Boondocking For Newbies Part III -> Geting Your Rig Into The Site
At this point in the series, you’ve got your first boondocking site picked and you’ve prepped your RV. Now, you’re actually ready to go boondocking!! If you’ve got a small, mobile rig you’ll probably find this step really easy (just drive in and park?), but if you’ve got a bigger rig you’ve got to do some prep work, the most important of which is scouting out your site. I cannot overstate how important this step is, especially for newbies and a big portion of today’s post will be dedicated to that.
So here we go with Part III – Getting Your Rig Into The Site
Find Your Boondocking Area
The first thing you’ve got to do is find your boondocking area. Hopefully your prep work took care of this and you’ve got coordinates and details on-hand for your trip. With this info, I use a 3-pronged method to locate my sites:
- Navigating By Phone or Pad: I’ll usually “drop a pin” on my phone or iPad at the site we’re going to visit and use the navigation on my device get there. However I don’t rely on this method 100% since I may or may not have cellular access once I get to the site. I’ll always use the Coverage? App to check ahead for network coverage and that gives us a good, general feel, but sometimes local internet can be iffy (e.g. blocked by mountains and such) so you can’t always 100% rely on it. For this reason I always have a back-up.
- Navigating by GPS: Most GPS units can be used reliably just about everywhere except in very heavily tree’d spots (and tunnels). Our GPS has an option to put in exact coordinates as well as “drop a pin”, so this is something we always do before we start on a trip.
- Navigating By Paper Maps: In addition to the above two methods, if I’m going to a spot for the very first time I will ALWAYS have paper map to back-up my phone/GPS. Many times this is simply my Benchmark Maps combined with a detailed print-out of the satellite view from Google Maps (with my potential sites marked on it in ink). If all else fails, I fall-back on this. If I’m going to a National Forest I will also have the MVUM map on hand, and if I’m going to BLM I will sometimes back-up with whatever detailed paper map I got from them.
There’s one last thing to be aware of when you’re searching for your boondocking location. Many public land sites have some kind of marker or indicator that they’re actually public land once you get to them, but this is not always the case! If you see the BLM logo, National Forest sign and/or a 14-day limit camping sign this is a sure-fire indication that you’re legally on public land. However some land may have nothing at all to identify it. This is where your prep work comes into play and the time you spent investigating & calling the local field office will be to your benefit. Make sure you are actually ON public land before you scout.
Park & Scout Ahead
Whenever you get to your new boondocking area, find a safe place to stop, unhook and go out scouting. If you are nervous and/or need more time to scout, plan to park overnight at a nearby campground. If you have time and feel confident, plan to park somewhere near the entrance to the area.
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this step, especially for bigger rigs.
Even 5 years later, with all the boondocking experience we’ve got under our wings we still do this every single time, and I recommend that you do too. Conditions in the boonies can change suddenly. What looks like a firm road can suddenly get sandy and the spot you had last year may not be in the same condition this year. Plus the conditions at the entrance to the boondocking site may be totally different than further in. There’s no absolute way to know except to physically scout it out!!
So, the safest thing to do is drop your big rig, get in your toad (or truck) and drive around. As you drive the road towards your potential sites make a note of what it looks and feels like:
- Firmness -> You want to make a note of road firmness, especially if you have a bigger rig. Sandy areas with deeply rutted tire tracks are dangerous places for your rig to get stuck. Also desert landscape can be deceiving. A ground that looks firm, might just be a thin crust with soft stuff underneath. The bigger/heavier your rig, the firmer the road needs to be, so make sure you check this thoroughly by driving your toad around everywhere you plan to drive the rig. If your little toad vehicle is sinking on your scouting trip, for goodness sake don’t bring in the big rig!
- Bumps & Ground Clearance -> Check how bumpy the ride is and whether there is sufficient clearance for your rig. Are there deep dips that might scrape or catch your RV on the front or back? Does the road lean side-to-side or is it fairly flat? Are there lots of ruts & stones or is the path fairly smooth? As a total newbie you may not have too much feel for how much your rig can handle, so being conservative is always a good idea. The flatter and smoother the ride is, the better.
