Here’s a question from a reader of RVtravel.com about boondocking.
I know that a lot of snowbirds boondock in the deserts of the Southwest, but I cannot figure out why they would want to camp without the convenience of campground hookups. Can you explain why? —Art & Nancy
Answer. Here are the pluses, Art and Nancy, in the nutshell version. Dark nights with star-strewn skies, a big bright Milky Way, no annoying generators despoiling the pristine stillness, gone is the drone from surrounding campers’ TVs, wonderful solitude, quiet, and big broad vistas. There are endless places to explore on foot – dry washes, hidden canyons and rocky knolls, spring wildflower and cacti extravaganzas – and the challenge of their identification – and brilliant sunsets. And if you want, you can run naked through the desert without an audience other than jackrabbits and coyotes.
Speaking of which, in one Boondocking spot I bumped (not literally) into a hiker carrying a walking stick and wearing nothing more than a baseball cap, small day pack, and hiking boots, and who greeted me cheerily and continued on his merry way. Another time I happened on a campsite of nudists in the back reaches of Southern California’s Anza Borrego State Park, one of which wandered down the dry wash in front of my motorhome the next morning wearing only a safari hat and hiking boots, with a pair of binoculars slung around his neck. Must be a new(d) form of birdwatching.
The minuses: Limited water supply, miserly electrical usage and wise handling of waste required, and no pizza delivery. Since you probably already eat too much pizza, let’s look at how to handle the other limitations to your Boondocking experience.
Limited water supply can be handled in two ways, carrying additional jerry jugs or plastic water jugs of water, and being judicious in your water usage. A combination of the two is best. Water jugs can be stored in various nooks and crannies and easily dumped into your water tank when needed. Simple habits like turning off shower water when soaping up and while scrubbing hands saves quite a bit of water, as does scraping food from dishes before washing.
If you find out you like camping in the open desert or national forests, you may decide to add another house battery (or switch to golf cart batteries) to increase your available electricity. You can also invest in solar panels (once paid for you can enjoy free electric power with a system that has no moving parts and little to no repairs or maintenance).
But until then turn off lights when not in use, and limit use of AC appliances (they use much more electricity than DC fixtures and appliances) to when you are running your generator. Try also to schedule showers when the generator is running, since water pumps pull a lot of power. The generator will help to replace some of your lost amps, but it is not very efficient and will take a long time to fully recharge your batteries.
Drain off some of your waste water from the gray water tank (NEVER the black tank) and pour on thirsty plants well away from your campsite. This will extend the time you can boondock before having to find a dump station.
Once you experience the uniqueness of the open desert, the coyote serenade and starlit skies of desert nights, you may decide to actually spend more time in the boondocks.
Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) gmail.com .