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Old 05-02-2015, 10:41 PM   #1
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Scared of Dry Camping in New Interstate

So... our family just received our Airstream Interstate, and the first night out ended up as a campground without electrical hookup. We didn't really use any power during the evening (we arrived at a time when generators were not allowed), and only used electricity to power electric blankets x2 (yes... we are new to "camping").

Should I be worried that we will drain the battery? What type of power output can these batteries supply between settling into the camp site until the next AM where we either drive, or can turn on the generator to re-charge the battery?

I flipped the solenoid to the propane in order to save juice. But I'm just not sure how to manage the charge for an evening out without hook-up. Kiddos always want to watch a little TV. Am I crazy to be worried about one night of juice?

Any input or suggestions would be much appreciated.

Thanks
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Old 05-03-2015, 07:02 AM   #2
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I don't know if I would use the word "worried"

You need to find out what the total capacity of your batteries are and don't use much more than half of that capacity. Trimetric makes a great meter for tracking your battery use. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dry camping as long as you are informed. I do it routinely for up to a week at a time. I use solar to keep my batteries topped up. Only time I have to really watch it is in the winter time when I run the furnace, the blower is a real battery hog. Things like electric blankets, coffee pots and hair dryers can pull a battery bank down real quick.

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Old 05-03-2015, 09:02 AM   #3
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Try replacing the electric blankets with warm, cozy sleeping bags. We have LLBean's "camp bags" and they do a good job for us. We also keep a few Walmart comforters in the Airstream.
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Old 05-03-2015, 03:30 PM   #4
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Sleeping bags or fleece blankets....yes.

I would suggest de-teching, as much as possible, when dry camping, rather than loading up and hoping you make it thru.

No one likes middle of the night surprises.

Maybe download a movie onto the Ipad or laptop, or let the kids do games, etc., as an alternative to television.

My grands have a folder full of apps on the IPad, and the battery on it lasts a long time.

Have fun, and let us know how it all works out.


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Old 05-03-2015, 05:27 PM   #5
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Did not take tele. even when both boys were in diapers. I grew up before tele. so many things to do. My boys grew up on farm they watched a little tele. but not addicted. Also we do not go camping to watch tele. but enjoy camp fires and out doors. But each to there own thing. As far how long power will last for you but we dry camped long before hook ups, still do. If cg has hook ups I will use electric only, bring bottled water for drinking food prep. fresh water filled at home used for sanitary purpose only. I sanitize every yr. have filter in system but tin can 39 yrs. old will not use for cooking etc. i'm cheap as I fill gal. jugs at home for reason I have well water that I like better as most bottled water comes from city water taps as investigating teams have proven.
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Old 05-04-2015, 07:15 AM   #6
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Most camping experience comes from trial and error. Learn from your mistakes and others. Have fun, it's supposed to be FUN, don't overthink it. Especially in your Interstate, you are very mobile. At any time you can fire up the engine and move. You are not trapped at the campground. Peace,jim
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Old 05-04-2015, 07:48 AM   #7
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Interstates are not ideal for dry camping. However, it is entirely possible to dry-camp in them. The two main drawbacks to an Interstate compared to a trailer with regard to dry-camping are:
1 - The fridge is all-electric, and uses a fair amount of battery power even when you're off the grid.
2 - You need to "save" enough battery power to start the generator, so you shouldn't run the batteries down to about 50% before chargingó 50% power isn't necessarily enough to fire up the on-board generator. Once the batteries get too low to start the generator, your best option is relocate to a venue with shore power, or plan on driving for a while to recharge the batteries from the engine alternatoró the alternator is the same as the generator, just running at idle won't efficiently charge the batteries.

You should plan on running the generator daily to recharge the house batteries. A good time to run the generator is while you're preparing dinneró it lets you use the microwave/convection oven, which will NOT run from battery power.

Generators operate most efficiently when loaded to 50% to 75% of their rated capacity, and charging the batteries will actually take longer if all you're doing is charging the batteries, because the generator will chug along at idle speed. Since you have to run the generator anyway, take full advantage of it and use appliances that you wouldn't (or couldn't) use on battery power.