- Width & Height Clearance -> Make sure the road is wide enough to handle your rig size. Is there lots of hard brush at the sides which will scrape your rig, or is the road wide & easy? Most regular boondockers resign themselves to getting a few “pinstripes” on the sides of their rig (it’s kind of a right of passage, if you will), but you don’t want to go too crazy and get in a position that’s dangerous for your tires & rig. Also, if you’re in a forest remember to look UP at the trees. Do the branches curl over the road & hang low or is there enough clearance to handle your rig height? Road width and trees are a big reason we don’t camp in National Forest as much as we’d like. There’s nothing wrong with bringing a measuring tape with you on your scouting trip to check height and width if you’re not sure.
- Curves & Obstacles -> How curvy is the road? Are there stones/bushes/obstacles on the bends? If you have a big rig you need a sufficient amount of “swing space” to drive through curves and if there are obstacles in that swing space you’ll end up hitting them and potentially causing a lot of damage to your tires and RV. Hopefully you’ve done enough big rig driving on regular roads to have a good feel for your swing room, but if not some practice & measurement in an empty parking lot will teach you a lot. Large, smooth, easy curves are the best. Tight curves are simply not feasible in a big rig.
- Turn Around Space -> Always, always make sure that you can turn around and get back out. The campsite you chose should be big enough to allow this, but if it happens to be full (say, you scout one day and the site is taken the next day) then you MUST have a place to turn around which will not hurt your RV or the surrounding nature. There’s nothing more nail-biting that backing-up a big rig across miles of tight, bumpy road, and it is NOT OK to plow brand new tire tracks into pristine nature.
For total newbies who don’t have a good feel for their rig clearance, staying close to the boondocking area entrance on flatter/firmer/straighter roads is the best. As you do more boondocking you’ll get a better feel for what your rig can take. Once you find a potential site, move to the next step.
Chose A Good Campsite
This is still part of the scouting process! An appropriate boondocking site is one that has:
- Previous Use -> All public land offices will tell you that to use a site that has been used before. Previously uses sites are usually pretty easy to spot. They’ll be cleared-out areas with (often) a fire ring and obvious signs of usage (tire tracks, packed earth etc.). It is NOT OK to “create” a new site in pristine nature. This destroys the very nature the area is meant to preserve. So, chose a previously-used site.
- Good Separation -> Good boondocking etiquette maintains that you should put some distance between you and the next boondocker. If there are miles of empty space, don’t ruin someone else’s experience by parking right next to them. Chances are the other boondockers are out here to find some peace, so give them that space. If the area is tightly packed (e.g. Quartzsite during the big annual RV show) just try to be as spaced-out as you can without encroaching on someone else’s site. Don’t become a “clinger”.
- Conforms To Rules -> If you’re in a National Forest that has specific rules about how far you can park from the main road and/or how close you can park to water, then make sure the site conforms to those rules. Many National Forests have tightened their rules over the past few years, especially regarding how close to the main road you have to camp, so sites that may look legal (i.e. they’ve obviously been previously used) may no longer be legal under the new rules. Many National Forests list their dispersed camping rule online (e.g. see this example from Fishlake), but not all do. This is where your planning process (Part I) comes into play.
- Is Firm & Clear Of Obstacles -> Once you find a good site get out of the car and walk/jump around to test the firmness of the ground. Look closely at the ground to see if there are any sharp rocks or pieces of glass which might damage your tires. Imagine your rig in the spot and mentally figure out how you are going to get into position and how you are going to get back out (very important) when you leave. For big rigs this means enough firm space to turn your monster around without destroying/impacting the surrounding area.
- Is On High(er) Ground -> This is not a completely critical thing, especially if you’ve chosen good, sunny weather for your trip, but I consider it a good, extra safety measure. Given a choice I will always chose a spot on higher ground with clear drainage, just in case it rains. In the desert water travels in washes , and flash floods can be very dangerous (trust me, you do NOT want your rig to be in their way) so I will always pick a spot that is higher than the wash. In the forest low-lying areas are typically softer and will gather water if it rains so choosing a higher spot will provide added safety.
