Boondocking 101: How do you camp without hookups?
By Bob Difley
In last week’s post I suggested some reasons why you might want to try boondocking. This week we look at how to survive–and enjoy–camping without the appendages we call hookups–what seems to be the biggest concern for new boondockers.
The length of time you can boondock is mostly developing habits of conservation. When you run out of water, you run out of boondocking days. 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 bowl 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–it will keep you dishwashing water cleaner and take less to do the job–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 little water it takes to do the job.
There is a raging debate over dumping gray water outside rather than into your holding tank. You are unlikely to get a ticket from the law even if they catch you red-handed, but some may consider it to be illegal in the strictest sense of the law or not earth-friendly. Do what you feel to be the right thing, and do not abuse the gray water dumping concept by dumping in inappropriate places like in the campsite, in a campground, or onto the road. This is a subject worthy of another blog post.
Usually the black water holding tank (from the toilet) will not be a limiting factor–as long as you don’t run great amounts of water to flush it. Use a toilet brush and you will save water. And you already know this, but NEVER dump your black water tank into anything other than a legal sewer or dump station.
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 by the RV lights.
If you need to use a 120-volt appliance like the microwave, blender, or coffee grinder, or your 12-volt battery-draining water pump, try to schedule using these appliances in the same block of time while running the generator, which will power them directly without pulling amps out of your batteries–and will also put a few amps back in at the same time.
Lastly, monitor your systems so you can pull up stakes and move on BEFORE your water pump sucks air, your gray water tank backs up into your bathtub, and you start using flashlights because your lights are so dim. But, after you get used to conserving, you will find that it isn’t so hard, and it wasn’t so hard breaking old wasteful habits–and that’s a good thing.
Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (now available in a Kindle version), Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Buck. And while you’re in there, email me if you would like to see a particular subject addressed in a future blog post.