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Old 06-13-2016, 10:39 AM   #1
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First RV trip - 3 months + boondocking. What are my options ?

Hello !

I've been going through some posts here to get some information but I would like to have some first-hand feedback about my trip.

Me, my wife and our three pets (1 dog, 2 cats) are going to move from Montreal to the Vancouver Island at the end of this year.

We are planning on doing the trip using a used but recent / low mileage Class C RV (something like that: Fourwinds - Chateau 24C | VR St-Cyr).

We will do the US east coast, then the southeast (we want to spend some time around the beaches and hot weather, we don't have that here in Quebec !), to continue with all the sights we can see while crossing to the west (Zion / Grand Canyon / Shoshones etc.) and then go back north through the west coast.

So that's a lot of driving, I will be working while on the road (I have the chance of working remotely as a web developer) and my wife will get some time to relax, she'll also make a blog to document the trip.

We plan on staying at some locations for a few weeks at the time, the total length of the trip being between 3 and 4 months (we want to be in our new permanent home by the end of the year).

For these weekly stays, we'd like to do some remote camping / boondocking. I found several nice spots in the campendium website with everything we need (lot of sun, some network coverage, free and with beautiful landscapes).

My main concern is about the electricity needs: we will both use our laptops, I will use one or two additional screens (pretty much needed for my work). We will try to avoid having to use the fridge (buying mainly dry food like pasta and rice + fresh vegetables that we can keep at room temperature) as well as the lights (mainly by going to sleep and waking up with the sun).

We'd like to avoid having to use the generator (because of the smell and of the noise) and are looking at our options in terms of solar.

We will have basically 6 to 8 devices that will use energy: two laptops + one or two additional LCD screens, two smartphones (one of them will provide the wifi hotspot), the stove or micro-wave to heat water to cook and for beverages, and all the other small things I can't think of right now (we are looking into composting toilet for example, I think these use some very small amount of energy to run, I'm also wondering about a heater, maybe we'll stay for a couple of weeks around SF in November and Washington in December, we might need some heating, even though we're used to the cold).

We are looking at something relatively easy to setup and use, like i said we probably won't spend more than 10 days in the same location and we will try to reduce as much as possible our energy consumption.

Would a couple of panels like that be enough ? https://www.amazon.ca/ECO-WORTHY-Por...portable+solar

I'm not sure also about what I need to go with the panels, I guess additional battery sets, maybe inverters and some wiring to do, is the whole thing doable on my own or would I need to look into hiring someone for that ?

Any advice / recommendations / feedback about our trip ?

It's the first time we'll go RVing but we are fans of back-country camping and hiking so we know about some aspects already (food and water limitations / making drinkable water from sources and lakes / how to handle our trash etc).
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Old 06-13-2016, 10:56 AM   #2
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Welcome to iRV2.

I can't help with your battery and solar requirements ; sorry.
A few comments.
Data plans could be your biggest expense , might be an idea to look into using a US cell phone for your trip.
Traveling north up the west coast in December , in an RV , can be a nightmare, high passes in Northern CA, and into Southern OR, can see days of snow fall, compacted into ice , prompting the requirement of chains for all vehicles.
I've had to travel those routes in Dec. & Jan. for family health issues and try to avoid it whenever possible. Any chance you could back off travel on that portion of the trip till March.

Maybe info on this site will be of some use , as far as your power questions.

The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1)
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Old 06-13-2016, 11:04 AM   #3
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FWIW My first thought is the RV is too small. You need to figure out how to set up the office and eat a meal at the same time.

With a propane refrigerator you can go for weeks on the same tank of fuel. Electricity use is minimal. Match your battery capacity and solar charging or plan on the generator for a couple of hours a day. Invest in a GenTuri. I'd investigate a 12 VDC auto power supply for the laptops and look for 12 VDC Displays. Otherwise all they need is a small inverter.

Staying in the same place for more than a couple of days at a real problem without a way to go to the store. Think towed. I would not mess with a composting toilet. The energy saving is minimal but you will have an issue emptying it.

Frankly, you are picking an equivalent to trying the AT with a sub 10 lb pack. It can be done but not in comfort. That wastes a lot of energy just making things work. You might want to really think about how you will live in that setup for several days of cool rainy weather. That might re calibrate your approach.
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Old 06-13-2016, 11:13 AM   #4
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Thanks for the reply !

I wasn't aware the north-west of the USA were prone to getting snow as early as December (we rarely get huge snowfalls in Montreal in November and December, last two Christmas were green if I remember correctly) so that's a very good point.

We probably will try to reach BC earlier then, early December was our initial goal, we thought of adding an additional month because it seemed feasible but if we risk getting caught in the bad weather we will go with our first one. The idea is to reach BC before the end of the year and get a permanent address there (it will be good for our 2016 taxes !).

For the data plan, my company currently pays my connection since I'm remote, I think they'll be willing to finance at least the same amount as they do now (~70$ per month), so I could go up to ~150$ and it would be within the budget we currently have (for our main internet connection and mobile devices plans). I'll definitely do some monitoring on my home connection to see how much data I use monthly, but I don't think it's much more than ~20GB. Me and my wife are big readers so we'll probably focus on books instead of watching TV / netflix during the trip.

Thanks for the link, looks helpful
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Old 06-13-2016, 11:28 AM   #5
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Staying in the same place for more than a couple of days at a real problem without a way to go to the store. Think towed. I would not mess with a composting toilet. The energy saving is minimal but you will have an issue emptying it.

Frankly, you are picking an equivalent to trying the AT with a sub 10 lb pack. It can be done but not in comfort. That wastes a lot of energy just making things work. You might want to really think about how you will live in that setup for several days of cool rainy weather. That might re calibrate your approach.

Thanks for the feedback, it's much appreciated.

So far I'm feeling comfortable with the RV size we chose, we want something small to be able to go everywhere. We are very flexible in terms of comfort and living space, we currently live in a tiny 400sqft condo (we sold our house when we decided to move west) and while we still have most of our furniture we plan on selling those before leaving, we'll only have our clothes and a few things that we will take with us like my desktop computer (will be in storage, I won't use it during the trip), our books etc.

We're also pretty flexible with the food aspect. We already did a couple of weekly back-country hiking (IAT) without any refilling and we managed. We're not looking to eat cooked meals every days and most of these will be simple pasta, rice, couscous + some vegetables / canned sauce / eggs etc. Honestly, I even think it would be possible without using the fridge at all, kind of a challenge, I really like to cook so that's something I'm looking forward.

I'll be thinking about the composting toilet. Seemed like an interesting option to get more water for other uses but you're right about the dumping thing, we'll have to look into that.
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Old 06-13-2016, 12:36 PM   #6
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We've traveled many of these roads. Pay attention to the weather forecasts and stay along the west coast in Dec, you should be fine.

There are all sorts of dump sites along in many of the states. So I'd vote down the composite commode. I'd also look at having a couple of batteries in your coach that will drive an inverter (12 volt to 110), then consider running the generator 2-3 hours per day. We do this at least 2 months per year in the Keys. You can over plan trying to boondock and the answer are right there. Use the generator sparing, visit a dump site every 5 days or so and load up with fresh water.

Just my 2 cents.
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Old 06-14-2016, 10:53 AM   #7
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I know that you are not big on a generator, but I would suggest you purchase one for your energy needs. You don't need a big loud one, just a small on one to help top off your batteries on those weeks the weather doesn't want to stay clear. I live in the PNW and have 400 watts on my roof but due to trees, clouds and the fog some days i have to pull out the generator every couple of days for a few hours and top off batteries. If I didn't like all my electronics I could handle the power usage with solar and my two Trojans t105.
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Old 06-14-2016, 11:32 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by albih2 View Post
Hello !...

Would a couple of panels like that be enough ? https://www.amazon.ca/ECO-WORTHY-Por...portable+solar

I'm not sure also about what I need to go with the panels, I guess additional battery sets, maybe inverters and some wiring to do, is the whole thing doable on my own or would I need to look into hiring someone for that ?...
That's a 120w setup. 120w will barely charge your batteries. Lets say at best it is 10 amps under optimal conditions. You will not have optimal conditions so maybe you will have 7 amps going into your batteries. 5 hours of peak sunlight is what 35 amps?
Solar (plus batteries, plus inverter, plus charge controller, plus install, plus all the other items -fuses, cable, disconnects etc) is not going to help you much and would be cost prohibitive for a short trip.
Do a google search on what will a 100w solar panel power.
one example:
A 100 Watt Solar Panel: What It Costs And How Much Power It Will Produce

Me thinks you will be running the genny or staying in campgrounds.

