Essential kit for self-contained camping after lockdown
Campsites in parts of the UK have finally reopened after months of lockdown.
But even though toilet and wash blocks and some shower facilities are allowed to operate under strict guidelines, many campsites have chosen not to fully open their shared facilities yet.
Most tent campers rely on the on-site loos, so at campsites where amenity blocks are closed they will need to bring their own washing and toilet facilities.
And if that’s the case – or if you don’t feel comfortable with using shared facilities yet – now is the time to think about the camping gear you will need to let you to remain totally self-contained.
Before buying any new camping equipment, you should check in advance if your campsite will allow you to use your own facilities.
Some campsites might not have a chemical disposal point for getting rid of waste. And shower tents are also banned by some sites because of the damage the waste water could do to the grass.
The best gear for self-contained camping
# CAMPING TOILETS
Portable camping toilets range from basic ‘bucket’ type models to loos with flushable tanks.
The most basic approach is a bucket with some cat litter to absorb the smell. Due to the need for regular emptying, this would be an emergency-only option.
A similar concept, but a little more advanced, is the Bog-in-a-Bag, which is lightweight and disposable and a good choice for festivals.
Another simple option is the Popaloo, which uses a dry powder waste gelling system and biodegradable bags. The toilet itself folds flat into a carry case so is easy to transport.
These are relatively lightweight and compact and usually cost under £20.
For longer trips, flushing portable toilets offer more in the way of comfort and convenience.
The eco-friendly Blue Diamond Nature Calls is a portable composting toilet that uses coffee chaff or sawdust to dry out the solid waste, mask the smell and remove the need for water or chemicals.
Click here for more detailed information about choosing and using portable camping toilets
# TOILET CHEMICALS
Toilet chemicals are available widely from camping and outdoor shops and for a flushing portable toilet, you’ll need two liquid chemicals. The pink liquid is a cleaner for the flushing tank, while the blue chemical goes into the waste tank to prevent odours. You can also buy a green alternative to the blue liquid, which uses more natural methods to break down waste.
Thetford has a large range of pink, blue and green products, including sachets, which are a convenient alternative to bulky bottles of liquid. Kampa has also launched a new range of eco-friendly toilet liquid, which comes in the more pleasant fragrances of spearmint, pomegranate and pine.
For more information about how to use chemical toilets click here
# TOILET PAPER
In theory you can use regular loo roll in your flushing camping toilet, but wet toilet paper can form clumps and clog up the tank. Specially-designed, fast-dissolving toilet paper such as Thetford Aqua Soft is a better option.
# CAMPING SHOWERS
For a quick wash, simple solar showers can produce plenty of warm water and prices start at just £5.99.
No electricity source is needed, as they work off gravity.
For a more powerful water flow, use an electric shower that works from a 12v power source, such as the Streetwize Porta Shower
The rechargeble Colapz Power Shower is another electric shower, but instead of operating directly from the 12v power source it can be charged from a USB. These types of showers don't heat up the water, so you will have to do that yourself.
Quechua’s pressure-balanced solar shower will heat up the water and provide decent flow without electricity – the water is pressurised using the hand pump.
The most basic type of camping shower is the Bottleshower. This little gadget, will let you turn a water or soft drinks bottle into an outdoor shower simply by hanging it from a tree with the supplied harness. Using a 1.5litre bottle, we timed it as providing two-and-a-half minutes of shower time
An adjustable shower stand, such as this model from Colapz, lets you fix the shower head so you have two hands free.
# TOILET/SHOWER TENTS
Once you have chosen your toilet and shower, you’ll need to decide where to set them up.
In larger family tents, you could set up a toilet area inside your tent if it has an enclosed side porch or a spare bedroom.
However the more common solution is to buy a stand-alone, toilet tent.
Most of these tents are similar in style, but some are pop-up or simple poled structure, and they can come with different features, including hanging points for showers, waterproof loo roll holders, and even signs outside to show if they are occupied or not!
Some of these utility tents have groundsheets, either zipped in, attached with toggles, or loose, while others are open to the grass. If you are using a shower, you could use interlocking foam tiles as a base to keep your feet out of the muddy mess at the bottom. An even better tip is to buy a small kids’ paddling pool to catch the water. This prevents damage to the campsite grass and avoids the build-up of mud.
# WASHING PRODUCTS
If you are showering outside use products that won’t have a detrimental effect on the environment as, no matter how careful you are, there is always a chance that waste water will leak into the land or onto watercourses.
produces a concentrated, biodegradable, multi-purpose washing liquid that can be used on the skin, for dishes and on clothing. A similar multi-use product is available at Decathlon stores, which can be picked up for less than £3.
If you decide to keep clean with wet wipes instead of using a shower, make sure you choose biodegradable versions. You can buy large, biodegradable body wipes however you should never use traditional baby wipes for freshening up, as these contain plastics that will never break down.
The other option is to use dry wash products, which are widely available in supermarkets and pharmacies. Shower In A Can is an antibacterial foam that will give you the equivalent of 20 showers, with no water or drying required.
The communal washing-up sinks are in use on most campsites but if they aren’t yet reopened on your site, or if you prefer not to use them, then you will have to wash up at your tent.
Kitchen units like the Outwell Drayton are available with worktops and built-in wash basins, which means you can do the washing up in your camping kitchen.
If you have a more modest set up, a foldable washing up bowl like this one from Decathlon stores will do the job.
Remember you will need to heat up the water yourself. Use eco-friendly washing liquids and pour the used water down an appropriate drain, not into the nearest hedge or river.