Boondocking.. Rigs & Sites
My wife and I are confirmed boondockers. 15 years, and three rigs later we have worked up our capacity to stay without services for five weeks. All our travel is between better and better getaway spots. The really great ones we no longer post to an internet website. (It makes it too easy for you.) However we do share with good friends.
I have often wondered why we cannot go out and buy an off the shelf boondocking rig. Manufacturers don't seem to want to build one. I've tried. Gulfstream for example tell me their dealers would not be able to resell anything without a slide out , microwave and generator.
Suggestion: Look for the old style Dometic fridges with no 12 volt automation needed. They need to be level (within half a bubble) but will run almost "forever" if you take care to never have heat on when not level. Replacing your "Modern" frig is probably cheaper than buying a few 75 or 100 watt panels, regulator and batteries needed. And you will never again need a new Dinosaur Panel.
If you have one of the standard 8 cu. ft. fridges, you probably
don't want to throw it out, even though they have a really
stupid design. They have a 6 watt heater running to prevent freezeup
of the doors on high humidity days.
Feel the surface in the gap between the two doors.
If it is warm, the 12 volt heater is consuming DC power from your house batteries.
You must turn this heater OFF when boondocking. It will to save .5 ampere times 24 hours or 12 amp-hours per day. This is equivalent to a 50 watt solar panel output on a good day.
Dometic has conveniently provided a switch, inside, above the freezer door.
However, Norcold has no switch. To fix the Norcold units, remove the small micro
panel with buttons between the two doors. Turn it over, and cut the first wire from
the left ( solid white, next to white with a red tracer). Phone calls to the
factory say there is no way can accomplish this, but this trick works just fine.
Don't worry, if you cut the wrong wire you can always solder splice it back together. You can install a small switch in this wire if you would like to have the heater working in a campground where electricity is again available. While the panel is removed you may get an A3 alarm for door open. Ignore it as it senses that the panel is away from the frig and the alarm will clear once reinstalled.
Have you ever tried to order a new rig wired for solar?. The manufacturers I have talked to that do offer this option, think that means #16 wiring for a 5 watt panel.
Until we added the satellite dish everything ran from our (now) 20 year old Solar Panel ( 50 Watt) Horizontally mounted on the roof of the RV. The addition of a Satellite receiver made this limited amount of solar electricity marginal, except on completly sunny summer days.
In 2001 we added another 75 watt panel , which gives faster top up in the morning, and some leeway for shaded areas. Maximum output from the two panels, fixed mounted horizontally, increased to about 6 amperes at 70F. ( 10-15% less when the temperature hits 90F and the RV roof hits 130F ) In 2004 we added a third panel (80W), making a total of 200W . In 2011 we added another 2x80 watts, with only a diode and on-off switch to disable these. The existing regulator was limited to 10 Amps so these panels go straight to the battery. They are only switched in, on rainy days, mid-winter or when under trees, to provide additional charging. When the regulator on the 200 watt bank starts cycling they are switched off. My solar total is now 360 Watts.
More solar panel notes
LED lighting is getting easier to find. 1/10 the current draw of flourescent fixtures, and no heat. The best bet I have found so far is at IKEA. Look in the lighting department for an undercounter strip light, consisting of 4 strips, 9LED long of 12 volt each. Cut away the power supply, fuse and connect direct to your battery. I mount them with double sided tape. There are also some round units that can fit inside a 12 volt fixture.
Our Battery bank consists of only two deep discharge group 31 batteries
in parallel. Lots of storage capacity for the possible 110 amp hours
generated daily (summertime, June 21, lat 45) by the 200 watt panel bank.
We never use all that, so the regulator shuts down between 9 and 11 AM depending on sunlight. In winter (December 21, lat 30) we have enough to charge everything most days by 11 or noon. The extra capacity is for cloudy days.
One of the reasons all this works well is the way we take care to match batteries. Not only are they physically matched in age and type, but we take care that the connections are made so that each battery in a parallel bank charges and discharges at equal rates.
The positive and negative supply feeds, must go to their furthest opposite ends of a lineup of parallel batteries to have the same charging volts. at each battery. (ie: connect supply + and supply - to different batteries & furthest away from each other). This equalizes connection drops in paralleling cables and helps batteries last longer.
The load connections must also be connected that way to
share discharge currents.
This ensures equal volt drops in any cables connecting batteries in
parallel and is the only way all batteries charge and discharge
at the same rate.
DON'T BELIEVE IT ?
Try connecting both pos and neg to the same battery in a parallel bank and measure volts with a digital voltmeter on the other batteries. The closest will read highest, and furthest read lower (It will always charge to a lower level and draw down the fuller when not being charged).
Repeat this test with the negative connection moved so that the positive feed and negative feeds are on batteries furthest away from each other on the bank. Now each will read the same. It's an old timers trick from the 1920's, now re-discovered by NASA.
Your paralleled battery will last longer now. Maybe someday motorhome manufacturers will "discover" it too!
Never plugged in, in six years of RV travel, but living on a boat for 30 years has taught us many tricks how to use electricity.
Thanks to all levels of government, if you do get off the interstate, it is harder and harder to find remote locations where you are still allowed to camp with an RV. The remote locations are still there, but are slowly being closed to campers in vehicles. They seen to only want campers with shovels , who bury waste, not Rv'rs who contain it and carry it out.
I have a new fear of posting good parking sites. Every time I return to camp, someone seems to have found a reason why I can no longer park there.
You will note that most of the information below is for western locations. Our preference is more to the east. Florida in the winter, Northeast in the summer. Lots of free places there too. I just don't record them here. You have to see my map collection, in person, to get that.
Good boondocking information for these reasons is hard to find on the internet.
.. You will have to dig.
Camp where you need to camp:
Just don't make
a pest out of yourself.
Free and easy to locate RV campgrounds of the American West
Hot Springs, California
Loners on Wheels Reciprocal Links
Wandering Individuals' Network, Inc.
California Areas of Interest.
Boondocking by phred
Free Campgrounds of Arizona
Google Search: "dispersed camping"
12,000 [Almost] Free Campsites
Never Pay to Sleep! (a refreshing viewpoint)
One of the best summertime boondocking locations is Newfoundland. Park almost anywhere, just don't block the road. The warmth and friendliness of residents is infective. Just don't expect to be alone. Someone will always stop to offer help or suggest an even better spot.
Even better boondocking than Maine.
And if you really want to contact me,
figure out an address from
the web server and my call sign below.
I do reply, just do not appreciate spam.