Boondocking for several months at a time?
Yesterday I heard a story about some friends of a neighbor who have an Airstream with lots of solar on it. They boondock for several months at a time.
1. Is this even believable?
2. I would think that somewhere along the way they would have to fill/dump. How long can two people realistically go before needing to fill/dump?
We've never boondocked (or even Wally-docked) in our Foretravel, and we have 105 gallons of fresh water and a generator but no solar. That said, there is no real reason why we couldn't boondock a night or two should we wish to. Since an Airstream is both smaller and lighter we're thinking that when we get an Airstream we might want to try it, at least for a night or two.
IF (and that's a big if) we had enough solar on the roof, and temperatures were reasonably mild, how long could we go?
There are lots of full-time boondockers. Some have a composting toilet. Others are careful with their waste tanks, and when they need to dump...they go and dump. Lots of places to do that. Fresh water is easy to keep up, a couple 6-gallon jugs at a time. With solar and/or a generator, it's limitless, other than getting propane refilled.
Home on the Range where the Deer and etc...
When I went to the University of Wyoming at Laramie, Wyoming from 1972 to 1975 it was similar to Boondocking and still in the City Limits. Wonderful. Loved it.
I can tell you that Nancy and I camp Off the Grid Boondocking and NEVER have Grey Water or Black Water. Camped for days or weeks at a time. Fresh water, yes in the tank. There are a wide range of definitions of Boondocking.
Many prefer a campsite at a RV Park with hookups. Glamping or 'Soft Boondocking'. It still counts.
When we tent camp we never had Grey or Black water. Just because you have a trailer? Thousands of wagons crossed the west and you would not know it today. True Boondockers make many of us look lazy and helpless.
I spent weeks tent camping on the edge of the western Nebraska Badlands fossil hunting on Ranches... with a 1964 VW bug. Also the Cretaceous Chalk Bluffs of Western Kansas in a 1956 bug. Great vehicles, by the way. No Solar, either. They were like large 6 volt or a 12 volt generators. Both had a Radio... that was it.
Like skiing. You can downhill at Keystone Ski Resort... or the back country that is never groomed. Both are skiing... but I did not have the enthusiasm to break something while in the Back Country. Better Ski Patrol sleds on the groomed runs.
Boondocking is the same. Some can. Most cannot. Not a big deal how others use their trailer. Two months... for an experienced back country camper... is child's play.
Those who outfit their trailer with a lift kit, solar, real tires, equipment... they are the one week to half a year Boondockers. It helps to be retired with limited responsibilities.
The Western USA is Boondocking Country. One 120 watt Solar from Costco hooked up to your battery with a controller is all you need. Having a roof top of Solar and six Lithium batteries... you have options that we will never have.
Is it necessary to have all of that Solar? Damn right. Maybe they need Satellite, Computers and Video editing equipment for work. I have a friend who finally said it became 'smart like us', bought a trailer and take Bird Photos and waited a bit too long to try it. No doubt a business expense as he is well know for his wildlife photography across the World, although... not Laramie. Too tough, no doubt.
Off the Grid Boondocking
These are some 'A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words'.
It is a learned camping behavior, but if you are flexible in your camping choices, you can go anywhere!
Montana, Wyoming with outdoor shower, native restroom, Oregon Trail Wyoming, Nebraska fossil Tortoise too large from 35.000.000 years ago, Gold panning Fairplay, Colorado.
Ask the 2016 Wyoming Adventure survivors about serious OTG Boondocking. Five Airforum members survived the entire 10 days.
What do you decide to do with gray water? What would you do if you were in a tent at the same location? Hauling in fresh water once a week or once every two weeks is not that different than a grocery store run. At some point the fridge will run down the propane. Again it's just a run in to town.
Once you’ve actually fully embraced the outside shower the concept of long term boondocking is completely within reach.
Bob... we do not LIVE in the Boondocks, we camp and then move. Not like a Homesteader. We are Nomadic, like the American Indians that use many of the same campsites we do but hundreds to thousands of years ago.
Their FLINT chips are their calling cards.
I have to backtrack some. My wife will urinate in the middle of the night in the trailer. I always add a few gallons of water before we leave... if she uses the Airstream's elaborate toilet to pee, or not.
Any of this water I will eventually take a five gallon bucket and pick my favorite bush to water.
I grab a flashlight and wander off. By that time one or both Blue Heelers wanted to do some evening marking.
We use the outside grill connection for our propane grill, sitting on a couple of milk crates.
With two full Propane tanks we have never run out, usually for the entire season.
