PHASE 3 – SimpleLifeRVing.com – Packing Up Essential Supplies and Hitting the Road

 
Phase 3 – Packing Up Essential Supplies and Hitting the Road
 
How To Live ‘The Good Life’ in a Car, Van, RV, Bus, Boat, etc. 
                                                                                                   
After getting the right mindset in Phase I and purchasing the RV in Phase 2, the ONLY STEP LEFT is packing the RV and getting on the road. Here is where you need to engage in #BabySteps
 
For many who still have homes, buying the RV and going back home to pack it up will be much easier than those who have traveled cross country to pick up the RV, and will have to figure out how to pack up the RV on the road. 
 
If you bought the RV at a dealership, it’s important before receiving your RV, that you were given a demonstration by a salesman or RV mechanic that is familiar with your type of RV. 
 
For many new RVers, you might need to do this twice so you might have to come back to the dealership for a second time. Just remember that dealerships are extremely busy, so once you drive away, they are not beholden to you whatsoever.
 
Many people will purchase an RV and go to the closest RV park with hookups, to make sure everything in the RV is working okay. They don’t feel comfortable taking the RV out of the area until they are sure that everything is working okay, however, you should be given instructions on everything before pulling off in the RV. 
 
Whether your RV was shipped to you, you picked up the RV and is taking it back home or you are on your way to an RV event, your first RV park, or parking on FREE Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or National Forest land, or some other FREE spot –only buy the things you will need right away because many of these RV ESSENTIALS can break the bank. 
 
You can also park your RV at homes of relatives and friends (called “Driveway Surfing” and “Mooch Surfing” for RVers), while you load up your RV. It all depends on what comes in your particular new or used RV.
 
Many of these essential items you might need to purchase before leaving the dealerships so know upfront what ESSENTIAL ITEMS and NON-ESSENTIAL ITEMS you will need for your RV.
 
Meanwhile, continue to get rid of stuff that you have packed in the RV, because many of the RVs, especially the Class C, can become overweight pretty quickly. 
 
Where To Buy Essential and Non-Essential RV Items
 
I will break down a list of essential and non-essential items you will need as I set up my Amazon Affiliate’ page for full-time RVers so that you can buy directly through my page. It will be strictly up to you to purchase these items as you start your new RV adventure. 
 
Many of you will want to go ahead and purchase some of the items in the non-essential list from the very beginning. Just remember to be careful that you don’t end up stranded out there without the basic essentials of RVing.  
 
Most RVers buy most of their items from the following:
  • Walmart
  • Amazon 
  • RV stores
Items from Walmart and Amazon.com are probably going to be CHEAPER than RV stores. They have a Walmart in every area except in rural areas. RV stores like Camping World have many RV stores along with their dealerships in many states, but it is on the list of dealerships not to purchase an RV from, but it doesn’t mean you should not go there to pick up other RV items. 
 
It’s important to have an Amazon Prime account so you can receive items quickly in one to 2 days from Amazon. The cost is around $117 a year or you can pay monthly payments of $12.99.  
 
Many of the RV parks will allow you to receive mail there especially if you will be there for an extended amount of time, more than a few days, but check with them beforehand.
 
You can also receive Amazon packages at UPS stores in the area or when ordering from Amazon, it will provide a list of their locker/boxes in your area. You have 3 days to pick up these items when you order them, otherwise, they will be returned. 
 
RV Bills
 
This is just a rough estimate for just some of your monthly bills living in an RV:  
  • $400 on Groceries: Depends on how many are in the family.
  • $150 on Gas: It all depends on where you go. If you stay stationary you will save on gas. Many RVers wear themselves out after the first year from moving every 2 or 3 days. Many just stay 2 weeks, one month, 3 months or 6 months in an area. 
  • $200 Camping/Dumping Fees: You can go to these RV parks and campgrounds just to dump black and gray tanks for $5 to $10. You don’t have to stay there. There are other places also to dump your black and gray tanks.
  • $30-$50 on Propane: If you are in a colder climate and need to run your furnace, it will be higher. It will be higher if you have to run your generator. If you have solar panels you can save money in warmer climates. You can chase 70-degree weather around the country and be a “Snowbird” to save on propane.
  • $95 RV Insurance: With Progressive. Get only liability on your car at home if you leave it behind or in storage.
  • $70 Car Storage: Monthly fees.
  • $140 on Cell Phone and Internet: With hotspot, it should be around $140 a month.
  • Entertainment: $30 on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Amazon Music.
  • Vehicle Maintenance: $25 
  • Miscellaneous: $150 
Cell Data Providers and Internet 
 
It’s extremely important that most RVers be able to make a phone call, especially in case of an emergency. Many will be working in remote jobs so internet service will be key for them.
 
There are 4 cell phone providers today in the U.S.:
  • Verizon
  • AT&T
  • T-mobile
  • Sprint
In 2018, T-Mobile and Sprint announced plans for a $26 billion merger combining the two companies into what would be a bigger No. 3 network, behind Verizon and AT&T, but the merger never happened, Supposedly, it is still in the works.
 
Most RVers seem to have Verizon cell service and everyone has talked about having good service with it. Many use Verizon for their Data Plan and other companies such as ATT, T-mobile, Sprint, etc. for their cell service. 
 
All the cell phone providers also offer data access by cell phone signal. You can get a data plan for your cell phone, or you can get a data plan that works just on your laptop and doesn’t have a voice plan at all.
 
It has the advantage of being cheaper. You can get a friend and family plan for your cell phone, and a data only plan for your laptop.
 
There are two ways to get the signal into your laptop:
  • MIFI, this is a credit card sized device that receives the cell data signal and rebroadcasts it as up to five WIFI signals. That means that up to five other devices can use that data signal. For example, your laptop, Kindle E-reader, Apple iPad, etc. can all be connected at the same time and you can still invite two family members or friends to use it as well. The cost is around $50 a month for 5 Gigs of data, but they also have an $80 a month plan for 10 Gigs. 
  • Another device to get data into your laptop is a Data Stick. It is used for only one laptop at a time and most often connects by the USB port of your laptop, but you can also get them that slide into a slot in your laptop.
Both of these work well, but I think the MIFI (also called “Jetpack”) is a much better choice because it offers you a lot more flexibility. Try the above before going out and buying the expensive weBoost cell phone system that can cost more than $400. 
 
The reason weBoost is not as effective as an external antenna is the “Boosters” also add noise to the signal being boosted. This is not an issue with voice, but can severely slow down data transmissions. 
 
Remember that you can get better connections over “HOTSPOTS”. The weBoost is for sure better than nothing, but a very good MIMO antenna (cost is around $30), which most hotspots can handle, will typically yield BETTER RESULTS with your data needs.
 
Some RVers have added MIMO antennas, which allows them to use multiple carriers such as Verizon and AT&T. Even though Verizon is good for overall coverage, most RVers are reporting that Verizon and AT&T are better in the west and T-mobile and Sprint is better in the east, but many are using at least TWO cell and data services in order to be hooked up to cell and internet while RVing full-time. 
 
RV Parks Cell Service
Many of the RV parks or when boondocking, you will have a WEAK cell phone signal. Remember that cell phone bars don’t matter but speed does when it comes to making a call or using data.
 
Some of the campgrounds might charge you $8 a day for faster cell phone service, but it still might not work. When boondocking especially, if you don’t have cell signal, go somewhere where you can hike out at night in case something happens. And always point your vehicle toward the exit in case you have to jump in the front seat and exit the area.
 
