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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The boondocker's toolbox: It takes a willing mind

U.S. Library of Congress
Rummaging through the mental files, we had to recollect the time when we got a call for help out on the desert. A woman asked us to help her "jump her battery," and since she had her truck with her, we knew there must be something else that needed a jump. Her answer: "My fifth wheel." It seems her house batteries were so flat she couldn't turn over the rig's generator.

A little probing revealed that after a couple of years of winter boondocking on the desert, this RVer was still a 'babe in the woods.' Yes, she had solar panels (45 watts worth, it turned out), but she found it necessary to fire up the generator for several hours a day, and the cost of propane was running her out of house and home. We called by to see if we could help, and the longer we stayed, the more lacking her knowledge of boondocking became apparent. 

"I don't do well with technical things," she explained, "And I don't want to know about them." 

Boondockers need a lot of things different from folks who stay in campgrounds.  They may use a catalytic heater in place of the rig's "factory" furnace to keep from using too much of their precious electricity.  They may use solar panels to produce that juice in the first place. They'll need to have more batteries to store that power. All kinds of "physical" stuff to make their boondocking a success. But it takes more than the "physical." It also takes the "mental."

If you don't know about technical things, you can boondock. But you've got to be willing to learn them. If you don't learn to wrap your mind around new things, new concepts, and figure out how things work, you'll never be able to figure out why they don't work, when they don't. 

In our friend's case, she had no idea that her propane furnace not only used huge quantities of electricity and propane. She thought that somehow a tiny solar panel array from a discount tool company would keep her in electricity. She only knew that somehow, it wasn't working. We'll try and help her as best we can, but without developing the will to deal with technical stuff, she'd be better off parking her rig in an RV park, plugging into the shore power, and spending her money and fixing things when they break. 

Yes, it takes more than just the physical to make a success of boondocking.  It takes a willing mind.


  1. We see this problem every day. Everyone wants to learn about boondocking, but are unwilling to understand what is needed to be free of RV parks. Very few are willing to put the effort into education. You were our springboard to being fulltime boondockers 7 years ago. Thanks.

  2. All you need is a poncho and poncho liner ..... everything else is gravy !