Some people have a misconception that boondocking is “free.” It is not. It can be inexpensive, but not free.
For example, I have reported here before that our nightly camping cost is $4.67, averaged out over a year. This includes not only all money paid for a campsite, but also includes expenses involved with dry camping that we would not have in a full hookup campground. For example, gas for our generator, and the cost of going to a laundromat, since we would use our onboard washer and dryer if we were in a park.
We spent two weeks at Quartzsite in January, 2008. During that time we paid $40 to park in the LTVA area for fourteen days. (Yes, there are free fourteen day areas, but we chose the LTVA because we had friends parked there, and because there are free water and dump stations, which we would have had to pay for in the free areas.) Gas for our generator came to $45. We did laundry, which cost about $18. If you factor the cost of gasoline in the van to run to town for generator gas and the laundromat, let’s call it another $5. That comes to $108, or $7.71 a day. That’s still pretty inexpensive, but not free.
I have not included the cost of setting our bus conversion up for dry camping, including the cost of our battery bank, solar panels and charge controllers, and generator.
I’m not sure how I could amortize that over the number of days we have spent dry camping over the years. We included the generator and our first inverter when we built our bus conversion several years ago, and installed our three AGM house batteries long before we added our original solar setup. So it was an investment over time.
Not every RV is set up the same. Many do not have the dry camping equipment that we do, nor do you necessarily need solar panels, an inverter, a huge battery bank, or even a generator to spend time off the grid.
You can either adapt your RV to the boondocking lifestyle, or adapt your boondocking style to your RV’s equipment. Not everyone is a night owl like me. Most will not need to work several hours a day on a computer, or run a laser printer, so it is entirely possible to get along just fine without using the amount of power we consume. On the other hand, if you do like to watch several hours of television daily, brew coffee, surf the internet, cook with your microwave oven, and other activities that use a lot of power, you can do that just fine if your RV is set up properly.
In Quartzsite, we saw people boondocking in everything from bus conversions and diesel pusher motorhomes, to pickup truck campers, fifth wheel trailers, and even Class B vans. The one thing we all had in common was that we were all enjoying the desert sunshine every day, those beautiful Arizona sunsets in the evening, and the stars twinkling in the desert sky overhead at night. No matter what you came there in, it’s better than shoveling snow in Michigan or Wisconsin in January!
No, boondocking is not free. But I still think experiences like that make it a heck of a bargain.