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Old 01-25-2021, 02:44 PM   #1
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4-day boondock in Grand Tetons NP?

tl;dr. If you were camping for 4 days in the Grand Tetons, could you do it in a dry site or would you need to get a hookup?

Photo is the Google Map preview of an area of the campground in question (Colter Bay Campground vs. Colter Bay RV Park)

We are doing this a little backwards because we don't have a trailer yet but we are hoping for an older 25-30' model to start road tripping this summer with our family of 6. Probably won't have a trailer until April, but we are in the position where reservations are opening THIS WEEK. So I need to know what kind of site we should reserve. That is, will we be ok with a site without hookups for 4 days? If it will be a challenge, what are the biggest challenges? My very early take is this:

- water - we can refill with water tanks stored in truck or refill at campground, town, etc (i.e., not worried about it)
- propane - assuming this will last weeks
- electric - if no generator, how long should we expect to go with just lights and a fridge
- how much does a fridge and lights use? should I consider being able to run a propane heater?
- how much can I expect to gain from solar, and what is the recommended setup (I'm guessing ground-deployed panels to optimize for location)

All that said, I really have no idea if we can reserve a campground site with no hookups for 4 days or settle for the RV site, which seems to have quite a bit less privacy.
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Old 01-25-2021, 04:11 PM   #2
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Family of 6...I would go ahead and get the hookups if possible. The spaces are a bit bigger in the Colter Bay Campground. The sites are more wooded in the Colter Bay RV park. Fires are not allowed in the RV park. The RV park sites are within walking distance of the lake and the concessions. The concessions there are very nice. Both campsites are good I sorta prefer the RV park myself for the location and the power. My wife much prefers the Campground. We had a power site there the last time.

Your trailer will have LED lights. If it has a propane refrigerator 4 days is doable. If you need and exhaust fan that takes a bit. The propane furnace is a huge draw. You will not make 4 days with any furnace use at all. If it has the 12 fridge the new trailers seem to have you can forget 4 days. One thing is that running the batteries too far down damages them. If you get several sites lined up without hookups consider adding a generator.

My suggestion is to buy a generator and stay at Gros Ventre in a non electric site on a generator loop. Both my wife and I like hanging out there. Put in a couple of days at Colter bay and then move down and experience a real nice camping experience.

I run a CPAP at night and I cannot do 4 days and do not know what we could do without it. I do not have solar.
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Old 01-25-2021, 07:55 PM   #3
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cost to run generator

Thanks, Bill. This is very helpful. Looking at this and other campsites along our trip, how much is the per-day generator cost for you? TIA, Aaryn
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Old 01-25-2021, 08:14 PM   #4
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You absolutely can do 4 days (or longer) with no hookups. Especially at at campground.
You just need to know what to expect and have the resources you will need.

We stayed a full week last year at Yellowstone Madison.

To answer some of your specific questions with my recommendations
? water - we can refill with water tanks stored in truck or refill at campground, town, etc (i.e., not worried about it)
I suggest having a 5 gallon water can with spout. We use this to add fresh water to our tank. The campground will have spigots.

- propane - assuming this will last weeks Yes

- electric - if no generator, how long should we expect to go with just lights and a fridge
You will need a generator. Otherwise you won't have enough battery life unless you have extensive solar AND sun. Would be OK for about a day without a generator. Generators are less expensive than adding solar.

- how much does a fridge and lights use? should I consider being able to run a propane heater? Fridge and lights don't use much. The furnace's fan uses some. You probably won't need to run the furnace much .

- how much can I expect to gain from solar, and what is the recommended setup (I'm guessing ground-deployed panels to optimize for location) I would not add solar when a generator is much less expensive and works if in shade or if it's cloudy.

You left off one big other area you will need to address. I would recommend a portable waste tote to drain off gray water. Otherwise you will have to hook up every day or 2 to empty your tanks. With a portable you just drain the gray water into the tank and dump that at the dump station.

Running a generator. You will want to run it a couple of hours a day to charge up your batteries, and any time you want to use a lot of power (microwave, TV and satellite dish, ). We have a standard gas can like you use for a lawn mower and go through that about every 2-3 days. We have a Honda 2000 generator.
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Old 01-26-2021, 07:13 AM   #5
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Yellowstone / Grand Teton

Hi Aaryno,

Check out the details on our Yellowstone / Grand Teton trip from a coupla years ago.....

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f42...ml#post2144579

We headed in with no reservations. If you read to the end of the post I detail power and water usage. We are a family of 3 with lots of dry camping experience so your mileage may vary.

Brad
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Old 01-26-2021, 07:54 AM   #6
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The 2000 watt generator burns about 1.5 gallons of gas in 6 hours running. (I think). We run it about 3 hours every 2 days. You could recharge with a 1000 watt generator if you do not wish to run the microwave or electrical appliances. We tow with a pickup truck so there is no problem carrying the generator and fuel. If you travel in a SUV that is a different situation and you might want to look at different solutions. I am pretty sure I would not carry the generator if it had to ride inside with me or in the trailer with the idea that I might need it Though I have traveled with people who carry the generators in the trailer and seem to be okay with it. Those lithium power packs like the Goal Zero look attractive for limited use to extend non hookup run time. But expensive and no good for longer stays unless you have a lot of solar with it. Another way to deal with very occasional recharging might be a DC to DC converter added to the trailer and take it for a ride every 3 or 4 days to recharge. At least that would help in cases where you stay without power 1 or 2 nights and then move to another site without hookups. The trailer will not recharge much without one of those converters. I am adding one to my trailer this spring.

