What do you need to boondock? You don’t actually need anything at all. Anyone that sleeps in the woods is, more or less, ‘boondocking’. Now, if you want to boondock constantly and be comfortable, that is another thing entirely. If you are happy with a tent and a backpack, there’s probably not much we can teach you. If, however, you are planning to take an RV out and bring the comforts of home with you, we might just have an idea or two you can use.
Before we even start talking about what to bring, there are two important things you should memorize about your rig. How tall is it and how much does it weigh? When you get to that scenic, hundred year old covered bridge, you definitely don’t want to become part of the landscape!
Everyone is going to have different things they want to bring along when they head into the wilderness. Some people are not happy without satellite television and an internet connection. Others are happy with a few books and a guitar. We will discuss a few of these luxuries in future articles, but for now, let’s stick with the basics. We all need to eat, drink and stay warm or cool. That is what the basics of survival boil down to. But, we are talking about being comfortable as well!
Regardless of how you plan to get where you are going, you will need to think about water. If you are only going to be camping near streams, you could go very minimalistic and just bring a backpacker style water filter. Otherwise, you will need to bring your own water. For most RVs, this is not a problem. The real question is how big your holding tanks are. Water is almost always the first resource you will run out of. Consider, you need water for drinking, bathing, cleaning dishes and flushing the toilet. Water conservation will become completely natural if you spend enough time boondocking.
Waste water is also a consideration. If the area is secluded enough and the weather is right, you might consider taking showers outdoors! As a general rule, you should not be dumping your gray water on the ground forty gallons at a time, but you know that, right? Using the outdoors shower or even washing your dishes outdoors is a little different, though.
Do we even need to mention food? You have been eating your entire life and I doubt you plan to stop just because you will be out in the woods. Well, here are a few tips anyhow. Most RV refrigerators aren’t as big as your average household refrigerator. Camper vans or people car camping may not even have a refrigerator. Of course, the bigger your refrigerator, the more goodies you can bring along, but don’t forget about staple foods that can be stored anywhere. Sure, you could bring frozen corndogs and microwave them, but it is a much better use of space and resources to bring say pasta, a can of tomatoes and a little ground sausage. Black beans and rice takes no refrigeration at all, but makes quite a tasty, nutritious meal.
These days, many people are happy with a burger from a fast food joint or a frozen meal that requires a few minutes in the microwave. Think about whether or not you really enjoy that sort of food or just eat it because it is convenient. If you are going to be camping out in the woods for a few days or weeks, it is much easier to bring along ‘real food’ and cook it. You have all the time in the world; why not use some of it to make a healthy meal that really tastes good?
Finally, we started out talking about how to be comfortable while boondocking. For most people, that means find a comfortable temperature. For fulltime RVers, the best answer to this is to move to a comfortable place! When it starts getting hot, we look for places with shade and elevation. When the weather turns cool, the deserts start looking a lot better. No matter how well insulated your camper may be, the best climate control system is still Mother Nature.
Still, there are those times when you actually want to camp at the ski slopes or near the beach during bikini season. The best tip I know is to dress appropriately. If you dress for winter and come inside to a camper that is fifty degrees, it is comfortable and does not burn through propane like trying to maintain seventy-two degrees would. If you are relaxing in the shade with a cold glass of water and a breeze, you will rarely need an air conditioner. Your body will acclimate to the temperature if you dress reasonably and do not insist on over exerting yourself in unreasonable conditions.
Okay, we understand that the weather can not always be perfect and some times it rains. No matter how well you plan, you will still end up needing climate control once in a while and you might just have to watch a bit of television because it is the season finale of your favorite show. There are gadgets galore to help out with this and we will talk about some of them, but your first consideration is how you are going to power them all.
From least complex to most, your choices are the alternator from your vehicle, a generator, and solar panels. Some fulltimers even use wind energy as a supplemental source of power. This can be a pretty complicated decision, so we will look into the technical side in a separate article. Briefly though, your alternator will charge your batteries without buying any new equipment, except perhaps an inverter if you need AC power. In the long run, the cost of fuel to charge batteries will probably outweigh the cost of either other alternative unless you are already planning to do a lot of driving.
A generator is going to have some up front cost associated with it. This cost is variable and, not surprisingly, you get what you pay for. A quieter, more fuel efficient generator can cost quite a bit more than a loud generator that is a bit less efficient. And, just like your vehicle, you are going to need to carry fuel to run it.
Solar panels are the silent choice that require no fuel at all. As of this writing, solar power is in the same price range as a quiet, efficient generator if you shop around and handle the installation yourself. The complexity of the installation and figuring out just what is needed can be a daunting task, however.