Blog Post -> 7 Tips On Boondocking Etiquette -> Rights, Wrongs & Plain Common Sense
Blog Post from Cheap RV Living -> Staying Safe In The Desert: Flash Floods
Figure Out Orientation
While you’re checking out your site think about your rig positioning. Where do you want your front (or back) window view? Where do you want your “sitting area”? Where do you want the afternoon sun? Where is the shade (if there is any)? Which orientation will get you the most solar (if you have solar panels)?
Since we have solar panels which we tilt in winter we will always park our rig facing East-West and tilt our panels towards the South. That gives us the absolute max benefit from the solar day. Our panels tilt in both directions so the only other decision we have to make is the direction of our front windshield. In colder winters we park with the windshield facing West since we like the late afternoon sun to warm up the rig and provide heat going into colder nights. In hotter months we park with our front windshield facing East since the rig stays much, much (much!) cooler if the front windshield is shaded during the afternoon. If we have an open choice we like to keep our fridge on the opposite side of the sun (so it doesn’t get too much heat), but that’s usually secondary to our windshield orientation.
As above, make sure you are able to get your rig into the orientation you desire without impacting the surrounding nature.
Check Cellphone/Internet Access
If cellphone/internet access is important to you make sure you bring along your phone and/or MiFi on your scouting run to check the signal at the site you’ve chosen. If you rely on the internet (e.g. for work) there’s nothing more annoying than getting your rig all set-up in a site only to realize you have no access.
Safety and Surroundings
This is kind of a wishy washy thing, but the last thing I check for before bringing in the big rig is the “feel” of the surroundings. Do I feel comfortable here? Does the site feel right? Is the site clean and neat or is there a lot of trash and shell casings (e.g. from weekend shooting) in the area? Do my neighbors (if I have any) look like friendly folk or are they running an industrial generator and glaring at me in a scary way? Am I within sight of the main road or am I well hidden? Some folks prefer being closer to the road and having company (other boondockers around), others prefer total solitude.
There key thing is that there is no wrong or right here -> only what YOU feel comfortable with. Give yourself a moment to “feel” the site out and if you don’t feel comfortable just don’t go!!
Bring In The Rig…..Slooooowly
Once you’ve scouted and decided on a site, go back out and bring in your rig….slooowly. This is not a race and you want to be sure your rig is handling the road the way you expect. Take your time, and if there’s 2 of you, drive a car behind the rig to check clearance as you’re going over bumps (make sure you and your partner have a pre-arranged “signal” in case the rig doesn’t look right). When you get to the site, get into the orientation you want and check how the rig looks inside. If you aren’t level use your leveling blocks (Part II) to get level, and unless the ground is hard as concrete (which is very rare), put jack pads under your jacks before you lower them (believe me, you don’t want your jacks sinking into the ground!).’
Congratulations, you’ve gotten your rig into your boondocking site!!! Now, you just need to enjoy the area and practice a bit of conservation so your experience lasts. Coming next…..
CLICK HERE FOR PART IV – ENJOYING YOUR TIME IN THE BOONIESSPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Brett Currier says
I’m really enjoying your blog posts, Nina. My wife and I are planning to buy a rig next year and hit the road big-time when I retire in 2017. In the meantime, I’m learning a lot by following your posts and others that you’ve linked to. Thanks!
Cool! Glad the posts are educational.
Congrats on number III in the series… We learned lots on our Alaska trip, and can surely attest to how important your advice on both overhead clearance, and awareness of coach swing is.
And feeling ‘comfortable’ in a site is important for also feeling safe. Odds are if you have any discomfort about a location, your instincts are trying to tell you something – follow them. Could be people, could be natural problems – but why take chances!! Hopefully this is assessed during the scouting trip.
Best to you and Paul! Travel safe,
Yup, the personal comfort side of the equation is just as important as everything else and that’s really where your instincts come into play. No way to “teach” that one. You’ve just gotta go with your gut.