If You Have A Tight Budget
You can use FREE wifi hotspots all across the country. There are businesses that offer free WIFI in order to get customers to come to their place of business (coffee shops, malls, whole and health food stores, libraries, book stores, etc.). So if you have a TIGHT BUDGET, that’s the way to go.
 
Usually, it is a very fast internet connection but also remember that it is not completely secure and can be hacked and your data can be captured. And there is not always FREE wifi nearby, you may have to drive some distance to find it and burn the extra gas or do without the internet. 
 
How To Care for RV Tires
 
RVs can sit in storage or RV yards for months or even years before purchase so the sun can break them down. Make sure you use wheel covers if your RV will sit for a while.  
 
When purchasing a new or used RV from a dealership or a personal seller, you still need to do your due diligence to find out more about your RV tires. 
 
Most of the time you need to buy new tires as soon as you purchase the RV from dealerships, especially if you are planning a long trip because the tires on the RV are usually of low quality unless you were able to put this into your packet upon sale.   
 
Good Year and Michelin are some of the better brands. Michelin has the Michelin Advantage
Program for your tires. In Redlands, CA, they even have their own RV park where you can stay at while your tires are being worked on. They will even come and pick up the RV from the park. Now this is service!
 
When you have work done on your tires, make sure your gray and black tanks are empty so they can access the proper weight for your RV, which will be key in putting on the right type of tires.
 
Your RV tires could cost anywhere from $1200 to $2000. Replace RV tires every 3 to 5 years. Some might last for 7 years. I believe Michelin recommends 7 to 10 years, but they might be only referring to their tires.
 
It’s important to keep a record on all your tires. Know when to rotate them versus getting rid of them completely. 
 
Check the tires for quality. RV tires AGE OUT before THEY WEAR OUT so wear and tear won’t be a good tool to see if your tires are okay. 
 
What to look for:
  • Look at the ‘date’ on the tire. Tires should have ‘4 digit date code’. First 2 numbers will give you the MONTH and second two — the YEAR.
  • Then look for ‘load range’. There is a rating on the axil, wheel, and tire. Make sure you have the right load range for your RV and the maximum PSI especially when it’s cold and especially if you have a Class C and A. Look on your rim for the PSI. What is the proper PSI? Try to go to a scale and measure. Add correct PSI that the RV suggested. You can also shift things around in the RV to balance out your load. Class C’s can become overloaded pretty quick.
  • Look at the sidewall and tread depth. Just remember a blow out can injure the RV like a “China Bomb.” 
Truck tires and trailer tires are different. A side wall of a truck tire is not as good or strong as side wall as a trailer tire. Trailer tires have a speed restriction of 65, which means you can go that fast. If it has an L or M, this is a higher range of speed. 
 
Towing a Vehicle
 
If your motorhome and toads (towed vehicle) are over 26,000 pounds, you might need to take a driver’s test in some cities. One of the pros and cons of driving a motorhome is that you don’t have to tow a vehicle behind you. 
 
The benefit of this is that it’s easier to drive a motorhome than tow a trailer. The downfall of this is that if you want to go somewhere outside an RV park or campground, you’ll need to rent a car, take a shuttle or taxi, or use Lyft or Uber.
 
There are 4 options to tow your vehicle: 
  • Flatbed Trailer or Enclosed Trailer: A flatbed or enclosed trailer is one of the easiest ways to tow behind larger motorhomes and fifth wheel RVs. This offers a larger space to bring a car, off-road vehicles, or even add more storage to your existing rig. This method will offer full support for your vehicle, along with its brake and light system. You’re able to bring a variety of vehicles this way. Being able to take any vehicle will set you back financially as investing in a flatbed or enclosed trailer will be more expensive. 
  • Tow Dolly: U-haul has a tow dolly that they rent out to new RVers who need to get their cars to certain areas. ‘Acme’ (cartowdolly.com) and ‘Demco’ make tow dollies with advanced braking systems on them. Most tow dollies range from $1500 to $3000 so check for used ones on facebook marketplace, e-Bay, craigslist or buy from Amazon, Walmart, etc.
  • Flat Tow or 4 Downing: The best vehicle to tow behind an RV is lightweight and can be towed with its wheels on the ground. Some RV dealerships are set up to fit your car for a flat tow when you pick up your RV. This will run anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000 (click here).
  • Chasing: This is when someone is driving the tow vehicle. If you are not driving too many hours in a day, chasing works for a lot of RVers.
The disadvantages of chasing:
  • You can’t experience the view together.
  • You can’t be in the front or back getting work done. 
  • You can’t take a nap.
  • Sometimes the pets are separated.
  • You put extra mileage on the vehicle.
The advantages of chasing:
  • You can listen to what you want to on radio, podcast, etc. 
  • Your drive partner in the car can also look out for you in the RV.
  • The car can drive ahead and get food at the next rest stop and be waiting for you.
  • You can save gas by not pulling a car. 
  • You can save stress on the engine of the RV by not pulling a car. 
  • You don’t have to unhook when you reach your location. 
  • You don’t have any tow or dolly maintenance.
Cleaning Your RV
 
When it comes to cleaning your RV, you can use dawn dishwasher or a natural RV washer from RV shops, auto stores, Walmart or from Amazon.com.
 
RVs need to be cleaned especially when they start bleeding down the side. Just keep in mind that many RV parks do not allow you to wash your RV. 
 

Three (3) Types of RV Maintenance

To keep your RV in tip-top shape there are 3 types of maintenance:
  • Preventative Maintenance
  • Scheduled Maintenance
  • Emergency Maintenance
Preventative Maintenance
 
First of all, if your RV needs to go into the shop for maintenance, make sure you take it there yourself. The key to having an RV in top condition is to watch for problems and get them repaired as soon as possible. 
 
Getting in the habit of taking care of these maintenance tasks will be well worth your efforts and lead to good benefits. If you don’t keep up on this, then issues can become quite expensive, dangerous and potentially undermine your living experience. 
 
Regular inspections are perhaps the most important thing so make sure you check or inspect your RV on a regular basis — no matter where you’re at.
 
Walk in and around your RV, climb up on the roof and check underneath the chassis on a regular basis to look for any problems that need your attention. This will help you discover issues and deal with them promptly before they get worse.
 
Noticing some of these flaws can be an easy repair, but others can be serious and require major repairs. After you’ve done your inspection, continue to eyeball everything.  
 
Scheduled Maintenance
 
They say you are supposed to bring your RV in for oil change at 20,000 miles, but many RVers say you should get it changed at 10,000 miles.
 
Look at manual especially the troubleshooting list. Might sure you have the 800 number readily available if you have issues or questions. Change the oil, windshield wiper blades, hoses, tires and check tire pressure, etc. Clean vents, test propane alarms get secondary backups, etc.
 
Goodyear and Walmart will check tire pressure for free. Lead-acid batteries need to be checked. Check oil level in the onboard generator. Protect rubber around window or slides.
 
Watch youtube videos to see what you need to check. Join facebook forums for your type of RV. Ask a neighbor. You can hire someone for RV maintenance. Just google “Nearest RV Mechanic” or “Mobile RV Repair Services.” There are deals in the fall and spring and make sure you have your own tools. 
 
Emergency Maintenance
 
Have an app on your phone. Have an 800 number. Look into roadside assistance, etc. Make sure your RV insurance stay up to date. Look for ‘Mobile RV Repair Services’. Look at google.com, yelp.com, etc. They might charge $40 to $250. Try to know your general location. If you breakdown use flashes, deflective cones, flares, etc.
 
