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Old 06-17-2018, 11:27 AM   #1
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Primer: First Time Trailer Boondockers

Boondocking is a... life style, by choice. Boondocking should not be chosen and then the life style learned.

Nancy and I tent camped for as long as many Newbies reading the Airforums are OLD, BEFORE going to a travel trailer. We both enjoyed the solitude and the challenges of going where few have traveled. We also loved our dog, which became dogs, two Australian Blue Heelers. High energy like ourselves and not afraid of Bear, snakes or... chipmunks.

Our Blue Heelers loved camping. Sunrise, open the trailer's door and they were off. Soon, laying on the mats in front of the trailer protecting our common den... our Airstream.

If you have tent camped very little or never... you had better ask yourself some serious questions...

Why do YOU think now is a good time to spend the money on an expensive Travel Trailer? Usually it is from an advertisement showing a couple wine and dining on the Laguna Beach, California. Candles. A nice carpet, table, two comfortable chairs and... maybe a smoke jacket and pearls for the wife.

W. R. O. N. G. commercial. Rewind and start over to Primer 101. This is before Boondocking 101 and 102. Way before...

Both husband and wife have to agree, at least to try it out. Maybe rent a trailer for three days... a RV Rental is much easier. If either of you do not find the RV Rental to your liking... well, why?

How many kids, dogs, birds... toys do you plan to haul?

Do you have a tool? Better get in the fixing mood with a trailer, tools needed.

Do you realize that your Porsche is not going to tow a 28 foot trailer. The tow vehicle may be a F150 pickup that is too tall to clear the height of your garage and once in the garage... neither door can be opened.

I WANT first time Trailer owners, who NEVER tent camped to chime into this thread.

Obviously, if you are on the Airforums... it was a success. Tell those Newbies how you managed to work this out to your satisfaction, tow vehicle choice and trailer length and model.

I can bring up some examples of great transitions.

I can bring up some examples of grief, distress and regret.

Where do YOU begin? Why not just start with a sentence with I or WE, and go from there.
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Old 06-17-2018, 03:15 PM   #2
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OK, I'll bite. Forever, you have said the 23' is the perfect model for OTG. Not disagreeing....so why did you upgrade to a 25 footer? And now do you still feel the same way about the 23'?
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Old 06-17-2018, 03:35 PM   #3
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OK, I'll bite. Forever, you have said the 23' is the perfect model for OTG. Not disagreeing....so why did you upgrade to a 25 footer? And now do you still feel the same way about the 23'?
******
I have been saying a 23 foot Safari / Flying Cloud is perfect for OTG since 2006.

(+'s)
+ It is six inches narrower than the other length Airstreams.
+ It can be towed by smaller tow vehicles.
+ For two to four people, plenty of space to share.
+ Less expensive for Flying Cloud or Safari in 23 foot.
+ Easy to sell on your own and first double axle.
(I recall some saying the 22 foot is as well. If so, 14" or 15" wheels? If so, why not 15" on the 23 foot?)
+ One television, not two.
+ Easier to avoid dragging bumper and plumbing due to the angles being shorter.

(-'s)
- Tires and wheels are C rated, 14 inch. (Some newer FB models have 15").
- Smaller refrigerator.
- Lighter Axles, C rated tires, brakes are minimums.
- Rear Bed is small.

The 25 foot improves upon those four negatives and...

+ Fifteen inch D Rated Tires that can be upgraded to 16" E Rated Tires if desired.
+ Larger bed.
+ More volume fresh, grey and black water tank size.

This is a good starter comparison. Later models have LED lights.
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Old 06-17-2018, 05:41 PM   #4
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Ray, I believe my wife and I are an example of what you are striving for in this thread. We bought our first travel trailer three years ago (2013 Casita 17') and had not really camped before. We had boats for much of our lives, but were day-boaters that very rarely slept overnight on the boat. We quit boating after our kids moved away many years ago. As we were nearing retirement, we decided that we might enjoy traveling around the country with a travel trailer.

We started our travel trailer adventure with a small used Casita that could be towed with my then Nissan Frontier pickup. We felt the Casita could easily be flipped for what we paid for it if we didn't like camping. In our first two years with the Casita, we used it for 89 nights and 16,000 miles. We found we loved traveling around the country with the Casita. Similar to our boating experience, we found that we are travelers more than campers. We like seeing the country more than staying in one place for more than a few days at a time.

On our first cross-country trip in the Casita, we pre-booked every night of the trip. We found having a rigid pre-planned pace to be very stressful. We needed to get to the next prepaid campsite each night and had no time to stop and take in non-planned attractions along the way. On our second cross-country trip in the Casita, we learned to slow down, take the back roads, and find a campsite each night. We stayed in campgrounds with electricity each night - glamping. But we learned that finding quality campsites with electricity without pre-booking was very difficult. By "quality" we mean one where you are not on top of your neighbors, such as a state park campground.

