Today's post about boondocking comes from Bob Difley of Healthy RV Lifestyle. You may be wondering why an RV park review website would run a blog post about boondocking to begin with? That's because you can actually review boondocking sites here on RVParking.com. In fact, we have some great reviews of boondooking sites, including some BLM land, the Slabs and sites at Burning Man. Even if you are a boondocker that doesn't stay in RV parks very often, you can still review boondocking sites for us.
You’ve probably heard a lot about boondocking and wondered why anyone would want to camp where there were no water, sewage, or electrical hookups. After all, camping in an RV in an RV resort or campground is pretty comfortable, and living without those hookups would seem to make it less enjoyable.
In reality, all modern RVs have been manufactured to be not only mobile, but also independent of appendages that hook them up to land-based resources. All RVs have a holding tank for fresh water, and most of the time two holding tanks for waste, one from the toilet and one from the shower and sinks. They also have a house battery or batteries to supply 12-volt electricity to the RV and a generator to produce electricity for 120-volt systems, produce electricity directly to both the 12-volt and 120-volt systems, and to recharge the batteries.
So when using your RV’s systems rather than a campground’s, it opens up many more camping possibilities and vast natural areas for enjoying your RV lifestyle, such as in our national forests and on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. The National Forest Service (FS) manages the nation's 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, encompassing 193 million acres.
The BLM manages approximately 253 million acres--one-eighth of the landmass of the country—most of it in the West. These massive areas, and more managed by other agencies of the Federal Government such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, are known collectively as federal public lands.
The opportunity for RVers is that camping—boondocking—is permitted on these public lands. If you only go to campgrounds, think how much of the country’s wonderful natural and scenic land you are missing, not to mention the joy of solitude when you find a boondocking campsite by a tumbling mountain stream or on a broad desert plain under the shade of a mesquite tree and there is no one else in sight.
First, though, you have to get comfortable with camping without hookups. You can start off with boondocking for just one or two nights, which won’t tax your onboard systems. But to go longer than that you need to learn some conservation techniques and alter some wasteful habits.
Conserve your fresh water supply by taking Navy showers—rinsing down, turning off water, soaping up, rinsing off. Wash your hands the same way. And while you are warming up the water, run it into a plastic tub or bucket and use it to flush the toilet or rinse dishes. Rinse dishes in the tub of water, rather than under a running faucet. When washing dishes, use a small container of soapy water to wash with. Carry extra Jerry jugs or gallon containers of water to dump in your tank in case your pump starts sucking air.
Wipe food off your dishes before washing, then dump your wash and rinse water (but only if you use biodegradable soap) on a thirsty plant several yards outside your campsite. You can also dig a hole and pour the waste water in, then fill in the hole. Filling your gray water tank is one of the more limiting factors in how long you can boondock, so prevent as much waste water from entering the tank as you can. With a little practice you will be surprised at how much water you previously wasted.
You will also want to conserve electricity so that your house batteries last as long as possible. Turn off lights, TV, radio, porch light, computers and any other electrical appliance or tool when it is not being used. Wake up with the sun and go to bed when it does so you don’t have to burn lights well into the dark of night. Use battery operated book lights for reading—and you won’t keep your mate awake by reading with the RV lights.
If you need to use a 120-volt appliance like the microwave, blender, or coffee grinder, or your battery-draining water pump, try to schedule using these in the same block of time while running the generator, which will power them directly without pulling amps out off your batteries.
Finding boondocking campsites
Stop at visitor centers and chambers of commerce for area or state maps that show recreational lands, such as with colored shading to designate the various public lands. Ask in BLM and FS offices or ranger stations for maps of dispersed camping areas, the official terminology for boondocking campsites. Most roads to these sites will be dirt but were built solidly for logging and cattle trucks and fire-fighting equipment and most should be suitable for RVs.
The previous rule for boondocking on public lands stated that you could camp on any appropriate spot off the road, as long as you did not block any roads or parts of roads. The new Forest Service Motor Vehicle Travel Management Plan, which will go into effect in some forests by the end of 2011, will specify which roads are authorized for motor vehicle use and which areas are authorized for dispersed camping (boondocking). Ask at the ranger station or check the individual forest’s website to determine which plan is currently in effect.
A few of my favorite boondocking locations
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge is a sprawling former ranch near the Mexican border town of Sasabe south of Tucson, Arizona. Established as a refuge to restore the bobwhite quail to the country, it also is home to herds of pronghorn antelope and is known for its excellent birdwatching. Springs bubble out of the ground in nearby Arivaca Cienega and flow above ground as Arivaca Creek for s short ways before diving again below ground. Even if you are not a birdwatcher, it is a unique desert experience to walk along flowing water and ponds teeming with birdlife. The refuge has 100 widely dispersed campsites and camping is free.
Lake Havasu State Park is a no hook-up park between Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and the lake, which was formed by Parker Dam across the Colorado River to the south. The park’s 47 campsites are widely spaced with a considerable amount of brush and trees offering privacy and some shade. Walking distance of shopping areas and the famous London Bridge. Both to the north (Craggy Wash) and to the south (Standard Wash) are open desert boondocking areas within ten miles of town if you like fewer neighbors and more open area.
Wenatchee National Forest is a vast forested area on the eastern flanks of Washington’s volcanic Cascade range near Mt. Rainier to the northeast. Out of Yakima, US 12 and State 410 split just past Naches. US 12 follows the Tieton River to the south entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park and State 410 along the Naches River over 5,400 foot Chinook Pass to the north entrance. All along both routes, several scattered boondocking sites are located along the rivers. These are good base camps for exploring the National park and forest trails.
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area sits in the middle of the Sawtooth National Forest and is adjacent to two wilderness areas. Though several primitive campgrounds are within the NRA, free dispersed (boondocking) camping is permitted along the Salmon River south of Stanley, as well as northeast of town in the national forest. Hiking trails allow access into the Sawtooth Wilderness Area where no wheeled vehicles are allowed.
Bob Difley was formerly a general manager of a national RV rental/sales company and was a fulltime RVer for seventeen years. Bob is an avid fan of boondocking when he's on the road. You can find his past RVing related articles about his travels in MotorHome, Trailer Life, Good Sam's Guide to the Highways, Coast to Coast, Better RVing and many other popular RV publications. Bob also maintains Healthy RV Lifestyle, where you can read many of his articles and e-books.
Today's guest blog post comes from our contest winners, Rene Agredano and Jim Nelson. In this post, the first in our series on green RVing, they share some unique ideas about how to save water while on the road. Did you know that eating more barbecue can help save water? Read on for that and more eco friendly RVing tips.
When we first entertained the thought of purchasing an RV to travel around the country, I was mortified by the thought of us moving around some of North America's most beautiful places in a gas-guzzling house on wheels. Until we actually started fulltime RVing, we were avid backpackers who assumed that RVs were terrible for the planet, and that the people who drove them were selfish souls who cared little about the environment.
How wrong I was!
While they're typically not the most fuel efficient vehicles, RVs are actually one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel and live. Even if you're just on a weekend getaway, when you travel by RV, you can practice environmentally-friendly ways that can help put less stress on the planet than flying from one destination to another. And if you're lucky enough to live in one fulltime, your tiny house can be more eco-friendly than a standard sticks-and-bricks home in suburbia. RVs use less water and energy, and we can go where the resources are, instead of trying to bring them to us.
Conserving water is one of the greatest things you can do to ease your carbon footprint while RVing. Some tips and tricks we've discovered during our time on the road include:
When you're dry camping without hookups, saving water is critical. But for those times you're hooked up to utilities in an RV park, it's still not very eco-friendly to let clean water go to waste. For example, when you run water to take a shower, instead of letting fresh water go down the drain while you get the temperature just right, grab a large container to catch that burst of cool water. Keep it in the sink for washing dishes, or put it in your dog's water bowl.
Use Skoy Cloths
Paper towels kill trees, plain and simple. And while sometimes you can't avoid using them, Skoy Cloths (http://skoycloth.com/) are one way you can reduce your dependency on paper products for simple clean up jobs. These mighty little towels act a cross between a paper towel and a rag. Using a SKOY cloth is equivalent to using 15 rolls of paper towels in an average home. They have an absorption factor of 15 times their own weight, and can be used many times before getting so skanky the need to be tossed. Even after going into the trash, Skoy Cloths will completely biodegrade within five weeks of being tossed.
Sure, they're not as eco-groovy as a rag that can be re-used hundreds of times, but unlike a rag, Skoy Cloths dry within minutes after use, and they don't get stinky or mildewy, which tends to happen when you attempt to dry rags in a small space like an RV.
Just as you take a quickie “shower” with pre-moistened body wipes, you can clean your rig inside and out with waterless cleaners. My favorite is Dri-Wash (http://www.dri-wash.com/), a waterless, biodegradeable cleaner that can be used for everything from washing a rig, to cleaning your greasy stovetop, to removing tough laundry stains. I wouldn't have believed that a waterless cleaner could work so well on so many surfaces, until we parked our rig in a place that didn't allow vehicle washing. The Dri-Wash not only cleaned the rig better than any RV cleaner, it took out the black streaks and stubborn marks that had been on our rig for three years, which I assumed we'd just have to live with.
Dri-Wash comes in a concentrated form that you just add water to, and although it's not cheap, it also lasts forever. So far we've washed our rig once, our truck twice, and cleaned the interiors of both, all on one bottle of concentrate, with more to spare.
Eat More Barbecue
Some may find it hard to believe that eating barbecued food can reduce your water consumption, but it's true. Think about it; unless you're one of those obsessive compulsive types, you don't clean your grill every time you use it, right? Well, barbecues can make an entire meal without a pot, and all you're left with is cleaning up the dining ware. Supplement your carnivore appetite with a side of grilled veggies, and you've done the planet a favor!
Re-use Your Gray Water
Doesn't it seem like a huge waste when you flush your toilet with drinking water? Don't let that resource go to waste; re-use it first! Many RVers have designed grey water systems with an inexpensive simple pump and filer that cycle grey water from the tank and back up through the toilet, so that none of that precious clean water gets wasted. Just Google a phrase like “RV recycle gray water systems” to see what these inventive RVers have done.
Drink More Beer and Take Fewer Showers
Be a water-conservation warrior; drink more beer, take fewer showers and save the planet! Ok, I'm kidding . . . sort of.
These are just a few of the real-life RVing conservation tips we've discovered during our years of living on the road. Share your own experiences, and follow along with us as we embark on more adventures across North America, by visiting us at LiveWorkDream.com.