Know your emergency exits in your vehicles, which are usually doors and windows. When driving at night, make sure headlights are adjusted so they won’t shine directly into the driver’s eyes in front of you. 
 
RV Repair Shops
 
If you are not taking your RV into the dealership where you bought it from, many RVers will recommend places to have regular maintenance performed on your RV. 
 

Just some of the services and training that RVers have recommended include:

How To Stay Cool in An RV
 
The reason many people buy an RV instead of becoming a car or van dweller is so they can have more space and all the comforts of home. Not staying cool while you are out there on your full-time adventures is not what #RVLife is about.
 
Tips to keep RVs cool include:
  • Point RV west when you pick a spot especially when boondocking.
  • Try to park near grass versus near blacktop.
  • Install a second air conditioning unit and make sure the air conditioner is tuned up. 
  • Avoid opening the door as much as possible. 
  • You can camp by the ocean and get the breeze coming off the ocean.
  • You can camp in the mountains where there are higher elevations and you will be cooler.
  • Use a humidifier. Remember that humidity is the enemy of RVs. It destroys RVs. 
  • Use more ventilation. The more ventilation — the better. 
  • Run a fan (or two) as well. It makes a big difference.
  • Get ahead of the heat. Keep windows opened at night if there is a breeze and run a fan before it gets too warm in the day. This could trap cool air in an RV.  
  • Use blinds, curtains especially blackout curtains, and day-night shades and/or black out your windows with reflectix. Home Depot has some foil lined bubble wrap that works extremely well at blocking heat and sunlight or use the silver insulation from Lowe’s to cover your windows and keep the heat out. You have to cut it to size and it will make your RV dark and much cooler. Works great in cold weather too. Also, get reflectix for your skylight.
  • Use black out curtains to separate the cab from the rest of the RV.
  • Always cover the windshield.
  • Put aluminum foil in your vents on your roof, which will reflect the heat.
  • Take a garden hose up on top of your rig and wash the radiator inside and out and remove all debris from your unit.
  • Ask to park in the shade at campgrounds and parks. Park your RV in the shade when you can, unless you need the solar on top to power your RV. If you have portable solar, park RV in shade and place solar panels in sunlight. 
  • Try to get in a pool at campgrounds and parks or go to local gyms, LA Fitness, YMCA, etc.
  • Use RV awnings to block out the sun and add more awnings by using shade-cloth. Put a second awning on the other side of RV and small awnings on windows. You need an awning on the side where the refrigerator is located to keep cool air in the refrigerator.
  • Don’t cook indoors. You can use a butane stove outside.  
  • Use micellular cleansing water to keep cool. Keep it in the fridge and use it on arms and legs. 
  • Use freezer ice cubes.
  • Until you can buy enough solar to run one or two air conditioners, become a Snowbird and chase 70-degrees around the country.
RV’s Electrical System
 
DC vs. AC Power
 

Try to understand your electrical system. RVs will have 2 different sides of the equation — the ‘DC side’,  which is the 12 volt where you can turn on your lights and the ‘AC side’ where you can plug into sure power, through an inverter. 

The 12 volt is wired from your house battery and it handles:
  • lights
  • slides
  • electrical awnings
  • jacks
  • roof fans
  • cigarette lighters
  • wall sockets
  • fridge (electric and propane)
  • water pump and heater 

110 volt power – must go through an inverter and it handles: 

  • fans for heater
  • household plugs
  • microwave
  • coffee pot
  • toaster oven
  • induction plate
  • instant pot
  • air fryer
  • blender
  • television
  • hair dryer
Power Adapters
 
You will need all 3 of these power adapters. 
  • 20 amp (standard household amp)
  • 30 amps
  • 50 amps
Some RV parks might sell them or lend them out, but it’s important to have your own up-front. Some of the power adapters are called “drybone” adapters because they look like a dog bone. 
 
The electrical pedicle will be on driver’s side of RV and will run down to a grey box and you will have 30, 50 and 20 amps. You should have a 30 amp unit.
 
Surge Protector
 
Make sure you have a surge protector to test before plugging in your RV to a power source at parks, campgrounds, or someone’s home (“Driveway” or “Mooch Surfing/Docking”).
 
Plug your power cord to a surge protector and you can run a hair dryer, TV, microwave, toaster oven, etc. Your air conditioner and hot water heater can overload a circuit.
 
Your breaker might say 50 amp. If you have an issue like a blown fuel, go to the fuse box. You have the AC side and the DC side. The fuses will be on the DC side. Make sure you take extra fuses with you.
 
How To Charge RV House Batteries
 
If you are going to be camping for long periods of time, you need to know how to get power. You still need to have power to get things done.
 
Inside the car, van, or RV, you will have a car battery. In the van or RV, you will have 2 batteries, which are ‘house batteries’. You need to monitor the house batteries. 
 
These are 4 ways to charge house batteries:
  • They will charge while you are driving. 
  • Run your generator. If you charge for a couple of hours, you will get a good charge to run the blender, pressure cooker, blow dryer, microwave, etc. A generator sucks up your propane and it’s noisy so in many places don’t run the generator (be kind to your neighbors).
  • The best way is to have solar panels. You can mount 400 watts on the roof or get a mobile or portable solar panel that you place in the sun during the day. 
  • You can charge house batteries with a hookup at an RV campground or park. 
Never waste any power. Plug everything in while you are driving. Then plug in devices that can charge everything. Try to get away from a single stage converter, which is bad for batteries. It will boil them if you leave them in the converter too long.
 
Get a smart converter, which can charge batteries faster and will keep you from overcharging batteries. You can then charge a leaf blower, electric toothbrush, etc. 
 
When you are done driving everything should be charged up. Get some battery banks for $10.00, which is a good backup. Always go for products that are rechargeable.
 
Types of RV Batteries
 
Make sure you have a good “battery monitor.” A good battery monitor can tell you how much power you have left. SG 200 battery monitor is around $200. There is another one for $18.
 
A lot of equipment in your RV runs on batteries. This is why you want to update and maintain your batteries regularly. It is important that you keep notes of the dates that batteries are installed and keep an eye on how they function and how well they work. 
 
If the lights start to dim or have problems then you need to look at the water levels on the batteries. If they are not okay, then you need to consider getting new batteries. However, not all batteries require water so make sure you know what type of batteries your RV has. 
 
Batteries without water are known as ‘closed batteries’ (or lithium batteries), which can be more expensive, but last longer and don’t require as much upkeep.
 

What are the options for batteries?

  • 12 Volt Batteries: You can buy from Walmart. It’s easy to buy inexpensive batteries around $75 with 75 amp hours. Don’t let these batteries get below 50% before recharging. Many RVers buy 2 batteries. They are lead-acid batteries so you have to keep these batteries in a position to be vented and you need to keep the water level going.
  • 6 Volt Golf Cart Batteries: They are taller batteries. Don’t take these batteries passed 50% before recharging. The cost is around $125 for a 235 amp hour. You need to keep the water level up and these batteries need to be vented.
  • AGM Batteries:  They are sealed and don’t need any maintenance. You can mount in other positions so they store better and charge faster. Don’t let the battery depth go down below 50%. Try to keep it at 80%. Cost is around $250 a piece for 1000 cycles. 
  • Lithium Batteries: These batteries have 100 amp hours. Get two of them. They are lighter around 29 pounds each. You can stack them on their side and they require no maintenance. You don’t have to vent them, but you don’t want them getting too hot or cold so they can’t be on the outside of the RV. They will last for 3000 cycles and charge 4 times faster. You can take them down to 100% before recharging. They cost around $1000.
If you are off-grid a lot, you should buy lithium batteries. Lithium is the best battery. You don’t have to check the water level, but many RVers go with AGM batteries probably because of the price. 
 
RV Generators
 
The best inverters are the pure sign wave inverters at 3000 to 4000 watts. However, 1500 watts might do the job you need. Everyone will have different needs.
 
A generator isn’t needed if you have solar unless there are many cloudy days. People will steal generators and don’t forget you have to carry gas for generators. 
 
Popular RV generators are Yamaha, Honda, and Champion. To keep your generator running functional, you need to run it at least twice a month. Don’t run your generator all day or night.
 
Benchmark has a Honda generator for $1000. A 2000 watt generator is $430. It is easy to handle. Some air conditioners will run on it and some will not. 
 
There is a Champion generator, which has a similar engine to a Honda 3000 inverter for about half the price. A Honda generator can jump-start your car or RV engine, if you don’t have another car and/or jumping cables around. 
 
Pros of a Honda generator include:
  • It one of the more quieter generators under full load.
  • It’s doesn’t lose voltage.
  • It’s RV ready and does not need an adapter.
  • It’s super easy to start with a push on button.
  • It has a 30 amp plug.
  • It has a place for 12 volt and breakers.
  • It is easy to change the oil.
Solar Panels
 
If it gets cloudy or rainy, it will affect how you live in RV. If you don’t have solar panels, you might need the generator to run for an hour or two, which can be noisy for you and your RV neighbor. 
 
RVs have an onboard generator, but sometimes these end up going out. Even though lights inside don’t use a lot of energy, always be charging and try to use solar at night instead of inside RV lights.
 

People love solar panels because it’s silent (unlike a generator).  There is a lot of competition today with solar. The solar panels come with mounting brackets, wires, fuses.

Most charge the controller with their blue tooth. Make sure you have a good “battery monitor.” The solar panels do good in Arizona and other sunny climates because it’s sunny.
 
Turn off every possible thing you can turn off and just use solar lights. You can use solar lights and put up black-out curtains. You can then listen to music or have your computer going.
 

Solar panels will be extremely expensive. You don’t need to buy these up-front but you do need to have a set of good batteries and an inverter to run your appliances. 

Until you figure out which type of RVer you will be, you can buy the portable solar panels in a suitcase and put them directly in the sunlight, while you park your RV in the shade, if you plan on boondocking mostly. 
 
You must recharge batteries everyday. Let solar recharge batteries during the day and use generators during the night if you need too.
 
Now you can get 320-watt panels by Sun Power. Just make sure you buy monocrystalline solar panels. You need 600-800 watt solar to run an air conditioner, but more is better. 
 
Most folks purchase at least 400 watts, but to run your air conditioner and be comfortable you need at least 1000-1200 watts or more. Minimum 600-watt can run air conditioners with a good battery, but you can’t run anything else. 
 
With 750 to 800-watts, you can run your air conditioner and everything else. 750 watts can run one air conditioner and 1185 watt will run two air conditioners. So this is my goal.
 
I might choose to buy a second air conditioner.  There are portable air conditioners or window air conditioners. Walmart has a window air conditioner – Frigidaire 5000 BTU for $178. You can use it with a low surge generator at 800 watts.
 
Check out  www.JimDenver.com or “Solar Boondock” on youtube.com for help with installing solar panels. You can buy the Inverter/Generator by Sportsman 800/1000 watts at Home Depot and run it from 11:00 a.m. in the morning to 7:00 p.m. at night. It will take a half a gallon of gas. But buy the Honda 1000 generator if you need to run it more. 
 
Propane
 
Propane is a lot cleaner than gasoline. It has cleaner emissions and sounds a little quieter. Propane won’t produce as much power as gasoline. You have to get propane during regular hours. It’s easier to store propane than gasoline and gasoline has to be treated.
 
Where to buy propane:
  • Walmart
  • U-haul stores
  • Hardware stores
  • RV stores
  • Google “Propane Refill Stations Near You”

Propane is used for:

  • refrigeration (Most RV refrigerators use both electric and propane. You can also have a regular home refrigerator installed in RVs).
  • cooking (top burners and ovens)
  • heating
  • hot water heater 
  • barbecuing outside

Most RVers air on the SAFE SIDE when to TURN OFF the propane. Many turn off the pilot light on stoves every day and many don’t.

RVers should turn off propane when:

  • When they are driving.
  • When they get gas.
  • When they go on a ferry.
  • When they go through a tunnel.
However, many RVers do keep their propane on as they drive, but I will be turning mine off. Most RVers got 20 pounds tanks, which holds just under 5 gallons. Two 30 pound tanks can hold 7 gallons of propane. 
 
You need to learn how to monitor your propane: 
  • If you have a Class A and Class C RV or motorhome, you have to DRIVE to get your propane tanks filled up. Many who drive these types of vehicles, usually don’t like for it to drop below 50%. Class C and A will have a gauge to monitor how much propane is in there. 
  • If you have 5th wheelers and travel trailers, you can TAKE YOUR PROPANE TANKS with you in your car, truck or another vehicle to have them filled or just buy other propane tanks at Walmart, U-haul stores, hardware stores, RV stores, etc. With 5th wheels and travel trailers, they have auto switches, which switches over when one tank is empty or owners can do it manually. They are simple to change out.
RV Heaters
 
Many RVers unless they are staying in extremely cold weather, forgo using the inside furnace. It seems that eventually many of these furnaces go out and are extremely expensive to get fixed. 
 
Many RVers use these two portable heat sources instead of the inside furnace and heater.
 
These are: 
 
Mr. Buddy Propane Heater
They come in three (3) sizes — small, medium and large. The medium size (4000-9000 Btu) is almost perfect for a van.
 
If your van or RV is well-insulated, after about 30 minutes, you will probably have to turn the heater off because it gets too hot. But for most non-insulated vans, it should be just about right.
 
They are cheap, light and easy to start. They work off the little green propane bottles or you can buy an adapter hose and connect it to a 5-gallon propane bottle, which makes it tremendously cheaper to run. You are not supposed to leave it on at night but many people do. Just make sure the van or RV is well-ventilated. 
 
Olympian Wave 3
Another option is the catalytic heaters made for camping by Coleman. Many people are very pleased with these heaters. If they are tipped over, they will shut off automatically.
 
If you carefully follow the instructions in the owner’s manual you will be safe. It will tell you exactly how much ventilation you need and what to leave for clearances around the heater. 
 
Read those instructions carefully and if there is anything you don’t understand, call the 800 number provided and ask for clarification. Then enjoy your heater with a peace of mind and safety.
 
RV Water Heater
 
Your water heater is heated by propane and electric. It heats quicker with propane than it does with electric. The size of hot water heater matters so if you travel with a big family, you should get a bigger hot water heater installed in your RV.
 
Don’t plug up pores on the backside of the refrigerator and hot water heater. You don’t want bugs getting in there either. That’s where the exhaust is coming out. You can put a screen on it to keep bugs out.
 
Every campground has different water pressure so you’ll want to ALWAYS keep a regulator on the spigot to help avoid coming home to a flooded rig.
 
Many folks debate on forums whether or not to leave the hot water heater on all the time. I don’t know if there is any real reason other than to conserve electricity and maybe help to prolong the life of the heating element, but I will probably cut mine off as needed.  
 
It just seems silly to have it running when we’re away from the camper exploring for hours. It will help you decide when you end up in an RV park with only one 30 amp plug and have to pick and choose when and what was using electricity.  
 
Also, another hot water heater tip, if you drain it make sure you give it time to fill back up before turning it on or you’ll fry the heating element.
 
Many RVers drain every bit of water out of the camper before they move to lose as much weight as possible. So, therefore, you have to give the tank time to fill back up before turning it on.
 

RV Refrigerator

When you first buy your RV, just make sure you turn the refrigerator on for 24 hours before stacking it with food. This should give it time to cool off. Your RV refrigerator is TWO WAY, which means they run off both electric and propane. 
 
Every 4 to 5 months you have to clean your RV fridge. Most fires are started in the RV because of the fridge and if you have a travel trailer or 5th wheel, this is why it’s important to LEVEL YOUR VEHICLE at the end of the day, otherwise, it will cause refrigerator issues.
 
Your foods in your refrigerator should still stay cool even if you are traveling for up to 10 hours a day, however, many people do use their generator while traveling, especially if they have a family in the back of the RV when driving down the road. Running your fridge off an inverter is doable also. 
 
As soon as you stop for the night, if you have full-hookups, switch the refrigerator to the electric side. Don’t waste your propane if you don’t have too. 
 
Microwave
 
It took many RVers a few months before they realized they had to actually open the vent for the microwave hood on the OUTSIDE of the camper for it to work right.  
 
They would turn it on and it made the fan sound, but it wasn’t sucking the air out at all. You have to turn the little tabs or slide them (depending on your model) to allow the vent to open. You can leave it opened until a windy day, which might make a lot of unnecessary noise. 
 
RV Oven
 
Many complain that RV ovens don’t work properly and many forgo using RV stove tops and ovens to prepare foods period. Many RVers are afraid to use propane for cooking so they will prepare foods in other manners such as using:
  • microwave
  • toaster oven
  • induction plate
  • instant pot
  • air fryer
  • blender
  • butane stove (to cook outside)
RV Detectors
 

Make sure you have a propane detector. It should be low to the floor. Keep your family safe from the potential harm of carbon monoxide with an RV carbon monoxide detector also. 

RV Newbie Rules To Follow
 
Just a little bit on RV etiquette for newbies. 
  • #1 – Don’t cut across someone’s else campsite. 
  • #2 – Never interfere with others’ peace and quiet. 
If you see RVers sitting in chairs, ask if you can come over to their campsites. Just remember that a lot of RVers like the isolation so maybe they just want to be out there and read books or engage in some type of other activity, especially with a spouse, partner or mate. You can respond to others with “Maybe later — I am working on something.” 
 
People do like to do a lot of things alone. You might just get together at night around a campfire or just get together for coffee in the morning time. If they say they are going to play cards just say “No thanks.” 
 
Other RV campground etiquette:
  • Never fail to read campground rules.
  • Never spread out your traveling group.
  • Never overflow your space.
  • Never block the roadway longer than necessary.
“Nevers” for RVers camping with dogs:
  • Never let your dog loose.
  • Never leave a loud barking dog behind.
  • Never leave a dog waste behind.
  • Never leave waste in a fire pit.
Hooking Up
 
Rigs are getting bigger and most need 50 amp service.  Many parks, especially state parks, don’t always have 50 amp hookups, but will probably have two 30 amp plugs. 
 
Many RVers uses a pigtail, it is two 30 amp plugs that connect to a 50 amp plug. This allows you to hookup just as if you had a single 50 amp outlet. At only $40 I think it should definitely be part of your must-haves.
 
Setting Up and Packing Up
 

Eventually, everyone gets their own rhythm or routine down when setting up or packing up. 

Some of the reminders can include:
  • Be sure to double check that you have room for your slides to extend before leveling and unhooking. You can just use tape measure if you are unsure if there’s enough room. Measure it twice and unhook once. 
  • Take the time to sweep off the roof and slides before packing up especially every few weeks if you don’t move that often.
  • Have a routine (and even better a checklist, specific to your coach) when getting ready to pull out and even while setting up. 
  • Before you pull out of the campground, stop and just do one more double check that everything is how it should be, especially if packing up felt rushed. Remember it’s better to take an extra 25 minutes to make sure everything is done right than to pay dollars down the line for your mistake. 
 Apps To Monitor Gas
 
You will save gas as long as you stay in one location so if you stay weekly or monthly, you will save gas.
 
Apps to help you monitor your gas include:
  • Gas Buddy
  • Fuelly
  • Gas Guru
  • Gas Cubby
  • GasPricesTriple.com
Other Popular RV Apps
 
Many RVers and especially truckers don’t trust GPSs. They have even told stories about how they had to back up on highways to keep from going under bridges that they couldn’t fit even after posting it in GPSs. 
 
So your best bet is to use one of the other two apps below by putting in your height and length:
  • Trucker’s App by Rand Mcnally 
  • Copilot GPS 
  • GPS 770
Weather Apps
 
  • Windy.com (gives you 3-hour updates, wind speed, wind directions, wind gust, and Hurricanes forecasts)
  • The Weather Channel
  • Weather
  • My Radar 
  • Weather Bug
Websites Not Apps
 
FREE Apps
 
  • Google Maps (Google maps might send you to low clearance bridges so be careful).
  • FreeCampsites.net
  • Allstays (They have a page listing Walmarts you can stay at).
  • RVParky
  • Park Advisor (RV parks and campgrounds) 
  • TollGuru (Trip & Toll Calculator – car, truck, etc.)
  • Ultimate U.S. Military FAMCAMPS (For active duty military, military retirees and 100 disabled vets only)
  • Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds (These campgrounds are for everyone). 
  • Free Roam (Boondocking campground locator)
  • KOA (Kampgrounds of America, Inc. – Search for campgrounds)
  • The Dyrt (Find campgrounds and reviews by states)
  • iOverlander (Browse places on maps and update your travel history)
  • RV Dump Sites (Free campsites with dump stations)
  • Pilot Flying J 
  • USA Rest Stop Locator
  • iExit (Your roadtrip pitstop finder)
  • Good Sam Camping Club (They have camping discounts and tow services)
  • RV Checklist (A check list of steps to check upon arrival and leaving parks or campgrounds)
  • FindFriends (An app to help you can keep up with friends in RVs).
  • RVillage.com (To find other RVers in your area).
  • RVTravel.com (RV magazine with recalled RVs)
  • RVLife.com (RV magazine and campground reviews)
  • RVTrader.com (To find used and new RVs)
Apps That Cost
 
  • US Public Lands (Worth the $2.99 cost).
  • Ultimate Public Campgrounds (Over 40,300 in U.S. & CA) ($3.99).
  • Overnight RV Parking (Subscription is $24.95).
  • Alltrails (To find hiking trails. Subscription is $29.99 a year).

RV Parks

If you are RVing full-time or for an extended period of time, you quickly learn that RV parks and RV campgrounds can get PRICEY. Add in a financed RV and a financed car and you’ve got yourself a mortgage payment!
 
If your RV and vehicle are already paid for, that is awesome and is hopefully a great example of keeping things within your means and being smart with your money #Minimalist101.
 
If you are traveling to the east, it might help to get a pass so you don’t have to wait in line. You can park for one night, week, or one month with full hookups (electric, water, sewage dump, etc.) in RV parks ranging from $200 to $1200 a month with SHORT and LONG-TERM parking. 
 
The longer you stay the cheaper it is. They have RV parks throughout the U.S., but because many are getting OVERCROWED especially on holidays and in the summertime, many are choosing other ways to camp out when RVing full-time. 
 
Before making reservations at these RV parks make sure you read reviews. There is a place you can park for 30 days outside Sedona, AZ for $350 a month with full hookups. Who would not want to stay in the Sedona, AZ region for 30 days to explore? Again, parks and campgrounds like these are all over the U.S.
 
Many chose to utilize RV parks and resorts 100% of their time if they are full-timers. Many of these parks might be populated and will have other designated areas to send you, so make sure you make your reservations on time just as if you were staying in a hotel. 
 
And if you can’t find your destination or will arrive late, make sure you reach out to the RV parks or campgrounds to let them know. You will be penalized like hotels for not showing up when you said you would and might get charged anyway. 
 
Also, just like a hotel, if you are staying only for one night, you will have a check out time for the next day usually around 11:00 a.m. or 12:00 noon. 
 
Remember you can still go to all the RV parks and campgrounds even if you are not staying there and pay $5, $8 or $10 to dump your black tank (sewer) and grey tank (dishwater and shower water) and get fresh water for dishes, shower, and toilet. 
 
Where To Get Water for an RV
 
Instead of drinking water from an RV sink, many RVers choose to buy their own drinking water because you really don’t know what you are picking up in the water systems in RVs around the U.S.. 
 
In the U.S., most of us call an indoor valve (in the kitchen or bathroom) a faucet, and the outdoor one a spigot. A spigot is a faucet or a device to turn the water on and off.
 
Before you connect your water hose in any new area you are staying, you want to turn on the main faucet and run water for a minute or two. Then put some water in a paper cup so you can smell it and look at the color before taking a small taste. 
 
Make sure you get an expansion ($8.00) to hook on. You should also have a smaller (short) water hose along with a larger (long) one to reach the spigot. This will help your RV reach spigots at different locations. 
 
Places to fill up include:
  • Fill up at an RV campground or park. You can pay at RV campgrounds and parks for a hookup to get laundry done, and get water, etc. 
  • You can go to gas stations and look for a spigot. You should ask inside if you can top off your water. They will say go ahead but don’t block any traffic.
  • You can go to U.S. Forest Campground. When you go near bathrooms, you will see a spigot. These campgrounds are everywhere in the mountains. 
  • You can obtain water in State Parks. You can get a State Park pass for $60. They have campgrounds there.
  • You can go to truck stops to get water. Go to the commercial truck area. Just wait for truckers to leave. It’s right next to a gas pump. If you have a gas engine, go ahead and fill up then get water. The water is potable (fit or suitable for drinking) and it’s free.
  • You might find a spigot outside of a laundromat also.
  • City parks and businesses might have that spigot outside of a building so just ask. There is water everywhere.
  • You can obtain water at U-Haul businesses. Just ask them for water when you fill up with propane. Ask if you can top off your water. It might be well water so you can only use for baths.
FREE Places to Park RVs
 
Most folks will be parking at RV parks and campgrounds, but today they have become overcrowded. 
 
Other FREE places to park include:
  • Rest Areas
  • Truck Stops
  • Truck Weigh Stations
  • Gas Stations
  • Walmart
  • Kmart
  • Sam’s Club
  • Home Depot
  • Lowe’s
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Cabelas
  • Brass Pros Shops
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Casinoes (Also check out CasinoCamping.com
  • Warehouse districts are great. Some people feel comfortable around truckers. To find google warehouse spaces.
  • State, City or Community Parks (Look for signs that says 24 parking)
  • National Parks
  • City, County or Regional Campgrounds
  • BLM.gov (It’s everywhere but mostly on the west coast). Camp on BLM land with groups of 20 or more people to be safe especially if you are a solo female traveler. 
Where Can You Stealth Camp in A Car or Van 
 
  • You can do “Driveway or Mooch Surfing” (also “Couch Surfing” — staying on someone’s couch) in a family members’, friend or someone’s driveway as long as it is approved by city/county, Homeowner’s Association (HOA) and neighbors. Cars and van dwellers can do this easier than larger RVs.
  • Apartment complexes (There is usually street parking there too. Google or go to Craiglist and look for apartments for rent. Big apartment complexes without gates are a great idea especially for car and van dwellers).
  • Community College parking lots (Check hours of Campus police. It’s usually 10:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m.).
  • Medical Offices Complexes
  • Hospitals
  • Strip Malls or Shopping Malls that are opened 24 hours, but they might have security guards.
  • Car Dealerships (Go to the service area especially if they work on the type of car or van you drive)
  • Motels
Where Not To Stealth Camping
 
  • Do not park on private property. Somebody is always looking.
  • Strip malls in big cities. Security will kick you out and remember that some are high crime areas.
  • Respect “No parking signs.”
  • Avoid residential neighborhoods.

What You Need To Know About Parking An RV at Walmart

Because of the homeless situation, some car and van dwellers and RVers are actually living in Walmart parking lots. Parking at Walmart is a “Right of Passage” for RVers. Walmart parking is called “Lot Docking.” It might be noisy on Friday and Saturday night. 
 
Many RVers have stayed at a Walmart at one time or another especially when:
  • They are traveling continuously and it will be easier to get back on the freeway. 
  • When they don’t reach their RV parks or campgrounds before dark. No one wants to try to go to an RV park or campground after dark especially when they are miles off the highway. You never know what might be lurking around if you try to hook up after dark (snakes, alligators, strangers, etc.)
  • When they run out of funds for the month and need to park somewhere for FREE. 
Many truckers have already stopped parking at some of the Walmarts. Walmart is redefining their space. Some Walmarts are no longer allowing RV parking so look at signs then talk to managers or call managers ahead of time. Over 50% are still allowing it but still obtain permission. The app “Allstays” will list Walmarts that allow RVers to stay overnight.
 
They might have local ordinances and many are being passed not to allow parking at Walmart for RVers. The tow signs are the ones with ordinances. The further you go out in the country, the less they would have passed these ordinances.
 
Because boondocking on WalMart’s parking lot is a hot issue in many towns, following the below simple rules, which will help keep these places open to travelers who want a good night’s sleep before moving on.
 
Disregarding them, especially making your area look like you’ve moved in for a lengthy stay, is what gets local RV park owners up in arms. They see RVs in a Walmart or other parking lots as revenues they should have had. 
 
Below are Do’s and Don’t of Walmart Parking
 
Do’s:
  • Purchase items from Walmart.
  • Pick up after yourself.
  • Pick up after pets. 
  • Do park far away from each other.
Don’t:
  • Don’t stay for more than one night.
  • When you stay overnight don’t take advantage so be kind to neighbors and don’t run your generator.
  • Don’t set up camp or have a party.
  • Don’t pull out your slides.
  • Don’t pull out your awnings.
  • Don’t put down hydraulic jacks.
  • Don’t park crazy. 
  • Don’t pee in a bottle and leave it.
There was an alcoholic family member that ended up killed by the police after camping out in a Walmart parking lot and getting into an altercation. 
 
What You Need To Know About State Parks
 
You pay $225 for a New Mexico State Park pass for an entire year. It is a hot state so in the winter it will be in teens. However, you can get 7 good months of nice weather. You can stay for 14 days at one site then leave for 6 days then come back to that same site. Some of the sites are right next door to each other.
 

You can pay $4.00 a day for electric, $8 per day for full hookups (sewer, water, electric, trash, showers, etc.). Out of 30 state park campgrounds in New Mexico, 25 have FREE showers. Nevada also has state park passes.

RV Club Memberships and Apps
 
  • Escapees/Xscapers: Escapees is the popular mail forwarding services for RVers. They have several big events a year so subscribe to their e-newsletter and join their group. Membership fees are around $39 a year and they have a $10 sign up fee. Escapees is more about community than it is about savings. This RV club offers get-togethers to help RVers connect. It also offers ongoing education courses, a job board for finding work on the road, and, of course, discounts at about 1,000 parks nationwide. This membership is best for retired and full-time RVers. You need to be staying at RV parks for a good chunk of the year to get the most out of its benefits, as the majority of what you’re paying for are community-based activities and not discounts.
  • Good Sam: $27 a year with $10 off. They have 26 campgrounds. Good Sam is the biggest name in the RV industry, with over one million members in The Good Sam Club. It includes a 10% discount on over 2,000 Good Sam parks. In addition to its RV club, Good Sam offers roadside assurance and insurance programs (sold separately). Like many larger organizations, however, its reputation is a bit tainted. The reason mostly concerns the legitimacy of its famous “Good Sam Rating” it gives each of its parks.
  • Passport America: $44 a year. You get 50% off 1600 campgrounds in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico and they have a referral program. Passport America partners with campgrounds willing to sell campsites at half price during non-peak seasons in order to maintain capacity year-round. With most RV sites in the US costing over $30 a night, it only takes a couple of stays a year using this pass for it to pay for itself. The downside to this discount camping club is that most of the parks willing to sell sites half off aren’t exactly the best kept. This is exacerbated by the fact that Passport America has no user reviews for listings, so choosing a park through them can be a leap of faith.
  • Happy Camper Half Price Camping Club: $39.99 a year and you get 50% off 1200 camping grounds in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Explore RV Club: $60 a year and you get a discount on your insurance and roadside assistance.
  • Recreational USA: $44 a year and 10% off camp grounds.
  • RV Golf Club: They have over 400 locations so you pay $99 bucks a year.
  • Thousand Trails: Thousand Trails membership is $575 a year. It takes a fresh approach on how RV clubs operate. Instead of requiring a small annual fee for discounted rates, it asks for a significant investment of nearly $600 in exchange for free camping at their parks all year. Similar to the KOA Value Kard, this membership is only really worth it if you love Thousand Trails campgrounds, which tend to be more luxurious (good for glampers). With just 86 parks across the country and reviews being hard to comprehend, however, staying at a Thousand Trails campground can be hit or miss. This group can bring down the cost of campsites. 
  • HarvestHost.com: These are winery, farms, breweries, etc. Memberships are $50 a year. (Owner name is Joel). They only take up to 5 RVers a night so you need to make reservations. You need to buy wine, cheese, and other products, while you are there.
  • Unique RV Camping:  Membership is $49.00 a year. You sign up one time for a year. Then you get another list and app for wineries, organic farms, and museums where you can stay overnight for FREE. Some take two to four RVs a night and this place is great. It will help you see more places and see more people. 
  • Army Corps of Engineer Camp Grounds: You get 84 to 100 ft long camps at Army Corps of Engineers. There is a one to 2 weeks max in each park so stay there and move on. It gives 50% off for Seniors and is opened to everyone. 
  • KOA Value Kard Rewards: They are $40 a year.  As the oldest campground network in the industry, KOA is known for its family focused parks available near basically every metropolitan area. KOA parks generally have more amenities than the average campground. Though its campgrounds are normally expensive, their discount card allows you to stay at upscale parks for more affordable rates. However, with a discount of only 10% off, it can take a while to pay this card off unless you’re staying at KOA campgrounds exclusively or are RVing full-time.
  • Specialty RV Clubs: These RV clubs differ from the traditional models above, offering alternative ways to save money.
  • Boondockers Welcome – ($30/year). This membership, as the name entails, is built for RVers who prefer to boondock, or camp without hookups. By paying the annual fee or hosting yourself, you can request to stay at private residences across the country for free. Local hosts that share their properties also tend to know the top attractions in the area. Spots are generally in the driveway of homes, although some are even larger.   
  • RoverPass Unlimited – ($50/year, $30/month). The newest membership for RVers, Rover Pass Unlimited is the perfect pass for RV renters and full-time RVers alike. The pass earns you free bookings through our reservation software with over 6,000 campgrounds across the US. RoverPass was made particularly for RV renters who aren’t necessarily as familiar with the process of reserving RV sites. Our software was made to alleviate a lot of the frustrations they commonly experience, like playing phone tag with front desk employees and, in the worst case scenario, never hearing back at all.
  • Disability Pass: Get an “Access Pass” from “America The Beautiful” website. Cost is $12 a night. You need a disability rating. So show proof especially if you are a Veteran. You can save 50% at National Parks, State Parks and Army Corps of Engineers Parks.
  • Senior Pass: You can get an “America The Beautiful” pass. It is no longer FREE. You must pay $80 for a lifetime membership. If you can’t afford lump payment, just pay $20 a year.
Boondocking 101
 
“Boondocking” means camping in your RV with no hookups. You can boondock as long as your on-board resources hold out. Boondocking is also called “Dry Camping” and “Disperse Camping.” 
 
There is basic equipment for dry camping (without hookups) and adding a few optional items can extend your boondocking stays. 
 
How To Look for a Spot?
 
  • Go to Freecampsites.net
  • Google Earth (Zoom in to look at the spot)
  • US Public Lands App (Then look for U.S. Public Land for Boondocking)
Two Types of Boondocking
 
  • One type is parking in more out-of-the-way places, usually for several days or even an extended period of time. Public lands offer many opportunities for boondocking.
  • The other type of boondocking is often referred to as “blacktop boondocking.” That is when you camp overnight on a Walmart or shopping center parking lot or in a truck stop. Some call it “dry camping” since you are not in the “boonies.” 
RVers choose to spend the night on parking lots because of convenience. They don’t have to drive miles off the highway to a campground. Other RVers boondock because of budget reasons.
 
Many can’t see paying $20 or more a night to stay in an RV park or campground when they are traveling from point A to point B and won’t be using the amenities the park has to offer. 
 
Whichever type of boondocker you are, these guidelines will help you (and your neighbors) have a better experience.
 
Blacktop Boondocking
 
  • Get permission from the manager.
  • Purchase dinner, fuel or other items as a thank you.
  • Park away from other vehicles, along the sides of the parking lot. In a truck stop, if there is no designated area for RVs, park off to the side or to the back away from truckers. Truckers will appreciate you not taking their spaces, plus it will be less noisy for you.
  • Do not get chairs and barbeque out, nor put out your awning. Avoid using your slideouts if possible too.
  • Stay only one night.
  • Pick up any trash you have generated.
  • Escapees.com RV Club provides “Boondocking Etiquette Cards.” You can download and then leave on an individual’s windshield who is not following these guidelines and jeopardizing the rights of other RV travelers as well.
Boondocking in the “Boonies” 
 
When we think of regular boondocking, we think more of camping in wilderness areas, often on public lands. Campgrounds in public lands generally do not provide hookups. The USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also allow camping outside their designated campgrounds. 
 
Serious boondockers modify their RVs so they can take advantage of free camping in pretty places. Solar panels and an inverter keep batteries charged. A catalytic or ceramic heater is more efficient than the regular RV heater and doesn’t draw down the battery. 
 
Boondockers may have a Blue Boy®, a portable waste holding tank, so they can take blackwater into a dump. They carry water jugs to haul water to their fresh water tanks. 
 
Boondockers learn how to conserve both power and water so they can extend their stays and may even use solar ovens for cooking and heat water with the sun.
 
Most campers are here for a wilderness experience. They enjoy the peace and quiet. Following these guidelines will help all enjoy their stay as well as protect the environment:
  • Park in previously used areas. Do not create a new road or parking spot or run over vegetation.
  • Park away from other RVs so each can enjoy the peace and quiet. If you do have a generator you plan to run, park far away from other RVs and limit your use to an hour or so in the morning and another in early evening. Generator noise carries and is not part of the wilderness experience.
  • Respect quiet hours. Do not run generators or play TVs or radios loudly after 10 p.m. or before 7 a.m. (RVers Quiet Hours). Some areas may have different quiet hours so check with the agency.
  • In some areas dumping grey water on the ground is permissible. Always check with the agency first. Dumping black water on the ground is NEVER PERMITTED.
  • Leave the area cleaner than you found it. Dispose of trash in a trash container after you leave.
  • Read and follow the agency’s rules regarding fires, collecting firewood, and quiet hours. Respect time limits, which are typically 14 days.
RV groups meeting on public lands should choose an area large enough to accommodate their group without damaging the environment and should respect the rights of nearby campers that are not part of the group. 
 
They should also educate their members, who may never have boondocked before, on ways to extend their battery power without constantly running their generators and on ways to conserve water.
 
For many RVers, boondocking is the true RV experience. The ability to camp without hookups is one of the advantages of RV ownership. You can camp free of charge and use the systems that were designed to be self-contained. 
 
Using courtesy and common sense can make your boondocking experience, whether on black top or in the wilderness, a good one for you and other RVers.
 
Websites for Boondocking include: 
  • Boondocking.org
  • BoondockersWelcome.com (You can join them for less than $40 a year. Some have land and full hookups or you stay in front of someone’s home. If you have a place for RVs to park, then you should become a host).
Key areas for Boondocking include:
Do’s and Don’t of Boondocking
 
Look at their websites for rules. Every region might have different rules. They might not enforce it.
 
Dos – 4 Rules:
  • Know rules, areas and time limits.
  • Obey “No Trespassing Signs”; respect the land; there are hunters, hikers, RVers, etc. so stay on road, don’t mess up vegetation, leave no trace, don’t chop down trees; leave only footprints, etc.
  • Pack in what you pack out. Don’t leave your mess for someone else to clean up.
  • Go out and have fun and explore. To help find your RV in parks or while boondocking, many RVers choose to put a flag on their RVs.
Don’t 3 Rules:
  • Don’t ever block a dirt road. Try to point your vehicle toward the exit and try to reach your site early.
  • Do not dump gray water. Most gray water is 20 to 30 gallons and it will be going in ONE SPOT. Don’t dump it while boondocking. It will change the eco system. It’s illegal and not good for the environment.
  • Don’t rely on cell signal. If staying in touch. Get a personal locator. There is Inreach, Spot. etc. Have a paper map to maneuver out further when boondocking because your GPS might not work. Print it out ahead of time.
When you shower you use a quarter of a tank so take “bird baths” or “sponge baths” when boondocking. If you run your generator for 3 hours a day, you should be able to work on a computer for 8 hours. You need at least a 200-watt solar system to start.  
 
Plenty of FREE Land To Live On
 
Tired of driving – by the way there are plenty of FREE PUBLIC LAND in the U.S. (Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, California, etc.) to settle down on where you can park your car, van, RV, bus, etc. for FREE, while you build a new life for yourself.
 
The land is called BLM.gov (Bureau of Land Management) land or National Forest land, which is owned by the government, however, you can live on this land for FREE. 
 
A majority of the BLM land is in the west, but there is land in other parts of the country. Check out the website and today because of technology, they have apps to help you find this FREE LAND (See above app section). 
 
You can live there by yourself or park around others who have already chosen this type of lifestyle. There are plenty of caravans and convoys all over the U.S. for women and men to be able to create their ideal communities, especially on this land. Check with Bob Wells on CheapRVLiving.com on these caravans and convoys.
 
Many Snowbirds, people who follow the weather, put solar panels on Vans or RVs and use the good weather to totally power their vehicles, while they live their daily lives and travel around the U.S.. 
 
You should consider leaving cold climates and become a Snowbird and see what it is like to always live in good weather as you travel around the world and see some great sites and meet some great people on the road. 
 

It’s time for us to think as pioneers did back in the day when many people went out west on wagon trains to Oregon, California, etc. to make better lives for themselves. 

Just some of the places to live include:

Quartzsite, AZ: Quartzsite, AZ is the home for RVers. The month of January RVers converges onto the area for 3 BIG RV events which last all month — the Women Rubber Tramp Rendevous (RTR), Rubber Tramp Rendevous for men and women, and a big RV show afterward. The group Escapees.com celebrate a big New Year’s celebration there.

Some of the places might be limited to a 14 day stay, except LaPosa long-term stay in Quartzsite, AR, where there is a fee. However, for that fee of $180 a year (or $40 for two weeks), you can stay from September 15-April 15. After April it gets too hot so many RVers head back home or to higher elevations to stay cool.
 
Yuma, AZ: You can pay $80 for the year in Yuma, AZ. Depending on what area you are in, after 14 days
you might have to move. In the state of Arizona you need to move 25 miles away from that spot after 14 days. 
 
Colorado: In the state of Colorado you need to move every 14 days at least 45 miles away. But after 14 days, you can go back to that SAME CAMPSITE or area.
 
New Mexico: In New Mexico you can pay $225 a year for up to 7 months of nice weather. They have 25 shower facilities on the land so if you live in your car or van, that’s all you need. 
 
Like other BLM or National Forest land, you just need to move around every 14 days in some cases. Some of the spots might be right next to each other.
 
Why, AZ: You can also pay $550 a year to live in a place two (2) hours outside Tucson, AZ called Why, AZ. You can stay in tents, cars, vans, RVs, on buses, etc. on BLM or National Forest land. 
 
You will have access to FREE water, FREE showers, FREE wi-fi, and trash pick up. There is a dumpsite or you can use a portable ‘blue boy,’ to dump your gray and black tank. There are also services that can come out and dump for you.
 
From September to April the temperature can be bearable in Why, AZ. There are no FREE power hookups and temps can get up to 110 degrees so everyone usually has at least 200 watts of solar or they run generators to keep cool. Remember in RVs at least 25 feet long, many do install a second air conditioner.
 
Too Old To Travel
 
If you get too old to travel, Livington, TX, the home of Escapees.com RV mail forwarding services is offering Assisted Living for RVers. I suspect many of these services will pop up as many car, van, boat dwellers and RVers embrace this minimalist lifestyle.
 
See you on the opened road — SimpleLifeRVing.com with Cathy Harris.  Coming soon – SimpleLifeRVing.com Facebook, Instagram, Patreon, and Youtube pages. Let’s “Simplify and Go.”
 
 
Cathy Harris is soon to be a Full-Time RVer. Her blog website is www.SimpleLifeRVing.com. She is also an Empowerment and Motivational Speaker, Advice Columnist at DearCathy.com, Non-GMO Health and Wellness Expert, Business and Love Coach and Self-Publishing Expert and the author of 26 non-fiction books at www.AngelsPress.com. Her books cover topics such as family and community empowerment, health, youth and adult entrepreneurship, writing/publishing, workplace discrimination, whistleblowing, government, law enforcement, domestic and international traveling, politics, media, beauty, car buying and selling for women, aging/retirement – just to name a few. She offers seminars, workshops, and consultations at www.CathyHarrisInternational.com

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