Great yellow stickies! Clues! and get out and walk it! Finding the limits of a rig is the fun/not fun part. When its not critical(back up 4X and lots of shovelers, carpet/blocks+ bottle jack) find out the tricks. 1. Drop tire air pressure. 2. Maintain a constant keep moving speed-no spinning. 3. Enjoy the ride.
IT takes 10% more to get to 90%.??
Thanksgiving Day–a beach near San Felipi -my RV driving buddy challenged me to drive the Vanogan to the beach thru the soft stuff. Got stuck. That evening the half buried van became a target for the local gringos skyrockets, firecrackers bombardment. We ended up with a dozen yahoos hanging off the van cruising down the beach shooting off the rest their arsenal. Got back up thru the soft sand–keep moving!!
Knowing how to air down and get out of sandy/soft situations is SUCH an important thing to know. We’ve got the ability to air down and air up (with our built-in compressor) as needed, but have never had to use it (yet).
Your San Felipe trip sounds like it was quite the epic adventure!!!
scott smart says
Very good info (as always). I have been reading for awhile and can’t wait to hit the road. We just purchased a fifth wheel we are setting up for boondocking and are dying to hit the road. The next 30 months can’t go by fast enough for us. Thanks again for all the great info.
Excellent! Good luck with all your plans!
Roads Less Traveled says
Nina, this is SUPER!! Great tips and what a fantastic series for learning how to boondock. Well done!
Thanks Emily! Nina
Kip S Moore says
Your posts are very interesting.
I certainly found you as my teacher on this subject. Really never gave this much thought.
A person needs to use common sense and not just wander off into the wilderness.
Your message was very thoughtful. I don’t even have a RV but I will someday.
You hit on all the aspects of safety and (of course ) common sense.
Thanks for awakening my common sense.
I have learned a lot from you.
Great article to read. You are a very good teacher.
Thank you, Kip S Moore
The vast majority of this stuff is definitely common sense. Of course there’s the age old saying that “you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it”..or something like that anyway. We’ve all had our “duh” moments 🙂
Serendipity! We just pulled into Buenos Aires and I open my email and see your post with a pix that looks just like the spot we are in, probably is as it is a perfect one. haha Cheers Ray
Yup, looks like you got that exact site. It’s such a gorgeous area. Enjoy your time there!
> “Deep tire tracks are evidence of soft ground. NOT a good spot for “the beast”
Hahaha.. we resemble that remark. 🙂
Another fantastic post, Nina, my dear.
Pssst… to make it easier for your blogging admirers to link to this most excellent series, could you make a tag for the ‘Boondocking for Beginners’ series, and tag each post?? *bats eyelashes* I’d love to make this entire series a go-to resource for folks who ask us these questions.
A fine idea, my dear. All my posts are in my “boondocking” tab, but I may try to arrange them to be a little more prominent.
Lot’s of great tips, Nina! I confess I did a quick skim and may have missed it: did you mention anything about road width and/or turnouts vis-a-vis being able to pass another rig coming the other way?
Yes road width (as well as curves and bumps) is mentioned specifically in the scouting section. I didn’t talk about turnouts with regards to passing others (most boondocking sites don’t get much traffic), but I did discuss turnouts with regards to being able to get your rig in and out of the area (very important).
Just wanted to send you a note and let you know I’m reading your posts, via e-mail. I’m an avid boondocker in AZ and find your posts very helpful. Thanks for taking the time to send this out to all of us!!
PS, I’m on my third rig…first one a diesel pusher beast at 40′, second a 14′ travel trailer and I’m waiting on a 30′ 5th wheel coming next month…planning on a trip to South FL in April and will be traveling the country once again.
I always pick up good ideas and tips from your posts!!
Glad you’re enjoying the series, even as a boondocking “pro” . Good travels to you with your new rig!