After we bought the Airstream, we started using the National Forest Campgrounds without electricity on a first-come-first-serve basis. We like these remote rustic campsites. I think the "real" bathroom and shower in the 25' Airstream made staying in rustic campgrounds without flush toilets and showers practical for us. But then we learned that Airstreams don't like non-electric sites and started having severe battery issues. Since we liked the National Forest non-electric campgrounds, we decided to add solar panels to our Airstream.

Since we now have solar, we are going to try real boondocking. We never boondocked before. Our first real boondocking adventure was to begin this year in May. We spent 10 nights on the road without connecting to shore power. We tried casino-docking, city-park-docking, BLM-docking, National Forest No-hookup Camping, retail-parking-lot-docking and driveway-docking. We really enjoyed our short BLM-docking stay at Alabama Hills near Mt. Whitney and our National Forest Campground stay at the Grand Canyon. Our plan was to stay on this boondocking/National-Forest path throughout the summer, but a medical emergency back home cut the trip off after only 10 days. We are hoping to resume our summer boondocking tour in early July, but now will have to stay closer to home in the Blue Ridge Mountains area.

We look forward to learning more about the boondocking lifestyle. Our first short experience was very positive. But real boondocking is a skill we are just beginning to learn after three years of travel trailer ownership.
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Old 06-18-2018, 11:09 AM   #5
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I'm a pre-newbie. This is my first 'toe in' to the forums. Have been lurking and learning for a few months. My wife and I are close to retiring and THINK we want to spend 'a month here and a month there' away from the AZ summers. And THINK that sounds like fun in an Airstream. Renting a Sprinter a handful of times is in the plan before we take the plunge. Boondocking, whether by tent or trailer, doesn't hold much interest.
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Old 06-18-2018, 11:55 AM   #6
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AirMiles,
Thanks for sharing your transition path. We are in a similar place of discovery on how we really want to use our trailer. We purchased a new 28' International Serenity almost two years ago and have used it 7 times only - mostly because I am still working. I grew up backpacking in the Sierras and graduated to tent campers when we had kids. The kids are gone and now I'm a year from retirement so we decided to satisfy our love for hiking, biking and nature by purchasing our AS. We have mostly experienced glamping with electric and water (some with sewer) but only a couple with nothing but the 160W solar and what we could bring. As I prepare for retirement and hitting the road to adventure, I am thinking through the addition of serious solar capacity. I haven't begun to review the extensive threads on this, but since you just made the conversion, I was wondering your first impressions of the adequacy of the additional solar?
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Old 06-18-2018, 12:42 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by VaTravelers View Post
AirMiles,
As I prepare for retirement and hitting the road to adventure, I am thinking through the addition of serious solar capacity. I haven't begun to review the extensive threads on this, but since you just made the conversion, I was wondering your first impressions of the adequacy of the additional solar?
I am really enjoying my 400W solar system. I started a thread to document my installation and results here: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...ll-181608.html
As documented on that thread, my solar system easily recharges my batteries each day while also supplying all the power used during daylight hours. Therefore, I have a full 230AH of batteries available each night. This gives me the freedom to stay at the beautiful boondocking and no-hookup campgrounds throughout the country without a concern about my battery usage.
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Old 06-18-2018, 10:14 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by AirMiles View Post
I am really enjoying my 400W solar system. I started a thread to document my installation and results here: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...ll-181608.html
As documented on that thread, my solar system easily recharges my batteries each day while also supplying all the power used during daylight hours. Therefore, I have a full 230AH of batteries available each night. This gives me the freedom to stay at the beautiful boondocking and no-hookup campgrounds throughout the country without a concern about my battery usage.


We love the freedom of camping without hookups. Just wanted to add that you donít really have to have a generator or solar to boondock for a few days. We just returned from camping for one week at Cadeís Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park. We stayed in the ďno generator ď section as we didnít bring our generator and planned to use solar if the batteries needed recharging. Well, we were always in full shade so itís a good thing the batteries didnít need recharging. We have two golf cart batteries so have 220 amp-hours of capacity and are pretty frugal with our electrical consumption- LED lights, water pump, cell phone charging, toaster, hair dryer and some fan use. After 7 days our resting battery voltage was 12.32 or 70% capacity. I believe we could have made it another 3 days.

Dan
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Old 06-19-2018, 04:56 AM   #9
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AirMiles

We also much prefer camping in the National Forest and National Park Campgrounds or really any of the campgrounds without power. We are fortunate to live in Virginia where they are numerous.

Here is a photo of the day to day voltage and of our camping setup in the full shade at Cadeís Cove (site B39).

We are camping next in the Shenandoah NP. Hope to be able to try our solar panels out there.

