As a society, we love our electricity. It’s difficult to do anything today without using some sort of electricity. If you’re planning to boondock in your RV, you’ll have to bring the power with you or create more of it while you’re there.
So, how long can you boondock before losing power? The answer is up to you. However, if you employ a few smart tricks and invest in the right gear, you can make it a lot longer than you think.
We recently caught up with Mike and Jennifer Wendland, RV enthusiasts and the creators of the popular RV Lifestyle blog, to learn their tips for conserving (and creating) power when boondocking. Check out their advice in the video above and read more tips below, including a few bonus tips from the Wendlands!
Try Doing Things the Old-Fashioned Way
You know, there wasn’t always an electric-powered gadget to do our jobs for us. There was a time when we had to do those jobs manually. Take a look at the things you use most in your RV and investigate how you can do them without power.
Coffee, for example, doesn’t have to be brewed in an electric coffee pot. All you really need to make coffee is boiled water. Invest in a simple coffee dripper. Use your propane stove to boil water (or do it over a campfire if you’re feeling really rustic). Then pour the water through the coffee dripper for the perfect cup of joe.
Toast bread using a toasting fork over a fire or a propane flame. Instead of packing your blender, a good, ol’ whisk will usually get the job done.
If your fridge runs on electricity, try packing your cold food into a heavy-duty cooler instead. Today’s coolers can keep food cold for a week or more. If your fridge runs on gas, this is a good tip to save on propane too.
Bonus Tip: Turn Off the Inverter When Not In Use
Many RVers think the inverter should be turned on and left on the whole time they’re traveling. Not the case! In fact, the inverter is one of the biggest power drains on the road. Instead, try leaving the inverter off unless you actually need to use it to power something such as a microwave or hairdryer.
For your main power source, rely on 12V power. It’s not nearly as draining and is fully capable of powering the interior LED lights.
Don’t Use Your Furnace
Your furnace may run on propane, but the fans that push the air through your RV run on electricity. So, it’s best to count your furnace out when you’re boondocking.
Instead, stock up on warm clothes and warm blankets, especially if you know it’ll be cold where you’re camping. Invest in a good sleeping bag with a low-temperature rating. Bring stocking caps, mittens, and thick socks to tide you over at night.
If you still think you need some extra warmth, buy a portable, propane-powered heater. These heaters work well heating small spaces like fish houses and tents, so they’ll work in your RV without getting too hot. They run on small, disposable propane bottles, which means they won’t take a bite out of your primary propane tanks.
But a word of caution: follow the safety instructions when using these gas heaters. Always crack a window to avoid gas buildup in your RV. Also, don’t allow small children or pets to get too close to them.
Bonus Tip: Consider Solar Power
With the addition of solar panels on the roof of your RV, you can use the power they contribute to top off batteries to ensure they’re constantly running on a full charge.
Stock Up On Batteries
Your RV probably came with one house battery. You can stick with just one battery, or multiply your battery bank for more power storage. With more batteries, you can camp for longer.
How many batteries you can carry depends on your rig and how much storage you have. Plus, batteries are heavy, so remember to take the extra weight into account when considering this option. It’s not uncommon for people who boondock regularly to carry more than one battery.
Also, invest in a sine wave inverter to go with your battery stash. House batteries won’t power your portable electronics. You’ll need the inverter to provide the clean, AC power that’s safe to power things like cell phones and laptops.
Another side tip about these small, portable electronics is when they’re plugged into the inverter to charge, don’t use them while they charge. Using them while they’re plugged in drains the power out of the batter really fast. Only charge them when you don’t plan to use them.
Bonus Tip: Consider Lithium-Ion Batteries
A lithium-ion battery can be more expensive than other options, but consider it an investment. They tend to last longer, charge faster, discharge more fully, and they’re able to operate in all environments. Some think the price tag is totally worth it. They really are the most efficient form of power management.
Learn to Love Your Flashlight
You’ll be surprised at how much power you’ll save by not using your lights. Read and work during the daylight hours. Adjust your sleeping schedule so that you go to bed early when it’s dark and wake up closer to sunrise.
Before you leave for your trip, ensure you have plenty of flashlights and disposable batteries. Use these when you need to move around at night instead of using your RV lights.
You can also buy small, battery-powered lights to stick here and there around the RV. Click these lights on instead of the dome lights. Be sure to put one by the door and outside by the steps so you won’t get hurt climbing in and out of the RV in the middle of the night.
Also, try doing your late-night cooking by campfire light instead of in your RV kitchen. It’s a great way to get your family outside and enjoying a beautiful night.
Bonus Tip: Use Solar-Powered Lights and Lanterns
There are numerous options available in the solar-powered light category. Having a few lanterns to set out when the sun starts to set can help illuminate your RV and campsite without pulling any power from your main source. Plus, the lanterns can be moved around providing light wherever you go. Most solar-powered lights will provide several hours of light with one charge.
Use Your Tow Vehicle When You Need a Charge
Our most-used electronic devices are usually our handheld devices like phones and tablets. So you’ll find that most of the power you use on a regular basis goes to charging these devices.
Take some of the stress off your house battery by charging these devices in your tow vehicle. If your tow vehicle doesn’t have multiple charging ports, invest in a multi-device car charger adapter. These will either plug into a cigarette lighter or into a USB charger.
During some downtime on your trip, fire up your vehicle and plug everything in that needs charging. You can also do this when you’re driving to and from adventure destinations. It’s a great way to keep everyone happy without having to use power from your RV’s batteries.
Bonus Tip: Use Solar-Powered Chargers
When hiking or venturing away from your RV and campsite, it’s imperative that your cell phone have a full charge. A simple, small solar-powered charger can be thrown in your backpack to be used when your phone battery starts to drop mid-trail.
Harness the Sun or Use a Generator
It’s worth repeating, when boondocking for longer periods of time––invest in an alternate form of power. Solar power can recharge your house batteries in as little as a day, depending on the size of the setup. Whether you travel frequently or seasonally, ask yourself whether an RV solar system is worth it to give you the freedom to camp off-grid.
If you’ve done any research on solar power, you know that you can go as elaborate as you want with your setup. There are plenty of small starter solar kits and chargers to help you transition. If you’re not in the market for a full solar set up yet, consider a small, portable one. Keep in mind, many new RV’s sold today come “solar-prepped,” which makes integrating solar power into your camping experience even easier.
This Nature Power Briefcase is the perfect, mini-solar setup. It’s two solar panels that you fold together to store easily inside your RV. It’s sturdy and specifically made for outdoor use. Since it’s portable, you can move it wherever you need to to get the most sun. It won’t charge up your batteries as fast as a larger system, but it gives you a great boost. Plus, it’s small enough to take with you to any campsite.
And, of course, you always have the option of bringing a portable generator with you to boondocking sites. Like with a solar setup, you can go as big as you want with generator power. If you’re planning a long stay in an area where there’s a limited amount of sunlight, a generator is an essential piece of hardware to keep you powered up.
Bonus Tip: Use LED Motion-Activated Lights
To really maximize your efforts in power management, place a few LED motion-activated lights throughout your RV. They simply turn on when they detect motion as you walk into the room, and turn themselves off once you leave. Run by a small battery, they can last for months. The best part? These LED lights don’t touch any of your power needs, not even the 12-volt, and they’re typically inexpensive while remaining effective and highly useful.
Do you have some of your own tips for saving power while boondocking? Drop them in the comments below!