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Old 07-06-2020, 07:55 AM   #1
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Newbie questions about boondocking

We just bought a 2018 used 23" Flying Cloud 23FB. It has 200W of solar and 6V AGM batteries.

We are planning to mostly camp in campgrounds without hookups and on public lands. We don't watch TV while camping, and we won't need AC. We're perfectly comfortable taking short showers ever 2-3 days. We also don't really need to use computers or other electronic devices much while camping; as we're not full-timers, part of the point of camping for us is to get away from that stuff!

We've never owned an Airstream or any kind of trailer or RV for that matter. So, I'm trying to get a sense of how long we can comfortably stay out without emptying the grey/black water tanks, filling up with fresh water, etc. It's my wife, myself, and our 9-year old daughter.

I'd love to hear what your experience has been in these situations. If there are any resources you can point me toward that could help me answer this question, other than this forum, that would be great too. Thanks in advance!
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Old 07-06-2020, 08:28 AM   #2
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We have 2 6V AGM batteries, no solar. We can camp for 5 days running the furnace (and everything else) with the batteries still reading good. We haven't gone longer than that dry camping.

Not sure how big your fresh water tank is... Grey water is usually the big determiner on how long before you have to dump tanks. If you bring a portable tank (like Blue Boy) to dump your grey water into, it will extend your time out. Be careful about dumping grey water on the ground. It is illegal in many states, and every campground I've ever visited.

There are many ways to minimize water use: washing dishes seems to use up a lot for us unless we're very minimal on cooking/eating materials. It's a little different mind set when you're trying to conserve water. We take Navy showers: turn water on, get wet, turn water off, soap up, rinse off. We carry a big water jug with us when we're dry camping so we can refill water tank as we need. We sanitize the jug the same way we do the trailer water system every spring.
Some of this will be trial and error for you as everyone's water usage is more or less personal.

Enjoy your trailer!


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Old 07-06-2020, 08:33 AM   #3
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Grey water is your Achilles heel. It is surprising how fast it fills — when we are off grid, we use paper plates as much as possible and take “sea showers”. Hand sanitizer vs hand washing, pre-wash vegetables before you leave home. I don’t know where you camp but, in some places (mostly BLM land out west) you can dump grey water on the ground (use a hose adapter and a black hose). In the East, very unlikely you can legally do this anywhere.

With three of you, the black tank will fill more rapidly than it does for me but it is the least of your worries.

Fresh water can be carried in inexpensive expanding tanks and you can bunker it in after you are set up. Many people carry bottled water for cooking, tooth brushing etc.

Why not “camp” in your yard a few days and do a little research!
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Old 07-06-2020, 08:50 AM   #4
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Hi switters, minno pretty much summed it up. Grey water is usually the limiting factor. Wipe off your plates before washing or use paper. Quick showers fill our 35 gal grey tank about 15% for each person and we could conserve more but you know, Airstream. You'll just have to go and keep some records of water usage to get a feel for your trailer. We're in PC too and store our 25FC in Heber. You're going to love your new adventure!
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Old 07-06-2020, 09:16 AM   #5
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Short answer: Up to two weeks depending on the usage of your limited resources.
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Old 07-06-2020, 09:24 AM   #6
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5 days on the batteries is really good ....especially with the furnace.... otherwise I agree grey water is alway the limiting factor. Luckily we often boondocks where it isn't an issue to dump grey on the ground. I carry about a 20ft grey hose and find a spot in the bush for it. with a generator.... portable water container and being able to grey dump I've managed over 10 days before the black tank was starting to become an issue. Once my black gets there its time to move and find a dump station.
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Old 07-06-2020, 09:27 AM   #7
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Hi

One *can* do some things about gray water .... ( like shower less often / shower outside )

Electricity math:

Your fridge plus the parasitic loads pull power off of 12V, even when on propane. You would need to measure yours to know exactly what it the number is. 1 A is a pretty good guess. That puts you at 24AH per day.

Brand new batteries (depending on brand and size) are up around 200AH or so. One normally only uses 50% of that capacity on AGM's. That gives you 100AH to use. 24AH will take that capacity down to "stop using" in 4 days.

Keep in mind that unless you have a fancy battery capacity measurement system, it's amazingly hard to know just how far down your batteries are. Voltage readings will not give you accurate information for a variety of reasons. Also fully charging batteries often means running the converter / charger for a day ( like 24 hours ...) to be sure they are topped off.