DanClick image for larger version

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Old 06-19-2018, 02:07 PM   #10
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Quote:
Obviously, if you are on the Airforums... it was a success. Tell those Newbies how you managed to work this out to your satisfaction, tow vehicle choice and trailer length and model.
We towed our 16' Bambi with a Tacoma, and the 19' one with a Tundra. Happy with both, notably because there is room for all our camping (and sometimes paddling) gear in a pickup truck with a cap (canopy, topper) on the back.

We were old tent campers as well, till we got tired of sleeping with rocks in our backs.

One thing I'd suggest for new campers and boondockers, notably in the mountain and desert states, is that there are all kinds of USFS, NPS, and BLM primitive campgrounds around that essentially are boondocking except that for a low fee you get a picnic table, pit toilet in the vicinity and campfire ring. While most of these amenities are unnecessary, you are apt to have other campers nearby, which can be a big help if you get into a pickle for some reason. (And believe me, we've had some.)

Some of these primitive campgrounds, however, have no on-site potable water and are on long, rough dirt roads where we wouldn't haul our AS. There may be no sani-dump nearby, and no cell phone service, so it's best to check ahead. The BLM and USFS field (local) offices have websites and phone numbers, and they can tell you about local conditions. You might ask, if you phone, if they have a recreation specialist to speak to.

We decided to stay small when we got the 2nd AS in order to fit into some of our favourite sites in primitive campgrounds. These CGs often have some longer sites, but they also tend to fill up sooner with the bigger rigs.

When you're comfortable being off in the wilds on your own:

A lot of public lands are open to dispersed camping, but it's preferable to camp in "hardened" sites already clearly used by a lot of previous campers, to minimize impact on the vegetation, plus there is a bit of a "driveway" in and out of the site. Typically these impromptu sites have some kind of rock fire ring left by previous campers, but I recommend bringing work gloves, a shovel, and extra garbage bags just in case that idyllic site was recently occupied by slob campers or grazing cattle.

The advantage of a primitive CG's pit toilet (or your own carefully sited and managed outdoor latrine) is to minimize the chance of filling your blackwater tank before you plan to leave.

For sites without potable water, we carry sturdy jerry cans with water plus a big funnel. Several smaller containers are a better idea than one big one. They're lighter to carry and if one springs a leak, you won't lose your entire water stash. With water of unknown quality (like that lake or mountain creek,) it's easier to sterilize small quantities of water than putting it in your fresh water tank and hoping it doesn't have giardia or that your bleach will kill it, if it does.

Also, carry a beefy first aid kit and know some basic first aid.

The wild places beckon. Have a wonderful time.
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Old 06-21-2018, 10:48 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Eklund View Post
Boondocking is a... life style, by choice. Boondocking should not be chosen and then the life style learned.

Nancy and I tent camped for as long as many Newbies reading the Airforums are OLD, BEFORE going to a travel trailer. We both enjoyed the solitude and the challenges of going where few have traveled. We also loved our dog, which became dogs, two Australian Blue Heelers. High energy like ourselves and not afraid of Bear, snakes or... chipmunks.

Our Blue Heelers loved camping. Sunrise, open the trailer's door and they were off. Soon, laying on the mats in front of the trailer protecting our common den... our Airstream.

If you have tent camped very little or never... you had better ask yourself some serious questions...

Why do YOU think now is a good time to spend the money on an expensive Travel Trailer? Usually it is from an advertisement showing a couple wine and dining on the Laguna Beach, California. Candles. A nice carpet, table, two comfortable chairs and... maybe a smoke jacket and pearls for the wife.

W. R. O. N. G. commercial. Rewind and start over to Primer 101. This is before Boondocking 101 and 102. Way before...

Both husband and wife have to agree, at least to try it out. Maybe rent a trailer for three days... a RV Rental is much easier. If either of you do not find the RV Rental to your liking... well, why?

How many kids, dogs, birds... toys do you plan to haul?

Do you have a tool? Better get in the fixing mood with a trailer, tools needed.

Do you realize that your Porsche is not going to tow a 28 foot trailer. The tow vehicle may be a F150 pickup that is too tall to clear the height of your garage and once in the garage... neither door can be opened.

I WANT first time Trailer owners, who NEVER tent camped to chime into this thread.

Obviously, if you are on the Airforums... it was a success. Tell those Newbies how you managed to work this out to your satisfaction, tow vehicle choice and trailer length and model.

I can bring up some examples of great transitions.

I can bring up some examples of grief, distress and regret.

Where do YOU begin? Why not just start with a sentence with I or WE, and go from there.
I had never tent camped, we bought a 23foot CD years ago and quickly learnt that full hookup camp sites are not for us - we think of Boondocking as extended pic-nicking. We are very frugal with electricity (yes we have generators, but since we do not like to listen to our neighbours generators, we rarely subject our neighbours to ours...), we have learnt to take minimal water showers - have never put up the TV antenna, although will rarely watch a movie off the DVD if we happen to have power at a state park, we favor National Parks, which offer beauty but few services it all depends on what you are looking for, or looking to get away from....

