<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Untitled Document
NOTE: While this is designated as an ARCHIVE FILE, it is retained despite the date of first publication because it offers information of continuing current interest and/or for its historical perspective. Please be guided accordingly.



Topic: Boondocking -- Life without Hookups

Instructor: Bill Farlow

[Ed Note: Though this class was presented years ago, the fundamentals of boondocking have not changed with the passage of time.]

Why do it? You've just spent a small fortune on a nice rig and now you're going to the outback.

One reason is economics. Those on a budget will enjoy the notion of being "rent free".

Another is a sense of independence -- "I can get along w/out any support from anyone".

Also sense of adventure: "I can live on my own"

Where to go to find the land? You already own a lot of it. Public lands embrace such huge resources as BLM. The general rule is if you can get your rig to it, and get 100 yards off the highway, you can stay there. This is especially true in the West. The key always is to ensure that the surface will support your particular rig. Consider too the impact of rain. You want to make sure you can get out as well as get it...

Other areas include snowpark parking, and fishing access sites. But be sure to park "out of the way", so you don't block others' access. When you're in a national park or recreation area, ask whether they have any "primitive camping" areas. When you travel, you'll meet other RVers -- many of whom are likley to have places you can park when you visit their home areas.

Rest areas on major highways provide another way to get a free night sleep. RVs will park with the trucks. Truck stops offer the same, as do most Wal Mart stores. RV park owners resist all parking in undeveloped areas. When you do park in those spaces, make sure you're out of the way. Don't park behind the buildings, as trucks come in late at night and need space for turning. Don't pull out the grill, lawn chairs, etc. Usually keep slides in. (When you shop for your RV, be sure to get one which you can easily used when the slides are not extended) Ask the manager as you're checking out with your shopping cart whether you can stay in your self contained RV overnight.

Quartzsite is the quintessential example of public lands which are used for boondocking. At peak season it's the world's largest flea market, completely populated by RVs. It's 7 miles long by 2 miles wide. The main area has an annual entry permit; but beyond that designated area it's all free.

As a courtesy, remember the folks already out there boondocking are there for peace and quiet too. So when you move into an area where RVs are already parked, be sure to "keep your distance". Don't ever park closer than 100 feet to any other parked rig.

Fresh water: Always get it from an approved water source -- not Springs. Service stations and truck sotps are good sources, but ALWAYS use your own hose. Don't use their hose -- you have no idea where their hose has been. If you're using a private campground, you've already paid for the hookups, so fill your tank while you're there.

Sewage: Never dump on the ground anywhere. It's illegal in almost every state. And it's certainly terrible manners as well. Many service stations out West have a disposal station for a fee. Flying J is particularly RV friendly. They'll have dump station and propane. Newer flying J's have fuel plazas just for RVs -- but regretably they're poorly designed and often too tight for big rigs -- so bigger rigs will want to fuel up with the trucks. Some chains are not RV friendly. Petro is one. Unfortunately some states are closing their dump stations. It's because RVers use bad manners. Always use a hose; and always hook up the hose to the dump station first, and then to your rig. A great book called "RVers Friend" which identifies all dump stations, as well as a variety of other facts of interest to RVers -- like which stations are "RV Friendly".

Keeping the Batteries Charged: Make sure you have adequate size wiring connecting the chassis battery to the house battery. Trailer manufacturers often undersize the wires. 6 guage wire is needed. Never tow with the refrigerator on gas. It will stay cold for several hours anyway. 3 way refrigerators don't work too well. The best solution is to get an inverter of at least 1500 watts, and run the refrigerator on that source while you're running down the road. A generator is another obvious source, but the noise is clearly a disturbance -- so buy a quiet one and use it with care for your neighbors. Solar panels is another option. It converts sunlight to DC current. You'll need at least 8 guage wiring from the panel(s) to the battery bank. But using an inverter and solar still requires careful energy conservation. Watch for stray electric loads, like TV's turned off are not really "off"; the microwave clock is still running; the DSS system draws the same whether it's "on" or "off" (about 30 watts). Use flourescent lighting only. Replace regular lighting with fourescent. Use Sun Ray fixtures -- they work best. As a rule of thumb, you'll need two batteries per person -- at least. If you add batteries, use 00 size cable and use the shortest possible cable length needed. Which type battery works best?

Safety Issues: How do you feel safe out there by yourself? First, don't advertise who you are "the Jones from Milwaukee". Someone will knock on your door in the middle of the night calling out your name -- trying to make you think it's someone you know. Park in the light, not in a dark, concealed area where you could be victimized out of sight. Watch where you walk. In the desert there are too many things that stick or bite. Wear boots in the desert and watch your step. Carry water, and always go with a companion (buddy system). Your RV is extremely safe from intruders. It's safer than your house or apartment. It has only one door. And it opens OUT. Thus you can't kick it in like the door on your house which opens in. Statistically your much more likley to be a victim in your house than in your RV. Moreover, there's little you have in there that someone can quickly take out and convert it to significant amounts of money. Robbers believe -- rightly or wrongly -- that all RVers carry guns.

A personal issue is guns. There are considerations to be weighed. If you're carrying a gun that is unloaded, your asking for trouble. In almost every state you can use deadly force to protect yourself from imminent serious danger of being killed or maimed. Never shoot a warning shot. Never shoot just to injure. Only if you're comfortable with all that should you have a gun in the rig. Beyond guns, he does recommend full strength pepper spray, good up to about 20 feet. One brand has dye which will mark the attacker for a long time to come. It's not legal in all states. It's not legal in Canada for self defense against people; but it is legal for defense against bears!