Rule #1: Don't straddle the front end of your tow dolly while driving the Mini Cooper up the ramps unless you know the hitch has been locked down. Better yet, just don't ever straddle the tow dolly.
Don't ask me how I know.
Now that I have your attention, let's move on to boondocking in a Tiffin Open Road gas model motor home.
For the uninitiated to RV living, boondocking is living off of any hookups (water, sewer and electric) for one or more days. Whatever your motor home's capacity is to store these three items is all you've got. For a Tiffin Open Road gas model, all the capacities are the same:
Freshwater: 70 gallons
Gray water (sink and shower waste) : 66 gallons
Black water (toilet waste) : 50 gallons
Propane (for cooking, heating and hot water) : 20 gallons
Gasoline (for running the generator) : 80 gallons
Now, for those who have taken the time to memorize Tiffin's brochure, you know that propane is listed as 24 gallons, but since you can only fill it to 80% of capacity, the effective capacity is 20 gallons. In addition, the supply line for gasoline for the generator is set at the ¼ tank mark, so the generator will not run if the tank gets that low. This is to ensure that you will always have gas in the tank to move the RV by not allowing you to drain it using the generator. I also inspected and filled our 4 “house” batteries with distilled water to make sure they were operating at peak efficiency before beginning this adventure.
These are the capacities and parameters we work with when boondocking. So it makes sense to approach boondocking with full freshwater, propane and gasoline and with empty black and gray tanks.
It also makes sense to remember certain rules about human water use. Gray water use is generally higher than black water use, so it pays to balance them out when boondocking. Freshwater can be added using large containers, but you still have to account for the associated waste products that entails. In short, you have to balance out ALL usage to extend your time as long as possible.
Rule #2: No matter how much anyone complains about the desert Southwest being so dry, the first thing they notice when they come back into the Southeast is that it is too muggy . . .
Our goal this last trip was to see just how long we could stay “off the grid” while still being comfortable and clean. It helps that we have a bedroom that can be closed off from our rear bathroom and or living area in order to seal in our body heat when sleeping. It also helps that we have a half bath that contains a typical RV gravity-fed toilet (which uses only as much water as is needed to do the job), in addition to our macerator-style toilet in the rear bath which uses electricity AND extra water. So except for using our shower in the rear bath, that door remained closed for the duration of our boondocking test. For informational purposes, we have the residential refrigerator installed in our 36LA.
We boondocked for just over 9 days, even though we had all the data we needed to know how successful we had been by the 7th day.
Our routine was this:
Used extra large baby wipes on non-shower days to get clean
Used dry spray shampoo to remove oil and dirt from hair.
Washed hands in cold water and soap.
Took “Navy showers” every 3rd day. This entailed wetting our bodies down, shutting off the water at the shower head, soaping down then rinsing off completely. Used the attached shower head and hose to keep water targeted and not sitting under a constant stream.
Collected cold water waiting to come out of the hot water system into a 2 gallon bucket. Used to fill our Berkey freshwater drinking system.
Washed dishes every other day, and heated water in large pot to reduce waiting for hot water at the kitchen faucet.
Rinsed soapy dishes in small plastic container, then used the soapy water to flush toilet. This is because people normally use less black water then gray water, and this way we balanced our black and gray tank usage to keep one from filling up earlier than the other.
Used paper plates to reduce water usage.
Unplugged toaster unless needed.
Only charged our iPhones and iPads when the generator was running.
Only used our 3 LED entry lights at night instead of the 8 LED ceiling lights.
Watched TV as normal; probably about 4 hours per day.
Temperatures didn't require A/C, but set front thermostat to 62 at night for front furnace.
Opened all three Fantastic fan covers during the day to reduce heat.
Reduced usage of any appliance which had a heating element (toaster, hair dryer, no space heaters at all, and minimized microwave usage).
Set front thermostat to 62 at night.
Rear furnace set to off.
Conserving gasoline for generator
Set Automatic Generator Module (AGM) to come on when house batteries got down to 12.0 volts, and only run for 2 hours if generator started.
Ran generator for 2 hours prior to bedtime to maintain charge throughout the night.
Rule #3: Your awning is pretty much a useless accessory 9 days out of 10 in the Southwest. Too windy. Sit under your slides or orient your RV to have the sun on the driver's side in the afternoon.
So what were our results? Pretty outstanding.
The data below details each days usage and environment. Your results will vary based on temperatures and comfort level.
Chosa boondocking summary
Propane High Temp Low Temp Gen usage (Hours) Overnight Hours to AGS
Day 1 91% 66 50 2.5 19
Day 2 89% 50 39 3.0 13
Day 3 87% 48 39 5.5 13
Day 4 78% 62 39 6 11
Day 5 75% 57 41 5 11.5
Day 6 72% 70 52 4 12
Day 7 70% 71 50 4 13
Totals -21% 60 (avg) 44 (avg) 4.2 hours per day (avg) 13 hours (avg)
We used 14 gallons of gasoline to run the generator, which averaged out to .4 gallons of gas per hour of generator usage.
Our freshwater tank was almost exactly at the halfway point after 7 days, and our black and gray tanks both registered 1/3rd full. That means that we could have easily gone 10 days, and probably 14 days without having to fill our water tank or empty our gray and black tanks. Propane wasn't an issue at all, and neither was gasoline. In all, we couldn't be happier with the performance of our 36LA and it's boondocking capabilities.
Rule #4: Don't even try to keep your toad clean on a regular basis when you're traveling on the road full-time. It wastes time and money, and just frustrates you the next day after getting it washed. Just accept that it will be filthy and move on to important things – like finding toilet paper.
As always, if anyone reading this has any questions about things I may not have covered, please feel free to ask them in the comments section below, or on our Facebook page.
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're planning the ultimate retirement experience - travel the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, play golf and stop at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.