Here’s a question from a reader of RVtravel.com about boondocking.
I’ve been RVing for about 8 years and have boondocked only three times because — I’m a little embarrassed to say — I’m not really sure “how to.” Can you give me some of the basics, that is, what accessories can I use when the only power is my coach battery? Can I use my coffee maker or built-in heater? Can I leave my fridge on d.c. or propane (I have a 3-way Dometic fridge) without running the battery down? I’m not sure how long my battery will last with[out?] running my gen. Hope my question is not too long, but I really would like to intelligently boondock a lot more with more confidence. —Andy M.
Yes, your question is too long to provide a complete answer in this Ask BoondockBob format. (Shameless plug: I’ve written several eBooks that deal with your questions in greater detail.) However, I can get you started in the right direction. But don’t despair, boondocking is basically simple — your RV was designed to boondock.
Electricity: A deep cycle RV battery is 100% charged at 12.7 volts and dead at 10.5 volts. The usable range is from fully charged down to about 11.6 volts, at which the battery should be charged to prevent damage. So, the easiest way to tell when your battery will go dead is to monitor the charge with a digital multimeter and charge when required. Your generator is a very slow way to charge your batteries, but running your generator while using your high voltage appliances will not deplete your house battery, and is a good way to preserve your battery capacity for more reduced electrical requirements like lights. Read the specifications of your appliances to determine the amount of energy used to run them. AMSolar, specialists in RV solar power systems, says …”go out and ‘boondock’ in your RV (without running your generator or plugging into shore power) for as long as it takes to run your batteries down. Use electricity like you want to, and don’t change your habits while you’re doing it. This will indicate how much power you consume on the average day.” On that same page of their website you can learn how to determine how much power your appliances use, which enables you to make an educated guess at how long your batteries will last under normal usage.
Fridge: Run your fridge on propane but make sure you refill before starting to boondock.
Water/waste: It’s a lot easier to monitor your water usage and waste tank status, which will tell you when you need to either refill your water tank and/or dump your holding tank(s). And carry a 5-gallon water jug for extra water when your tank goes dry.
Every time you boondock you gain experience and knowledge, enabling you to better predict when replenishing or dumping is needed. And practice sensible use of resources, e.g., don’t leave water running, TV on, unnecessary lights on, etc.
Good luck, Andy. As you gain more confidence, you will be surprised at how much boondocking can open new vistas and enhance your RV Lifestyle.
Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) gmail.com .