Does a bad boondocking trip kill the concept for new RVers?
By Bob Difley
In last week’s post, A boondocker’s bag of tricks, among the many responses was one that got me thinking about how RVers view boondocking–especially those that don’t. ”Bobbie” wrote:
I don’t know why everyone raves about how great boondocking is. We went to Quartzsite, AZ to boondock with some friends who have gone there the last 4 years in January. The RVs were almost bumper to bumper, or side to side, just as close or closer than many campgrounds I have stayed in. The nights were cold, and we had to use our propane heater. We used about two- one lb. propane tanks per day. We were told we could not run our generators after a certain hour at night or until a certain hour in the morning out of respect for our neighbors. We got no tv service, even with the antenna. We took full showers every other day, with wash ups on alternate days. I like my long hot showers and missed not being able to have one.
My friends went into town daily to Mesa RV for the free lunch, which would be great if it was close by but, it was about 8 to 10 miles into town and the same back to the rv. I figure it was at least 1/2 to 1 gallon of gas per day into town not counting all the gas we spent in getting the rig and tow car down to AZ from our town in central CA. For the $1000 or more the trip cost us, to my way of thinking was not worth it at all.
Give me full hook ups and long showers, and electricity, and WIFI, and cable tv any day. I will gladly pay the nightly, weekly fee to have my aminities. Thank you very much. I know this is not the kind of post you were expecting, but this is the other side of the coin and I am sure there are many people just like me.
I suspect that if a poll were taken of random RVers, there would be a much greater percentage of those with Bobbie’s view than with a pro-boondocker’s view. And it makes me wonder that had those RVers that tried boondocking for the first time had a more positive experience, whether there would be more who would enjoy the experience than be turned off by it.
For instance what if Bobbie had taken her first boondocking trip with friends who didn’t squeeze her into a camping spot as crowded as a campground. The definition of boondocking includes camping out in the boonies, away from civilization, immersed in nature. A crowded LTVA in Quartzsite hardly qualifies as boondocking, it is what I would call dry-camping–camping without hook-ups. But dry-camping, though it how boonndockers camp, is not the total definition.
And what if Bobbie’s friends had been more interested things boondockers do–hiking, visiting scenic vistas, learning more about the uniqueness of the desert, taking wildflower walks, and visiting historic sites, rather than heading for the free lunch at Mesa RV. I know few boondockers who are more interested in watching TV than all the other opportunities boondocking has to offer.
Many first time boondockers, such as Bobbie, also don’t realize what changes or additions to their rig would make their boondocking trips more pleasureable, no matter what one’s pleasures might be. Take heat for instance. Bobbie mentions using two 1-pound canisters of propane per day. Does she realize that her forced air furnace uses a lot more? Dedicated boondockers have learned to install a catalytic heater that requires no electrical power that drains the batteries (like a forced air furnace) and that they can plumb into their main propane system, rather than use expensive 1-pound bottles.
And how about those long hot showers. That could be remedied by carrying extra Jerry jugs of water or a water bladder, as well as by practicing water conservation (such as Navy showers). An abundance of electricity would be possible by installing solar panels, and wifi with a satellite internet system.
None of the disappointments, or grievances, with her boondocking trip were insurmountable from a technical standpoint. Not that boondocking requires all those goodies, it just makes it more comfortable and therefore enjoyable. Most boondockers do not boondock just to save campground fees, though that is an important perk, but rather to camp out in nature, no crowded campgrounds, peace and quiet, solitude, more freedom to camp where you choose–not just where someone built a campground or RV resort–and all the other wonderful pleasures that go with “true” boondocking.
What if Bobbie’s first boondocking experience, rather than turning into a complete turnoff, would have become a window to a whole new world of RVing, another enjoyable way to use her rig with a freedom not possible when requiring hookups to camp. I wonder if Bobbie, and all the other RVers that had a bummer experience on their first boondocking trips, had had a better experience, maybe they would have found the enjoyment that we veteran, dedicated boondockers do.
Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar.