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Boondocking Basics

Boondocking Basics- Making It Work

by Paul Bernhagen

This information was developed for a Life On Wheels class which Paul Berhagen taught on the subject.

Part 1 of 3 ...

Will We Be Roughing It?

Boondocking does not mean doing without. It simply means adjusting the way you do things to stretch the use of your fresh water, maximize the capacity of your gray and black tanks and get the most out of the power you have available. In fact, the following boondocking tips can even stretch your stay in a partial hook-up campground.

Some think of boondocking as free camping. In some cases it is. Other places charge RVers to boondock, such as national parks, some BLM areas, festivals, rallies etc.

On cross-country trips, when RVers need a place to pull off the road for a night, many will stay at truck stops or Walmarts. We all know an overnight in a Walmart parking lot is likely to cost us more than a campground. Walmart does too! That is why they are happy to give us a place to get off the road.

Whether you boondock in scenic places, at rallies, on the fly in a parking lot or find yourself in campgrounds with partial hook-ups you will find some of the following tips useful. Boondocking can be intimidating the first few times, so if you can, go with some experienced boondockers. You will find some tips work for you and others don’t. That is okay. You will also come up with some tricks of your own over time.

Be Kind to People and Places
  • Take trash to town and properly dispose of it in dumpsters.
  • Keep your camping area clean.
  • Don’t put out awnings, chairs, grills, tables, etc. when boondocked in parking lots. Parking lots should only be used for overnight stops. To stay longer risks all RVers privilege of using the parking lot.

What Power Do You Need?

Converters do absolutely nothing for you when boondocked. A converter converts AC power to DC power. If you are not plugged in, you have no AC power to convert.

Chargers in most converters are too small, charging batteries very slowly. And again, you need power to charge.

Inverters convert DC power to AC power, allowing you to run equipment off your batteries that you would otherwise need to be plugged in to run.

You will want to size your inverter to the maximum load it will be used for, generally the microwave. But keep in mind that a microwave pulls a lot of power out of the battery and you will need to get that power back into the battery some how.

If possible, isolate water heater, AC and refrigerator circuits from inverter. This equipment has such a large draw on the batteries that they would be drained in no time.

Most inverters produce a modified sine wave and run most appliances. Some appliances require a pure sine wave to operate, such as some laser printers and computerized sewing machines. Pure sine wave inverters are available, however, they are more expensive.

Generally, the closer the inverter is sized to the load, the more efficient it is.

Consider two or more inverters, a large one for large loads and a small one for small loads. Our 13-inch TV run off our 2000-watt inverter pulls two more amps an hour than when it is run off a pocket inverter. Pocket inverters plug into cigarette lighters. We run our TV, satellite dish and VCR on one pocket inverter and the computer and printer on another pocket inverter. Since inverters do not have power surges we often run the computer on an inverter even when we are plugged into shore power.

Inverters pull power the entire time they are on, so conserve power and turn the inverter off when it is not in use.

If you will be using a generator to charge your batteries, select an inverter with a good charger.

Portable Inverter Click for more information.

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