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Old 10-22-2014, 01:41 PM   #1
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Cost of boondocking?

Yes, yes, I know. Boondocking is "free", or else "it depends".

What made me post this was some things I was reading in a thread today about all-electric vs. conventional coaches. Some of the numbers mentioned for the cost of running a generator/Webasto/etc. were startling. I thought I was going to save a bunch of money boondocking but for what some of these folks were spending on diesel to run this stuff you could stay in a pretty decent park. Which they acknowledged.

So. Tell me what your setup is (all-electric/lp fridge/stove/heat/etc, solar (how much?)/no solar) and how much it costs *you* in daily fuel use to stay in the boondocks.

Please help a fella out. I need to know this.

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Old 10-22-2014, 01:48 PM   #2
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We have a 120 volt residential fridge in our MH so we have to run the generator when we are not plugged into shore power. It costs us about $45 a day to run the generator (figuring gas at 3.30 a gallon). I am wanting to install an inverter and solar panels so we can cut down on the amount of time we need to run the generator, but that is an expense that is far in the future, so for the time being we stay at RV parks to save on the gas.

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Old 10-22-2014, 01:48 PM   #3
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We have propane for stove top, hot water, heat, and refrigerator. If not running much heat a tank of propane will last us a couple three weeks of usage or more. If having to heat in cold weather, a tank can be consumed in than a week.

Solar provides for electricity. So very little generator usage.
Vince and Susan
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Old 10-22-2014, 02:51 PM   #4
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We are in the same boat as Vince, pretty much solar autonomous. We do have a generator (1 kW Honda) but we have only used it every couple of months just to make sure it is still working (supposed are to run it once a month or so). We only use the forced air heater for half an hour or so in the morning (we let it get down in the 40s within the cabin) and use the Olympia Wave 8 in the evening. When it gets really cold, we are "Goldilockers" (as in "not to hot and not to cold, just right") and head south. Hopefully, we make it back to Yucatan, Belize and Guatemala again this winter.

So we are like Vince, it costs us $0.00/day for fuel (other than travel) and not much for propane except in winter. I have been following Aussie RV Fora (Caravaners and Grey Nomads) and they utilize DC fridges and split/level a/c. Propane is hugely expensive down there and they do primarily have very small rigs.

We run the Dometic (power hog) on AC during the day from solar/battery bank. We do run it on AC overnight if we know it will be a bright and sunny summer day since we wake up with a -3500 W-hr deficit; however, we can charge at up to 1330 W actual on high sun days.
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Old 10-22-2014, 02:56 PM   #5
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We don't have a huge electrical requirement but do have computers, tablets and cell phones to charge. We have a 42" LCD TV (with satellite receiver/DVR) that we watch maybe 3 hrs a day when the days are shorter. Fridge is propane, heat is an infra red propane (we travel to stay in warmer temps).

We have 485 watts of solar that charge 4 Trojan 105's. I've rarely seen batteries get below 85%.

We have a 8KW generator but only run it once a month or so to exercise it.

The cost of the solar install total is under $2000.

At 40 gallon fill up on propane lasts about 3 months.

Boondocking is definitely cheaper for us than any RV park!

Each person's needs are different so only you can decide what's the most economical. For us, we save a lot of money when boondocking.
Chasing 70 (degrees F) in a 2004 Travel Supreme MH, 2015 Jeep Wrangler, mountain bikes, hiking boots and swim shorts.
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Old 10-22-2014, 03:54 PM   #6
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"Chasing 70 (degrees F)" is pretty much the same as "Goldlocking". Have also heard it called the 75 degree club.

Boondocking/dispersed camping (Aussies apparently call it free camping or bush camping) is cheaper. The main thing is solitude and quietude - and the resultant wildlife that comes around. The folks you meet in such places are great as well. Get to see places like Calukmal on our travels. You can park at the visitor's center there if you have a small enough rig to drive in 60 km but we dry camped at a restaurant about 100 km west of Chetumal (it is listed in Mike and Terri Church's RV guide to Mexico).
Reed and Elaine
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Old 10-22-2014, 05:51 PM   #7
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It costs money to make our RV more versatile but it is rewarding to camp where and when we want.
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Old 10-22-2014, 06:42 PM   #8
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my system is all solar and LP

washer/dryer LP and solar
frig 3 amps solar most of the time
cocking LP
all AC 110 loads are ran off solar

24v dc SW inverter at 4800 watts or 4400? cant remaber
11 solar panels on the roof

giving how LP is used and sun my LP last from 1 month to 4
but most time on LP is 2.5 months at 90$ a fill

can find all solar you need off CL at lower cost used
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Old 10-22-2014, 07:26 PM   #9
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We are full-timers and spend 85% of our time boondocking. We figured that the average RV park costs $30/day X 30 days = $900/month x 12 months = $!0,800/year. $10,800 goes a long ways to having the ultimate solar system. Our "ultimate"cost about $12,000, installed.

Everyone's idea of luxury is different, but ours includes minimum RV park days. We enjoy the solitude of "out there" with the stars as opposed to the street lights, barking dogs and their poop, trains and traffic......we love our privacy, and we can't get that at any RV park at any cost.

We have spent big money to enjoy our boondocking lifestyle. Our solar system supports our electric full sized residential refrigerator and all of our other electrical needs, including a 42" TV (we have 4 TV"s). Because of the power draw from the RV furnace, we use instead a blue-flame propane heater which we turn off at nights while sleeping and succumb to the warmth of a down comforter. In the morning, with the blue-flame heater running, closing the pocket door between living room and bedroom, we have to turn the heater down within about 30 minutes. Typically, we use about $40-$50 of propane every 3 months....and no heavy electricity draw for the RV furnace fan.

We do run our 8K Onan generator once in a while to power up our batteries during cloudy days or when we're under a tree canopy. If the sun is out, we don't use the generator.

When we've been in a situation where the heat has gotten to us (we chase weather below 85), we power up the generator and power on both air conditioners. The generator uses 1/2 gallon of diesel per hour ($2).....rarely have we ever had to run it more than an hour....

We can stay 14 days comfortably boondocking, without the need to dump our tanks or fill up with water. We can stay one day at an expensive ($30) RV park, dump our tanks, fill up with water, have their electricity top off our batteries, do our wash.....you get the idea....and get back out there!

So, costs are to be calculated; and priorities are only yours to plan.

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Old 10-22-2014, 09:03 PM   #10
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All we can do is echo what you just posted. When folks inquire about return on investment or amortizing solar, we pretty much state what you have said.

We used air conditioning from the solar/battery bank about 8 times and did hook up to line power for air conditioning on four other days (we were staying in RV parks near Richland and Spokane, WA to visit relatives and we were in the shade). We have had eight 12 V outlets installed in and about living room/bed room and basement. These are great for charging phones, camera batteries, and the like. They also work well with 12 V fans (0.2 amps) that really help on warm days.

We have 81 gallons of fresh water and carry up to 30 gallons more in 6 gallon Jerrycans. 14 to 21 days of boondocking and it is time to dump tanks, petty much the same as you.

As you note, it far quieter boondocking. Attached is photo of Bull Moose sparring within 25 m of rig last year.

Reed and Elaine
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Old 10-22-2014, 11:32 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by vsheetz View Post
We have propane for stove top, hot water, heat, and refrigerator. If not running much heat a tank of propane will last us a couple three weeks of usage or more. If having to heat in cold weather, a tank can be consumed in than a week.

Solar provides for electricity. So very little generator usage.
echoing this... my fridge runs on lp when boondock. it does not consume much lp though. in a 5 month period, mostly boondocking, it only burned about half a tank.
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Old 10-27-2014, 06:30 PM   #12
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We spend 2 months per year boondocking and never feel that we are missing on anything. We do not use the AC or microwave. Installed 200 watts of solar panels for $500 including MPPT controler and remote panel. We do carry a 1600 watt generator but never used it since installing the solar panels. For us it's cheap camping with very little use of propane. Residential fridge will never be considered. Also we do not use vent covers so our white RV cool fast on hot days.
Barbara and Laurent, Hartland Big Country 3500RL. 39 ft long and 15500 GVW.
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Old 10-28-2014, 05:58 PM   #13
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The first time out boondocking cost me about $7,000 but after that it was free except for a bit of propane.
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May the light be with you.
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Old 10-29-2014, 04:55 AM   #14
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Ditto what others have said - nearly zero.

I have 650 watts of solar and lp fridge/heat. Run computer, TV's, satellite receiver, etc... just like a 'normal' person. Have to remember to start generator every few months cause they say to do so.

JD & Buddy (the ferocious feline) - Full timer out west
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