Guest Post: 10 Simple Ways to Extend Your Boondocking Experience by Called to Wander
Today we’re joined by Chris and Lindsay Harvey, also known as Called to Wander, and valued members of Team Enduro Power! Chris and Lindsay have extensive experience camping off-grid and are here to talk about how to easily extend your off-grid stay!
Want to spend as much time as possible off-grid in the great outdoors? With over 5 years of boondocking experience, we’ve learned some best practices that you can use to extend your boondocking experience wherever you find yourself!
Whether you’re just getting started in RV life or you’ve been on the road for a while, it’s likely you’ve come across many opportunities to boondock in beautiful places. We have many reasons why we love to boondock.
But the one that tends to stand out the most for us is the idea that, with the right setup, you can be entirely self-sustained for as long as you want. We didn’t know this at first, though we wish we had.
This means being out in the wilderness away from the hustle and bustle of life, where you can explore beautiful landscapes and have quiet, star-filled nights all by yourself.
But if you don’t prepare properly, you may find yourself limited in how long you can enjoy your off-grid vacation from civilization. We’ve spent most of our time during the past 5 years of RVing full-time boondocking in various campsites across the American West and all throughout our favorite winter destination camping in Baja, Mexico. During this time, we’ve learned 7 simple ways to extend our boondocking experience.
Here are our top 9 tips for extending your next boondocking adventure.
1. Empty all trash immediately before heading down that dirt road. Emptying your trash is an often-overlooked principle that can come back to bite you when you’re off-grid. If we know that we are headed somewhere to boondock for a week or longer we will go through all of our containers and “process” any food items we may have just purchased to try and reduce how much trash we carry with us. This includes cutting up our produce and consolidating food items in the pantry and refrigerator. We also often purchase ready-made meals such as rotisserie chicken that have bulky containers. We’ll repackage the meat and discard the bones and container prior to leaving so that we’re not stuck with oversized trash on our first night camping.
2. Fully empty your black and grey tanks (if applicable) immediately before you boondock. Although it may seem like common sense, forgetting to empty your tanks (or empty them completely) limits your time off-grid. Plan your camping itinerary so that dumping your tanks is the very last thing you do before you set off on your first night of boondocking. Even a gallon or two of wastewater can be a limiting factor, especially if you find that you really love
your boondocking spot. So we make sure that we dump our tanks on the same day that we plan to set up camp in the wilderness.
3. Add an “extend-a-stay” propane adapter (if applicable). If you have an onboard propane tank, you can extend your boondocking experience by bypassing your reliance on it with an extend-a-stay propane adapter. These simple devices allow you to connect an external propane tank to your RV propane lines to fuel your propane appliances. In this way you can save the propane in your onboard tank for later (or not at all). If you have a tow or towed
vehicle, you can refill the external tanks as often as necessary without having to break camp and drive your rig back to the nearest propane store.
4. Have a robust house lithium battery bank. Fuel all of your boondocking power needs by starting with as large of a lithium battery bank as you can fit in your rig. If there is one thing that will give you peace of mind while boondocking, it is knowing that you have enough battery capacity to power everything you want and need to power. Lithium batteries are by far the best
option as they are lighter weight, smaller and have far more usable battery capacity than flooded lead acid, AGM or gel batteries. We suggest adding as many batteries as you can fit and afford into your rig to extend your time off-grid. Whether this buys you a long weekend in the wilderness or a week or more, lithium batteries are an absolute must for any boondocking experience.
5. Include an adequate amount of solar panels. Although you’ll often hear generators humming in the distance from your nearest boondocking neighbors, we like to remain 100% reliant on free and clean solar energy. Pair an adequate amount of solar panels with your robust battery bank and let any worry about power consumption fade away. You don’t need to fill every square inch of your rooftop with solar panels. And you can supplement rooftop solar panels with
portable suitcase panels that you can position and move throughout the day to capture the most sunlight. However you choose to add solar to your camping setup, we don’t recommend boondocking without factoring solar into the equation.
