What if I told you it was possible to travel across America in comfort? Your own private residence on wheels providing the feeling of freedom that comes from setting up camp in a free, secluded, picturesque campsite out in the boonies?
Boondocking, also known as disperse camping is allowed on public lands across America with no utility hook-ups. I can’t express how much fun it is to experience this feeling of freedom.
Lessons I learned Boondocking:
The great thing about Boondocking is that you don’t have to make as many mistakes as others because of all the available information.
Dry Run - Practice resource allocation while parked in a full-hook-ups location. This will allow you to monitor your resources the way that you would normally. You can play around with long showers, washing dishes, and using the bathroom. Note how long it takes before you run out of capacity. Also, it’s a great time to test the generator, pumps, etc. (Check with the RV park rules before running the generator). You can avoid the many horror stories from first timers that killed their batteries, overflowed their tanks, and ran out of water on the first day.
Research the location: When you start looking for potential sites, give some thought to your wants and needs. For example, you might want to find a locations that has one or more of the following:
· Complete isolation
· Social scene where multiple RVs converge.
· Access – This very important since I have a 43ft Fifth Wheel. I need to know exactly where I’m going so that I know that I can fit and not get stuck.
· Activities – Hiking, Biking, Fishing, UTV, etc.
Learn from others:
There is a ton of information. You can find videos of actual locations, etc. Below are a few links I use for information:
Travel bloggers who write about boondocking experiences and locations: Wheeling It, Aluminarium, Technomadia, Road Less Traveled, Van-Tramp, Gone With The Wynns.
• Websites that list boondocking locations along with reviews from people who have camped there:Campendium, freecampsite s.net.
• Online resources: BLM, US Forest Service, Frugal-RV-Travel Boondocking Guides.
Know the rules:
It’s important to know the rules and regulations when camping on public land. There are a ton of free places but there are also places that require a permit. Most of the places that I’ve stayed had a fourteen-day limit. Also, states like California require an additional campfire permit (free).
- Water Conservation is an absolute must when boondocking. My fifth wheel RV is equipped with the following tanks: 1 fresh water tank (100 gal), 2 gray water tanks for sinks/shower (72 gal) and 2 black water tanks for toilets (80 gal)
So far, I’ve boondocked for fourteen days without requiring additional water or sewage. I take a shower every other day unless I get into something nasty. Also, with my composting toilet I don’t use any water for the toilet. One stay, I still had fifty gallons to spare.
Some locations will allow you to dump your grey water in a cathole dug six to eight inches deep and at least two hundred feet from water, camp, and trails. Avoiding polluting waters sources IS PARAMOUNT!
- Battery Capacity Matters – My RV is equipped with two batteries which total 80amps /12v. The refrigerator, lights, furnace, and water pump use battery capacity. Other large consumers, microwave, TV, and AC, require the generator.
The batteries require monitoring on a timely basis. Without a Battery Monitoring Kit (BMK), I have to rely on the cheesy meter that comes with the RV. You never want the battery to go below fifty percent. Proper care by intelligent charging and periodically checking the water levels in the battery help get the most out of the battery’s life. Reading the load on the battery is the most daunting of task without a BMK because the cheesy monitor will fluctuate depending on what is running at the time you read the level. My refrigerator is my only large load so I make sure the inverter is off before I check the battery level. There are other battery vampires that I forgot about like the rear camera, which I now disconnect when parked. To help track battery consumption I created a quick chart to try and capture all the devices that require power and the amps required. Something as simple as running the porch light, a 1.0 amp-er over an eight-hour period, can be costly.
It is so easy to get obsessed with battery capacity and consumption. Maybe obsessed is a bit strong but I will tell you that curiosity peeks when you start investigating how much time it takes to charge your phone and the amount of amps required.
- Propane: My RV is equipped with two thirty-pound Propane tanks for the stove, water heater, and furnace (the worst of the three). Using the furnace can quickly deplete the propane. The expense of filling the tanks can add up quickly on cold days and nights. One way to minimize the use of the furnace is to run the generator for electric heat. The trade off is relatively small because you add run hours/fuel for the usage of the generator. Also, the generator is near the bedroom so it will be hard to sleep at night due to the noise. It all becomes a fun math project: comfort vs. expense vs. usage.
Trick/Tip: It is difficult to keep track of the capacity because the meter to the propane is outside. Since the propane tanks are independent, it is better to leave one tank closed. By keeping one tank closed, you know when you are down to one tank. This way you won’t be without propane in the middle of the night. The only challenge is going out in the middle of the night to turn on a tank which is way better than freezing the rest of the night because you ran out of fuel and are unable to run the generator.
- Generator/ Fuel: My RV is equipped with a Cummins gas powered 120v generator. I need to check again but I believe that it has an 18gal fuel tank. However, my RV also has a fuel filling station that holds twenty gallons. I usually run 3 – 4 hours a day and based on information on the web, I can run 28 hours on a full tank (I will revisit these numbers). Fortunately, I have not run out of gas due to my limited use; this may change if there is a need to run the AC.
I have so many plans to explore concerning solar and wind setups. I have been reading up on the Tesla battery, which looks very promising. The goal/game will be to see how long I can stay off utility resources (boondock).
Below are a few useful boondoocking items that I would like purchase based on my recent experiences.
· Battery Monitor Kit (BMK)
· Buddy Heater (Small Propane Heater)
· Collapsible Water Tank 5-gal or more
· Solar Setup – Love to Work with Tesla on a complete RV
· Extra Battery
· Spot Light – Scary as shit at night
· Small Fan AC
I would love to hear about your experiences, recommendations, or questions. There is so much more I could learn and people are always creating new ways to conserve resources.