What is “Boondocking” and what do you need?

Two roof mounted panels
My Two 100 Watt solar panels mounted on the roof of our fifth wheel.

So before we left I had some additional equipment installed to allow us to boondock fairly comfortably. Your probably wondering what boondocking is. It basically camping without the usual hookups you get if you stay in a developed camp (Water, Electric, Sewer). Boondocking opens up where you can stay tremendously including National Parks, National Forests, BLM Land, and even Walmart parking lots if necessary. In most National Forests and BLM lands and many other types of wilderness you are allowed to camp any where as long as you are off the road. This allows you to not only save money(it’s usually free) but also gets you out of the sometimes crowded and loud campgrounds. There are also many “Primitive” campgrounds in these parks that allow RV’s but don’t have hookups. Being able to stay in those can be a real boon when the regular campgrounds are booked up.

The first items I had installed were two 200 watt solar panels along with a MPPT solar charge controller. This allows us to charge our batteries while camping without an electric hookup. This is important if you enjoy such things as lights. Another option for this that a lot of people go with is a generator. However they are loud, need regular maintenance, and have to be watched while running. The solar panels on the other hand need almost no maintenance (A wipe down periodically), are completely silent, and are fully automatic. The disadvantage is of course that they only work while the sun is up and to match the capacity of a large generator you would need a LOT of solar. Instead we plan to ration our electric “budget.” I do have a very small generator my dad gave me for backup if we have several days of overcast but we are not relying on it.

The panels I had installed were purchased as a kit from Amazon(there is a link below if your interested). The reason I chose to go with two 100 watt panels was because we currently have room for two batteries. A rule of thumb is to have one watt per amp hour of battery storage. The price on solar panels has come down drastically in the past few years, they are as much as a quarter the price now. This makes it so anyone who has an RV or a sailboat ought to have at least a panel or two.

I also choose to go with an MPPT charge controller versus a PWM because although it is slightly more expensive it is also quite a bit more efficient (as much a 25% in cool weather). They have kits with both types available on Amazon.

Solar panels are the number one item people add to their RV to prepare to boondock. Without them you would be limited to your battery capacity, usually only a day or two, or you could just forgo electrics all together. Considering we have slides that require electricity going without wouldn’t be fun and we want to have the ability to spend up to a week out enjoying solitude. We won’t be doing much boondocking till this summer as we are only spending a day or two in each spot so we can make it out west in a reasonable amount of time. Anyways, if you have any questions about our solar panels, fire away.

Check back in a week or so for part two where I’ll discuss what two other items we had to have before we left to be ready to spend some time outside of developed campgrounds.

Share

Published by

Tim

Graduate of the accounting school at the University of Georgia and now a real estate investor and agent. I have loved to travel since I was a kid and have dreamed of traveling full-time since then.

Leave a Reply