If boondocking for the first time, some possible questions you might be worrying about like what alternative sources of power other than solar, how to find a great spot, and how to manage your water including your grey and black tanks. This guide will cover that and give you detailed answers to these questions for you to boondock successfully.
Can I Boondock Without Solar? If Yes, what are my Options?
Yes, you can boondock without solar and here are some alternatives to solar:
A generator will be your source of electricity, you might want to consider getting an inverter generator. These days that is defined by two brands, Honda, and Yamaha. We have a Honda and are very happy with it. Though there are other brands and types out of generators there, they are usually louder, and are not that reliable.
The good thing about inverter generators as compared to other types is that they are very quiet, you can stand about 5 feet away before you realize it’s even running.
You Can Use the Generator for the Following Purposes:
- To charge your electronics
- To top off the batteries of your rig
- To run appliances
When going in for a generator, we highly recommend you go in for a generator with the power of 3000 watts or more. These will be able to power your air conditioning unit.
So, if you find yourself in a hot and humid climate, you might want to consider this, especially during the summer. However, if air conditioning isn’t a top priority you can get yourself a 2000w generator.
Another thing to bear in mind is that, if you find yourself in thinner air climates with higher altitudes, such as Wyoming, Colorado, generators tend to struggle because, for every 1000 feet above 500 feet, the produced power is decreased by 3.5 percent. This is something you might want to keep in mind if you’re camping in higher altitudes.
Two precautions to take if you have a generator are:
Avoid running two high voltage appliances such as a water heater, an air conditioner, hair dryer, or microwave at the same time. This is because they are consuming so much power, and you might end up blowing your generator’s circuit. This generally has to do with generators that do not have sufficient power to run these appliances at the same time.
Also, since generators are expensive, I highly recommend you chain them to your vehicle to prevent it from being stolen.
2. Propane (LPG)
You can use propane on a daily basis if you travel. And is really important for boondocking because it’s primary aim is to power your refrigerator. Propane tanks are used to power the fridge when traveling down the highway from point A to B. However, many states restrict RVers from using propane while the RV is in motion.
For appliances like water heaters, that use both propane and electricity, I highly recommend you use propane, since it heats the water faster, and keeps it hot for a long time since it constantly reheats the water as you shower.
You can also use your propane for your furnace. If temperatures are going to drop below 40 degrees, be you use your propane tank to kick on your furnace to make sure that your pipes don’t freeze.
Another thing you will use propane for is cooking.
Some generators are modified to run off propane for 10 or 15 hours. So, you can get an apparatus that will allow you to use propane to power your generator, or gasoline.
You can purchase your propane from gas stations, truck stops, some campgrounds except national campgrounds, or even at a dedicated propane facility.
One question you might ask yourself is how long propane might last?
Well, during the warm weather, most propane tanks seem to last quite a while. Because, just using the propane to run the refrigerator, do a little bit of cooking, and make some coffee should consume that much propane. One thing that will consume a lot of propane is when you use the heating furnace, during the winter.
3. A Power Inverter
This becomes handy when you need to charge up your electronics. such as computers, phones, camera batteries, and tablets.
A power inverter is a must have,if you plan to boondock without solar.
How Do You Find a Boondocking Spot?
Camping on public land is a special experience, unlike being on a campground, you’re parked off the grid in some of the most beautiful places you can think off without a neighbor in sight.
You’re often next to special amenities like a mountain lake, bubbling stream or even a desert mesa. And the beauty in the solitude is absolutely unmatched, and the best of all, it’s absolutely free. But how do you find these boondocking spots? And how do you know if it’s a legal place to camp ? I will share some tips with you, that will help you find these places of beauty.
Before we begin, let us take a look at the public lands that are available for dispersed camping. You will have to note that this will vary depending on what part of the country that you find yourself in.
- National Forest Service
The U.S. forest service, allows free dispersed camping along certain roads, within the national forests. But how do you know which road? This is where the freed motor vehicle used maps become handy. You can pick these up at the local ranger stations in each national forest.
However, to make things simple, if you’re looking at a distant campsite, or if you just want to make it easy on yourself, the National forest publishes these are free PDF downloads, on the website of each national forest.
- Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Most campers prefer BLM camp lands to other camp lands because there are very few rules to follow. You just pick a BLM road, find a spot of your own and plop down. BLM lands typically have a 21-day staying time. However, it may vary by area. In states like California and Arizona, they have special long-term visitor areas on BLM lands, where you can actually stay for months.