Michael F. Herrmann says
I just read the section titled Safety and Surroundings. Much of my “process” over the past few years has been around tuning in to my intuition. An interesting read on the subject is “Apparitions and Precognition” by Aniela Jaffe. Jaffe was Carl Jung’s closest assistant near his death and according to the Foreword he was so busy lecturing he handed off this “book” to her knowing she would live to see it published.
I’ve never seen an apparition, but I’ve grown increasingly fascinated by precognition. Your comment about “feeling” the site reminded me of this unfathomable dimension that plays a significant role each evening in finding my way “home.”
I’m very much about tuning into your intuition too. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Oh, and I’ve seen ghosts…but that’s for another blog post 🙂
Nina – how do you verify heights of overpasses? Do the Benchmark maps help with that? Thanks for all of your valuable sharings!
If you’re talking about regular road travel (not off-road boondocking) then no, our Benchmark doesn’t cover that. You can get a USA wide atlas (e.g. Rand McNally Motor Carriers) that will list tunnels and overpass heights, plus you can get an RV GPS which will do the same. We don’t go boondocking anywhere that requires us to use a tunnel to get to the site.
Thanks!!! One more Benchmark question. Do you prefer the Road and Recreation versions or just the Recreation version?
Most definitely the Road and Recreation version. That version has several sections to it including a public lands section as well as a detailed road section.
Nina you failed to mention or give credit to the canine scout that mysteriously show up in your photos. Looks like you have a great advantage that maybe you could elaborate on some time. Thanks for all the info.
Indeed. Having a Polly scout improves your chances of finding a good boondocking site almost hundred fold. Part V of the series perhaps? 🙂
John and Pam Wright says
Excellent series of posts, Nina!! You covered everything so clearly. I love the photos that you attached to show where to not drive:) Thanks for all the info!!
It’s been fun to go out seeking bad roads 🙂 I’ve been collecting those shots for months.
Jenny Waters says
I am loving these posts, Nina. Thank you for not leaving anything out, even the obvious stuff. I think some of these tips will come in handy. The pictures are helpful, too. A few of them don’t look that bad to me, but I am not used to driving a 40 footer. I suppose it takes a while to get a feel for what roads will not work, and maybe those pictures will keep us from making some stupid mistakes.
Getting used to the weight, swing and clearance of a 40-footer takes some experience. There’s a lot that I can drive in my car that I would never even consider taking our 33,000 lb “beast” onto….and the swing and space the big rig needs to turn is significant. You’ll get a feel for it pretty quickly, but it’s best to be conservative in the beginning.
Jeff and Cheryl says
We are currently boon docking at a site a few miles west of Yuma, near a mining operation. In fact we passed a place where the mine water tanker gets it water, on the way in here. Full moon the last two nights, watching as it rises above the hills, has been transfixing. The camera loves what it sees. Experiences like this are what makes boon docking so personal and so enjoyable.
Thank-you for all your wonderful posts.
I know the exact place you’re in…an old-time favorite of ours. Boondocking is a pretty magical experience, especially for nature lovers.
Nina, you may scare people from boondocking with all these precautions. I just pause before turning on to any dirt road, check my gut feeling, and summon the traveling gods. Much less stress and I find some places no one else would dare go in a class A. Sure, you may have to backup for a few miles once in a while, but isn’t that what backup cameras are for? And remember, us folks in motorhomes have four wheel drive. Just look back there and count the wheels on your drive axle. Some of my favorite boonsocking sites have been isolated, sandy, desert washes. Sounds to me like you ought to rename the “Beast”” baby”, or maybe the “wuss”!
Walt in Boise says
I don’t consider Nina’s post an attempt to “scare” people from boondocking. To me, it is more in line with the Boy Scouts motto of “Be Prepared.” As someone who has gotten stuck while trying to boondock, I appreciate the tips and advice.
I needed to have this sentence in mind, “What looks like a firm road can suddenly get sandy and the spot you had last year may not be in the same condition this year,” when I tried to return a few years back to a boondock location I had visited the year before. By the time the second towing company managed to get my truck and fifth-wheel unstuck, roughly $17,000 damage had been done (mostly the result of the first tow company trying to turn the truck and still attached fifth-wheel sideways). Lesson learned – the hard way.