Let us know what you decide
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Old 06-14-2016, 05:10 PM   #9
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Also you don't need to concentrate on shelf-stable foods. Your refrigerator will run on propane very efficiently and inexpensively. You will need to fill the propane occasionally, but it is easy to do at many RV parks or rural farm stores.

Look for a nice quiet Honda 2000 generator. The PPs are right; you don't have enough solar or enough batteries.
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Old 06-14-2016, 09:36 PM   #10
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Lots of good info on this board (look in the Green RVing section). The first step is to install a good charge monitor (Recommend a Trimetric from Bogart Engineering). This will tell you exactly how much charge (current*time, amp-hours) each appliance uses. When I installed ours I discovered that I can do 2-3 nights boondocking if I am careful without recharging the batteries at all. Therefore, solar panels are secondary.

If you don't have a built in generator, you can get a fairly quiet portable generator and set it up far away from your RV and take care of all your needs. If you are boondocking for weeks at a time, appropriately sized solar panels become much more important.

Also, you will find that incandescent and fluorescent lights are huge power hogs. A change over to LED lights will greatly reduce your power consumption. You can start with ebay cheapies and buy more expensive LED lights as you find necessary.

What others have said about propane refrigerators (and heaters and stoves) is true, It is a very efficient way to go for boondocking. Good luck and come back to the forum often.
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Old 06-15-2016, 04:15 AM   #11
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FWIW his problem with solar is not enough roof available for many panels combined with no room for really big batteries. Something like a Chateau 24C MH may handle two type 27 or 29 batteries on the frame rail under the step. It will not handle GC-2's as they are too tall. OTOH it will probably already have an Onan 4000 series generator. Put a GenTuri on it or make an equivalent and the noise goes down while the safety goes up. A gallon of fuel a day to run it.
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Old 06-15-2016, 07:54 AM   #12
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FWIW his problem with solar is not enough roof available for many panels combined with no room for really big batteries. Something like a Chateau 24C MH may handle two type 27 or 29 batteries on the frame rail under the step. It will not handle GC-2's as they are too tall. OTOH it will probably already have an Onan 4000 series generator. Put a GenTuri on it or make an equivalent and the noise goes down while the safety goes up. A gallon of fuel a day to run it.

Thanks for all the replies !

I think most of you are right in that I don't get enough power with a 120w panel. I think I'll get two, bringing it to 240. I don't plan on installing them on the roof, I'm looking at buying portable ones that I can store inside during the night and deploy outside when the sun starts shining, I don't want to modify the RV as I'm not sure we'll keep it after our trip (we would like to but it will depend on how much we enjoyed ourselves during these three months), we might keep the solar panels though, we want to get our own little homestead and generate as much solar power as possible so it would be a good start.

I'm definitely open to using the generator (We'll try to buy a RV with one already inside) from time to time to top off the batteries but I'd like to be as autonomous as possible, I feel like the generator forces us to have a "hard limit" of time we can spend boondocking while solar will be much more flexible, I would regret having to leave a nice spot because we are running out of fuel (but I'm not sure how quick that would happen, never used a generator in the past so I don't know how much time it can run on the gas tank before having to stop it).
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Old 06-15-2016, 08:22 AM   #13
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Hello !

I've been going through some posts here to get some information but I would like to have some first-hand feedback about my trip.

Me, my wife and our three pets (1 dog, 2 cats) are going to move from Montreal to the Vancouver Island at the end of this year.

We are planning on doing the trip using a used but recent / low mileage Class C RV (something like that: Fourwinds - Chateau 24C | VR St-Cyr).

We will do the US east coast, then the southeast (we want to spend some time around the beaches and hot weather, we don't have that here in Quebec !), to continue with all the sights we can see while crossing to the west (Zion / Grand Canyon / Shoshones etc.) and then go back north through the west coast.