We we first started with the Airstream we were poorly equipped and totally ignorant and very cheap (necessary) and we camped a lot without hookups or a generator or knowledge of battery management. Sometimes with miserable results. And I have destroyed several sets of batteries. Now we have improved in all of the above listed areas until we can do a couple of weeks dry camping with no big problem but I now get hookups pretty much whenever we can. I am awfuly addicted to that coffee maker and a microwaved burrito in the morning. I would rather go fishing or drive around and look at scenery and lunch places than sit and listen to a generator run or poke a fire. We are more staying in the trailer and moving around to different spots and attractions than going just to "camp".
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Old 01-26-2021, 09:21 AM   #7
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Just perfect timing.
The YouTube family, "Finding Our Somedays" just did a video on a cool looking boondocking site in the Tetons.
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Old 01-26-2021, 09:40 AM   #8
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Thanks, Brad. We are used to tent camping and backpacking so at the very least a trailer will be a hard tent. Like I said, we don't have it yet but I'm having to work backwards from reservations since these are popular destinations.

It looks like a lot of the campgrounds are no longer first-come first-served in Glacier so we will have to book it in advance. I have a spreadsheet for each day and have picked out places to stay and will be attempting to do use the recreation.gov reservation system. It looks like, once they open up registration for 6 months, they open a single new day every day so that there is a rolling 6-month window to reserve. This is what I have:
Colter Bay CG (5 nights) - Grand Teton
Rainbow Point CG (5 nights) - outside Yellowstone
Court Sheriff CG (1 night) - near Helena, open to suggestions for a stop around here
Many Glacier CG (4 nights) - Glacier

I'm curious about the "wait in line" comment for Norris and I've seen others mention this. Do you just show up and wait until a spot opens up or is the line limited to some amount?

Other question about routing and dumping. In my itinerary we are staying in off-grid locations but will be doing water filling and dumping as needed. It sounds like I'm going to get a grey water tote to dump grey water during our 4- and 5-day stays and then I'll dump on the way out. That makes sense to me. However, for the boondocking part...

When you are on the road after being dry camping, where do you dump and fill water? We are trying to maximize our outdoor adventures and haven't put any RV Parks on our itinerary but it seems very common. What are the benefits of this? What are the drawbacks or challenges if we don't?
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Old 01-26-2021, 10:08 AM   #9
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Bill M., Thanks for the description of generator and battery usage. We are used to dry camping, as I guess it's called (still learning) and can meal plan to minimize indoor cooking. I hear you about generators. I've never been on the "noise producing" side of generator camping -- only the "noise consuming side" -- so it's funny planning to be on the other side. We have a Tundra as a tow vehicle so we can put the generator, gas tank, and water totes in the back along with some toys (bikes, kayaks). I'm a coffee addict as well but we can do night-before cold brew and French Press for hot coffee like when we car camp. We don't usually do microwave cooking. We usually camp with a nice propane camp stove and a big ice chest. I'm assuming a propane stove to boil water in the morning for oatmeal and coffee won't use much electricity. I figure we can

I had no idea about the DC to DC converter. I just assumed trailer hookups would do that already. Do you have a model you recommend? Or, if there is a hookup modification that we should make when we land our AS?
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Old 01-26-2021, 10:41 AM   #10
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Cool another perspective

Here is another perspective:

We have 200w solar on the roof + 180w solar suitcase if shaded + 200w lithium SOK batteries. We carry 39 gal fresh water, 39 gal grey tank, 18 gal black tank. There is just the boss and myself and we do 80% of our cooking outdoors (long time tenters and like cooking outdoors). We Boondock average 14 days with this setup. If we are going to go longer we carry a Champion 3400 generator and run on LP + 21 gal tote just incase but really have never used it + a 6 gal jug for fresh water.

The key here is to learn to be conservative in your water usage - we run our hot water tank, fridge, lights, water pump and cell booster (when needed). This has work for us for several years. We boondock 5-6 times each summer season and basically never visit a full service campground.

Hope this provides you with a different perspective
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:31 PM   #11
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There is a first come first serve boondock area. You will only have access to get a specific time frame once you arrive.
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Old 01-26-2021, 01:45 PM   #12
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There is what is possible, what you can do, and what you want to do.

There is no wrong way to camp.

But that being said, if you want to shower every day (we do, since we have to wear a lot of sunscreen), you will likely go through about 3-5 gallons of water per person per day with showering, washing hair, hand washing, and cooking and cleaning.

So with 6 people you will need to fill fresh water and dump gray water probably every day or day and .

If you want to skip showers and use paper plates I am not going to tell you that you are wrong.

