This kind of camping is addicting, I tell ya!

This kind of camping is addicting, I tell ya!

Taggart says we're staying put

Even the cats love boondocking!

We’re already back in civilization, but before I leave our boondocking dreams behind I thought I’d do a quick little post on some of the most useful items we own for camping in the wilds.

A little history first though…we discovered boondocking in our very first year, but didn’t really do any of it in earnest until our 2nd year on the road. The more we do it, the more we get addicted to it. Who doesn’t want to camp with miles of gorgeous, open nature right outside the door? And of course the cost can’t be beat. Between public campgrounds, workamping and boondocking we’ve reduced our camping fees to ~$10/night this year, without any particular discounts. How’s that for a good RV budget?

Now there are many items use regularly for camping off-grid. Without a doubt adding 600 Watts of solar power was the very biggest (and most enjoyable) mod we did to the RV for boondocking, but that’s a pretty big ticket item. Here’s some of the smaller ones:

1/ Lynx Levelling Blocks

Lynx Blocks used under the wheel to support and raise it

Lynx Blocks used under the wheel to support and raise it

It’s a rare deal for us to find a totally level boondocking site. Often we’ll drive some bumpy roads to get out in the wilds and the sites will be just as rough. In these cases we rely on our handy dandy Lynx Levelling Blocks. I am always amazed that these cheap plastic blocks can handle our 33,000 lb beast, but it’s been 3 years and they’re still going strong! We have 3 sets and use them almost everytime we boondock. We also have 8 pieces of pressure-treated 4×6 wood blocks (cut from a longer piece) that we use under the jacks so they don’t sink. Cheap to make and super-easy to use. We don’t go anywhere without them.
Related Post -> Supporting And Levelling the RV

2/ Electric-Free Propane Heater

The excellent, versatile Mr.Buddy heater

When it’s really chilly outside there’s no better way to cozy up than a nice heater in the rig. We’ll turn on the big RV furnace when it gets really cold, but it’s kind of noisy & does draw ~8-10 amps of battery power to run. For the majority of our hanging time we prefer the versatility of the Mr. Buddy Propane Heater (there is also this smaller size). We always crack 2 windows (for through air-flow) and only ever use it while we’re awake, but we just love it! We can move & place it anywhere in the RV, and if we run it on low setting we get ~8 hours of good heat from 2 small 1lb bottles. Some RVers prefer the fancier Wave 6 Catalytic Heaters (or, the larger Wave 8 size) and will mount them permanently inside the rig. Either way, an electric-free heater is an awesome addition for boondocking and we wouldn’t be without it.
Related Post -> Lessons in Cold-Weather Dry-Camping = Our Sierra Nevada Week-end

3/ Reflectix Insulation

Cutting out Reflectix for the windshield

Yours truly cutting out Reflectix for the windshield

During our very first cold-weather camping experience we very quickly discovered our windows were massive cold leak-points. Last year we installed MCD shades which have helped somewhat, but by far the cheapest and easiest mod we’ve ever done is buy a big old roll of double-thick Reflectix (for large RV windows I highly recommend the taller 48-inch size. For vans and smaller vehicles you can use the shorter 24-inch size) and cut-out internal covers for all our windows. What a difference! We use these babies both for heat & cold, and wouldn’t live without them. They take a bit of space to store, but they are totally worth it.
Related post: Sweeet Boondocking & Cool R-Values -> Handy Insulation for RVers

4/ LED Lights

One of our G4 bulbs and the LED we chose to replace it

One of our G4 bulbs and the LED we chose to replace it

Although LED lights are not exactly a necessity for boondocking, they cut down on power draw by a massive factor of around 10 which is a real bonus for battery-conservation. And besides, they are techie cool! I wrote a detailed post about LED lights a while back explaining what to look for in terms of lumens, color temps and such. A few of our original G4 LED’s have burnt out since we bought them, but the rest are still going strong, plus prices have come down considerably since we originally converted in 2011. Many RVers will buy “in bulk” from eBay (very cheap, quality can he hit or miss), but I prefer to buy from some of the local retailers listed in my LED post. Either way, if you live off your batteries alot, they’re a mod you won’t regret.
Related post: Boondocking Made Easy -> LED Lighting 

5/ Portable Water Container

The handy dandy Coleman water jug

With tight conservation we can last up to 3 weeks on our 100 gallon water tank, but it’s nice to have the flexibility of getting external water on those days when we want to let loose a little (water-wise that is). For that purpose we have a cheap 5 gallon Coleman water jug which we keep in the car and fill up when we can. It’s light, it dispenses easily and if we use it for most of our drinking/tea water we save quite a bit on the main tanks.
Related Post -> Going “Water-Green” = Conserving Water on the Road

There are other fun boondocking mods we’ve done such as switching to a water-saving Oxygenics showerhead, adding more 12V outlets and converting to an LED TV, but the 5 items above are the “core” of our “beastly” boondocking items. That’s about it from me. Got any favorites of your own?