My pet peeve with the Airstream is that we can't use the heating (furnace) off line because it is such a power hog - really Airstream ought to consider making folk comfortable when off shore power.
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Old 06-27-2018, 10:31 AM   #12
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Boondocking is great. To address the heat situation, I added a catalytic heater. I had to have it plumbed and I had the installer put in a quick release shut off valve so in my 25' FB the outlet is behind the door under the stove. I store the catalytic heater under the bed and break it out for the colder temps. It uses no power and puts out heat much like the old school residential and commercial radiators. Silent and warm and uses no electricity. I recommended one to my in-laws and they love theirs too. I actually prefer it over the furnace given the option because it doesn't wake any of us. It does take a while to heat the whole trailer so I may fire up the furnace for 10 minutes to take the edge off, then exclusively use the catalytic heater.

For extended stays, I got a 21 gallon water bladder that I can put on top of the truck cab, fill at a spigot, and then [slowly] drive back to my site and use gravity to refill my water tank.
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Old 06-27-2018, 11:21 AM   #13
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Boondocking is great. To address the heat situation, I added a catalytic heater. I had to have it plumbed and I had the installer put in a quick release shut off valve so in my 25' FB the outlet is behind the door under the stove. I store the catalytic heater under the bed and break it out for the colder temps. It uses no power and puts out heat much like the old school residential and commercial radiators. Silent and warm and uses no electricity. I recommended one to my in-laws and they love theirs too. I actually prefer it over the furnace given the option because it doesn't wake any of us. It does take a while to heat the whole trailer so I may fire up the furnace for 10 minutes to take the edge off, then exclusively use the catalytic heater.



For extended stays, I got a 21 gallon water bladder that I can put on top of the truck cab, fill at a spigot, and then [slowly] drive back to my site and use gravity to refill my water tank.


Please provide your source for the 21 gallon water bladder.

How are you venting your cat heater to make sure that you actually do wake up?

Thanks, Dan
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Old 06-27-2018, 12:20 PM   #14
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Hi All,

I've been reading this forum regularly the past few months, planning for a TV and AS purchase in the next couple years when I'm just a few years from retirement. But I did own a 2006 19' Bambi that I bought new that year. I truly loved it for about four years before the crash made owning those too much of a luxury... or so I thought. I made it through fine in the end, it was a good decision at the time. But I do have some experience to share here, that is definitely making my "must have" list more educated.

Originally had a Nissan Pathfinder towing the Bambi (innocently believing the sales guy , that turned quickly to owning a Tundra -- a night and day difference for sure! Loading up kayaks, bikes and modest outdoor accessories (fold up camp table, comfortable chairs, camp stove (love cooking outside!), etc.), I'll definitely make sure my TV has ample capacity to tow everything and have some extra umpf to get outta trouble on the road. Minimum towing capacity makes for fearful journeys. Also, getting some kind of mirror upgrade on the TV is on my wishlist so I won't have to rely on those pain-in-the-rump clip-on ones. They work, but what a hassle. I will definitely purchase a TV with the tow package, especially with larger tank(s).

Next, the 19' Bambi has a small bed that felt kinda claustrophobic for two people, and the bathroom, specifically the angle of the door in relation to the commode, is odd. Not so comfortable when camping with friends. So I'm definitely wanting a 22-25 ft AS to address those needs. I plan to travel for long timeframes in my retirement. These needs aren't as much of an issue when you're still working and mainly a weekender camper.

I did get solar after that first year, just enough capacity to keep lights, dvd and stereo, and a few minor things running. This was before all the pre-wire features. Those are nice to see. I will definitely have solar next time, and upgrade the capacity of the batteries -- just in case. I definitely learned that even if you're winter camping at the beach in CA, dead batteries make even the snazziest airstream a cold, dark tin can -- those aluminum interior walls get really cold! Granted, I didn't know much about using the furnace back then... one learns over time! Regardless, solar = independence and comfort for me. And battery capacity.

I'm not set on which TV yet, but I've narrowed my AS choice to either the FC 25' or the 22' Sport. To me the dining area with the wrap windows was the greatest feature on my 19' Bambi -- especially if you're camping all year round, which I love. You can always enjoy the outdoor view from a comfy dry spot with that set up. Most the time when you're sleeping, the big windows are covered up... and wasted. Also, the grey/black water tank capacities are more desirable on longer, no-hook-up trips with the 25'.

I think I'm talking myself into the 25'.... but I've got time to decide. If anyone has thoughts on those AS models, I'd be interested to hear.

Happy trails!

Dawn
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