Primitive parking without water or electricity (called boondocking) is popular with experienced RVers. Travelers new to the lifestyle may shy away from boondocking due to lack of information about day-to-day living without support from a full hookup site.
Boondocking does not mean doing without. It simply means adjusting the way you do things. Stretch the use of your fresh water, maximize the capacity of your gray and black tanks and get the most out of the power you have available. In fact, the following boondocking tips can even stretch your stay in a partial hook-up campground.
- Don’t discharge your battery more than 50% (12.2 volts). Discharging more than this can damage the battery.
- Use a digital voltmeter to check battery voltage. To get an accurate reading the battery needs to be at rest (no power draw or input) for at least 2-3 hours. The best time to check the battery voltage is the first thing in the morning before you turn on the power and before solar panels or a generator start to charge the batteries.
- Check batteries monthly for water usage if you carry the flood type. This will extend the life of your battery.
- Use a digital Volt-Ohm-Amp meter to determine how many amps you are using. These are available at Amazon and some RV parts stores online.
- When using an inverter, unplug all 120-volt appliances when not in use because even when they are off, they draw power. While they may not draw much power, that little bit adds up. This can have a big impact on how long the energy in your batteries last.
- Use an electric outlet bar with surge protection to make it easy to turn appliances on and off.
- While exploring the neighborhood in your toad or truck, charge small appliance batteries (cell phone, computer) using a small (pocket) inverter or a mobile charger.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Coffee makers, hair dryers and toasters all put a large drain on your batteries.
- Propane gas ovens are better suited for boondocking than convection ovens, which do require a generator. If you choose to use an inverter to run the convection oven, select at least 3500 watts, pure sine.
- Turn lights off when not in use, just like your mother taught you.
- Know where the DC lights are located throughout the RV and label them, if necessary. AC lights require an inverter to turn on.
Learn how to control your entertainment devices:
- Turn the antenna booster off when not in use.
- Use a small TV with the brightness turned down to conserve power.
- Laptop computers use less energy than desktop computers. Laptops also have their own batteries to use when you are in a high conservation mode.
- Buy appliances based on their energy consumption.
- Watch local TV instead of satellite. This means only your TV is drawing power instead of both the TV and satellite receiver.
There is much more to learn if you plan on using solar energy. But these tips help get you through two days of boondocking without much stress.
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