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Q16  What do I require to stay at a campground signed “Self Contained Only”?

A.  Put simply, 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.  The expectation is that these caravans or motorhomes will have their own toilet and shower, and a tank to collect and confine waste water.  However it is not about having the equipment to do so, but about doing it right and this can be achieved simply without the need for having a large fully self sufficient caravan or motorhome. Some will allow waste water disposal on the vegetation on site. 


Often but not always these campsites have a dump point for disposal of toilet cassette and waste water tank contents nearby.  Some may have a water source but many do not. 


The CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia) have a Leave No Trace® Scheme  which members and associate members may join and receive a compliance sticker.  This is not required to camp at any sites other than CMCA members only self contained campgrounds.  Displaying the LNT sticker may make inspection easier at some other self contained only campgrounds, eg Kalgoorlie-Boulder RV Stop Spot, Western Australia. 


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. To qualify, a self-contained vehicle must retain ALL waste within the confines of the vehicle, and leave no trace whatsoever of its visit to a site. Vehicle owners must sign a declaration that they will comply with the Code of Conduct for the Leave No Trace® Scheme at all times. Vehicles that have qualified for the Scheme will display an accreditation card when overnighting. In addition, the vehicle owner carries proof of their participation in this Scheme and this documentation can be produced upon request.


In joining they are agreeing to meet the Leave No Trace® Scheme Code of Conduct and CMCA Self Contained Vehicle (SCV) Policy including:




How to meet the requirements


Toilet:  If you do not have an inbuilt toilet, a portable toilet can be carried for use inside your caravan, annex or in a toilet tent. With combinations available on eBay this need not be an expensive purchase. A twenty litre cassette toilet would be a better choice than a toilet with a ten litre cassette if you have room to store the slightly taller toilet. Tank storage size would not be so critical if there is a dump point on site to enable daily emptying. Most built in caravan toilets have twenty litre cassettes and some motorhomes or buses may have larger built in tanks.  Portable toilets can be purchased from camping stores, online shopping stores including eBay


Check that portable toilets are accepted at your proposed campground.  Depending on the type of camp and the rules for that site, a portable toilet may not be acceptable. 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. 

Grey Water collection:  Many motorhomes and an increasing number of caravans have a fitted grey water or sullage tank. A very convenient option is a portable purpose built grey water tank such asthis 40 litre tank on eBay where the same product is also listed by several others sellers, as well as on line stores.  They can also be purchased in 25 litre capacity.  Other brands and sources include Caravans Plus who sell sell  similar Fiamma 40 litre tanks.  Check they are accepted at your proposed campground #



A ten or twenty litre canister set up as a grey water collection is an easy to make portable water tank for water removal from site in campgrounds where unsealed grey water collection tanks are permitted.  Ensure there is no overflow or spillage.  This photo contributed by a member of the Caravanners Forum.


Homemade grey water tanks such as these can work well, but unless they are sealed with a pressure relief outlet they are subject to overflowing and may not be acceptable to some Self Contained Only campgrounds. 


Rubbish While some campsites 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. 


All campers will carry a rubbish bin or bag of some sort. If needed to carry rubbish for some time, food scraps can become smelly.  It can be as simple as ‘double bagging’ the rubbish to avoid this, or having a rubbish bag or bin on the exterior of your rig. 


If you find the next bin along the road overflowing, do not deposit your rubbish beside it as this creates a mess, particularly if scavenger birds or animals tear the bags open. Wait until there is a better opportunity, or ask at the local Shire about access to their waste management site.



Shower:  Self containment descriptions often specify an on board shower.  While how we keep clean does not need to be so detailed, this is more about not allowing outdoor showers where it is hard to prevent water from running onto the ground. 

Eligibility is limited to vehicles and people that do not leave any trace, so camping with tents, camper trailers etc is not allowed. Campers must abide by the rules indicated by signage at Cowwarr Weir including a ten ton limit on the bridge and no dumping point for waste. 

·         Self contained RVs only

·         External showers not permitted

·         48 hour maximum stay

·        Please take all rubbish home with you

·         Dogs on leads only.  Clean up after your dog

·         Generators 9:00 am - 7 pm only

·        Water unsuitable for drinking

·         Camping at own risk

·        RV Camping Area subject to closure without notice

Water: A self contained traveller needs to carry adequate water if the campground does not have water provision for campers. Depending on the area, there may be a free caravan water fill point in the town; ask at the local Visitor Centre or Shire. 


Electricity: Most campers now expect to be able to use at least electric lights in their camper, often electric water pumps, and sometimes small appliances, computers and television sets.  For this reason the self contained traveller is expected to have on board batteries and preferably a means of charging them such as solar panels.   Generators within specified hours are permitted in some campgrounds but many do not allow them. 


Campfires: Many campgrounds do not allow fires, and an alternative source of fuel for cooking is preferable in any campground.  If campfires are permitted and it is safe to light an open fire, they can be used, extinguished and any trace removed.   Read about campfire safety and prohibited burning times.


·        Do not decimate bush when collecting firewood. You may need to bring your own from an alternative source. 

·        Use of a fire ring can help contain coals.

·         When fully extinguished (with water) and cold, coals can be removed for later disposal or if anywhere suitable nearby, scattered.  A sprinkle of soil across the top will leave no trace of your fire.   



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In places where collection method is not critical, a responsible user can remove water from site in a ten or twenty litre water canister or second hand container, a large bucket with a sealable lid, or a collapsible twenty litre water canister.  The latter can be carried taking up little space, and several can be on hand.  Ensuring no spillage when left on the outlet may be an issue. 

Site regulations may prohibit buckets being used for collection as although this works for many of us, it can result in spillage whilst transferring to a sealable container, or people may be careless and allow the bucket to overflow whilst showering.  A purpose built grey water tank, be it built in or portable, is the specified option at a number of campgrounds. At Gwalia in Western Australia, the Leonora Council allows collection in 20 litre canisters for removal to and disposal at the dump point near the Leonora townsite.



Grey Water No grey water is to be discharged from a self-contained vehicle unless allowable by local authorities or access to a dump point is impractical. Sinks, and where fitted hand basins and showers, shall be drained to either an on-board (fitted) grey water tank or an external (non-fitted) grey water tank (tote).

Campsites signed for Self Contained Only do not allow grey water (waste water) to be disposed of on the ground. 

Looking to the future:  With increasing numbers of travellers and pressure on existing sites, the "Self Contained Only" requirements are becoming widespread.  To stay in these be prepared to remove all waste from the site, including grey water, or stay elsewhere.  Unfortunately there are many out there doing the wrong thing in these campsites and this can only result in their closure, with benefits to both campers and town businesses lost. 

Yes, but with only two one confirmed location so far not a common occurence.  Common sense seems to be prevailing with almost all of the strictest self contained only campgrounds accepting the use of portable grey water tanks as shown above.  As an update, the trend has not so far continued with Cooktown now standing alone.  


Cooktown in beautiful far North Queensland have a self contained only campground at the cost of $10 per night with a seven day limit.  Only caravans and motorhomes with inbuilt grey and black water tanks are permitted in the campground and no portable means of water collection are allowed. This self contained only area is at the Cooktown Racecourse, replacing the now closed $5 per night 48 hour parking in Adelaide Street. The same rules apply as per the previous site, but at a cost of $10 per vehicle, per night payable to the Cooktown Amateur Turf Club. Inbuilt grey water tanks are still required.  There is a dump point in town at the corner of Adelaide and Charlotte Streets near the original 48 hour parking site. 


From Cooktown:






Do any Self Contained campgrounds in Australia require inbuilt grey water tanks?  #


A plastic rubbish bin placed in a frame on the caravan a-frame, with the bin and lid held securely with occy straps, is an easy way to remove rubbish when bush camping for extended periods with a caravan or trailer.

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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.


2013 and updated April 2017

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We still require that travellers dispose of their grey water responsibly, ie not just tip it on the grass, but there are no other restrictions in place. The requirement to be self-contained has been relaxed, so campers no longer need to have onboard/inbuilt retention tanks.

Please respect our conditions
• No tent camping
• No sleeping in a passenger vehicle
• 24 hour stay only
• Leave no trace of your stay

Dump point and fresh water facilities are conveniently located in Railway Terrace Kingston SE

Update: Kingston SE on the South Australian limestone coast has several self contained free parking areas, and full self containment is no longer a requirement.  Kingston offer a choice of four locations for self contained camping; three allow for 24 hour stays and one allows for three to five days. 


From Kingston DC:

Your vehicle MUST HAVE the following:
1. Permanently fixed toilet, shower, washing and cooking facilities built within the vehicle.

2. Grey water and black water containment systems fixed within the body of the vehicle with fixed plumbing and fittings that enable discharge to a Dump Ezy point (external containers or buckets to collect grey or black water are not permitted under any circumstances).
The 25 litre canister at right has been set up to be overflow proof.  There are cut off taps and both the outlet and the hose to the canister to ensure no water reaches the ground.  The inlet is at the bottom of the canister where a tap is usually fitted, and the venting from the lid at the top is a tube which can be placed higher than the shower floor, to ensure to chance of overflow or spillage.  Thanks to Peter_n_Margaret, OKA196, for demonstrating their invention and sharing their photo.
Some campgrounds may allow water to be disposed of on the ground, in parts of the campground only where it is suitable, or only during the dry season. 
Northampton Western Australia has a slight concession.

Self Contained Vehicles must carry a minimum of 20 litres of fresh water, have waste (grey) water holding tank with minimum capacity of five litresper person or 15 litres per person if the vehicle is fitted with a shower, and

have a portable toilet cassette, all waste must be retained within the confines of the vehicle and nothing released to ground with the exception of dishwashing sink waste.


Updated April 2017

Questions have been raised about Tully showground free camping in Queensland.  The conditions only specify
Vehicles are to be fully self contained (on board toilets, shower, washing and cooking facilities must be contained within the vehicle).
This does not make any mention of type of grey water tank.  However when you obtain your permit from the visitor centre, you may be told that inbuilt tanks only are accepted.  The may vary depending on the understanding of the conditions by the person on duty at the time.  If you have a purpose built grey water tank as described at the top of the list of options above, please explain this. 
At Cowwarr Weir there is an area allocated for people wanting to stay and there is good signage on site.
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Above instruction are specific to Wilks Park.  Other campgrounds will have their own rules.