In the last entry we looked at what boondocking is and isn’t. If you think boondocking might be for you, the next step is knowing what features are most important to look for when shopping for a RV to be used for boondocking
To follow is a list of features, in order of relative importance, for a typical boondocker.
Water Capacity: The human body cannot survive without water. You will need to consider water for drinking, bathing, dishwashing, etc. Obviously once you have depleted your water supply, you will need to exit the boondocks to resupply or face dehydration and death. Cases of bottled water can meet all of your drinking water needs which leaves the freshwater tank to supply your bathing, dish cleaning, hand washing and toilet flushing needs. When researching RVs look for convenient places to store bottled water and RVs with large freshwater tanks. The larger the tank the longer you can stay out in the boonies. Good boondockers can get by with 3-4 gallons per day per person while still enjoying a navy shower daily.
Black Water Holding Tank: For those new to RVing, the black water tank collects the sewage from the toilet. Once it is full you have no choice but to exit the boondocks or start going where the bears go. Needless to say, the larger the black tank the longer you can stay camped. With most RVs and typical usage, you will run out of freshwater long before you fill the black tank Note: Dumping of the black tank anywhere on public land is illegal.
Gray Water Tank: The importance of the gray tank size will depend on where you are boondocking. Contrary to popular belief there are many places in the West where it is still legal to dump gray water or at least dishwater. However, there are many more places where you can’t. If you are in an area where you can’t legally dump gray water, when the tank is full it is time to leave the boondocks in search of a dump station. If it is legal to dump dishwater you can extend your stay by doing your dishes in a dishpan and dispose of it per the land agencies instructions.
Propane: When you are boondocking, which by definition (see the last blog entry) means no shore power (120 volts AC electrical hook up) you will be cooling your refrigerator, heating your hot water, cooking and warming your RV with propane. Once your propane tanks are empty, you might as well be tent camping. Note: If your RV can carry 14 gallons of propane or more, unless you are camping in real cold weather, one or more of the above three items will become problematic long before you run out of propane.
Refrigerator: The size of your refrigerator will in part determine how long you can avoid visiting the grocery store. Since there are no grocery stores in the boondocks (see the last entry), when the refrigerator is empty you will need to leave the boondocks to restock it. Yes, you can carry freeze dried food, canned meat and REMs, but you are buying a RV to enjoy boondocking, not live like a mountain man!
Laundry Storage / Clothe Storage: Few people think about where they will store their dirty laundry when purchasing a RV, but if you plan to stay out in the boondocks for weeks on end and like to change into clean clothes and dry yourself off after bathing with a clean towel on a regular basis you will find the pile of laundry grows quite rapidly. Once you run out of laundry storage or clean clothes you will need to leave the boondocks in search of a laundromat or a creek where you can beat your clothes on a rock!
Food storage: Like the refrigerator example, the amount of food you can carry in your RV will determine the length of your stay. Unless you are a hunter and gatherer type you will sooner or later deplete your food supply.
Battery Bank: Since shore power doesn’t exist in the boondocks and a currant bush doesn’t produce the right kind of current, your batteries will be supplying all of your electrical needs. The larger the bank of batteries the less often they will need to be charged. As long as you have enough battery power to survive a day in the boondocks, dead batteries are not likely to drive you from the boondocks as you can easily recharge them via a generator, solar panels or, while very inefficient, the alternator of your tow vehicle or motorhome.
Obviously, depending on your lifestyle and comfort level, there are exceptions to each item listed above, but for someone just starting out boondocking, I believe you will find them pretty accurate for level of importance.