Camping Off The Grid: Always On Liberty Share Their Best Boondocking Tips
By: Lisa & Dan Brown
At the beginning of 2017 – our third year on the road – we experienced our very first boondocking quest in Quartzsite and Yuma, Arizona. Gone were the safety nets of park or campground security, coded gates, camp hosts, and utility hookups. No more slide-to-slide neighbors passing us the Grey Poupon. No more loud televisions and bustling cars. We were on our own.
We were on our own pilgrimage to find that perfect quiet place to call home for awhile on Bureau of Land Management. It was just us in the desert with the closest RV being about 200 or so yards away. It was freeing…of EVERYTHING! Not a care in the world to interrupt the very peace and quiet we were looking for.
BUT, we were very new at it and there were lessons quickly learned…hard lessons. We ran out of water on our third day. Our Keurig wouldn’t power up on batteries. We couldn’t toast our bread in the toaster. We ran out of simple essentials because we didn’t plan. We didn’t get much sleep because we didn’t have the safety net that RV parks provide. We really needed to go to a RV Boondocking School, if there was such a thing.
So, we decided to limp back to a RV resort-ish park in Yuma to collect our thoughts, fill up our water tank, empty our gray and black tanks and try again. While we were there at the park, we were surfing social media to see that the Escapees “Xscapers” (“Xscapers is a support network geared toward a new generation of RVers who have not yet retired and who have already, or are aspiring to, hit the road pursuing a full-time or part-time nomadic lifestyle.”) were having their Quartzsite Convergence right down the road from us. Ha! This was our ticket out of our own version of Hotel California.
We arrived halfway through the convergence, so we had to take a spot a few washes (flood trenches in the desert) up from the action.
However, we weren’t alone. Others rolled in after us; most likely for the same reason. After meeting the crowd, we planted our ratty looking camp chairs at several presentations and campfires sipping cocktails while listening to others share their boondocking tips, know-hows, experiences, and stories.
We watched, learned and networked; taking mental notes of how seasoned boondockers became successful at it. Now a year later, we’ve become those seasoned boondockers; mastering important things like water conservation, electricity management, and the unpleasantries of sewage disposal. We’ve become proficient at off-the-grid meal planning, cooking without electric appliances, loading enough stores and provisions, monitoring our propane, solar power and generator usage. Those who have never boondocked would likely think we were learning how to survive the apocalypse….and yes, we think we would!
Simply put; we learned how to be self-sufficient and independent.
Oh, and guess what?
We LOVED it! We have grown to love SIMPLE LIVING! We found we didn’t need television or electronics as our sources of entertainment. We got back to our roots; playing board games, hiking, exploring…just opening the door and experiencing the true essence of life. It was our own “Little House on the Prairie”. Laying back in our zero gravity chairs in the desert or near a mountain stream never felt so good!
What IS “Boondocking”?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the phrase ‘the boondocks’ is derived from the tagalog word ‘bundock’ which means mountain…
In RV and Camping society, similarly, “Boondocking” is another word for living off the grid or dry camping or dispersed camping. It’s living without being tethered to utilities (i.e. water, electricity, sewer, etc.) also known as FHU’s or ‘full hookups’. It’s about being independent and our RVs being self contained.
Anyone can boondock anywhere that is legal and/or where permission is granted; whether it be in a friend or family’s driveway (Moochdocking), working on a farm (Farmdocking), or Walmart or business parking lot (Lot Docking’). The best boondocking though in every sense of the word is planting ourselves out there on BLM land.
How we prepared for boondocking…
We decided to make our boondocking less stressful by making a few purchases and doing our own installations and modifications to make our excursions a little more enjoyable and easier. With a little research, planning and saving our pennies, we’ve achieved our objective of being free from dependency.
Shortly after buying our Landmark 5th wheel, we purchased two WEN 56000i 2000 Watt Generators to replace our power source when not hooked up to electric until we could get our solar system. We were careful in choosing the quietest generators possible as to not only be courteous to our neighbors (if there are any), but we don’t want to hear the noise either.
After Our First Quartzsite experience in January 2017, Dan installed our new battery bank that replaced our coach’s two 12-volt batteries with four 6-volt batteries to extend our stored energy. Six months later, Dan installed all the necessary components and six HighTec Solar Panels on our roof that now allow us freedom from using those generators.
Late summer last year, Dan figured out a way to empty and dispose our sewage without having to hitch Liberty to our dually and pull her to the nearest dump station to empty her tanks.
And, most recently, we have the added freedom of increasing our water supply with our External Portable Water Bladder. We simply drive our dually to a potable water source, fill our bladder and take it back to replenish Liberty’s water tank.
We’ve made several modifications adapting Liberty to provide some of the necessary comforts yet allowing us to live off the grid for even longer periods of time.
Why we boondock…
We admit, every boondocking experience leaves us yearning for more. To us, it’s so much more peaceful, quieter, the views are better, the sky is bigger and it’s just good for the soul to be out in nature’s elements instead of packed into a park or campground like canned sardines. The only thing that’s overwhelming, if we can even call it that, is the beauty of where we point our bow.
We boondock to take a break from society; stretching our legs and clearing our minds while distancing ourselves from the hustle bustle of chaotic life. We boondock to give ourselves a much needed break from mundane, busy schedules of running here and driving there. There’s much to be said about also getting back to the simplicities in our personal relationships within ourselves, each other and spiritually. We just need to step away, regroup, breathe in some fresh mountain air and recalculate. It’s our way of getting back to really ENJOY LIFE as it was meant to be.
Boondocking also provides us a place with little to no distractions that allows me to write and blog or Dan to catch up on some of his maintenance and chores…or naps! Our resident mousers, Krissie and Kandi, even enjoy the fresh air and scenery.
There is nothing that compares to looking out Liberty’s rear window while sitting at my workstation and glancing over my computer screen to see the sun make its daily appearance or a picturesque mountain landscape.
We get to see nature at it’s best. There’s a lot to be said for silence and stillness; no automobile or lawn mower engines, no beeping horns, no barking dogs, or people talking. Just total quiet except for what nature hails us.
Where we boondock…
Typically, we will research a location by visiting the Bureau of Land Management website, a commercial website/app called Campendium and various phone apps like US Public Lands – Apple or US Public Lands – Android ($2.99).
But the best way we find good boondocking places is by networking with like-minded RVers who have our same size RV (because if they fit, so will we!) and/or same interests; like, where the best hiking trails are or great geocaching opportunities.
Through word of mouth, convergences, and campfires, we always perk up our ears and make note of cool places our fellow boondockers share. If we know of a great place, either through social media or five o’clock somewheres, we share it as well. We enjoy views…BIG views of big skies, bright stars, and landscapes ‘out there’ alone or with like-minded friends.
So, that’s why we boondock. It seriously is a way of life and a mindset. It’s not for everybody. If you’re a creature comfort camper or RVer that needs their daily hot shower, air conditioning, electric this and that, you’ll want to stick to RV parks and campgrounds with hookups. But, if you’re up for adventure, the unknown, challenges and expanding your journey, this might be something you may want to entertain.
Also, not every RV is capable of boondocking to the extent that we do. However, we’ve shown you ways to do so. If you do boondock, please consider that there are still rules and respect. Look for our future blog where we will highlight those to give a more clear understanding of respect for the outdoors and everything (and everyone else) that’s in between and around us.
*Lisa Brown (Always On Liberty) is a paid contributor to the Heartland Blog. All opinions expressed are her own.*