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Here’s how to make boondocking fun for the partner who hates it

I love boondocking, everything about it: the challenge, the isolation, ruggedness, sense of self-sufficiency… but my husband hates it. We are currently in a regional park with 50-amp electric hookups, amazing showers, and dishwashing stations. His comment: “I hate boondocking.” I wanted to respond: “Just wait until we get to the Harvest Hosts free-range pig farm next week…”—but I refrained.

My goal is now to make it as painless as possible for him and happy for me. Here are a few steps that may seem counter to true boondocking but are a good way to ease into hard-core boondocking, or at least keep the family happy.

Plan ahead

Before boondocking for a night, just a stopover, or for a week, plan ahead and get ready while power, water and sewer are available.

  • Charge everything up. Make sure cell phones, rechargeable flashlights, weather radios, CPAP batteries, computers, tablets, solar chargers and solar lights are all charged.
  • Clean and fill. Has your fresh water tank been sitting unused and full of stagnant water? Dump it out, sanitize and refill.
  • Dump and flush. Empty and clean out the gray and black tanks.
  • Fill your RV with fuel and propane.
  • Fill it and freeze. Fill plastic gallon or half gallon jugs with water and freeze. These can go in the fridge to reduce refrigerator running time and provide cold drinking water as they melt.
  • Check that the water pump, generator, and 12-volt systems are all operational. We carry an extra water pump just in case. What good is 90 gallons of fresh water if we can’t pump it out?
  • Plan your route. Know where you are planning to stay. Make sure the terrain and size work with your RV. Good resources are AllStays, Campendium, Harvest Hosts, and Boondockers Welcome.

Scout it out

Check the terrain out before driving on unknown and unmarked roads. I have learned the hard way, and now make sure I check the GPS coordinates on Google Earth/Satellite. I have also learned when scouting for a site that while our little KIA can easily navigate dips in the road, the motorhome can’t. It also can’t do tight turns in a forest. That is another story my husband never tires of telling.

  • If possible, disconnect and search area for the perfect site. Mark it with a chair, umbrella, table, something to save it and find it again.
  • Match your RV and vehicle for the terrain. A 4×4 truck camper can obviously go more out-back areas than a 40-foot motorhome.

Make boondocking painless

When we started out on this wonderful boondocking adventure, I went overboard on conserving every watt and every drop of water. I felt like a pioneer crossing the desert in a Conestoga wagon. And that was just going out for a day or two! No wonder my husband hated it! To top it off, we have 1,000 watts of solar, a huge battery bank, 90 gallons of fresh water and a 10,000-watt generator. So now I try to make boondocking as painless as possible, and as close to having hookups as possible.

Power on

  • Use the power. It’s okay to run the TV, turn on the lights, and listen to music. Just watch the house battery levels and recharge when needed. You might want to turn off the electric water heater, though.
    • Battery packs: We use Southwire Portable Power Station that we can recharge with 120V or a solar panel.
    • Turn on the generator. Just be respectful of others nearby—generators are loud.

Water on

  • Use the water. Be conservative about water usage but not fanatical.
    • Use paper plates.
    • Put a few drops of dish soap on a dish rag rather than in a sink full of water.
    • Wash dishes just once a day.
    • Heat water on the stove rather than with the water heater. Our water heater is so far back on the line that it takes almost a gallon of water to get hot water to the sink. We usually just turn the water heater off.
    • Use a dishpan to catch the water and save to put out a campfire, flush the toilet, and water a tree (if permitted), rather than putting down the gray tank  I use plastic buckets in the bathroom sinks to catch water.
    • Showers. If out for a day or two only, we will do a navy shower. But usually we just heat water on the stove and take a “bucket” shower.

Keep it warm

  • Keep it warm and cozy. The temp cools down quickly at night and we use a Big Buddy portable propane heater to take the chill off. Note: Never ever leave the propane heater on all night or unattended!
    • Be aware that a propane furnace, while wonderfully hot, use a lot of 12V power. Monitor batteries and propane.
    • When charging up the house batteries at night, we plug in a portable heater and preheat the electric blanket on the bed.

Cool it down

  • A/C and cooling:
    • Unfortunately, our solar system will not run the A/C so we need to turn on the generator to cool it down. Some solar/lithium systems will run A/C units.
    • Pull shades or curtains down on the sunny sides.
    • Park where the sun will not directly hit the fridge.
    • Use awnings to shade sides of the RV, if possible.
    • Small fans can help move the air and not use too much power. Check wattage use.

Enjoy!

Boondocking can be more than painless—it can be happy and incredibly fun. Sit beside a campfire, take hikes, enjoy the beauty our natural lands offer and make it as wonderful and painless as possible!

Don’t miss…

##RVDT1946

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Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles
11 days ago

This’s Mitzi. I learnt how to handwash dishes at Boy Scout Summer Camp, and it is nothing like we did in the 1950s. You need a wash station and a rinse station. Add sanititizer to the rinse station- bleach, or vinegar, or Listerine mouthwash. Now get a fresh roll paper towels. Wipe your plates etc and toss the scudzi paper towels till the plate is clean and shiny. Take your damp sponge. Add 1 drop only of Dawn. Use that to wash front and back of plate, glasses, cups, bowls, silverware-anything that was yours at this meal. Now wipe the soap off your hands and rinse in the sanitizing solution. Wipe dry with a paper towel. We were at a camp in SW VA that was on water restrictions, this method produced clean plates and no diarrhea or vomiting among the young men. Dish detergs are much more foamy than they were in the 1950s, which is why you prewipe everything and only use 1 drop of dawn.

Bob Palin
17 days ago

If he is saying he hates boondocking when you are at a full service campground he really means he hates camping.

Paul
17 days ago

We often will stay a night or three dry camping in HH/BW or BLM dispersed camping. For up to 3 nights we don’t worry about serious water conservation. Might skip one full shower and use paper plates. With the 4 AGM 6V batteries and and 340 watts of solar we will run the propane furnace in temperatures into the 30’s and my CPAP machine (using 12 V so not through the inverter) and just plan on starting the generator for breakfast. 7 AM if we can or wait until 8 if nearby neighbors haven’t started theirs. Haven’t had the batteries drop below 65% (12.2V) yet. Coach is 2012 Phaeton DP

Last edited 17 days ago by Paul
Stephanie
17 days ago

The “Plan Ahead” section of the article is very useful. Charge everything..I charge the cordless vacuum, Ebikes and Dewalt 20v tool batteries as well.

Bob p
17 days ago

A pig farm! You can go by a pig farm 300 yds off the highway and still smell the pig doo doo as President Bush #1 would say.

KellyR
17 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

Ahh!, but that is where the wonderful smell of bacon in the morning, starts! I will take pig farms over large chicken production facilities any day. Pigs smell earthy as the ammonia from chickens will burn your eyes for a week, Now the smell of a cow yard – that is heaven!

Tommy Molnar
17 days ago

I will drive down any dirt road until I get to a point where I don’t think I can back out. Having been a truck driver for over 30 years, backing is no concern. We closely watch overhanging tree branches if there are any. We once found a magnificent site that I backed into because after walking in to check it out, noticed there was no room to turn around. Wifey had a pole that she used to hold up low-hanging branches. About a block of curvy backing. A picture from my drone shows how nicely secluded this was. Stayed for a week.

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