Boondocking Tips

Here are some random snippets on boondocking.   Or perhaps you prefer to call it dry camping.

As we have traveled along, we have used traditional campgrounds, membership parks, state and national parks, quick overnight stops and boondocking.  It is fun and interesting to dry camp, especially out west, without connections.

Our coach is equipped with a generator and fresh water and holding tanks that enable us to dry camp for at least a week.


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NEW! Boondockers Welcome - Be My Guest RV Parking helps you connect with other RVers who have a location for you to dry camp for the night, find places across the country and learn from other RVers. Check it out.


A few thoughts on boondocking:

  • Sometimes there really “ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. For instance, the Walmart parking lot may not charge a camping fee, but running the air conditioner off the generator for 5 hours burns about $10 worth of diesel in our motorhome. We can be pretty frugal, but in the midst of summer temps approaching 100 F, the motorhome can turn into a giant toaster oven. It is just not an option to “stick it out” for the entire night without air conditioning. Ideally, you can find a free camping spot with electrical hookups, such we found in Blue Earth, Minnesota. But these sort of boondocking spots are few and far between.

  • Another point to bear in mind when selecting a free camping spot is how far away it will be from the places you want to visit. Again, the high cost of fuel may be a factor.  A campground closer to the places you plan to visit may, in the long run, be cheaper than a free parking place that is miles away.  And as you make your choices, don’t forget about travel distances to run errands such as going into a town for groceries, internet access, laundry facilities, etc.
  • Buy plastic or paper plates, cups, utensils to minimize your use of water. In general, conserve water. When you first try dry camping, this means pay attention to every drop of water you are using. Don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth or wash up. Dishes should be wiped with a paper towel to remove food before they are washed. And so on. 
  • If you are boondocking for any length of time, you need to consider how much fresh water you have and where you are going to find your next supply of decent water. But you also need to consider where you are putting the water you use, and manage according to the capacity of your holding tanks.
  • Plan meals that are easy to make and clean-up. Perhaps you can live off pre-packaged meals that can just be reheated, and then the containers disposed of with no clean-up. If you are not a fan of frozen dinners or other store-bought dishes, then try to plan meals (and maybe cook things ahead of time) that can be easily reheated stovetop, or in the microwave (using the generator). Another option is to just stick to cold dishes. Or eat out.     In any case, when you are boondocking avoid using a lot of pots and dishes that will need to be washed.
  • Be discreet. If you are spending a night or two in a parking lot, you should strive to blend in. Don’t haul out the lawn chairs and put up the awnings. We just park out of the way in the lot. We come and go quietly. We usually don’t put out the slides.   We might put out the bedroom slide at night, if it is facing the outside edge of the parking lot where no one is going to see it. Otherwise we keep the slides in as they would be while traveling.
  • To this point, if you have an RV with slides, you will probably make a habit of considering what things are blocked when the slides are in. If you want to boondock, or even stop for lunch while enroute, will you have access to what you need? Pay attention to which kitchen cabinets will be blocked off with slides in. If there are things you might need (utensils, pot holders, food, spices, dishes, etc.), move them before you head out. Do the same check in bedroom, bath, living areas.

 

  • Save battery power when boondocking. Look for hidden drains on batteries.    For instance, we have a Hurricane Heater that provides instant hot water.    The heater would regularly cycle on and off,which was an unnecessary drain on the house batteries (as well as using diesel).     So now we leave it off until we need it or are hooked up to shore power.    Please don’t assume your hot water system works the same.     Read the specs for your RV to determine the appropriate ways you can conserve power.      Different RVs have different operating systems, components and configurations.

We bought a couple solar panels for two purposes.

  • One, we knew we would be storing our coach without hookups for over a month and wanted to make sure the batteries would take care of the phantom loads on our coach. In our coach, these phantom loads consist of a number of things that run in the background. Examples include engine and transmission ECMs (electronic control modules), LEDs, the electronics for the refrigerator and other things we probably are not even aware of.
  • Different RVs will have their own nuances. We bought our solar panels from AM Solar in Eugene, Oregon - two AM 100 panels (rated at 100 watts each) with a HPV-30 charge controller. We have AGM house batteries.
  • Two, we wanted another source of power for boondocking. Especially in places like sunny Arizona, the solar panels keep the bateries charged. In the evening, we then have enough battery power for lights and for the invertor to provide power to the TV, satellite dish, computer, cell phone and camera battery chargers, water heater, etc.
  • We seldom use the batteries/invertor to run heavy draws like the microwave and coffeemaker. But the solar power gives us enough juice to reduce our generator usage. And with some advance meal planning and instant coffee, we can minimize use of the generator even more. And of course power management is a lot easier if you are in a climate where you don't need to use air condiioning or electric heat.

Frugal Shunpicker's Boondocking Guides:    Enjoy the freedom to camp off the grid, amidst the best nature has to offer and save money too.

In many areas of North America, including the most scenic states (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, California, and Colorado) there are still plenty of free, scenic, legal, and safe camping areas.

These RV publications tell you where to find these places, so you can enjoy the wonderful experience of boondocking.   

A popular boondocking spot is Quartzsite, Arizona.

And our favorite for a quick overnight is Wal-Mart. Be sure the specific Wal-Mart allows overnight parking, spend a few bucks in the store and be discreet and courteous.


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