We are in the process of building an outdoor bathroom for our property and we are completely off-grid. In the interim, we needed some sort of shower structure/bathroom area. We decided on the kitty litter method until we get a septic system installed just because it’s the easiest and we’re not able to use a composting toilet due to the freezing temperatures. Anyhow, hope this gives you ideas on what to do for maybe your campsite or while you are in the process of building your own off-grid cabin.
The Helio Shower retails for about $99 at REI and my husband and I were able to pick one up at a REI garage sale for about $13. SCORE!
For $13, I was was willing to take the gamble on whether this shower worked or not as all sales are final at these garage sales. Anyhow, here is my review on the shower based on the item we got at the sale:
- Holds a lot of water
- Foot pump is nice for continuous water pressure
- Can place the shower anywhere = no gravity feed
- Water pressure is not great (could be just our item as it was a return)
- Not able to use hot water in this shower BUT I you could put warm water in it and it would be OK.
- I feel like I am going to rip the handle on the shower after it is full
With that all being said, we have a cheap $15 or $20 solar camp shower (gravity fed) purchased off of amazon and it works great!! Unless you REALLY need a shower that is not gravity fed, the Helio is compact and lightweight but….I think a modified weed sprayer bottle would be cheaper.
I have used the Helio at night in our little off-grid cabin to take a facecloth/sponge bath to clean up before bed when it is too cold outside to use my gravity fed solar shower and so far it has worked better than I anticipated. Turns out, i needed to close one of the valves on the foot pumo to get better pressure inside and love that when we leave the cabin, I can collapse the shower a d put it away or bring it outside for an outdoor sink to wash dishes. I still feel like the handle is flimsy (BUT it has not broke yet with 3 gallons of water in it…).
We have been using our BioLite stove with the grill attachment along with the cattle for about 1 to 2 years now and here are some of the things that I like and don’t like since using it:
- It’s very compact as the battery fits into the stove compartment and then they both slide into the kettle. So tailgating is made easy for someone who doesn’t have the space or lives in a compact area like San Francisco. For us, it makes it easy to pack up or just store out of wa when not in use.
- It is an all-in-one: a grill, battery recharger, and stove top.
- The battery and fan are self charging/propelling via kinetic energy from the fire, unlike the latest blue version out there.
- Small electronic devices like headlamps, and watches recharge quickly.
- Wood is free fuel. I have purchased the little Biolite wood pellets for when I just want to start a fire right away (yes i have been that lazy…I mean exhausted) or keep a fire going for a long time. I find the heat from the wood pellets is long lasting and more controlled, not mention I don’t have to keep throwing in twigs every 2 mins. I want to try BBQ wood chips to see if there is a big difference in flavors…..and I have seen them for cheap at stores.
- IF it rains…..say goodbye to breakfast, lunch and dinner. You need twigs/dry wood to start your fire and if you didn’t collect it before the downpour then you will be eating whatever doesn’t need to be cooked.
- Unable to sufficiently recharge larger devices like phones. My older Motorola smartphone recharged quite well with our Biolite; however, since I have upgraded to a Galaxy S5, a get a small burst of recharge (a whopping 1%) about every 5mins. I was reading that the newer phones will need more amps to recharge than older models. Just FYI.
- It is heavy for backpacking (33oz. = 2.06lbs) so I don’t recommend it for this activity. We use a Jetboil for backpacking and love it too but for different reasons.
In the end, I would recommend the Biolite for tailgating, car/base camping, or is you need something really compact that does it all. But if you are focused on backpacking, not feeding a fire, instantaneous ON and just reheating water for your dehydrated meals, I really enjoy my Jetboil.
Whenever we go camping or backpacking, we have a couple of different ways that we recharge our electronic devices. Depending on how much wattage you will need in order to recharge the device, will dictate which method.
For small devices like a headlamp or Garmin GPS watch, our Biolite Stove works just fine; however, my Samsung S5 needs more amps/wattage and unfortunately does not recharge well from the stove.
I would suggest getting a solar fold-able solar charger like the below picture from Amazon. I got a Ravpower charger that I think is no longer available yet this one is very similar:
I was really impressed with how quickly it recharged my phone!!
Another charger that I don’t leave at home is my Jackery lipstick battery. I like this little lipstick battery versus some others for two reasons:
- It has a LED bar on the battery to show me how full or depleted the battery is.
- It is lighter than some others. My husband has an Anker lipstick battery and that thing is like lead = heavy.
All in all, while being out in the woods and decompressing from the responsibilities of life or just being an adult, it is nice and a luxury to recharge your devices via the sun, fire or a recharged battery. I know I really like being my Kindle along for a good read in my hammock or a late night movie on our tablet (Yes, I admit it 😦 I occasionally watch a movie while in the woods).