Batteries do die eventually. How quick depends a bit on how they are treated. It also depends on the brand / make / model. There *is* a bit of luck involved. Do you have 90% of rated capacity left or 80% or .... Without some careful testing there is no way to know.

200W of solar with the stock charger in full sun out in the desert will keep up with 20 to 30AH pretty well.

Each time you turn on the water ... the water pump runs. Some level of lighting generally gets used. If you run the stove, you *should* turn on the vent fan. There may be other .... errr ....reasons to run vent fans from time to time. It's amazingly easy for all that to add up and roughly double your power usage over just the fridge + parasitic loads.

Most people struggle to get significantly below 50AH a day when half of that is beyond their control.

At this point (50AH a day) you are at "2 days" on battery. You also being to bump into what the solar can or can't do under this or that condition.

Lots of fun !!!

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Old 07-06-2020, 09:50 AM   #8
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If it's not warm during the day, and we don't get sweaty, we use these:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Check out a Goal Zero 3000, which will give you some electrical capacity, which you will soon discover that you need.
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Old 07-06-2020, 01:31 PM   #9
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We boondock all the time and you should be able to get abou t 4 days out of your black tank. About the same for your grey tank. Bring two five gallon jugs of fresh water with you. Usually there are dump sites either on site or close by. We use water from our water jugs to do dishes and wash our hands.
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Old 07-06-2020, 03:15 PM   #10
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We have 30gal of fresh and 30 gal of grey as well as a compostable toilet and no black tank. 1 solar panel on the roof and we always take a suitcase solar, We have an outside shower ( they make some very cool portable shower tents ($35) if need be. With an on demand hot water heater they do not like navy showers so be quick. A week for us is easy and more if we take a few 7 gallon jugs of water in our TV. We could go a week if need be..depends on how much wine we have taken along.
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Old 07-06-2020, 03:16 PM   #11
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Thanks, everyone, for your very helpful replies. We plan to camp mostly in UT in the next few months. One trip in Northern UT and 3 trips in southern UT. The trips in southern UT will be spread between full hookups, no hookups in a campground, and then boondocking on BLM/forest service lands.

A few follow-up questions:
1) Where can I find info about where it's legal to dump grey water (e.g. BLM lands)?
2) Can anyone recommend a good resource for learning more about solar, batteries, power usage, etc.? I know next to nothing about this.
3) The 23' FC has a 31-gallon grey water tank. Looks like this Blue Boy would work for portable grey water disposal? Will this work for the waste hose with this Thetford to Valtera adapter?

Realistically, 3-4 days off grid will probably be fine, at least to begin with, because we're usually doing at least some campground camping on a trip. For example, in October we're thinking of doing some boondocking near Zion for maybe 3 nights, then we have a reservation at Kodachrome Basin Campground for 3 nights so we can check out Bryce and that area. We can dump our tanks there. This is probably often what we'll do: combine boondocking with hookups in a single trip.

Thanks again!
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Old 07-06-2020, 03:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vanster View Post
We have 30gal of fresh and 30 gal of grey as well as a compostable toilet and no black tank. 1 solar panel on the roof and we always take a suitcase solar, We have an outside shower ( they make some very cool portable shower tents ($35) if need be. With an on demand hot water heater they do not like navy showers so be quick. A week for us is easy and more if we take a few 7 gallon jugs of water in our TV. We could go a week if need be..depends on how much wine we have taken along.
The compostable toilet is an interesting idea. Did you replace your normal toilet with it? Can you link to the model that you bought?

I'd also love a link to the outside shower tent you use if you don't mind.

Thanks!
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Old 07-06-2020, 03:23 PM   #13
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On saving gray water capacity...

If you are boondocking in nice weather, consider using the beach shower on the side of your trailer for hair washing and other uses with relatively clean runoff. You'll use fresh water and it won't fill your gray tank.

We carry one of those external gray water tanks, with wheels, and have used it exactly twice. Dump site was about a hundred feet away so it was no big deal but saved us aggravation of breaking camp and having to move the whole trailer just to dump. Learned that lesson on one of our first trips.

We figure three days without hookups before we need to dump gray. Have never filled the black tank to capacity.