Thanks Walt. You got the intent of the post perfectly. And cheers for sharing your experience, painful $$ as it was (yikes!)
Jodee Gravel says
Using common sense doesn’t scare people, not does it cause stress. In fact, knowing the best way to do something has the opposite effect, rather than never trying it because you don’t have anyone to give you some pointers. There will always be those who throw caution to the wind and this post isn’t written for them. As long as it’s only your own rig you’re risking and not the environment you’re traveling through, then enjoy your “way”.
I’m with you on this one. For me personally, knowing what to be prepared for is a stress reliever, not a stress producer. I’m happy to jump in and try just about anything in life, but I’ll always attempt to learn as much as I can about it beforehand. It’s just my nature.
Well, I can’t deny that approach has worked for you, and there are likely many boondockers who do a similar thing -> Just gut feel and drive. I’m the more cautious type, so I just can’t approach it that way. I’ve gotten a much better “feel” of the desert over the years from having spent so much time in it, so I usually have a pretty good idea of where it’s possible to boondock just by looking at a place. But that’s a learned experience, and the desert still manages to surprise me. I *never* underestimate what she’s capable of.
P.S. And hey I have no problem with being called a wuss if it helps a few folks. I’ve been called much worse in my day 🙂
I started following your blog a couple of months ago when you met up with Glen (been following his blog for several years). My partner and I have plans to travel/work full time within the next 5 years (yes, we are planners, hence the interest years ahead of time) in a Class B RV. Even though some of this doesn’t apply to us since we won’t have a TOAD (I guess the actual scouting is done in our rig LOL), I have really enjoyed reading your posts – lots of great information! Hope to meet you both some day 🙂
Many Class B owners will end up with some kind of extra transport (bike, scooter etc.), but for lighter/smaller rigs you definitely have an easier time finding and fitting into sites than we do. The van guys like Glen of course, just drive in their van directly to the site…his little van has more maneuverability and clearance than our tow vehicle! Good luck with all your plans and dreams. They’ll be happening before you know it.
Thanks! If not for obligations (elderly Moms, elderly cats), we’d be hitting the road sooner. For now, we’ll just plan and live vicariously through others 😀
Oh I totally understand those obligations. I’ll do my best to keep the dream alive for you 🙂
Jodee Gravel says
I’m so glad you included the part on parking on high ground in the desert. Newbies have no idea the power and destruction possible on a sunny day from clouds in a far off mountain range. Every time I see signs of a campsite in a wash I cringe 🙁 Another excellent boondocking how-to – keep them coming!!
Totally agree. Camping in a wash in the desert is a dangerous thing. Most of winter you’ll be fine, but all it takes is one downpour, and it doesn’t even have to be a big one. Water travels crazy fast out here and most total newbies don’t know or expect that.
Love this series. You refer to printouts with your detailed notes. Do you have a printer on board and if so, what is it?
Yes, we have a super cheap Canon that we bought for $50 or so at Walmart. Nothing fancy and she’s a bit bulky, but she fits into an overhead compartment so I rarely think about it. For those folks with space restrictions, there are way more compact versions.
I will often walk/jog into a area and then call Holly back on a VHF/UHF radio (HAM, so plenty of range) and she will bring the truck and trailer in…if appropriate.
Depending on the season and where we are going, I bring along:
– Shovel and/or snow shovel
– Tire chains
– Chainsaw (to get out after a windstorm…)
– Small air compressor (in case I have to lower the tire pressure)
– Tow strap (always goes along and have used it quite a few times …. once just this past weekend …. to help others out)
– The knowledge that this type of camping takes a different mind set (and patience) than simply going to a campground.
The trick is predicting in advance which of the above I might need (-:
Scouting with your feet is a totally workable method. If we didn’t have a tow vehicle I’d probably do the same (or use my bicycle). Bringing the two-way radio with you is a nice little extra tip. They’ll work everywhere as long as you stay in range. Cheers for sharing your other tips too!
