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Old 06-02-2010, 10:33 AM   #1
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Comments on my first time boondocking, battery use, etc.

Just got back from a two week trip, some of which was spent at places with no hookups. I just wanted to post some comments here since there are always a bunch of boondocking newbies, myself included, checking this forum for stuff about battery usage.

Overall it was a good experience and certainly a cheaper alternative to parks that have full hookups. I specifically chose this time of year to try the no hookup routine since there was little chance I'd really need heating or air conditioning.

Spent two nights at Elkmont in the Smoky Mountain National Park and one night at Hidden Valley in George Washington National Forest. Short stays, I know.

We ran the Fantastic Fan and TurboMaxx fans quite a bit, kept unused lights off as much as possible, and even kept the water pump switch off when not in use.

Having checked before, I know that when my battery level meter drops from Good to Fair, the batteries are about 50% discharged. Never got to that point. Really didn't feel like digging out the multimeter to see what the voltage had dropped to, though I would have if we had stayed longer than three nights at any boondock location.

I have upgraded my trailer from the standard two (forget the group number) batteries to four, which I know helped, but I think I could have easily gotten the same results with just two, especially only staying two nights max at either location.

Used a Coleman stove top percolator for morning coffee instead of the normal electric coffee maker. My sweetie was okay with not having use of the microwave for a few nights.

Christopher
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Old 06-02-2010, 02:56 PM   #2
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Couple of comments: adding those two additonal batteries more or less doubled your storage capacity of course, so that no doubt helped a lot ... unless you are a) using incandescent lights, b) ran a lot of lights for a long time, and/or c) ran a television, etc. for many hours, I bet you never got close to halfway discharged.

Looks to me as if it's perhaps five hours drive or so between Elkmont and Hidden Valley ... you should have gotten a fair amount of battery charge in that drive ...

With a couple of solar panels and/or a small generator run a couple of hours a day, you'd never have to have "shore power' to camp in the manner in which you did! If you can avoid big-draw items such as air conditioner and microwave, these machines are pretty self-sufficient for quite a long period of time.

And the beauty of boondocking is that you are where most of the people aren't!
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Old 06-02-2010, 04:01 PM   #3
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I'll clarify that we were on the road for two weeks. Elkmont was the first stop for two nights, then other destinations with hookups. Hidden Valley was just an overnight stop on the leg home, so the batteries were topped off when we got there.

If we get into more boondocking in the future with extended stays, I'll probably get a small Honda generator to run for an hour a day to charge the batts. I like the idea of solar panels, but the places we stayed, there was too much shade.

On a side note, I know Elkmont has a lot of fans, but there is currently a lot of construction going on there. Some restrooms closed, water faucets out of order, piles of debris and building materials scattered around, etc. It was nice and I'd stay there again, but I've attached some photos so you can see the current contrast in scenery.

Christopher
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Old 06-02-2010, 04:26 PM   #4
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re: " adding those two additonal batteries more or less doubled your storage capacity of course, so that no doubt helped a lot" -- The doubling does sound dramatic but compared to the actual amount of energy involved, the variance that is to be expected in battery energy availability, the variance in use over a period of a couple of days, and the nominal discharge levels, the difference between 1 and 2kwh energy availability in nominal use of an RV is not usually significant.

A lot of folks looking for magic bullets like more batteries or solar systems to solve their RV energy woes end up finding that they need to make significant adjustments to their energy use anyway. Practicality sometimes doesn't match obviousness.
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Old 06-13-2010, 01:22 PM   #5
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Tent Campers to an AS conversion

Battery use with the stove top vent and for the 23 footer, vent for the fridge are the big 12v users. Winter camping... that furnace fan will do a battery in faster than anything. Long showers are not battery savers with the water pump.

Tent campers find the conversion to an AS with 12v power easier than those who have not conserved water in past experiences and conserve the battery use with minimal evening light use. We even find ourselves conserving water and electricity at home now! You cannot break good habits.

