When we're asked about boondocking, we're asked what we do for power when we camp for two weeks or more?
If you have a generator or solar panels, creating power isn't a problem. The trick to extended camping without running a generator is conserving power.
Conserve Power When Boondocking
Back in the day camping generators weren't common and solar panels were still in the future. People still camped for weeks at a time. They didn't do it by creating power; they did it by conserving energy.
We can learn from them.
Turn Off The Lights
When I was a kid my parents always after me to turn off the lights. They didn't like me wasting energy.The same rule applies to boondocking.
Lights, especially those with incandescent bulbs, consume a lot of power. When boondocking, try changing your routine. Instead of reading at night, read during the day. Another easy change is going to bed earlier.
Turn Off The Furnace
In cold weather think about where you park your RV. Where you park makes a big difference in comfort and power consumption. So park in a spot where the sunlight warms your RV and you won't have to use the furnace as often.
An RV furnace burns propane. But it also consumes a lot of electrical power running the furnace blower.
If you keep from running your furnace, you'll extend you stay by days.
Alternatives To Running The Furnace
During the spring and fall, sunlight during the day will warm an RV's interior. On cold nights, you'll need an alternative way to stay warm and comfortable.
Sleeping bags aren't for tent camping only. They're ideal for use in an RV. Kids love them, and parents can zip two sleeping bags together for a warm sleeping bag for two. Another advantage of sleeping bags is they are lightweight and compact.
Some people don't like sleeping in a bag. A good alternative are blankets or quilts. We carry a couple of extra blankets for cold weather camping. We've stayed cozy warm even when it's snowing outside.
Indoor Approved Propane Heater
We have a Mr. Heater Buddy, and we love it. You'll still burn propane, but you won't be powering a furnace. We've used our heater when it was single digits outside, but inside our RV, we've been comfortable and warm.
The heaters use 1-pound bottles of propane. During the spring and fall, a single bottle lasts us 2 to 3 days. We buy ours in sets of four, so we have enough propane to last at least a week.
Warning: Only use a heater approved for indoor use. Also, it isn't safe to sleep with a propane heater turned on. To be safe, we always keep a vent gapped open to vent any fumes. If you're going to use an indoor propane heater, install a propane gas detector.
TIP: When temperatures drop below freezing, holding tanks and water lines can freeze. Our travel trailer has an underbelly that's warmed by the house heater. When it gets below freezing we keep our furnace at 62 degrees to keep the underbelly warm.
LED Flashlights And Lanterns
We have several rechargeable LED flashlights. The flashlight last for weeks before needing a charge.
And we use the lanterns at night for reading, crafting or playing games. The LED lanterns aren't as bright as a propane lantern so we have 4 of them. We place them around the interior of our RV. And when we're sitting around the campfire, we hang them in trees or use them to go for a walk.
Solar-powered LED yard lights from The Dollar Store are a great way to add light around and inside the RV. If you worry about safety when boondocking, you can add a ring of lights around your RV for under $20. Each light doesn't produce a lot of light, but 15 or 20 of them will do a good job of lighting up the area around the RV.
Convert Incandescent Lights To LED Lights
We have LED lights in our RV. They're bright and draw a small amount of power.
Tablet Instead Of A Laptop
Laptops draw between 50 and 100 watts of power when charging while a tablet draws about 10 watts. If you can get away with using a tablet, you'll drain your batteries a lot less.
Turn off Your Water Pump
The water pump also draws a lot of power. So you want to use it as little as possible. And you also want to turn off the pump when it's not in use. Otherwise, it will continue to draw a small amount of power.
Turn Off The Inverter To Save Power When Boondocking
Having an inverter makes RVing a lot more convenient. The downside is using an inverter puts a lot of strain on the batteries. If you use your inverter, turn it off after using it. An inverter continues to drain the batteries even though nothing is being powered.
Charging Batteries When Boondocking
Even with good conservation of power, most RV batteries will drain to 50% in a few days.
TIP: To protect your batteries, don't let them drop below a 50% charge.
So, if you plan on camping for more than a few days, at some point you'll need to charge your batteries.
Solar panels are an efficient way to keep RV batteries charged. This is our preferred method of recharging our batteries.
Solar Panels Pros
- Friendly to the environment
- Charges batteries within a day
- No fuel required (except sunlight)
- Free to use
Solar Panels Cons
- Need sunlight to work
- The initial investment is expensive
- If they aren't mounted to your RV or travel trailer, you must secure them at night or when you're away.
Because we are full-time RVers, we also have a portable generator. During the winter, we couldn't get by without it.
- Continues charging as long as it has fuel
- Recharges batteries
- Powers outlets and appliances like the microwave and air conditioner
- Dependable portable power
- Can't use it in campgrounds after 10 p.m. or before 7 a.m.
- Produces exhaust fumes
- The initial investment is expensive
Most people charge their travel trailer batteries with a generator or solar panels. But you can also charge your batteries with a tow vehicle while running errands. How to do this is beyond the scope of this article, but you can do it.
Warning: Don't charge your batteries by putting them inside your vehicle. Charging batteries inside a vehicle is not safe. Batteries can explode.
Being able to boondock camp for a week or more is fun. With a little effort you can extend the time between charging batteries.