Richard Oliveria says
Love following you blog also. Presently we are on Rockhouse RD. because of your recommendations. Next time if we stop for a longer period of time we will go a little further out… but good, free, spot.
Cool! Yeah staying closer to the road is a great idea the first few times in the boonies. As you get a better feel for the area and the capabilities/limits of your rig, you can push back deeper into the boonies. Glad you enjoyed the experience!
So I have to ask…. Have you ever been stuck where you needed help to get out? Maybe a close call or two?
We were in a State Park in Florida and that is where I learned to look up! They had not trimmed the trees and I assumed plenty of clearance. The State of Florida bought me a new antenna, a Maxxair vent, and some other plastic parts. We always look up now.
Carrying little Motorola Radios is very handy for communication when positioning and backing our 5th wheel.
We also carry a 3 man tent and backpacks with us in case we will only go so far into an area and want to go further. We will just hike and camp for a night or two. Then come back to the fort for comfort.
Great series, I love your writing about it live and under actual real world conditions. Thanks.
We’ve never been stuck, but we’ve had “tree issues”…in Florida! In our first year on the road, a rather stubborn curved palm tree sheared off our back bedroom slide-top cover and crushed a small back corner of our rig. It cost some $$ to fix, but it could have been much worse, and it happened because the back end of the rig swung out as we went around a rather tight campground curve and we weren’t spotting. That’s when we learned the importance of swing room and looking UP, even after the front of the rig has made it through.
When we enter a tree’d, tight campground now I’ll usually get out of the RV, unhook the toad to scout ahead and then came back and physically walk the rig through the tightest parts of the campground loops. It takes time and amuses folks who see me do it, but I’ve learnt my lesson.
Oh and we’ve also had our jacks sink into the ground and almost get stuck. That happened in SD, also in our first year on the road. We’ve been using jack pads ever since.
I love your personal insights and recommendations! I have probably a newbie question, but here goes. What steps do you take to control pests? Ants, mice, other insects when you’re out in the boonies?
So, most of the places we travel in the West we have VERY few problems with insects. We have had mice, and the best way to plan against that is to block all possible entrances to your RV (with gap fill foam) and use deterrents (we like peppermint oil). I’ve written about our experience with mice here:
For ants we try to make sure we don’t park ontop an ant den when we chose our boondocking spot. Most stuff will agitate the ants, so we just keep food out of reach.
Ants won’t cross -diatomaceous earth – The kind found at a horse feed store is best. Gets fleas also.
DE is good stuff and acceptable to use on the ground too.
I’ve been outa toich for a couple of weeks with an out of state family trip. What a great series to to jump into upon my return to my “normal” after the trip. Well written and informative, as your style, Nina.
Thanks, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, past and future. 🙂
This is such an informative series Nina. Can’t thank you enough for all the work you put into your posts and the invaluable information you so generously pass on.
This is such a great series, Nina. Even us “oldies” always learn a thing or two!
The BlaNicS says
As we are on the eve of picking up our own rig, your Boondocking series was created with perfect timing. Your adventurers are quite inspiring, informative and definitely qualitative…boy you spend some time on them. Thank you both for sharing!
Blogging definitely takes some time and effort LOL. Congrats on the new rig, and may you have many good adventures ahead!
Great series on boondocking. It does give me pause to maybe reconsider getting an all electric rig with induction cooktop. We’ve had a propane fire in the past and thought this might be a safer solution. Maybe the trade-off as a power sucker in the wilds will make this far less convenient.
The all-electric decision is a tough one. It’s not that it can’t be done (our buddies Technomadia are proof of that), but if your goal is to boondock extensively with all-electric you do need either more generator time or a much heftier battery/solar system. If you have the extra $$ that’s not a problem, but if you’re having to make selective choices and compromises then it becomes a trickier decision.
We’re personally very happy with our propane fridge/oven, but realize that one day we may have to go residential. That would require upping our solar and battery capacity too.
Eric Rondeau says
Nina thanks again. These post are so valuable. We’re saving all the item links so when we make the purchase you get credit.