So that's a lot of driving, I will be working while on the road (I have the chance of working remotely as a web developer) and my wife will get some time to relax, she'll also make a blog to document the trip.

We plan on staying at some locations for a few weeks at the time, the total length of the trip being between 3 and 4 months (we want to be in our new permanent home by the end of the year).

For these weekly stays, we'd like to do some remote camping / boondocking. I found several nice spots in the campendium website with everything we need (lot of sun, some network coverage, free and with beautiful landscapes).

My main concern is about the electricity needs: we will both use our laptops, I will use one or two additional screens (pretty much needed for my work). We will try to avoid having to use the fridge (buying mainly dry food like pasta and rice + fresh vegetables that we can keep at room temperature) as well as the lights (mainly by going to sleep and waking up with the sun).

We'd like to avoid having to use the generator (because of the smell and of the noise) and are looking at our options in terms of solar.

We will have basically 6 to 8 devices that will use energy: two laptops + one or two additional LCD screens, two smartphones (one of them will provide the wifi hotspot), the stove or micro-wave to heat water to cook and for beverages, and all the other small things I can't think of right now (we are looking into composting toilet for example, I think these use some very small amount of energy to run, I'm also wondering about a heater, maybe we'll stay for a couple of weeks around SF in November and Washington in December, we might need some heating, even though we're used to the cold).

We are looking at something relatively easy to setup and use, like i said we probably won't spend more than 10 days in the same location and we will try to reduce as much as possible our energy consumption.

Would a couple of panels like that be enough ? https://www.amazon.ca/ECO-WORTHY-Por...portable+solar

I'm not sure also about what I need to go with the panels, I guess additional battery sets, maybe inverters and some wiring to do, is the whole thing doable on my own or would I need to look into hiring someone for that ?

Any advice / recommendations / feedback about our trip ?

It's the first time we'll go RVing but we are fans of back-country camping and hiking so we know about some aspects already (food and water limitations / making drinkable water from sources and lakes / how to handle our trash etc).
Couple of things come to mind after reading your Post - You need electric - look at this Ryobi 2000 https://www.ryobitools.com/outdoor/products/details/392 Quiet and I used one on the last two houses I built - 1 gal a day 8-10 hours ran the lights chargers and Computer in the house as I built it. Bought 2 on Craigs list - new - in the box for $250 each, just a thought, as it is really a good unit.

East Coast Boondocking means Wal*Mart? not a lot of safe quiet places with Wi Fi. JMHO.

Try to contact this individual for good info on Boondocking - Dan Schechter's blog

And you will need a fridge - beer is really not good WARM

Warm Milk is sort of bad too.

90 Days starts When? You might need to just do maybe 5-8 locations?

Best guess is September - at that time you need to be deep in the South for the Beach, so also that might be the best time to be In Colorado, https://lynn.smugmug.com/Travel/Colo...pens/i-tsVRkXg

Could be of more help if we knew a little more, hope this is of some help.

BOL,

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Old 06-15-2016, 08:40 AM   #14
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And you will need a fridge - beer is really not good WARM

Warm Milk is sort of bad too.

90 Days starts When? You might need to just do maybe 5-8 locations?

Best guess is September - at that time you need to be deep in the South for the Beach, so also that might be the best time to be In Colorado, https://lynn.smugmug.com/Travel/Colo...pens/i-tsVRkXg

Could be of more help if we knew a little more, hope this is of some help.

BOL,


Thanks

We're not big milk drinkers, we definitely like the occasional beer though. From the other comments, I gathered the fridge will use a very small amount of fuel to run so that might be enough.

For the east coast, we have three locations in mind: we want to check out the Acadia national park, maybe just a day hike, we won't stay long. We then want to spend a few days (3/4) at the Massachusetts beaches, we went there last year and had a lot of fun and lot of good lobster rolls !

At last, a few days in Florida for the beaches too. Ideally we'd like to do all these in boondocking but if we can't find any good spots we'll probably look into other options like rv campgrounds. We really just want to enjoy the beaches for a while.

We plan on doing to crossing from east to west from mid-september to end of October / early November depending on how much time we spend in the area between Wyoming / Colorado and Utah. I saw a lot of nice boondocking locations in this area so it's where we will be more flexible in terms of length of the stay.
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