Anybody running minimal or no power in their camper?


Advanced Member
Feb 1, 2023
I'm building a pretty minimalistic camper (for now), so I'll probably be repurposing most of the outdoor gear that I already have (sleeping pads, camp furniture, Yeti cooler, etc.). A also have an assortment of battery powered LED lanterns/lights that can easily be used inside the camper, obviously. Is anyone else running a super-lean setup? Thoughts?
I run a minimalistic hawk shell. Use LED lanterns inside, Olympus propane (non-electric) heater, JetBoil for cooking. Water from jerry cans, hot showers from stove boiled water, etc. Used to use a Yeti cooler but prefer my Engel fridge, which uses about 1/2 amp/hr (12 a/h over 24 hrs. in summer, nest to nothing in cold winter months). Don't have to mess with block ice (a PITA). The Engel fridge is really a pleasure after the Yeti and exceedingly efficient. Alll this is described on my web site (see signature below). I do have a Lithium battery and 360w solar and Victron controllers, also a Sterling DC-DC charger, which is great and doesn't overheat like the Victron Orion. You can put in solar, wiring, and additional electronics later when you're ready, but you don't need to. In the summer it's easy to run with a minimal rig. Solar is nice in the winter to power additional electrical equipment, but really, less is more. I've come almost full circle,with regards to complicated systems and prefer keeping it very simple and not energy intensive.
I did the same when I first got my Hawk Shell. I had one (bad from the start) AGM battery, and propane heater. We used led lights a backpacking stove or 2 burner we could use in or out, an old 60qt Gott cooler and all worked great. I eventually added 250 watts of solar on the roof, got a Bluetti EB 70 that I could charge from the solar, or in the truck, to run the Iceco JP 50 fridge. All still great. And easily taken out of the camper when not in use. Again a year later I have now added a LiTime 100 amp mini lithium battery. I have not added a DC-DC charger and so far even doing 10 day long trips have not had to worry about my energy consumption.
So essentially that is the nice thing about a shell, you can use it as basic as you like and figure out your needs and add as you go.
I'd say we tend toward the minimalistic side.

We camped in the 70s and 80s in bare station wagons and vans and a sailboat using cheap foam mattresses, coolers and backpacking gear. We did eventually get a VW camper van and an older Chevy class B but they didn't have a house battery, water system, or heater.

After a couple of Aerostar window vans in the 90s we had an Econoline with a fiberglass top. We put 250K travel miles on that one. I did build a bed platform but we just used a cooler, water jugs, butane stove, battery-powered lamps, Buddy heater and porta-potty. We somehow managed to keep our laptops, cameras, cell phones, Inreach, and Fantastic Fan powered just using the van's starter battery.

When I bought my Hawk shell in 2015 it came with owner-added fresh and grey water tanks but I've never used them. That Hawk does have a house battery for the furnace and lights and does have a stove. I keep the battery charged with a DC-to-DC charger. That charger has a solar input so it would be easy to add solar but I've not needed it.

In our latest van we continue to just use a butane stove, ice cooler, water jugs, Buddy heater, etc but I did add a house battery-- just a battery in a box like you do for a trolling motor. We use the house battery for a vent fan, LED strip lights and (in coldest weather) a portable diesel heater. I keep that battery charged with an automotive-style charger plugged into a small inverter. We continue to charge all small batteries via the van's 12-volt outlet (i.e., while driving).
Before I got my Grandby I took 6 week long trips for 3 years out of a Subaru Forester with backpacking gear and a Coleman ice chest. It worked just fine. Even now I use my backpacking stove inside the camper.

Getting a refrigerator in the Grandby was a big advance. I had three problems with an ice chest:
- 1 - Keeping food at a safe temperature. The temperature gradient inside an ice chest is large. Meat will have to be kept in contact with the ice and other perishables will not last as long as in a refrigerator.
- 2 - Dealing with ice melt and keeping food out of it.
- 3 - Running often to civilization to replace ice. I have stayed out for 18 days with a refrigerator. Ice chest: max 5 days in 75º weather.

Dry ice was super expensive 10 years ago so I never tried it. Even now I think the cost would justify a chest fridge, depending on how long your trips are.
Ice chest... many years ago used a Colman ice chest always buying ice. The biggest problem was when there was too much water and we were fourwheeling. The contents were totally mixed up and water soaked. Once the eggs broke up and the bread was soggy ready for French toast.

We really liked it when we got the camper with three way fridge but challenging to maintain level for it to run. Now 12 volt compressor fridge/freezer has been great!
We have KISS'd for the entire life of our Grandby shell, 13 years so far. Cooler with block ice (whenever available), AGM battery with LED lighting and fantastic-fan, Coleman white gas stoves, Thetford porta-potty, etc. . . . Everything that can be portable, is. We wanted to take a giant step up from tent-camping without losing the camping vibe, and that's exactly what has happened: 750+ camper nights later with no real changes anticipated even as we're aging into our mid-70s. Ymmv of course, but in our world: light is right. You can definitely have it your way.
I'm building a pretty minimalistic camper (for now), so I'll probably be repurposing most of the outdoor gear that I already have (sleeping pads, camp furniture, Yeti cooler, etc.). A also have an assortment of battery powered LED lanterns/lights that can easily be used inside the camper, obviously. Is anyone else running a super-lean setup? Thoughts?
I have a 2001 FWC grandby shell with water tank, sink stove and propane only. I was using an ice chest but after running out of ice on an extended off road trip, I added a 160wt solar panel and 50ahr lipo to run a chest type cooler. I camp mostly desert during hot to mild months and the small battery (size of a 6pk of soda) runs my cooler and interior lights no problem. Really a game changer and best improvement I have made. Note camper electrical is self contained, not connected to truck battery. For me, this is a minimal set up and would only add a larger lipo battery for multiple low sunlight or shadow parking days.
I started out running my camper off the truck batteries. Lights, fan and heater the only draws. However it wasn't long before I wanted a compressor fridge. Added usb ports for charging etc. Added a camper battery. Added a 100w solar panel. Not enough. Added another battery. Added another solar panel. Now we're getting close to meeting my needs. Got a better solar charger and finally went lithium. Very happy now. My point being if you're sure that is all you'll ever need then fine. I'd have been much better off doing all the upgrades once than doing everything incrementally.

250w solar. 125ah lithium battery. I've yet to go below 70% S.O.C and I don't need to be conservative in my energy use.

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