It’s in a field! No EHU! No Showers! NO TOILETS!
The horror those 4 statements bring to some; is enough to give them sleepless nights, and to be honest, the thought horrified me as well until one weekend in 2017.
This is my story.
I was looking through the Club magazine (been a member for 7 years at that time) I started to look in the section called ‘out and about’ I got myself au fait with the abbreviations (there are lots of them) and then found my local District Association (DA). I found a listing for Wilts da who were camping at the Paddocks Devizes, unfortunately we couldn’t make it to that meet so what we did instead was a sneaky ‘drive by’ just to check it out and see what kind of loonies where pitched up in a field; we didn’t see any loonies, clowns or court jesters (quite disappointing really because I fancied a laugh) just a beautiful location right beside Caen Hill locks Devizes. Our minds where now set.
We joined the DA’s Facebook page and found out that a meet was happening at The Beehive Camping Field Bradford on Avon, this was it; this was going to be our first Off Grid experience ! It was close enough to home that if it didn’t work out we could make a run for it, and never speak about it again!
I found out more information about the meet on the FB page and also at the same time I met another member to whom this was going to be their first DA off grid weekend as well, this made me feel a little more at ease knowing that we weren’t going to be the only newbies who all the regulars would look at. (You know what I mean. “Not seen these before” “these are new”) I couldn’t have been more wrong.
We arrived at the site and stopped at the DA flag by the stewards Caravan. Out came the steward with a clip board and welcomed us, she took our membership numbers and car reg, We were directed to the Fresh Water outlet and the Elsan Point. We were informed that the DA was holding a new members event that weekend and so the camping Fee Usually £8.00 per unit per night (pupn) was free and that the DA was buying Fish & Chips or Piazza’s for everyone! (Wasn’t expecting that) We were told to meet in the event shelter at 7pm where our choice of food would be served, we just had to take our chairs, cutlery and beverages.
We were told we could set up anywhere on the field so we headed to a spot just far enough away from everyone not to look to anti-social and down went the legs, on went the gas.
This was it, we were off grid camping
It wasn’t long before another caravan parked up alongside us, I had an inkling that this was the other newbie I had met on the FB page, so I quickly jumped out the caravan and went to introduce myself. I was right these too where newbies. All introductions done it was time to go to the event shelter so we went together, (safety in numbers).
In 10 years of caravanning on various different sites (commercial, CL’s & Private) all over the country, this was by far the best caravanning experience we have ever had. We ate our Fish & Chips and drank one or two glasses of wine in the event shelter and had a chat while eating, we felt like we had known everyone for years by the end of the evening, we had laughed till it hurt, we had talked with everyone, it was what having a Caravan, motor home or Tent is all about, the evening passed by too quickly and soon it was getting on for midnight and everyone said goodnight.
On Saturday we were invited along for a day out in Bradford on Avon with some of the group that we had met the previous evening, this gave them & us chance to get to know each other better.
Saturday evening we were back in the event shelter with beer in hand, socialising with everyone, again we laughed till it hurt and chatted till late in the evening.
Sunday morning was Coffee Morning in the event shelter, bring your own mug and listen to a roundup of the weekend. The steward announced how many units where on site and from which DA they had all come from, I was surprised to see members from other counties; there was a mention of the Newbies and if we had enjoyed our experience (we Had and so had our now Newbie Friends), and news about when and where the next meet was to take place.
Wow... Not only had we survived our first OFF GRID experience but we loved it that much that this is now our way of camping. Don’t get me wrong I still visit sites that offer EHU, Toilets and showers (some da meets even offer this) I now use my caravan more that I have ever done before. I have camped with various DA’s from the Midlands down to Devon and Dorset. We camp in places you would not normally be able to camp, for instance: We spent a Week on a Temporary Holiday Site (THS pop up holiday site) in The Royal Victoria Park Southampton, We never left the park it was one of the cheapest and most memorable holidays I have ever been on £11.00 per night, The children loved it and so did the dog, they all played in the sea, (The park runs alongside Southampton Water) there was so much to do in the park we didn’t need to leave.
If sitting in your caravan and watching TV or using your Tablet all day long is what you are happy doing then you can still do this on a DA meet, we will leave you alone if you don’t want to get involved and it will cost you less than half the price sometimes a quarter of the price of a commercial, CL or private site.
If getting out meeting up with old and new friends, having a drink or two, having a laugh and a chat, knowing your children are happy playing safe and with people you know, then DA camping is for you.
On a recent B/H weekend trip a fellow camper joining us from another DA found himself with two dead batteries! Had this person been on a commercial site he would have had to pack up and go home, but not on a DA meet, those that knew a thing or two about the workings of solar panels and batteries, soon got this family the power they needed to get them through the bank holiday weekend, not only that there granddaughter had the best time ever playing with the other members children.
I could go on and on about DA camping and how it has changed my perspective on caravanning, but I hope I have said enough just to make you curious enough to try it for yourselves.
Join our Facebook page Wilts DA and see for yourself what DA Camping is all about
So the questions you need answering
What do I need or not need to off grid camp
Will it cost a fortune to adapt to using 12 volt?
You need a fully charged leisure Battery, the higher the amp the better (this you probably already have)
Gas if you want heat, hot water and use of the cooker, (again most have gas on board)
12 Volt TV if you can’t live without it (cost new from around £150) and most have a DVD player built in.
There are 12 volt hair dryers and straightener but I wouldn’t recommend them, instead let your hair dry naturally and then use Gas Powered Straighteners (cost from around £20 babylis)
You will need a portable loo if your caravan doesn’t have one already (cost from £40)
Decent Blue for your toilet waste tank, if you have decent Blue then this will break down all sold material in the tank and prevent smells, (cost from around £10 for 2lts)
12 volt plug converters to suit your caravan
Solar panel to keep your battery charged, various kinds available but a 100 wat panel will keep you going off grid for at least 2 weeks even more.
This one costs £116 on amazon and has everything you need to charge your battery safely.
So as you can see for less than the cost of your next summer holiday, you can kit yourself up and join a local DA for cheap social camping, costing from as little as £8 per night per unit all in.
Deborah Drury - Wilts Da, Part of the camping & caravan club.