Fortunately, you carry a lot of propane in your on-board tank. A little over 14 gallons, or about 60 pounds, every bit as much as one of the trailers. Running the generator for an hour uses about 5 pounds of propane, and an hour of generator time should usually be enough to charge your batteries.

I believe MILATV is our resident expert on dry-camping in an Interstate. He's certainly done a lot of it while traveling for business. Hopefully he'll chime in if he has any advice the rest of us have forgotten or never knew.
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Old 05-04-2015, 09:17 AM   #8
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Older Interstates, such as mine, run the frig on electricity when plugged in....and propane when not.

Very handy for dry camping.

I generally just start my engine before starting the generator, which gives everything a boost and then doesn't take the generator as long to start. Often, I will let the engine run 15 minutes or so, as well, to give those batteries a boost as I use the dash 12volt to charge phone, IPad, etc.

I have been very pleased with the Onan in the Interstate. Once we dealt with the wasp nest in the pipe, and screened over to prevent that recurring, have had no problems with it whatsoever.


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Old 05-04-2015, 11:53 AM   #9
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One word: solar. You can have them permanently installed on the roof or you can buy a portable unit that folds out which you plug your shore power directly into. Even on my 36' class A you can drain the batteries in a heartbeat if you're not careful. On the rare occasions I dry camp (which was similar to your experience) I was able to watch TV, use my satellite, and anything but the micro and AC on solar. I hate dry camping but sometimes things happen and with solar you'll be able to (as I call it) schmamp in comfort.
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Old 05-04-2015, 08:00 PM   #10
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I have been reading this thread as I am also afraid of dry camping. one thing I was wondering about is how can you tell if your solar panel is working?
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Old 05-04-2015, 08:13 PM   #11
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Others will help with technical things, but I can tell you that dry camoing is a leap of faith.

If your frig is working and water pump, the rest you will figure out as you go.

It is a learning curve, but you will get it figured out......and then, the world is yours.


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Old 05-04-2015, 08:24 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gghayes View Post
I have been reading this thread as I am also afraid of dry camping. one thing I was wondering about is how can you tell if your solar panel is working?
There is a small status display for your solar panel inside your control panel in the curb-side rear overhead locker. It has only one digital display, but four modes, toggled by pressing the button on the panel.

One item of noteó the stock solar panel on an Interstate isn't really big enough to be used as a battery charger. The main thing the panel is good for is to provide a "float" charge to keep the house batteries topped up while the van is in outdoor storage. Assuming the batteries were fully charged when you parked it, they should still be fully charged when you come back to it, even weeks lateró as long as you didn't leave anything turned on.

If you let the batteries run down to a 50% charge, it will literally take DAYS of uninterrupted charging for the solar panel alone to bring them back to 100%, even if you shut off everything that uses house battery power. While you're dry-camping do NOT rely on your solar panel. It's not up to the task, so when you work out your energy budget pretend like the panel isn't even there.
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Old 05-04-2015, 11:24 PM   #13
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Not trying to minimize the apprehension but you could think of it like this: dry camping or boondocking is sort of like a picnic or a night under the stars.

No lights, no problem, have a couple of expandable battery lanterns. Light up your inside and outside.

No heater, no problem, a decent sleeping bag and some blankets. Leave a light layer of clothing on if your not sure how chilly it will get. I even took a duvet off my bed at home one year to put on top of the sleeping bag as it was going to freeze.

No fridge, no problem, take some non perishables that are still comfortable for putting together a meal.

No potty, no problem, a bucket works if needed.

Point is you can do this. Its new and you haven't worked out the unknowns but with each trip it will be more comfortable. Take a friend, a phone, water, clothing and snacks and have a blast.
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Old 05-05-2015, 12:53 AM   #14
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To answer the question directly: If we're camping without shore power, we don't use power-hungry items such as electric blankets or TV. We focus instead on low-power camping experiences, use sleeping bags and/or more blankets, go to bed earlier, and save batteries for operating the fridge and the water pump.

Happy boondocking!
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