P.S. A few Amazon links in this post. If you love ‘em, feel free to use ‘em and we’ll get a few cents in gas. Share the love, baby :)

44 Responses to Our Top 5 Essential Boondocking Items

  1. Ralph says:

    Thanks for the tips..always appreciated. Love your camping spot next to those gorgeous rocks. Also,,,,your kitty looks VERY content….and spoiled!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Our kitty is definitely the Queen around here. Would you believe we carry that particular chair around just for her? Yup, she’s spoiled rotten!
      Nina

  2. Sheila says:

    We wondered how you managed your water. Glad you love boon docking so much. I guess we need to try it! We have been staying at State Parks and we love them.

    • libertatemamo says:

      State Parks and National Forest are our 2 favorite places other than BLM. We just love our public lands!
      Nina

  3. Doug says:

    I boondock all the time. The only exception is my annual LTVA stay, which raises my annual camping cost to fifty cents per day

    I like your list, I have done 4 of the 5 of them myself! I never stay in an area too cold to require Reflectix, but I did use it for several years to keep the October desert heat OUT of my RV. Nowadays I use see-thru fabric on the outside for that purpose.

    In place of the blocks, I finally cut up a rubber horse stall mat into various lengths. Much more durable than 2x8s which rarely last a full year.

    • libertatemamo says:

      The rubber mat is a very nice idea. I’ve met a few other folks who’ve created their own jack stands that way. And we do enjoy the Reflectix in summer too. We will typically combine Reflectix on the inside with our sunshade (Magna Shade) on the outside of the big window. That keeps the interior nicely cool in summer.

      Nina

  4. Karen says:

    By far the most important for me to boondocking is the portable solar panel kit from CEA Solar
    * Portable fans (I carry a combination of 12volt and battery operated)

    * Thermal Cooker Saratoga Jacks 5.5L Thermal Cooker- provides a low propane usage way to make crock pot type meals. Heat soups or sauce based meals using stove then put into the thermal base. Presto, 6 hours later without further power…. Ring the dinner bell.

    * Compressor Refrigerator / Freezer since I travel in a vintage trailer with only an ice box and ice chest, having the ability to make ice is important to boondocking. ( This model runs off my solar – Dometic WAECO CF-035AC110 Coolmatic 33 QT AC/DC with Touch Control Refrigerator and Freezer)

    I use most of your other hints too… Great minds think alike!!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Ooooo…excellent ideas there! Thanks so much for sharing all your tips.

      I looked at thermal cookers last year and thought they were super intriguing. Nice to hear from someone that uses one. And another great tip on the portable fan. I think we will be adding that to our arsenal in he future. Plus, thanks so much for the details on your fridge. Very useful for smaller vehicles.

      This list reminds me of another tip. At our last boondocking site The Wynns introduced us to their solar oven. What a cool little piece of equipment, and very easy to use! We may look into making one next time we’re in the boonies.

      Nina

  5. Linda Sand says:

    I would add my O2 Cool fan for when I sort of wish I could run the A/C but probably wouldn’t even if I had enough power because it’s too noisy.

    • libertatemamo says:

      What a great idea! Does yours run on 12V? I’ve also met several people who run swamp coolers for the heat. They apparently work great in the desert.
      Nina

  6. Janna says:

    Nina–would you consider writing a post about how you manage to conserve water enough to last 3 weeks?? Mike and I can do 10-12 days, but not three weeks and we also have a 100 gallon fresh water tank. Great post today!

  7. Pleinguy says:

    Good list. I have the Lynx Leveling blocks, and plan to add solar, LED lights, and a catalytic heater. I’ve just started and expect to do a lot of boondocking. Thanks for all the info you provide about getting off the beaten path.

  8. VP says:

    With our Oxygenics head I also added a $35 Extenda-Shower expanding curtain rod. Having that extra space makes our “new” shower seem luxurious. For the fridge, our D cell powered $13 Fridge-Cool fan placed on the bottom shelf keeps the refrigerator cool even in AZ summer heat. Both can be found at CW stores. As to our fav big ticket item, the value of solar panels cannot be overstated. Happy boondocking to all and thanks Nina!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Both excellent tips!! Never thought about the simple fan for the fridge. What a great one! Cheers for sharing them!
      Nina

  9. Peter says:

    Good stuff as usual…By using the plastic blocks, I assume you are getting the coach closer to level before using the jacks……..Janna, We cut the top out of a gallon milk bottle and always run the hot water into it till it’s hot, then pour the h2o back in the tank. one shower is almost a quart of cold.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, that’s exactly right. I like to keep all 6 wheels in contact with the ground and the blocks allow us to do that. We get somewhat level with the blocks and then let the jacks do the rest.

      The shower tip is a good one. We do that too. Our Oxygenics shower head has significantly reduced the amount of water we use in the shower, but that first little bit is always cold and capturing it prevents wasting it. Thanks for sharing that one!

      Nina

  10. Hanna says:

    Very interesting post and mighty inspiring :-) Great stuff!
    All the best,
    Hanna

  11. Excellent and informative post!

  12. marv8699 says:

    Hi Nina,

    Marvin here.

    My wife and I follow your blog I our travels.

    I am the guy who installed your Solar in FL years ago.

    Would it be possible to do a follow up and your Solar.

