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Question Of The Week

67 Reader Tips For Off-Grid Boondocking

Next time you’re having dinner out, imagine putting your fork down, getting up on your table, waving your hands to get everyone’s attention, and saying, “By show of hands, how many people here would be willing to go without a shower for a few days to enjoy the natural wonders of Yellowstone National Park?”

This is a trick question because (a) most folks wouldn’t be able to peel their attention away from their smartphones to notice the crazy guy waving his arms and (b) you’re standing on a perfectly fine cheeseburger.  What are you doing?  Get down before someone calls the cops or worse, puts you on YouTube.

My point is this; most folks would never for a second consider not taking a domestic shower every morning to see stunningly beautiful landscapes, or an Elk, or to get away from the incessant hustle and never ending noise of modern society.  But here we are, truck campers us all, ready to forgo five minute hot showers to do exactly that.

We greatly enjoyed reading all the responses and look forward to trying a few of the techniques mentioned.  In the meantime, here’s to off-grid boondocking!

This week’s Question of the Week was, “How long can you boondock off-the-grid with your truck camper before you need to dump your tanks or replenish your supplies?”

“I went on a three week fishing trip this May.  I had ten gallons of water when I got home.  I shower everyday.  I have a shower head with an on/off switch.  I get wet, soap up, and rinse, so I use half a gallon at the most.  I’ve always used the camper’s fresh water for drinking with no problems.  The Eagle Cap holds over eighty gallons of fresh water.” – Bruce Ostermann, 2015 Ram 5500, 2015 Eagle Cap 1165

“I loved this article.  I just built my truck and camper package and I’m ready to start camping.  I am heading to the Overland Expo East in Asheville, North Carolina in October for my first time out.  I don’t have solar panels, but I am purchasing the Honda EU2000i this weekend.  Hopefully that will address keeping the battery charged and handling the air conditioner unit.  I have a lot to learn and these articles are my new Bible.  I just wanted to say thanks.” – Joe Tatosky, 2005 Dodge Ram 3500, 2008 Northstar 850SC

“It depends if we are on a lake or river.  If we are, we can last three weeks.  If we are not on the water, two weeks is the limit.” – Joe Munn, 2001 3500, 1999 Bigfoot 2500 9-6

“Three weeks!  And it was fun.  National Forests or National Parks are great for your first long term boondocking experience.  With a lake, a creek or river slowly passing by, it’s peaceful and full of beauty.

First, we use baby wipes for daily use.  Second, a hat for days five through seven.  And third, a cup for cleaning the dishes.  Do not dump anything in the river, lake, or creek, please.  If you swim, keep dressed.  It refreshes your clothing, but they will smell worse then you will!

Eat well out of your freezer or refrigerator the first week.  We have a two gallon shower bag that we use per day to help us control our water use.  We have two 80-watt solar panels and four batteries for power.  Please read my article with TCM for more tips; Doing More and Spendling Less in a Truck Camper.” – Jake and Sylvie Mathis, 1994 Dodge Ram 2500, Northern Lite 9CQ

“On our winter trip from New York to Quartzite, Arizona it’s generally really cold, so we use our heater for the four or five day trip out.  We dry camp all the way at Walmart or Cracker Barrel.  When we arrive in Quartzite, we stay out at least another week on BLM land until we need to fill LP and dump waste water.  We usually cannot fill up with water in the tanks until it gets warmer, but we take five one gallon jugs for the trip across.  The Arctic Fox has two 30 pound propane tanks and we have a 2500 watt Onan generator.” – David and Lila Weinstein, 1999 Ram 3500, 2005 Arctic Fox 1150

“The whole reason for owning our truck camper over tent camping is for us to be able to enjoy a shower every night.  We can go five nights before needing to dump the holding tanks and fill with fresh water.” – Bruce Allison, 2000 Ford F350, 2012 Adventurer 910 FBS

“My vacations never last long enough to test my endurance.  They are usually only a week or two, and then I have to return to the grind.  I’ll let you know in two years, seven months, one week, and three days, when I retire.  Not that I’m counting.” – Carl Ragland, 2002 Chevy 2500HD, 1992 K-Z Sportsmen

“I have used the camper when I’m at a my worksite.  I have thirty-six gallons of fresh water (including the water heater), eight gallons of grey, and five gallons of black.  I also have two Group 27 batteries, and two 20-pound propane tanks.

In moderate weather I can easily spend five consecutive nights in the camper before servicing.  I have a white collar job, so I do need daily showers to fully clean up.  The grey tank sometimes gets full after just three to four days, even with Navy showers and careful conservation.  When needed, I sheepishly dump just the grey on the grass at a nearby pull-off at the work site, knowing that I’ve been careful to use environment-friendly shampoo and soap.  I don’t know if this violates any regulations, but I’m comfortable that it is not harmful to anyone.

I can usually make a five day week with the fresh water, and two weeks with the black tank.  I work in an office with restroom facilities, so I only use the camper head for the twelve hours per day when I’m in the camper.

The tightest limit is the battery during cold nights.  When it gets below 40-degrees outside, my camper requires twenty to thirty minutes per hour of furnace operation.  The furnace blower pretty much runs both batteries down in one to two nights.  The small gauge internal 12 volt wiring restricts the charging current available to the batteries from running the truck so, on cold nights, I need to find shore power for a couple of hours to recharge the batteries, even if I’ll be driving a bit.

I don’t have solar panels but, since this is a late fall and winter problem, I’m really not sure how much they’d help with the limited sunlight available.  The bottom line is that battery power for the furnace fan is the limiting factor for boondocking in cold weather, and the grey water tank is limiting at other times.

Like you, I don’t have a microwave (no need).  I only need shore power very rarely for the rooftop air conditioner, since I’m not in the camper during the daytime when it may be hot.” – Reed Prior, 2007 GMC 2500 HD, 2000 Travel Lite

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