WE'RE NOT READY!

Boondocking test results from
Ocracoke Campground
Cape Hatteras National Seashore


We're not ready to boondock, just yet!

Some of you may not know what boondock means. It is a term that means something different to almost everyone in the RV community, but to us it simply means to camp for free in a remote place where there is no water supply, no propane filling stations, no showers or toilets, no electricity, no grocery store nearby, limited cell phone service and most of the time no one else around to rely on for help. It's the kind of camping we intend to do once we get out west where there are so many more opportunities to do so. Our short term goal is to be able to boondock for 7 days at a time and our long term goal is to stretch it to 14 days. We made all kinds of preparations to get set up for boondocking before we started this journey and on this 4 day practice run we came up short in almost every category.


CATEGORY 1 - WATER

Our preparations:
THE POD has a 39 gallon fresh water tank onboard so we filled it half way up (20 gal) before arriving at the campsite. We also purchased 6 gallons of spring water from the grocery store.

Our practice run experience:
As far as water goes we did pretty good! Over the 4 day practice run we used about 10 gallons for mainly cleaning dishes, flushing the toilet and other clean up chores. We also used the water from the fresh tank to boil for making pasta and brewing iced tea. I am still a little bit leary about drinking the water from the fresh tank, so that is why we purchased the spring water. Six gallons was plenty for drinking water for 4 days.


CATEGORY 2 - PROPANE

Our preparations:
THE POD is equipped with two 30 pound propane tanks installed on the front of the trailer, more than enough for two weeks of cooking and running the fridge. Additionally we carry a separate 20 pound tank for running the Honda generator and a 4.25 pound tank for the BBQ grill. I hate buying those little green 1 pound disposable tanks, but I do carry one or two just in case.

Our practice run experience:
RULE #1 - Recheck your propane tank levels just before going boondocking each and every time. When we took delivery of THE POD back in April we were told both 30 pound tanks were filled. We checked to make sure the propane stove worked and it did, so we assumed the tanks were full as we had been told. Well now it is August and we haven't used the stove or the heater, the only two propane appliances on board, since we took delivery. The refrigerator does run on propane when you are not plugged into electricity and have it set to auto-detect. We haven't used the stove because up until now we have had electricity at every campsite, so we have been using our electric induction counter top stoves. We haven't used the heater, well because it's August in the southern United States. So we either have a leak, they were never filled in the first place or we have unknowingly been running the refrigerator on propane most of these first four months. I'm hoping for the last explanation!


CATEGORY 3 - TOILETS AND SHOWERS

Our preparations:
THE POD is equipped with a flushing toilet and a 39 gallon black tank to store the contents of what is flushed down it. We also have an inside shower but don't plan on using it right away. We have two solar shower bags from our tent camping days. Each shower bag is two and a half gallon and in the past the two of us have been able to get an adequate shower from a single bag.

Our practice run experience:
On this run we didn't break out the solar bags for showering but we did exclusively use the onboard toilet. By practicing the age old mantra of "If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down!" we were able to conserve water for use elsewhere. Also a nice scented candle in the bathroom helped!


CATEGORY 4 - ELECTRICITY

Our preparations:
We purchased THE POD with the factory solar package option that included two 80 watt panels on the roof and 2 upgraded AGM batteries on the outside front of the trailer. The solar package also includes an auxiliary port on the front of the trailer to plug in additional panels. That is why we purchased a 200 watt portable solar panel to plug in to this port. THE POD also came with a 1000 watt pure sine wave inverter for converting our battery power to 110 household current for running small appliances. Also onboard is a 2000 watt portable Honda generator and we converted it to run only on propane. Propane runs much cleaner and is easier and safer to transport than gasoline.

Our practice run experience:
This is where we had the most problems. With Tricia still working part time and myself trying to maintain this blog we both needed to have our laptops running all day, along with a large 29 inch monitor to make Tricia's work so much more productive so she doesn't have to move windows all around on her small screen all day. This required us to have the inverter running all day to supply us with the 110V current to run the large monitor. Also at this location we needed to run our cell phone booster which also requires 110V power. Add to that the refrigerator thermostat, the smoke and propane leak detectors, the ceiling exhaust fans other small power drains and we were draining our batteries dangerously low before lunch. The 160 watts of solar on the roof was not enough to handle the draw we were placing on the batteries, but we knew that. So I brought out the additional 200 watts of solar panels and that helped tremendously, but it still didn't seem to keep the batteries adequately charged. Next, out came the 2000 watt Honda generator and here is where I think we unknowingly popped the breaker for the converter (not sure what that does, will have to research). After firing up the generator nothing seemed to help keep the batteries charged. We gave up and took a day off from working on the computers, it was our last day here.


CATEGORY 5 - GROCERIES

Our preparations:
Not surprisingly this is where we excelled! THE POD has a 7 cubic foot refrigerator/freezer. Having been tent campers for the last 15 years and planning for long weekend trips with just a 75 quart ice chest for storage we did just fine.

Our practice run experience:
As mentioned, we've had a lot of experience in this category and we did not go hungry this weekend.


CATEGORY 6 - CELL PHONE SERVICE

Our preparations:
Most of the places we plan to go boondocking will be far away from any major city, which usually means we will probably have poor cell phone service. With this in mind we purchased two cell phone booster systems from a company called Weboost. One system is for inside of the truck, it is a very simple install. It involves a small magnetic mount antenna out the window and onto the roof, a cradle to place your cell phone in and then plug it into the 12V cigarette (power) outlet on the dasboard and you're done. It's simple and works great at boosting a poor signal. The key is you have to begin with a poor signal to boost (ie no signal, no boost). The other larger system is twice as powerful at boosting, but it requires a little more installation and preparation time. It has a large antenna that most people mount to the roof of their RV, but I'm not to excited about drilling holes into the roof of THE POD. So I've decided a different approach to this is needed. I will be mounting our antenna to the top of a 20 foot tall telescopic flagpole. The theory is the higher up the less interference with the reception.

Our practice run experience:
There is a fairly decent cell phone signal to begin with here, but the smaller booster made it even better. The major problem was having the electricity to power it. There are no 12V outlets in THE POD so I purchased a 110V to 12V socket adapter just to run this booster and it worked fine. The smaller booster will only boost one device at a time and the larger one claims to be able to boost 4 devices at a time so I will need to get the larger one installed ASAP.


IN SUMMARY

We did survive the boondocking weekend practice run but it could have, and should have, gone better. In all fairness this weekend's environment was not your typical prime boondocking opportunity. It was hot, humid, no shade, very little breeze and lots of rain. Needing to wait out the rain inside THE POD with all the windows closed and unable to use the roof vent fans was not pleasant. We did have a couple of small 4-inch USB powered fans plugged into the laptops but if you are more than two feet away from them you don't feel any breeze. We will have to make some improvements before we attempt this whole boondocking thing again later this month.



Until next time
TWO PEAS


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2 comments:

  1. I am thinking of buying a transit bus and converting it to a camper. Your info will come in very handy. Have fun, safe trips.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Dewey! Good to hear from you. I'm glad to know you are thinking of getting another camper setup and that this info was helpful. We did just finish 3 more days of no hookups and it went a lot smoother this time.

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