If we are on the move, never pass up the opportunity to "dump tanks" when we see a dump station.
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Old 07-06-2020, 03:24 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by coasttocoast View Post
If it's not warm during the day, and we don't get sweaty, we use these:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Check out a Goal Zero 3000, which will give you some electrical capacity, which you will soon discover that you need.
Great idea. With the Goal Zero 3000, would I connect that to the 200W panels on the Airstream roof (seems unlikely, but as I said above, I know next to nothing about solar/power), or would I get a 200W solar briefcase (like Yeti sells) to charge it?
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Old 07-06-2020, 05:07 PM   #15
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One way to make your black tank go longer is if you do not put any or very little Toilet paper In. I know it sounds weird, but we have a small brown paper sack
(think lunch sack size) next to toilet and most of our paper goes there. We then burn it or throw it away every day or so.
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Old 07-06-2020, 08:23 PM   #16
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Enjoy your AS, don't worry. I've got a 40G FW tank and 360W of solar. My wife, grandson and I can go 5 days to a week with no problem. I've never had a black or grey water tank fill up in a week. Nor have I run out of FW. I do, however, carry a 6-gal jug of water which gives me some peace of mind as my tank monitors are unreliable.

My two roof-mounted solar panels charge my batteries to 100% by 9:00 or 10:00 every morning. Having a good shunted battery monitor is important to confirm State of Charge.

Enjoy! We're off tomorrow morning for a 10-week, 5000+ mile trip to New England. Love my AS!
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Old 07-06-2020, 11:02 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by switters View Post
Great idea. With the Goal Zero 3000, would I connect that to the 200W panels on the Airstream roof (seems unlikely, but as I said above, I know next to nothing about solar/power), or would I get a 200W solar briefcase (like Yeti sells) to charge it?
I charge the 3000 while driving with a Fast Charger and with the supplied Brick which I run through the coach inverter. I also have a 12v Car Charging Cable. In addition, I have 2 HardKorr 200 watt panels.

A 200 watt Yeti panel is a good place to start. Two panels will be better. Three would be better still. I currently have my two HardKorr panels in my back yard. They are not optimally angled, and one of them got damaged and only puts out 50% of what it used to do. I was seeing as much as 150 watts today input on a partly sunny day. Most of the day, they were probably at less than 100 watts.

It's really nothing more than simple math. Your lights aren't going to pull much, your water pump uses more, and your fridge/freezer is the main draw. Let's say that my 3000 is at 100% at 6pm, and I switch the fridge/freezer over from the coach to the 3000. Later around 11pm, I'll go to sleep and also turn on a small fan to blow air when I'm sleeping. Bear in mind that I am somewhere cool and parked far away from a campground. I don't need AC, and I am not plugged in. By about 9am the next morning, the 3000 will be at about 70%. If I put out the HardKorr panel the night before, I might be around 75%. So now I wake up, flip on the generator and make coffee and eat Cheerios for a couple of hours. The 3000 might move up to 80% or more. By now, I am on the road again where the coach is charging things and I am back to 100%. If I have a cloudy day and a short drive, then the 3000 might drop more. You have to have a way to charge it.

If you are only running the fridge and not the freezer, then you will consume less. Everybody has different requirements. I went for the 3000 because it has more capacity and more reserves. I bought it last summer before we went to Canada, and we were off grid for 22 of 37 nights which saved us $1000 in campground fees. It would have been more it it weren't so hot driving from Atlanta and back where we had to plug in for AC. Since then, I have used it on about 5 more nights going to South Carolina. While at home, I use it to charge my tool batteries, my lawn more, and my scooter, etc.

Airstreams are designed to be plugged in. Lithium and solar will allow you to not be dependent on the plug in, and that is where you want to be.
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Old 07-07-2020, 05:44 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by switters View Post
We just bought a 2018 used 23" Flying Cloud 23FB. It has 200W of solar and 6V AGM batteries.

We are planning to mostly camp in campgrounds without hookups and on public lands. We don't watch TV while camping, and we won't need AC. We're perfectly comfortable taking short showers ever 2-3 days. We also don't really need to use computers or other electronic devices much while camping; as we're not full-timers, part of the point of camping for us is to get away from that stuff!

We've never owned an Airstream or any kind of trailer or RV for that matter. So, I'm trying to get a sense of how long we can comfortably stay out without emptying the grey/black water tanks, filling up with fresh water, etc. It's my wife, myself, and our 9-year old daughter.