Many people take their own good or bad habits and APPLY it to those who actually have lived without running water, plumbing, natural gas and for some time... no electricity. Montana in the 1950's was not Manhattan... If you had to use the OutHouse at 3AM... better not get lost finding it.
...and we have used the inside shower. I take the grey water and find my 'favorite' bush, again.
The majority of RV and Trailer owners travel from the City to what they are comfortable... RV Parks and established campgrounds with Ice Cream Socials and activities. Our activities are fishing, hiking, wandering aimlessly and get away from masses of people.
Different thought process. I believe Ted S. understands. Most will not as it is not part of their experiences as youngsters.
"1. Is this even believable?
2. I would think that somewhere along the way they would have to fill/dump. How long can two people realistically go before needing to fill/dump?"
2) As has been stated here, it all depends on the individual camper. Lifestyle, comfort zone, etc.
IMHO, People who boondock seem to be more minimalist and practical campers. For example, a simple 5 gal bucket can be a great multi tool. Carry things in it, tools, rocks, wood, water, turn it upside down to sit on or set things on, good to have full of water for fire control, use it to disperse gray water, etc.
You get the idea I'm sure.
Ted and Dennis... I would welcome you to camp with us anytime, anywhere.
True OTG Boondockers are hard to find, as they do not gather in social circles.
We find ourselves wanting to talk about the geology, the archaeology, the minerals, frontier living, fishing a small creek to a river... day dreaming about our next adventures. Even politics, but most prefer to talk about different kinds of wines and restaurants with fine menus.
We drink Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joes. We can afford any other... but it all ends up going to the same place.
Minimalist... that is the word. We enjoy simple and smart choices of food, enjoying fresh filtered water from our fresh water tank, and in the early evening... playing two player Pinochle cards. The cards get practically worn out and we both can spot the ACES by the wear on the back side... true. Nancy still is 23 games ahead for the year.
Fresh water is critical in the back country. We collect rain water with our fresh water bucket during a rain. Soft water for washing up after a busy day.
The Boondocking Forum is not the most popular forum.
When Nancy had a hip replacement... I cut the bottom out of, again, a five gallon bucket, added a toilet seat. She would dig a pit, or I would, and that was her OTG toilet. The toilet paper would be put into a plastic shopping sack, the hole covered with dirt and boulders when departing.
That woman has grit. A rare woman today, but I could name a few that were on the Wyoming, New Mexico and Green Horns in Colorado. Women with grit. They know who they are. The other half... did not handle it well. Off the Grid Boondocking is to get away and make the best out of your Airstream.
True Grit... as John Wayne would say.
I hope some understand. It is a learned lifestyle and statisfying. We come back to our home and fresh with enthusiasm. When things become boring... off we go. No plans. Nothing other than a direction and a close eye to our maps and my eye to the geology and high ground away from the highway.
Yes it's believable! In fact that is all we basically do. Most of the Provincial and forestry campsites (especially on Vancouver Island, BC) have no power etc. so all you can do is "boondock". We can go 15 days on our system before we must add water (usually 6 gal at a time) transfer Black to a portable if necessary (often there are "Pit Toilets") Black can go for 30 days ... grey water tanks can also go 30 days with partial use. Should add that we carry about 400w of solar + a Champion 3400 w geny just incase :brows:
How do I know - it's called experience... been there done that :blink:
"Ted and Dennis... I would welcome you to camp with us anytime, anywhere."
The wife and I are thinking about our next adventure as we speak. Not sure where but it would be very cool to meet up some time soon.
Archery deer season is upon us and I lean toward that this time of year. But I can be flexible and just bring gold pans, metal detectors and fishing poles. Game night is always fun. I love 3 buck chuck (it went up a buck) but mostly like to have an IPA or two. We should keep in touch for an outing soon my friend.
Black water tank solution: The Airstream Gopher Hole
Regarding questions about what to do about the black water tank when boondocking, here is an excerpt of the Airstream 1964 Soreign 30’ manual (page 13-2).
Using a “Gopher Hole”
When you are parking in areas where it is permissible to do so, you may dig a “gopher hole” to dispose of the contents of your septic tank. To dig a gopher hole:
Dig a deep hole keeping the dirt you dig out in a large carton or box under your trailer. After the hole is dug, back your trailer up so that the toilet drain hose will drop straight down into the hole and so that the hole will not be where anyone could step into it by mistake. It is strongly recommended that you use an Airstream “gopher hole” cover… a plate which will cover the hole completely and that you can seal by piling some dirt around the edges (the hole in the plate will be just large enough to take the sealing ring you usually use to seal your sewage hose where it enters the trailer park sewage system.)
When you are ready to move, fill the hole carefully with the dirt in the box, stamp it down and smooth it over.