Suggestion. There are so many newbees like us out here. Many like us that are still deciding on which rig to buy. Could you two write a blog of your Dream
Rig? It may make everyone’s lives easier.
Thanks for all you do. Be safe and may see you soon.
My dream rig….under 30 feet, huge boondocking tanks, off-road capability? Honestly my best guess right now would be a Class A around the 35-foot range. I know it doesn’t sound like much of a difference but our rig actually measures 42-feet end to end and 7 feet is quite a bit of change. 35-foot would be a nice compromise (for me) between size & fulltime RV living comfort.
Really like your web site and all the ideas you share. Looking forward to retirement and possibly RV’ing full time. Had a couple of camper vans which I really enjoyed and thought maybe a smaller RV (under 30′) would be small enough to not also need a tow vehicle. One vehicle would be simpler, easier and less expensive. But seems like most full time motor homers also have a tow vehicle. What are your thoughts? If you had a 28′ motor home would you consider going without a tow vehicle?
It really just depends on whether you want to move your “big” vehicle everytime you need to shop or go sightseeing. I like the flexibility of a toad since we can just park “the beast” and use our fuel-efficient (and nimble) tow to drive around for sightseeing, going out, shopping etc. Our CRV can go just about everywhere, which “the beast” definitely cannot. Plus that way I don’t need to “pack up” the big rig everytime we need to go somewhere.
With a smaller vehicle you are more nimble, so there’s the possibility of just taking that smaller vehicle everywhere with you. You’ll still need to pack-up everytime you go anywhere, but at 28-foot you’ll be pretty small so it maybe it’ll work for you. On the other hand there may still be certain sightseeing spots you can’t get to. In the end it comes down to flexibility. Maybe start without a tow vehicle and see how you do? You can aaaalways get a toad later.
Diane Nagle says
My biggest question is, have you published a book yet with all of this great information in it?? We plan to full time RV when my husband retires, about 3 years, but in the meantime we are trying to get ourselves ready financially, sorting out belongings, figuring out just what type of RV will be best for us, etc. I’ve been lots of blogs and information and your blog is by far the best! I’ve been printing out lots of your articles but there is just so much to absorb and it sometimes feels overwhelming! I bet all newbies feel that way. 🙂 If I had a book how much easier I could look things up! (I also need to figure what quilting supplies to bring).
So this is not a complaint, but really a great compliment, you are a huge help for us not knowing anything! I was telling my husband about boondocking last night and he started to laugh at my new RV lingo!!! lol
Ralph E. says
I know that it says snow on the product, but in the description part of it says “sand” and “mud” as well. So I thought that maybe people could use this in boondocking (or even dry camping and full hook ups for the mud) in case they get stuck in the sand and save time before the tow company helps them.
I’ve known folks who’ve used something similar to this for their RVs. So YES I think it’s something worth carrying when you boondock a lot.
Ralph E. says
Nina, thanks for the comment as it lets me know that I am on the right track. The one thing that I noticed on this product and a similar product is that only one comes in the package. I was thinking about purchasing two so both sides of the vehicle gets better traction so that the vehicle becomes unstuck easier. So did your friends have two of these type products? On the link that I posted there is an emergency shovel that folds up to compliment the extraction product.
Since you said that your dream RV is a 35 feet Class A motorhome – before my accident with the GMC Savana Van, I measured from the front bumper to the back of the driver’s side seat. This was close to 8 feet. So my proposed 32 feet travel trailer is close to being equivalent to a 36 feet motorhome (32 feet travel trailer – 4 feet for hitch + 8 feet for the front bumper to back of driver’s side seat). So pretty close to what I drew up length wise. I was trying to get it 30 feet or under, but can’t think of a way yet or I will have to give up creature comforts.
About going anywhere in a RV less than 28 feet – there are at least two roads that I am aware of that you need to be 21 – 22 feet or less to be able to travel on it.
Yes I do think having 2 would make the most sense. If you’re stuck it’ll likely be both sides (either back or front) that are stuck, do have one for each side would be helpful.