After seeing this log bench on Pinterest (photo on left from 1001gardens.org/2015/06/15-diy-log-ideas-for-your-garden/), my husband took his chainsaw and built the same bench (see photo on right) at our property. It is a solid bench and recommend it to others who need a bench. We got the 3″x12″ wood beam from our neighbor who wanted to get rid of some scrap wood. The hubby cut openings in the wood at a slight angle, wedged the beam in and then used the back of his axe to hammer/wedge the beam into the stumps tightly. It worked!! And the bench is solid. Doesn’t wiggle, shake, etc. Also the nice part about the top of the stumps and the beam protruding from the stump, is that there is plenty of room to set down a drink. Love it! Pinterest success!
One of our favorite spots to camp at is at New Brighton Beach in Capitola, CA. It’s very close to Santa Cruz and the campsite is right on the ocean bluffs. The sites are large and there is running water with coin operated hot showers, flushing toilets, and Capitola is about 10 minutes away by bike or less than 5 mins by car. Last year, my husband and I were lucky enough to book one of the campsites on the bluffs and we could hear the crashing of the waves at night. It sure beat any hotel you could stay at for only $35/night. This was our first time “glamping” as it was his birthday and I wanted to do something nice for us and we had so much fun!!! Sleeping on the Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed with Built-in Pillow and Electric Pump, Queen, Bed Height 16 1/2″ in our Kingdom 6 tent from REI was plenty of room and comfort for a couple of nights stay. I liked the double height of the air mattress as it felt more like a real bed since you don’t have to bend down all the way. This is what we got:
I also got an Intex Quick-Fill 12v-DC Electric Air Pump, Max. Air Flow 21.2CFM so I could blow up the air mattress from our car. It fully inflated in less than 5 minutes and it was easy to place inside out tent. (I was worried it wouldn’t get through the opening but it did.)
Some other things that I brought to make our trip fun were:
- Sand Castle Supplies – Why not? have fun no matter your age
- Bluetooth speaker for some music
- French Press Coffee Maker – I got mine from REI and it’s insulated so it kept the coffee warm between cups.
- Muffins for the morning with coffee
- Glow in the Dark Rings – we passed these out to other campers for fun and to celebrate his birthday. You can find these cheaper at the Dollar Store or Wal-mart.
- Playing Cards
- Birthday Cake with candles
- Birthday Decor – Yup, I went to the good ole Dollar Store for supplies and decorated our campsite so everyone knew it was his birthday 🙂
- Hammock – I highly recommend bringing a hammock. It was nice to take an afternoon nap or read a book in the shade while listening to the ocean waves. I did purchase this Ultimate, Compact, Single-person Adventure Hammock by Tribe Provisions (Orange) from Amazon and IT WAS SO MUCH CHEAPER THAN AN ENO!! I my husband has an ENO and we both think this one is more comfortable. Although, I do recommend getting the Eagles Nest Outfitters Atlas Polyester Hammock Hanging Straps for setting up the hammock. Paying the extra money for these straps are work it!!! The para-cord that comes with this hammock is not the best and stretch so ya eventually are touching the ground. 😦
- Bicycle – We found getting around town much easier with our bicycles than driving, especially because it’s a small town and parking was at a premium. Also if you go around Easter or Halloween, the community of Capitola normally does something on the beach (i.e. Easter Egg hunt on the beach for the kiddos).
Some of the fun places we like to visit Capitola are:
- Margaritaville – this place it right on the water with great staff and fresh ingredients. It’s a place were you can hang out all night with the view from almost every seat.
- Panache – or as we refer to it as the “Rubber Duckie Store.” This store has a TON of different rubber duckies from Einstein or Ben Franklin duckie, to Pink Flamingo duckie, Devil Duckie, and more. We couldn’t help ourselves bought this enormous rubber duckie for our bathroom, lol:
- Shadowbrook – is a really nice place for elegant, more fine dining. The location is romantic as it’s right on the canal and you even take a funicular down to the restaurant. Be aware that there is a dress code. Luckily they don’t enforce it too much if you are traveling and trying to make an effort of having nice clothes on. I wore a sweater dress with capris and my keen water sandals. I was worried about my sandals; however, I was unaware of the dress code before packing for this trip. Just wear some nice khakis, no rips/tears and nicer sandals and you should be fine. Luckily no one said anything to me….maybe because it was my shoes, no one really saw them under the table…..
- Exploring the town of Capitola – there are many little privately owned shops in Capitola so it was really nice to just park/lock up the bikes and walk around exploring. We even got a slice of pizza and just ate lunch on a beach bench taking our time and enjoying the breeze and scenery. But there is wine tasting and more in the area. I would go on TripAdvisor and see what activities may interest you before going as well. Also this campsite is about 30 minutes away from the Monterrey Aquarium if you wanted to do a day trip.
Here’s some other photos from our trip:
Our site all set up:
A little skunk ate our Birthday Muffins. We locked up our food but the little bugger was able to get into the wooden locker with his little paws and then let his mark on our trunks (what we haul our gear in).
Building Sand Castles after coffee (Thank you Dollar Store). We gave our bucket and shovel to a family with small children to play with afterwards. 🙂
Hope you enjoyed this post.
I ❤ this sleeping pad and have slept on it for 2 weeks straight, never feeling like I needed or wanted more from it!!