Setting up an off-grid glampsite?

You don’t need mains facilities to set up an outstanding glampsite that people will flock to, in fact quite the opposite is true.

Cooking over a campfire
Cooking over a campfire

Think back to your childhood when making dens, climbing trees, fishing for tadpoles and running wild made for the best holidays imaginable. We took this freedom to play for granted (in fact I clearly remember being put out to play whether I liked it or not!) but stranger danger, increased road traffic and the inexorable rise in technology means that the ability to create one’s own entertainment and explore nature has been lost to many of today’s children.

However, the negative impact that this contained and sedentary lifestyle is having on our children’s mental and physical health is seeing the tide begin to turn. Parents are increasingly seeking activities where their children can put down the iPad, put on their wellies and head outdoors for an altogether simpler kind of fun.

Increase in ecotourism

But it isn’t just about the children, the World Tourism Organisation has shown that ecotourism is, by far, the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry expanding by 20% to 34% year on year,  clearly demonstrating our desire to unplug and get back to basics. Couple this with the rise of the staycation (stay at home vacation) and the increasing preference for short breaks  and you may find that turning your remote field or woodland into an off-grid holiday site makes for the perfect venture.

What do you need for an off-grid campsite?

Candle in lantern

First consider what you want to provide your holiday makers. If you want to offer a genuine back to basics break then oil lanterns and candles will give light, cooking can be done on a wood burning stove or over an open fire and showers can be of the solar variety. However, if that’s a little too basic (and there is a market for holidays like this) then you can still offer your guests a comfortable, even luxurious escape with a little imagination.

Water –  Mains water is the most challenging of all of the services to be without however, the problem can be overcome with some careful planning and forethought.


Rain water can be harvested and funneled into a storage tank where it needs to be filtered and passed through a UV-sterilising system to make it safe for drinking. System maintenance isn’t too onerous but it is necessary and requires vigilance to ensure the water stays safe.

If you have access to a stream, river or pond and the rights to use the water then you could opt to use that although it is important to consider any environmental impact when diverting water away from its natural course. Any water collected this way will need to be put through the same filtration process as harvested rain water. A hydraulic ram pump requires no external power source as it use the energy of the moving water itself and be used to shift the stream water uphill to your tank.  Ram pumps are very simple by design and can be constructed by DIY enthusiasts without too much difficulty but if that prospect is too daunting then they can be readily purchased.

If you are lucky enough to have a natural spring then use it, if not you could opt to have a borehole water supply installed although in many cases this can be prohibitively costly and it isn’t always guaranteed to bring success.

You have a duty of care towards your holiday makers for the safety of water you supply and it is essential that you get your local council to test it before making it available as drinking water. You may prefer to play safe and offer harvested water for washing purposes only and provide bottled water for drinking instead.

A small wind turbine

Power – If you want to provide power for phone chargers and lighting you could choose to install solar or wind power, or even combine the two depending on your site and your requirements.

A small wind turbine should generally escape the need for planning permission and solar power is easy to install. Both will top up a leisure battery which will then be used to provide power.

Heating – The good old fashioned wood burner can’t be beaten when it comes to providing both warmth and an authentic back to basics experience but if that’s too time consuming then LPG (liquid propane gas) heaters provide all the warmth your holiday makers will need and quickly.

Dinky size, big on heat

Cooking – Opt to upgrade your wood burning stove to a range and you can do some cooking the old fashioned way but if that is a little too basic then LPG can be used to heat a cooker and hob.

Refrigeration – LPG can also be used to power a fridge so your guests won’t have to put up with warm beer either.

Hot water – A kettle on the wood burner could be the solution but if you don’t want to wait all evening to heat enough water for a shower then LPG comes up trumps again. A gas heated boiler will provide as much warm water as your guests will want however you will need a high pressure water source to feed it. If you’re without mains water or electricity to pump water above your head for a shower, then a water tank fixed high enough to provide adequate fall will be required. How you fill this will depend on your water source and its location.

Toilet & grey water disposal – Composting toilets are king when going off grid and contrary to popular belief they are neither smelly or messy when installed properly. The separation of liquid and solid waste is key here, with the former channelled to a soak-away and the latter sprinkled with carboniferous material such as sawdust then allowed to break down naturally into compost. How often the receptacle needs changing depends on its size and frequency of use. Look out for our upcoming article on composting toilets which will explain how the process works in more detail.


Grey water can be disposed of simply via trench arch filtration, sand filtration, reedbed filtration or better still why not use it to create some interest and work with the environment to install a grey water wetland. You may need a permit to do this however, if carried out safely and effectively then this shouldn’t be an issue. For more reading go to the government website.

If this isn’t for you and you would prefer a standard flushing toilet, then you may be able to put in a septic tank which will take care of all your waste water. You will need planning permission, building regulations approval and you may need a permit for a septic tank and it will require inspecting and emptying around every 2-3 years depending on use.

Accommodation – Holiday makers may be happy to go back to basics but nobody wants to suffer on their holidays so choosing accommodation that offers your guests comfort and warmth is essential.

Well-constructed shepherd huts are insulated, double glazed and built in the same way as a timber framed house but with the advantage of being mobile and looking perfectly at home in a country setting. Shepherd huts lend themselves perfectly to off-grid living and when filled with a comfortable bed, wood burning stove, fluffy duvets, stacks of cushions, cooking facilities and a private bathroom your guests will enjoy their off-grid experience in luxurious style.

View from shepherd hut window

If you would like to know whether you can set up an off-grid glampsite or have your own private, off-grid, shepherd hut retreat call Josephine for more information on Tel:  07761 983312 or email: