Saturday, February 6, 2010

Boondocking Notes

Jim 020 Some of our friends have asked us how we’re managing our daily routines in our boondock mode, so I thought I would pass along a few of our observations about this twist on our lifestyle.  Keep in mind that this is our first experience with this rig in a truly serious dry camping adventure.  With our former rig, a 36 foot gas motor home, we spent a few days dry camping, but that was several years ago, and light years ago in terms of our experience.  We are still novice at this, though, so don’t take this information as the only or the best way.  We’re on a learning curve!

First, we have enough electrical power to do pretty much whatever we need to.  We run the generator when we need to charge our 4 house batteries or use the big appliances, like the microwave, furnace (although it will run on 12v), hair dryer, vacuum cleaner or coffee grinder.  Otherwise, the inverter provides 120v power to several electrical outlets for the computers , TV’s (and DirecTV receivers), router and coffee pot.  The lights, water pump and a few other things run on the 12v power system directly from the batteries.  Now, I have very limited knowledge of how all this works, but I can look at a control panel we have, and see the little battery power strength meter and know when it’s time to turn on the generator.  We’re getting into a pattern where we run it a couple of times a day, at least so far.  The refrigerator runs on propane, so it’s not using a lot of electrical power, only what it needs for the control system.

We’ve been turning on one of our two propane furnaces in the morning for a little while at the same time the generator is running, but the weather has been nice so far (at least until today), so we haven’t needed to run it for very long.

Our biggest challenge is water.  Our fresh water tank holds 100 gallons, the gray water tank is 70 gallons, and the black is either 40 or 45 gallons.  So far, both waste water tanks are showing 0% full, which is a good thing.  But, we have gone from 100% to 65% in the fresh water tank in just over 3 days, and we think we’ve been ultra conservative with water use!  We keep a pan in the shower to catch the cold water that runs first as we’re getting ready to take a very quick shower.  I keep a dishpan with a little water in it in the sink to soak the few dishes we use.  I heat the cold catch water to use for washing dishes, which is a once-a-day job.  We use very little flush water for the toilet (sorry if I’m providing TMI), just a quick rinse of the toothbrush, etc.  So, we realize we need to supplement the water from our tank with bought water.  We have 4  one-gallon jugs of store bought water that we’ll refill in Quartzsite at the reverse osmosis station when they are empty.  We broke down and bought a case of 16 oz. bottled drinking water.  And, today I bought 2 five-gallon collapsible jugs and we’ll get those filled too, so we’ll have probably another day or two added capacity.  Our trips to Bouse to dump the tanks and take on fresh water will most likely be determined by the lack of fresh water much more than the need to dump.

We separate our paper trash and use it for starting our campfire.  Other trash and garbage can be taken to the Bouse transfer station about 3 days a week, or there is one in Quartzsite that we can use the other days.  For general house cleaning and quick hand washing, we’re using anti bacterial wipes.

What have we learned – so far? 

Water – it’s hard to conserve enough.  I washed off my orange today with what was left in a bottle of drinking water instead of turning on the kitchen tap.  I’ve learned to use less soap – less rinsing required.  We still have a lot to learn in this area.

Power – we’ll probably end up getting at least one small solar panel to assist with battery charging, even though we have a great generator that doesn’t use a lot of fuel.

Food prep – I’m still on a steep learning curve with this.  It’s not practical to pre-prep everything if we’re going to spend more than a few days or a week doing this.  I’m thinking that already cut-up veggies or whole fruit is a good idea, as are foods that are simple to prepare, without a lot of bowls, spoons or pans required.  That’s not easy.  But somehow we’re not going hungry!

The whole experience is pretty wonderful.  We’re not completely isolated, we can see a main road, although we don’t hear the traffic.  There are other rigs in our area, so we do have a few vehicles pass by us each day.  The area is stunning in it’s beauty and peacefulness. And the quiet, oh my gosh. 

Of course, spending time with friends Janna and Mike makes it all that much more enjoyable and fun!


Roadrunner Chronicles said...

I agree - boondocking is fun and a constant learning curve. Good info on your experience. We also use the plastic tub in the sink to do dishes once a day and (TMI) don't flush as much.

Karon said...

Wow, that sounds so peaceful. You have provided great information. This gives the term "self contained rig" a whole new meaning. No, it was not TMI. This is a need to know thing for those of us who dream of trying what you are doing.

Keep enjoying the solitude, peace, tranquility.

Love you, K

Jeanette said...

Our experience is that the water tank indicaters are far from accurate. Keep up the good work, we so enjoy your writing. Jeanette Scott

JB said...

You are doing great, I know when we are in the desert we do pretty much the same things we do when hooked up. Well the showers are quicker and we do have a couple of water jugs that we fill on our trips into civilization, and we don't wake up in the night listening to sirens or noisy neighbours but other than that it is pretty normal. When we set our rig up we knew this was something we wanted to do so did add some Solar capacity and looked for a rig with large capacity tankage.

Tumbleweed Dee said...

Thank you so much for posting. There's no TMI, it's all useful. We're so looking forward in doing the same thing. I don't have a little dishpan, but it's now on the list to get.

LakeConroePenny,TX said...

Great job, Ellie. I know you are loving the peacefulness.
Boondocking makes you appreciate the wagon trains even more. And they just carried a few barrels of water.
You can use the dirty dishwater for flushing, too. Saves on water.
Happy Trails, Penny, TX

Peggy n David said...

When we boondock, I do a lot of 'foil cooking' - a lovely piece of fish with seasonings and a spray of EVOO, and in a separate packet veggies (they cook much slower) and cook over hot coals or on a grill, I use the portion control all ready to serve brown rice, heat it in foil dishes, eat out of the foil pkts. I also will do baked apples -core, fill with some raisens, a little splenda brwn sugar, bit of butter, wrap in foil and cook...YUM

We too use a dishpan and put the soapy water down the black tank - don't want it to get too sludgy :)

We use a LOT of baby wipes - the antibacterial ones dry out your skin really bad - the baby wipes don't and they are less expensive. wipes for us, antibacterial for cleaning stuff!

Veggies in the 'steamer' bags - microwave them, no pan or bowl to wash.

I'm interested in getting one of the coleman slow cookers that work off those little propane bottles - supposed to last 8 hours on a bottle - would be great with a slow cooker liner :)

Sorry this is so long :)

LakeConroePenny,TX said...

Any one who has been in hospital has the little dishpans.
Really, you need two, one for washing and one for rinsing dishes. A tiny dab of Clorox in the rinse water will assure your dishes are sanitized. That much won't hurt your black tank if you use it for flushing.
Happy Trails, Penny, TX.

The Haman's said...

The comments are really useful.

I wanted to say that I am so glad you are finding this experience fun. It sounds like I might like it also, but we do not have the battery power that you have. Maybe next year we will give it a try.
Love, Ginger

Motty said...

That was very helpful post - Likes it very much. Some of the comments were great advice too. Can't wait to start bonndocking ourselves!