6. Switch to all-LED lights (and remember to switch them off!). One of the first things that you should do anyways when you purchase your RV is to remove any incandescent light bulbs from your rig. This includes light bulbs inside your camper as well as exterior lights and those that may be found in storage bays or other spaces. Incandescent light bulbs are energy-hogs that will run down your battery bank in short time. LED light bulbs are only slightly more expensive than their incandescent counterparts and come in every shape and size you might need for your rig. And remember to switch your lights on only when you need them and to switch them off when you are done. Even in the times we forgot to turn off our outside porch light, for example, the fact that it is LED meant that we only wasted a fraction of the power that the former incandescent light bulb would have used.
7. Carry extra water jerry cans. After you’ve accounted for your power needs, carrying extra water containers that you can fill with potable water is a simple and affordable way to extend your boondocking experience. Of course, drinking water is necessary to sustain life. So have adequate amounts of it on hand. But also consider extra water so that you can wash and rinse dishes and take a shower from time to time. We advise filling only with potable water so that you can either funnel it into your fresh water tank to use inside your RV or use it for drinking water (if you are like us, and have separate drinking water).
8. Consider swapping out for a composting toilet. RV manufacturers do not usually factor boondocking into the manufacturing plans for most RVs and trailers. As such, nearly every rig moves off the assembly line with a wasteful plumbed toilet. Plumbed toilets require water to flush like standard house toilets, which both wastes fresh water and causes your black tank to fill up fast. You can usually swap out your plumbed toilet for a composting toilet to
extend your camping stay anywhere you go. With a composting toilet, your solid waste is separated from your liquid waste and the process does not require water at all. You can plumb your liquid waste directly into your black tank, which is likely large enough to hold several weeks worth of #1 while your #2 is collected and composted in a way that you can safely and legally dispose of it in nature.
9. Discard your grey water responsibly. In some public lands where boondocking is popular, particularly those areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), you can properly dispose of grey water while camping. This is outlined in their code, though you should not necessarily rely on this as a primary means for wastewater disposal (see Tip #2 above). You
should never do so near any body of water, particularly any river or stream where you may contaminate downstream water resources. This practice is highly debated among the RV community and thus is one of our last tips because many campers abuse this principle. And it should be noted that other governmental regulation offices, such as the US Forest Service, National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers and US Fish and WIldlife all have codes that
are more restrictive of grey water.
Other useful tips. These are other useful tips and tricks that can help you extend your boondocking experience that didn’t make the top of our list because they are more personal lifestyle choices that you may or may not want to adopt.
- Take military showers. This idea is to wet yourself with a small amount of water. Then lather up with the water cut off. And finally rise quickly to minimize the amount of water used.
- Or don’t take a shower at all. If you (or your partner) don’t mind, skipping
showers (or rinsing in water near boondocking sites) is a great way to save water and extend your boondocking stay.
- Or use wet-wipes or hand towels. Wet wipes will fill up your trash bin faster, but hand towels can be wet and applied to your body in similar fashion. Plus these can be reused whereas wet wipes cannot.
- Use spray containers to wash dishes. Rather than using water from the sink, spray down dishes with either a vinegar-water or soapy water solution. Have a fresh water spray bottle handy to rinse dishes with minimal water use.
- Use paper plates. Skip the cleaning and simply dispose of these in your next campfire.
- Have a collapsible sink basin for rinsing. Collect grey water in a small collapsible container you place in your sink. Whether washing dishes or your hands, water will collect in this container that you can take outside and dispose of according to local and federal policies.
As you can see, there are many, many ways to extend your boondocking experience depending on how serious you are about it. Whether you think you may want to boondock for a day or two here and there or want to get away for weeks, we advise that you consider these tips at the beginning of your RV adventure.
When we began RVing we didn’t know that boondocking was even an option. We wish we knew about these tips, as well as so many more things, before we boondocked for the first time.
But now that you are aware of several simple ways to extend your time boondocking we hope that you enjoy boondocking as much as we do!