I'd love to hear what your experience has been in these situations. If there are any resources you can point me toward that could help me answer this question, other than this forum, that would be great too. Thanks in advance!
I own a 2013 23FB (converted to twin) and a converted cargo trailer.

It sounds like the way you plan to split your camping between dry and hook ups is a great way to do it and minimizes your need for long dry camping stints. Even campgrounds with no utilities, might have showers and some kind of toilet, if even a vault. The key here is to be flexible and adapt to what is going on with water and power assets.

Battery power - The key is to start you dry camping stint with them full. Information is essential... knowing the status for me is essential for both determining the level and how much is left. They say don't deplete below 50%, but in a pinch going lower shortens life but not all that much if you do it occasionally, but then fully charge. You get this information with a battery status monitor. Victron makes a good one. My favorite is Trimetric TM-2030RV of course you need a shunt and probably an easy rewire for the battery negative cabling. Then set it up properly. Trimetric comes with documentation that is basically a course of study. Assuming your solar setup is working and set up well, that might be all you need.

One thing to know is when you are home. Even placing the use store switch in store some things are still using power and will run your batteries down. With solar, you can leave it in "use" and they will keep the batteries up... that is if its stored outside. Without solar, I would recommend having a battery cutoff switch to completely remove all loads. Charge them full before storage and cut off all power to the coach.

You also have a converter / charger that runs 12 volt things and charges the batteries when on shore power. Charging times for a depleted battery bank is quite long with the CC, but that solar set up is a big plus. The CC can get them to 80% fairly quickly (a few hours) and solar can do the long 80 to 100% charge time silently and without shore power. I would imagine that it could be simple to add another panel, or even two, but I would use it and see if that is needed.

Even on Propane your fridge, water heater and furnace uses 12 volt power. In fact the furnace is a power hog. I augment heating and save battery and propane with a Camco Wave3 radiant heater.

120v power - I have a big inverter (120 volt to 12 volt conversion) but also a small pure sine wave 300 watt that will run small loads and recharge things with 120 volt plugs. Small load example is the television. Anything that heats up is a big load. From what you said, you will not need a big inverter.

Gray water - Showering can really go through some water, but like other's have mentioned sink use can kill you. We wipe off / out pans and no paper things, but use paper plates and plastic utensils. I don't like food particles in the gray tank. A composting toilet is a great way to extend dry camping time. It lets you use your black tank to augment the gray water. I have a elongated standard (short) toilet in my AS but use a C-Head in the other trailer. You would probably need the shorty model, which if mounted in the original toilet spot might require a step stool for most people. It is an amazing toilet. You will have to dump the separated urine tank / jug will need dumping daily more than likely, with solids for for weeks. I use Aspen wood shavings and it is very easy to manage. C-Head has a ton of practical information on how to manage the toilet. They are well built and a good value.

Fresh water - For me its easy. Enter dry camping with FW tank full and with extra jugs full. I prefer 2-1/2 gallon jugs but if you can handle the weight, 5 gallon translucent containers work well. BPA free.

I also love the 17" Blackstone griddle on several levels. You can cook almost anything outside and clean up is far far easier and neater than with a grill. I can run it off of the AS propane but typically use (and refill) 1 pound cylinders. The 22" would be a little better but I like the lighter 17" model with the carrying case.
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Old 07-07-2020, 05:55 AM   #19
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I charge the 3000 while driving with a Fast Charger and with the supplied Brick which I run through the coach inverter. I also have a 12v Car Charging Cable. In addition, I have 2 HardKorr 200 watt panels.
Thanks again! So, if I understand correctly, I can plug the GZ3000 into the AS inverter using the GZ Fast Charger and supplied brick to charge it while I'm driving?

Then I can charge it with the 200W suitcase while camping. I don't plan to get a generator—at least not initially. 4-5 consecutive days/nights of boondocking should be enough for us to start.
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Old 07-07-2020, 06:03 AM   #20
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The compostable toilet is an interesting idea. Did you replace your normal toilet with it? Can you link to the model that you bought?

I'd also love a link to the outside shower tent you use if you don't mind.

Thanks!
Hi Switters we have a composting toilet and its awesome. You can go about 2 weeks without dumping the solids for a family of 3, also you can plumb your composting toilet's urine tank into the blacktank and turn it into a grey tank. Check out this link here to see what I'm talking about. Enjoy your new airstream.
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