In other areas, for example, the BLM lands surrounding Moab and Utah, you are actually prohibited from camping, but those are exceptions to the rule, by and large, you have free reign on BLM lands
- State Lands
It shouldn’t be a surprise to you that state lands and their usage vary from state to state. In a state like Utah, they have the school trust public lands that are free and available for camping. However, things vary from state to state, so check from your state to see what’s available.
- National Recreation Areas
You’re able to camp at NRA lands free dispersed, as you wish. In some states, you will be required to pay about $20 to enter some NRA lands which last for a week, whiles in some states, they are free. However, check with your chosen national recreation area to see what dispersed camping opportunities are available.
- National Parks Lands.
In certain exceptions, like the Canyonlands national park, there are dispersed campsites that are reservable but are not actually campgrounds, they are boondocking sites within the National park. Check with your National Park to see if there are such opportunities available there.
Now, we have chosen where we think we might want to camp, but what does it really look like? This is where Google Maps comes in. Most people are already well acquainted with Google street maps. But did you know that about the terrain and satellite views? They are very helpful in finding that perfect boondocking spot along with Google Earth which is another App that’s very useful.
Using Google maps, if you switch to terrain view, you can see topographic lines, that show where the campsite roads are relatively flat. If you switch to the satellite view, you can prospective campsites. The satellite view also provides insight into the condition of the road, as to whether it is narrow or wide, double track or grated? Google satellite view gives you a good hint. And if you see several rigs especially fifth wheels in the images, then it means you will have no problem getting your 25-foot travel trailer in.
Sometimes, it is necessary to dig a little bit deeper, in case the information provided is insufficient. You can Google on the site name, where you want to camp and you can other people’s photos of the place. You can also search for user-submitted photos on Google earth.
Also, sites like Campendium.com, campsites.net are filled with user reviews and photos of boondocking spots that others have found ahead of you. However, when in doubt, pick up a phone and call the local ranger station, for additional information.
It is great to find a spot to boondock at, however, you will need to know how to manage your resources and here are a few tips to help you manage water and your grey and black tank while boondocking.
How To Manage Your Water Supply While Boondocking?
- First and foremost, make sure to have a backup fresh water.
- You can install a valve that will shut the water off to your toilet, or turn off the water pump. This will allow you to flush without using water.
- You can use paper plates to decrease your water usage. However, if you want to use your regular plate, you can but make sure after every meal, you wipe the food off, or use very little water and soap. I keep a plastic tub in my kitchen sink (from dollar store) to catch water.
- Make sure to repair all broken faucets to prevent water from leaking out.
- Instead of washing your hands with water, I recommend you use a hand sanitizer instead. Also, instead of taking a shower, an alternative to save water is to use body wipes. Also, instead of brushing your teeth you can use a mouthwash, this should also save you some water.
- Finally, if there are facilities such as portable bathrooms and toilets nearby, you can use them instead of using what you have in your rig.
- Nevertheless, if your fresh water tank is used up and you need to get some fresh water, here are some ways you can do so:
- Some Dump stations will have water. Either than that, you can find water in a number of ways:
- If you’re camping near a national park, they will often have water available. And if paying a fee, or using a pass to get in, you can always fill up at water stations there.
- State parks sometimes also have this. So, if you’re going to a state park, you pay a fee to get in anyway, and you can fill up some water there and bring it back to your trailer.
- You can also find water dispensers. You can find them at different grocery stores.
- Some dump stations will have potable water, but you need to be careful that it is potable water and not just rinse water used to rinse out your hose.
- How To Manage Grey and Black Tank When Boondocking?
- First, I will like to make it clear that dumping any amount of black water on the ground is illegal, regardless of which state you find yourself. This could lead to a fine. Knowing this, here are some tips to help you manage your grey and black tank:
- First of all, make sure to know the capacity of your black tank and grey tank. To know how long you can go without any connections to dump these tanks.
- Before going on boondocking, make sure to completely empty out your tanks.
- Also, do your research before visiting any campsite. As said before dumping black water is illegal in every state. However, in some states, it is legal in some states to dump grey water on the ground. So, to be on a safer side, do your research.
- However, if you have your grey full before your time of departure, here are a few ways to find dump stations near you:
- When searching for a place to empty your grey tanks, you can use a few resources such as websites such as Campendium & Sanidumps
- You can also look up campsites near you and try to use their dump stations but it usually comes at a fee. However, make sure to call before going to use their dump stations, because not all campsites will allow you to use their dump station if you’re not staying with them.
- Rest stops and Truck stops are another option. For this, make sure to do your research, because not every rest stop has a dump station.
Last tip, when leaving a site, be sure to leave it better than you found it. Do you best to not disturb the wildlife, bushes, rocks, etc.. But most of all don’t forget to make some memories!
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