Before your “gopher hole” make absolutely certain you are not violating any local ordinance or law.
I wonder if you can still get an Airstream Gopher Hole cover plate in JC...
My longest totally-off-grid trip to date was 5 weeks (I'm not retired - cannot take more time than that from my job).
There are many things you COULD do in terms of boondocking - the question is, would you WANT to? Where is your personal sweet spot?
One way or another, you are going to need water - lots of it. I've solved that problem by putting in a private road and parking pad at a lakeside property I've owned for many years now.
But even with infinite fresh water in front of me, we still generate some gray and black water, because I won't go outside to use the potty at night. I COULD do it, but I'd bring 15 mosquitoes back into the van with me. So we do make limited use of our onboard facilities even if a squat in the woods will suffice during most daylight conditions (assuming it is not pouring rain).
Our split-the-difference boondocking model requires that we dump tanks, but we have to go into town once every week or ten days for groceries anyway - as well as local events (socializing and entertainment). So, dumping has never been a problem.
I imagine I could live at my Nova Scotia property for perhaps 3 months comfortably, off-grid, during the warm season (we have 300 AH lithium, a 2,000 watt inverter, and 300 watts of solar).
But I would not try to do 3 months without a break. I'm not trying to set any Guinness Book ultimate-hermit records here. I like my fresh fruit and salad fixins, and the occasional steak for the campfire.
Find dump sites & free or low cost camping here:
"Hermes, Black water tank solution: The Airstream Gopher Hole."
The traditional Airstream Rally Gopher Hole (no longer accepted practice)
In 1964 my Safari did not have a gray tank just a black tank.
"Gopher Holing" was acceptable practice for gray water and sometimes sewage as well.
That is no longer the case here in the USA. Even us back packers have to bring out "everything" we bring in. That includes TP and in some wilderness locations even your solid waist must be packed out.
Maybe it wasn't obvious, but the post was "tongue in cheek". :blush:
What was acceptable in 1964 is no longer today!
Convenience is NOT our source of campsites.
If we can access Boondocking Sites on a website or a 'Where to Boondock' booklet... probably not for us.
We find our own campsites. In 2016 Nancy and I broke our Boondocking Code to take others to locations that we used since 2006 with our Airstreams. Once these locations are known, the traffic can pick up and access is more difficult as other campers move into these locations.
One example is Crazy Jug Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Last year we returned to find the National Park Service or National Forest Service fenced the site as a turn around, blocking the area that several trailers or tent campers could camp. You could sit on the Rim of the Grand Canyon and see the Colorado River, appearing as a thin string of blue. The area was also beginning to become overgrown and the brush growing into the unpaved narrow roads.
This is why many OTG Boondockers are reluctant to share or offer camping... suggestions. Once they are Public Information... they can be misused, overused or just flat... closed down by the local NFS, BLM or NPS. I cannot blame them, either. Many campers leave trash, toilet paper, feces, sawing off lower tree branches for firewood and so forth. These people pretend to be the environmental friendly sorts... but someone is leaving the mess.
We are very careful, now, to be Camper Friendly and resist disclosing specific locations. Not because of being secretive, but to avoid an area being overwhelmed with the elements of society not intending to return and treat the area as a temporary dump.
Often the local 'party people' are the worse. Although in 100 years the trash will be 'protected' by the government as a Historical Site. An example is that the BLM now protects tin can dumps as... historical and study them. This was told to me by someone who knows. Trash today... is tomorrow's Archaeology.
Photographs are wonderful examples of what is available... IF you want to find them.
I'm not going to argue dumping the black tank by the side of the road. The question is the gray tank. Indeed I have camped at Federal campgrounds where dumping gray water in the ditch *is* legal. The impact of gray water is not the same as black water (though it also is non-zero impact).
Indeed, when tent camping you see a *wide* range of rules about handling things like dish washing. Some places require you do do it only at the provided washing stations. Other places neither provide facilities nor seem to have rules about it. Some specifically forbid washing dishes near the water source or toilets. Out in the middle of nowhere ..... rules ??? ... it's up to you to a great degree.
Even in a far more urban setting, there is a distinction about gray vs black water. Call up your local codes office and talk about septic fields and your new high volume cloths washer. They have different rules for it ....
Why all this yack?
Once you go to a composting toilet ( or a shovel ), gray water is your main limitation. What you do or don't do has a significant impact on just how many months you can sit in one place.
This is one of the best discussions and stimulus of boondocking. Makes me want to head out soon.
I would think a 31’ would be a bit cumbersome in many locations.
What size/type rigs are people using?
Thanks for the discussion!
Ray—Do you always shave “Au natural “ ???
Jan & unifreck
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