Having returned home to Apple Valley this afternoon, I’m reflecting on 27 days on the road. This trip across southern Arizona included 10 days on BLM land at Quartzite, 6 days at Escapees North Ranch outside of Wickenburg, 4 days at Picacho State Park between Casa Grande and Tucson, 1 day at Catalina State Park north of Tucson, 5 days at Lost Dutchman State Park outside of Apache Junction, and then 1 day at Quartzite.
As you know if you follow our blog, we have done our best to outfit our Bounder with those things necessary to stay off-grid for periods of time. In other words, “boondocking”. Not the least of which is 400 watts of solar panels, and 440 ah of batteries, as well as a 2000/3000 watt inverter.
When we set our rig up for boondocking, I guess we wanted to accomplish two main things. First, we wanted to avoid using our generator for as long as possible. Second, we wanted to stay off-grid for as long as possible. Staying off-grid is dependent on several factors. Weather, that is sunlight, is critical for good solar charging. If the skies are cloudy and overcast, charging will take longer and, in a worst case, there might not be enough daylight hours in the day to recharge the batteries. And if you have repeated days of bad, overcast weather, the batteries might never get fully recharged, or even sufficiently charged. If this happens, the generator has to be used or you have to get back on-grid, i.e., an RV park where you can plug in to shore power. The other things that can interfere with boondocking is your tanks, gray water, black water (sewage), propane and fresh water. If your grey or black tanks fill up, you have to find a place to dump. If you run out of water, you have to find a place to refill. Same with propane.
In our case, of the 27 days we were out, 15 days were spent boondocking. No hookups. Of those 15 days, 10 were while boondocking at Quartzite, and 5 were while camping in the overflow dry camping area at Lost Dutchman State Park in the Superstition Mountains outside of Apache Junction.
Admittedly, we had great weather with little cloud cover. We also have recently converted our 25 year old TV’s for energy efficient, low amperage flat panels. And while we were attending the “Big RV SHOW” in Quartzite, we picked up several LED bulbs to replace many of our interior lights. It is amazing that, for each bulb, we went from using 1.3 amps to using .25 amps.
While boondocking, we were able to use small appliances like the coffee maker, toaster, hair dryer, ceramic tower heater and rechargers for our phones, tablets and laptops. We also used our TV and even the microwave. We generally tried to use one appliance at a time, and generally during the day if practical. At night, we watched television and only turned on lights that we were using. Through it all, we never used our generator, and our batteries never went below about 80% state of charge. Because of the good weather, and the fact that we tilted our panels with a southern exposure, we were generally back to 100% charge by noon each day.
For this first real world test covering 15 days of boondocking, we are more than pleased. We really were frugal with our energy usage, but we did not do without. We were fairly comfortable. I will say that after 8 days at Quartzite, out of a total of 10 days, we DID have to go into town for a refill of our propane tank. But that was because we did not have a full tank when we arrived. More like a half a tank. But while we were there, we emptied our gray and black tanks, and filled our water tank even though such was not necessary.