When we first started out dreaming about Our Moving House adventures, we had to learn a whole new vocabulary. We joined Facebook groups, subscribed to other full-timing RVer blogs, and Googled constantly to figure out what in the world people were talking about. There is this entire community of people out there who used words that were unfamiliar to us newbies.
“Boon-docking” was one of those words. It is also referred to as “dry camping”. Basically, it means to camp in your RV without any hookups; no sewer hookups, no water connections, and no electricity provided. I know what you’re thinking. That sounds AWFUL! Hold on…let me explain.
If you are not familiar with the RV world and this concept, it’s really not as bad as it sounds! It’s actually pretty wonderful. It allows you complete freedom to park somewhere beautiful without having to “hook up”.
When we purchased our rig, we also purchased a beautiful Yamaha 6300iSDE inverter/generator. It was fairly new to the market at the time and had a pretty hefty price tag of over $3500. It came with excellent reviews , and offered some great benefits compared to cheaper models. We liked that it is quiet (had a few sleepless nights in camp grounds next to $300 generators) running between 58 and 64 dbs. We liked that it has an economy feature so it only runs as fast as it needs to. Isn’t it gorgeous?
The one thing we really struggled with at first was getting the full 50-amp capacity out of the generator. Logic (not physics) stated that we should plug our four-prong, 50-amp power cord into the four-prong, 50-amp outlet. It tripped after only one of our 3 AC units switched on. Long story short – we discovered that the only way to get the maximum 45.8 amps is out of the 3 prong, 30-amp outlet. I know, it does not make any sense, but it works. Three AC units running on the 30-amp outlet, only one on the 50 amp. Now, trying to start up all three AC units at the same time is not a good idea. Easy does it!
We didn’t really know where it fit on our rig to start with. Our 5er has a “generator compartment” in the front under the tongue, but there is no way our beast of a machine was going to fit in there; not to mention, it wasn’t practical. The generator weighs 200lbs (dry weight), and the location does not allow for removal for maintenance.
We first tried to mount a rack meant for an electric scooter on the back of our 5th wheel bumper, but that didn’t work. Our generator was too heavy and was putting too much strain on the rear bumper and frame. So, she sat at my parents’ house for months while we travelled before we came up with a genius plan to carry her onboard. We had talked about removing the toolbox from the truck bed and putting the generator in its place, but we couldn’t give up the tool storage. Then, one day, we remembered we had a smaller hitch-mounted luggage rack we had used in our pre-RV days stashed at my parents’ house, which the toolbox from the truck bed would fit perfectly on! My dad and Paul spent a Sunday afternoon removing the toolbox from the truck, which also meant disassembling and reassembling the air-ride suspension compressor and controls, which were mounted inside the tool box, back to the truck bed. Good fun!
The generator then fit perfectly where the toolbox was between the front of the bed and the hitch. The toolbox was then mounted to the luggage rack and attached to the back bumper of the 5th wheel. Perfect!
The only bummer about the whole deal, which has proved to not be a huge big deal is we had to lose our truck bed cover in the process of it all. The generator stands too tall to have the flip-top cover on. We had to make covers for the air compressors (air-ride and general purpose) to keep off the majority of the rain. Then we had to put locks on everything. Would seriously hate for our toys to grow legs and walk!
But, the best part is we can now boondock whenever we want to like we did in Valentine, TX for Valentine’s Day! We have the “power”!
The next boon-docking question is the sewer. To be honest, this is a very minor thing. Most of the time, we don’t have sewer connections. We do most of our camping at state parks with water and electric only. We utilize the dump stations on our way out, or if we’re staying for a while, we visit the dump station once a week. We have 5 waste tanks on our rig. We have two black (sewer) tanks. Black tank one and two hold 54 gallons each. We can go about a week with 4 of us using the facilities regularly. We have three gray tanks (shower, sinks, washing machine, etc.) Gray tank one holds 54 gallons, gray two holds 54 gallons, and the galley tank (kitchen and the outside kitchen sink) holds 32 gallons. Now, while boon-docking you cannot take half-hour showers. We take what we refer to as “RV Showers” a couple of times a week. Our shower head comes with an on/off switch, so the idea is to get in the shower, get wet, switch water off, soap up head to toe, switch water on, rinse off, and get out. We do not run our washing machine while boon-docking. There are a few minor luxuries that we give up in order to boon-dock.
The biggest issue we’ve found with boon-docking is having enough water. When you’re hooked up, you have an unlimited supply of water. But, while boon-docking, you only have what your fresh tank can hold. Our fresh water tank holds 64 gallons. We found out pretty quickly that we go through that easily with toilet flushing, washing dishes, and a shower or two in a few days. So, we purchased this portable 25-gallon spot sprayer tank to supplement our water supply, as our waste tanks hold more than our fresh tank will hold at one time.
We found we could siphon the additional water into our fresh tank by connecting the portable tank to the hose for “winterizing”. Then, plugging the water hose for the outdoor shower into the fresh tank and turning on the water. This engages the on-board water pump, pulling the additional water in through the winterizing hose. We refilled it twice in 7 days.
We love trying new things in our rig. It’s like a game to see how far we can push it. J
As far as gas for the generator goes, it depends on what time of year and where you are. Last summer when we tested it out for the first time, it was around 100 degrees in Texas. We had to run 3 air conditioners around the clock, and in the end, it would have been cheaper to just rent a site at a park. But, this time, with the temps around 60-80 degrees, it was MUCH easier. Most of the time we had the generator off with the windows open. We used between $4 – $8 per day depending on the weather. It cost us $6 in park fees/night. So, we were looking at between $10-$14 night compared to state parks at $15-$28 per night or an RV park at the cheapest $35/night.
One area we need to improve before our next boon-dock is our batteries – actually, our battery. We have a single 12v Deep Cycle Continental battery that is meant for engine starts on a boat. There are a lot of different specifications on a battery, and it can get really confusing. Basically, this battery is rated at a 7 hour run time at 10 amps. It barely lasts through the night. One morning we were welcomed into the day by the sound of smoke alarm beeping at 3am. No power left! We are considering changing to two banks of two 6v Golf Cart batteries (paired in series, and then paralleled together). There are other options (solar), but we do not boondock enough to justify that kind of time and money on equipment.
Did I mention we had the best view we’ve ever had? We were essentially on the end of an island. We had water on three sides. Gorgeous views! We don’t boondock all the time, but it’s so nice to have the capability to do so!