But I am going to tell you that we shower as we please (water conserving "navy"showers --wet your skin-turn off water-suds up- turn water back on to rinse.), we cook extensively and wash dishes and pans twice a day, and we factor in hour every afternoon for chores-adding additional fresh water and dumping gray water.
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Old 01-26-2021, 02:14 PM   #13
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I carry 110 feet of water hose. 35 feet in the trailer and another 75 in the truck. I can usually find a water spigot to fill the tank from in that distance in COE campsites. I used to carry 100 feet. I was always 2 feet short.
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Old 01-27-2021, 07:27 AM   #14
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To answer about how the FCFS campsites work (or worked in Before Times)

1-the park website info can typically give an estimated time when the park is usually full. that is usually by 8 am or 9 am in Yellowstone /GTNP. This is only an estimate and in my opinion kind of a We Told You so folks don't show up at 2 pm and get upset when everything is full.

2-the park entrances will all have a display you can read showing if campgrounds have space or are full. They are pretty much always full when we have seen them.

3-in 2016 (Before Times) we had a 22 sport and were moving from Madison in Yellowstone (reservations) and wanted to stay in Signal Mountain in GTNP, which at that time was a first come first serve park. We departed Madison in the dark and got to Signal Mountain before 8 am. (The Word was this park typically was full by 9 am). Only 2 spots available. We took the spot and were happy to have it. (Aside-this park is tight and tiny and would not attempt with any rig larger than a 22). All day long people were pulling into the CG and being turned away. One rig tried to sleep at the entrance and was shooed on their way by the Ranger.

For us -- we have been to Yellowstone 3 times in the last 6 years, and to Glacier/Banff once. After that first experience with the FCFS campground in the Tetons, we always plan ahead and have reservations. For us it is too much to stress about. This is of course an individual comfort thing.

For what it's worth, we have come to accept that at some National Park areas, the very limited nature of their older campgrounds makes looking at commercial campgrounds outside the parks an option to consider.

At Rocky Mountain National Park, we stayed in Estes Park at an RV park with full hookups.

When we visited Glacier we stayed at the KOA St Mary's East. Had full hookups, a pool, laundry, ice cream shop, and yes, lots and lots of other campers. They did offer canoe rentals and had great fishing right there as well. It was a quick 5 minute drive to the park entrance. And frankly it is a lot less work to not jack around with a generator to keep your batteries charged and waste tank and water jugs to fill and empty your water system. Left more time each day for hiking and touring. This is a very real trade off. Most National Parks, of course, have generator quite hours. Usually 8 am to 8 pm. Which makes sense (and IS enforced by the Rangers), but this means you have to be at your rig charging up your batteries during the day when you may have preferred to be on an all-day excursion.
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Old 01-27-2021, 08:31 AM   #15
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Hi Aaryno,

I think Piggybank answered your wait in line question so I'll take on the others (in line).
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaryno View Post

Other question about routing and dumping. In my itinerary we are staying in off-grid locations but will be doing water filling and dumping as needed. It sounds like I'm going to get a grey water tote to dump grey water during our 4- and 5-day stays and then I'll dump on the way out. That makes sense to me. However, for the boondocking part...

When we travel we try to stay at small transient pull through campgrounds with full hookups. This allows us to reset the trailer (charge batteries, empty what's full and fill whats empty) and enjoy one night will full power systems. In our Yellowstone adventure we did this by sandwiching each 4 day drycamp with full hook up one night camping on each end. Works well for us. There are several "transient friendly" RV stops that are cost effective.

When you are on the road after being dry camping, where do you dump and fill water? We are trying to maximize our outdoor adventures and haven't put any RV Parks on our itinerary but it seems very common. What are the benefits of this? What are the drawbacks or challenges if we don't?

We use an iPhone app called Allstays Camp and RV to find all local RV services while traveling including dumps, campgrounds, LP, other stores etc. Ratings and details for each site are in the app. A must have companion in our opinion.
Hope this helps! - Brad
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Old 01-31-2021, 10:47 PM   #16
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boondocking

I prefer camping in National forest campgrounds vs crammed into a commercial RV park with hookups. We generally camp for a week without hookups. We have solar and I carry a generator. I have a 5 gallon water jug that I fill up and replenish our tank. Pay attention to your gray water tank. I had to drain some off one time and dump.
Last September we camped for a week near the Indian Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. It snowed for 4 days and temps were down to 19 degrees. Our Destiny did fine. We used up a tank of LP gas and 5 gal of gas in the generator, but we were cozy.
I highly recommend boondocking for the beauty and lack of "civilization". I had a pop up tent trailer for 30 years before getting our girl and boondocking is all we did.
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Old 01-31-2021, 11:03 PM   #17
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You need a generator.

You missed the boat on make reservations for Colter Bay RV campground, because it has always been reservations-only. Colter Bay campground and Gros Ventre are the two that became reservations only on January 26th. I was online at 8:00:01 MST, and scored five days at a Gros Ventre electric site for mid June. Upon checking back five minutes later, just about everything was booked. Just like before, the early bird gets the worm.
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