    I am doing more Solar than ever this past few years and would love to hear any comments you have.

    Pro’s, Cons or any other comments.

    I have many positive post on other forums about my work from other past customers.

    If you’re willing or if I could donate some money for your time would it be possible to get a link in your blog to me and my business for future Solar customers to contact.

    We are trying to get a new blog started and would love to hear if you would do it the same again or would you use a different service. It is so hard to decide.

    We have been in the east all summer and in the Canadian Maritimes.

    We will be in FL for December and part of January before heading west to AZ.

    You did a wonderful write up about Solar years ago.

    I hope you and Paul are well.

    Thanks

    Marvin and Ellen Braun

    marv@precisionrv.com

    206-276-2462

    • libertatemamo says:

      Hi Marvin,

      Long time no talk! Glad to hear you’re still following the blog. I’m happy to do a follow-up on the solar and talk about possible links (I’ll e-mail you).

      Overall we’ve been very happy w/ the system although if I were to do it over I’d go one gauge larger in wiring and we’d buy the MPPT-60 instead of the 45 (so we have space to expand our solar which is something we’re currently considering).

      As for blogging, since you’re going into this as a business I’d recommend using WordPress.org and a good host (e.g. Blue Host). WordPress is still (in my opinion) the best blogging platform out there and if you host it yourself you’ll have lots of flexibility for advertizing, monetization etc. I’m about to move my blog to a hosted platform, but I’m sticking with WordPress. I simply love it!

      Nina

  13. […] was reading the Wheeling It blog this morning and found some wonderful tips on boondocking (camping without any external power, […]

  14. woodycreature says:

    Thank you all for the great information.

  15. makarov1@q.com says:

    Nina…I’m quite dense when it comes to computers and computer things to do….with that said, how do I put a picture on my name in your comment page?…Peter

  16. A Thibodeau says:

    What I recently bought is a propane coffee maker, brews 10 pots on a alb bottle, inverter works with electric coffee maker in summer but winter sun doesn’t provide enough to use it. I only have 400 watts of solar and my 3 way frig works off the batteries when voltage gets above 13.1 volts for three minutes so that prevents full charge of the batteries. I need to add a switch so the 12 volt system can be turned off.
    Mickey

    • libertatemamo says:

      Great tip! Coffee is actually such an important topic it almost deserves a post all for itself LOL. The lp-powered coffee maker is a totally unique idea…first time I’ve seen it and love it! We also carry a type of lp-powered expresso maker, but it runs stovetop rather than from a separate can. It’s a classic Italian stovetop expresso maker, and we’ve been using it for years. It’s part of our core cooking items:

      Cuisinox Roma 6-cup Stainless Steel Stovetop Espresso Maker

      Nina

  17. Sherry says:

    We are going to a boondocking rally in Florida in January in order to solidify what we need to get out into the boonies. This is a great post to get us thinking early about what we do and do not have on your great list. Thanks!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Cool! Glad it was helpful. Enjoy your rally in FL (the RV Dreams Rally, I’m assuming?). Linda & Howard are a great team.
      Nina

  18. Such an interesting post with all the comments .. we are not going to go AZ this winter for the first time in several years, but I keep wondering if you are back at Sam’s? Been checking your blog each day to see where your wanderings will take you next .. Maybe we’ll see you next year down there. Hope your Thanksgiving is a very warm and pleasant one.

  19. LuAnn says:

    Your tips are always so helpful. I had never heard of Reflectix.

  20. Geraldine Murray says:

    Nina, just came across your info on boon docking, we’ve never done this, and would be interested to know if there are specific areas that should be avoided? We’re taking an extended trip of North America this spring, travelling for the next 15mths or so.

    Loved reading all the info and comments.

    Gwrry

    • libertatemamo says:

      I can’t really think of too many areas that we avoid. The majority of our boondocking is on BLM land which is usually out in nature, and we always feel quite safe. This is the kind of camping we prefer to do. We avoid big cities and there are certain Walmarts we probably wouldn’t overnight at, but out in the boonies we go everywhere.
      Nina

  21. John says:

    What is a reasonable yearly budget for this life for
    2 people ?

    • libertatemamo says:

      John,
      That’s a short question with potentially a very long answer. The “right” budget to do this lifestyle depends very much on the individual and how you intend to travel & camp. You can RV for as low as $1K/mo and as high as $6K/mo. The most variable expenses you have are travel (how far you drive) and camping (where you stay). I wrote a blog post about this a while back with some links:
      The Costs Of Fulltime RVing

      Most of our static expenses have risen slightly since this post, but our variable expenses have fallen.

      Hope that gives you a start!

      Nina

  22. jay harper says:

    3 weeks?? WOW, we’ve only been able to get our 95 gallon tank to last up to 3 days HA! I guess we need to learn how to conserve :)

  23. Vincent says:

    No mention of the refrigerator. Is it a residential model you run from the inverter or a propane RV model?

    • libertatemamo says:

      We have a propane RV model. It’s just much nicer to have the propane option when you’re boondocking. Very little power draw and minimal propane.
      Nina

  24. Vincent says:

    That’s what I suspected. Thank you.

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