)
  • Wet a bandana or buff and place it on the back of your neck or forehead
  • Stay away from the stove or fire — make a cold buffet lunch with sandwiches, sliced veggies and fruit
  • Visit the park store for an ice cream treat!

Creative cooking

I love trying new cooking methods when camping. You can always stick to the “open can, pour into pot and heat” style of cooking, but mixing in some BBQ or food on a stick will jazz up your plate and appetite!

BBQ – Get away from hot dogs and hamburgers. Try grilled veggies and marinated chicken (my family LOVES boneless chicken marinated in Italian salad dressing and bbq’ed on skewers).

Tinfoil dinners – Easy clean up because there are no pots or pans! Everyone gets to make their own “plate”. Layer seasoned ground meat and thinly sliced veggies in a tinfoil packet. Place over hot coals of a campfire and monitor. When done, it’s like an individual stew.

On a stick – Again, there are always hot dogs, but let’s explore other recipes.

Campers roasting marshmallows

Toast! Balance a slice of your favourite bread on a roasting stick or carefully skewer it. Brown to your liking each side over camp stove or campfire – monitor closely.

Oh-boy-dough-boy! Biscuit mix or refrigerated dough wrapped around the buttered, thick end of a roasting stick or dowel. Roast over fire until golden. Slide off of stick, fill with jam, whipped cream or pie filling.

Keeping kids amused

games on the beach

This can be challenging but with a little pre-planning you’ll have happy (and exhausted) kids.

Why not:

  • Go fishing
  • Rent a canoe
  • Bike the campground
  • Attend a park program or event
  • Play ball
  • Fly a kite
  • Toss a Frisbee

Get creative with a scavenger hunt! Younger kids can explore the sights, smells and sounds of the park, while older kids love an “Amazing Race” style adventure — just mark key locations on the park map!

Have other questions about trying powered-down camping?

Send us your queries on Twitter or Facebook and we’ll share more ideas for electrifyingly fun electricity-free outdoor fun!