Cold weather camping is the toughest with furnace operation. Hot weather and the ceiling fan use is not as bad. Sometimes in the hot weather we pull out the awning and sit out with windows open to cool things off. Some people can make the changes in life style. Some people cannot. Those who cannot have their AS up for sale shortly. Of course, when in town and 120 volt hook up, lay back and fire things up! You earned it.
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Old 06-13-2010, 02:55 PM   #6
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I want to follow this better, for at first I got the impression you went two weeks without hook ups. What was the longest number of days without service? You do realize hooking and towing charges the battery right?
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Old 06-13-2010, 03:19 PM   #7
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I only have 1 battery and have gone 5 days at the same location, fantastic fan running with no issues. I would imagine that many batteries you should good for a lot longer. It is a little nerve racking since we don't have any meters so when it is dead it is dead, but it camping. I know dead is bad but I rather replace ever few year than have the weight.
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Old 06-13-2010, 05:18 PM   #8
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This is our first year with the Airstream and we're loving the "off the grid" boondocking. We added a 130 Watt Kyocera solar panel this year but are keeping it portable. So we can park in the shade and put the panel in the sun limited to its 20 foot leash, of course. Well, that was the idea anyway. A few days at a shaded campsite in Glacier NP last week had us moving the panel between sunny spots. Not the best process. We know there's more sunny days here in Colorado so not too worried about summer trips. The panel doesn't need all that much direct sun either to recharge the batteries. During a week of 'docking in Missoula at a friend's we had cloudy/rainy days throughout. Regardless, even with limited sunshine we recharged the batteries (11.4 to 13.1 volts) in 2-3 overcast hours every day. We're sold on solar.
Now if we could just manage the water a little better we could stay out longer.
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Old 06-14-2010, 10:11 AM   #9
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Frank, the trip was two weeks but only three nights were spent without and electric hookup. Two nights in a row at one location, then after a week and a half at other locations with full hookups there was an overnight stop with none.

I know that towing charges the batteries, slowly. That's covered in RV 101. I also realize that with four batteries, and two nights stay max, there was no serious concern about running out of power. The no hookup stops on this last trip were done as sort of a trial run for possible longer stays with no electric hookup.

Jim, your portable solar panel with a long cord is the type of thing I would set up, if I ever did get one. It sounds like moving that panel around is a hassel but on warm days I want to be able to have the trailer in the shade if possible.

Could you please elaborate or post some photos of the type of plug you've installed on the trailer for the panel wiring, where you've placed the regulator, and the stand you use for the panel?

Christopher
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Old 06-21-2010, 10:06 PM   #10
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Hey there Christopher, I was planning on posting a few pics. Will get to it this week.
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:38 AM   #11
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We've gone for three days on our two batteries with no problems and of course minimal electrical use as well. I don't know how long we might have gone as the meters seemed to indicate a moderate supply of current still available.
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Old 06-29-2010, 04:55 PM   #12
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I wanted to test this boon docking longevity quotation also. I was at Baker's Acres for 8 days straight in exactly that situation. I have one group 27 AGM. We ran the Fantastic Fan non stop mostly on the highest setting, pumped about 65 gallons of water (many people used our shower, for they had none, at least 6 people used it besides the four of us), and had lights every night to read by and use while in the bathroom. I went four days without any feeling the battery actually needed to be charged up. The only reason we fired up the generator was to be able to use the crock pot.
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Old 06-29-2010, 05:56 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 62overlander View Post
I wanted to test this boon docking ... 8 days straight ...one group 27 AGM. We ran the Fantastic Fan non stop mostly on the highest setting, ...I went four days without any feeling the battery actually needed to be charged up. ...
Your Fantastic fan must not pull anywhere near the current that mine does...My medium speed is 2.5 amps...even at 10 hours a day that's 25 Amp hours...for 4 days thats 100 amp hours on a group 27 that has a max of 105 amp hours.

I suspect you were getting a bit lower on capacity than you thought.
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Old 06-29-2010, 07:37 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryanl View Post
A lot of folks looking for magic bullets like more batteries or solar systems to solve their RV energy woes end up finding that they need to make significant adjustments to their energy use anyway. Practicality sometimes doesn't match obviousness.
Folks ALWAYS have to adjust their energy usage if they're gonna' boondock ... batteries won't do it for microwave, hair dryer, air conditioning and such. But if you can "adjust" so as to get along without those energy hogs, you can do pretty much what you want. With three Group 27 Lifelines and two AM Solar panels, I NEVER run out of electricity, even on overcast winter days near zero temps. ... granted, I've converted all lights to LED and am a long-time backpacker, so I probably conserve better than most folks, but no matter how I conserve, I always run out of water first these days, not electricity. I suppose if it were overcast enough for long enough, I'd run the batteries down, but it's not happened so far.

But about that water usage problem: hmmmm - must be all those ice cubes for the adult beverages! I've taken to leaving the generator at home and bringing largish water jugs when boondocking. Maybe if I just learned always to take my whisky neat ...
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