What does “Self Contained Only” really mean?

Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014 at 05:27

Motherhen

What does “Self Contained Only” really mean?

The source article has been updated and expanded 2018. Check it out.

With more and more campgrounds specifying self contained only, what do I need and what can I expect to find?


What do you need?

In practice it means leaving nothing behind, so all you really need is the ability to take any waste, including general rubbish, toilet waste and any water used with you for appropriate disposal elsewhere.
However more and more campsites are specifying that these caravans or motorhomes will have their own toilet and shower, and a suitable tank to collect and confine waste water.

What you must have varies so obey the signs. If you don’t meet the requirements for that particular campsite, go somewhere that does.

Is a portable toilet allowed?

Depending on the type of camp and the rules for that site, it often is. At a large lakeside campground setting up a toilet tent would in most cases be approved, but not acceptable in a council car park. Signage may specify inbuilt toilet only regardless of venue. You can only stay there if you meet that criteria.
Is a portable shower allowed?

No, in most cases portable or external showers are not permitted due to water spillage onto the ground. Even if you have a method of collecting the water without spillage, you must obey the signs and not use an external shower. You can still get clean and fresh with a sponge over type of wash either standing in a bowl, or from a bucket.

What grey water collection methods are permitted?

This really does vary. Some, and we may see more of this in the future, specify inbuilt grey water tanks only, even if there is a dump point suitable for grey water disposal on site. Most, but not all, will accept purpose made and spill-proof portable grey water tanks or inbuilt tanks. These portable tanks on wheels are convenient for taking water to an on-site dump point rather than moving the caravan or motorhome to it. Some sites will allow collection into jerry cans or even buckets, but most do not as they have seen these overflow or spilt. See photos and descriptions of these options at What do I require to stay at a campground signed Self Contained Only?.

What if others are letting their water drain onto the ground?

What others are doing is no excuse, and misuse like this is causing campground to be closed or inbuilt tanks only accepted. Even if grey water is permitted to be disposed of on site, rather than let it run onto the ground to make a sticky patch for the next person, carry it to the perimetre of the grounds or spread it over the grass if grey water is being used to maintain a green grassy environment.
What about rubbish disposal?

While some will have bins or a skip on site, most do not. Carrying rubbish in a small bin or bag until a suitable bin or rubbish disposal point is found is not difficult. Canvas rubbish bags that fit onto the spare wheels on the back of four wheel drive vehicles are commercially available. Never leave rubbish outside a bin if it is full. Birds and animals can spread the rubbish.
Are generators permitted?

Some campgrounds allow the use of generators within specified hours, but most expect the caravan or motorhome to have independent power such as solar charged batteries, particularly if they are in towns or close to residential areas.

What about campfires?

Only rarely will a self contained only campground permit campfires. In car park type sites all cooking must be done inside the caravan or motorhome. Some larger campgrounds may have room and allow use of contained fires in fire safe seasons. Fires on the ground are generally not permitted, but if they are, remove all coals and rocks used to confine the fire before leaving.

What does “Leave No Trace” really mean?

The CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia) have a Leave No Trace® Scheme for its members. Caravanners can join CMCA as associate members and also join the LNT scheme if they meet the self containment criteria and agree to abide by the rules.

Members who participate in the Leave No Trace® Scheme must have a vehicle that meets the requirements for the specified holding capacity for fresh, grey and black water, as well as storage capacity for garbage waste.

There are currently no public campgrounds which require campers to belong to the CMCA LNT or any other scheme.

See more about the requirements here.

What does “No Camping” mean at a "Self Contained Only" campsite??

Tents and camper trailers are excluded as these are unlikely to have all the inbuilt requirements, and may require tent pegs or stakes in the ground. The signs at some self contained only campsites use this seemingly contradictory wording. Caravans and motorhomes are welcome if equipped to meet the requirements of that campsite.

What will the campground have?

Campsites can vary from being a few bays set aside for overnight in a car park within a town, to a large campground on the edge of a lake. Sometimes these campsites have a dump point for disposal of toilet cassette and waste water tank contents on site or close by. Some may have a water source, portable or non potable.

How to find more about self contained only campsites

See the about question and more as well as campsites which have strict requirement for inbuilt grey water tanks at Australia So Much to See. This article has been updated and expanded.

Happy camping where ever your rig allows you to go. There is still plenty of open land in Australia to camp if you are not self contained. Leave the campsite clean at all times.

Update 15th October 2015: With changes to RV camping regulations at Kingston SE in South Australia, Cooktown in Queensland is now the only campground that stipulates only those with an inbuilt grey water tank can stay.
Motherhen

Red desert dreaming

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