Dave Solberg


Dave Solberg
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  • In-depth Instruction; over 74 mins
  • On-demand video access anytime
  • Bonus downloadable PDF resources
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  • Available for purchase: $15.99
In this session you will get a brief introduction to everything that will be covered in this class.
After the Philippine/American War soldiers coming back from the mountain region of the Bun Docks would take to camping as they had done in the war, and coined the term Boondocks or Boondocking, meaning way back in the woods. There are several different ways you can boondock, from extended stays in the desert, weekends at a winery, or just a day tailgating. Even if you hit severe weather or just get tired, it’s nice to pull over in a rest stop or Walmart parking lot for the night. However, you will need a generator to run the roof air conditioner as well as recharge the batteries unless you have solar panels and a good battery bank.
If you are in the market for a new or used RV and plan to do some dry camping, you will want to make sure it is set up for the type and length of boondocking you plan to do. First is the house battery power, most RVs come with one or two group 24 deep cycle batteries that are rated for less than 100-amp hours, and since you can only use 50% or less in a lead acid battery, you will only get a short period of time with the standard batteries. You will want to upgrade your battery capacity to match your power requirements. Next is the LP system and the size of the container. If you are looking at a motorhome, you typically don’t have an option to get a larger tank as it is bolted into a compartment, and most do not have room for anything larger. Trailers have DOT Cylinders usually placed on the tongue and can typically accommodate two tanks and can even go to the larger 40 lb. cylinders if it doesn’t put too much weight on the tongue. Whatever you choose, it’s important to know the capacity and what appliances will run on propane such as the absorption refrigerator, stove/oven, water heater, and furnace. If you have not been boondocking before, it’s difficult to determine what water capacity is best for your needs as many RVers pack bottled water for drinking and cooking, and the freshwater tank is only used for showers and flushing the toilet. The capacity you will need depends on the number of people going and the length of time. Most RVs today are prewired for solar systems to be installed either on the roof or on the side of the trailer. It is important to verify the type of wiring and panels that are available.
It is important to understand the three main power sources and how they operate. Many appliances require 120-volt AC power either from the shoreline cord, a generator, or an inverter pulling 12-volt power from the house batteries and providing 120-volt power to items like a refrigerator, or something like a CPAP machines. 120-volt appliances include the refrigerator, roof air conditioners, and anything plugged into a residential style outlet. The house batteries of an RV are 12-volt deep cycle batteries and simply store energy or “power” to provide power to interior lights, roof vents and any appliance that runs on LP. Power will also be provided to slide room mechanisms, leveling jacks, and to components through the inverter as stated earlier. Liquid Propane or LP is stored under pressure in either an ASME tank used on motorhomes, or DOT Cylinder for trailers. LP is the fuel or power source for the absorption refrigerator on LP mode, stove/oven, furnace, and the water heater. Once you understand how these three systems work, what they power, and how long they will last before needing to be refilled or recharged you can understand how long you can extend your boondocking experience.
The 12-volt house battery system uses deep cycle batteries that are designed to be drained and recharged several times known as a “cycle” vs an automotive battery that keeps a constant charge. You cannot use an automotive or cold cranking amp battery in a house battery situation as it will go bad after several cycles. These deep cycle batteries are rated in amp hours which is a measurement for how long they can provide power before needing to be recharged. Some manufacturers choose to use two 6-volt batteries connected in series to create a 12-volt battery bank by connecting one battery’s positive post to the other’s negative post, leaving a positive and negative connection to the RV and 12-volt power. 6-volt batteries are popular with boondockers as they can provide up to 280-amp hours of power. However, all flooded lead acid batteries should only be drained to 50% capacity. Absorbed Glass Matt (AGM) batteries are less prone to sulfation and have reduced gassing but should also not be drained more than 50%. Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries can be drained to 100% and have over 3,000 life cycles and are a popular choice for boondockers although the price is much higher. It is important to do your research when it comes to batteries, especially Lithium, as you cannot just swap new Lithium batteries with old FLA without looking at the existing converter/charger, cold weather use, and the different types of batteries.
An essential component in boondocking is how to charge your batteries since there will be no shoreline cord to plug into a 120-volt source. Solar panels have become a popular method to recharge the house batteries while dry camping using the power of the sun. This class will cover the different types of panels such as permanently roof mounted, flexible panels, and portable systems. It is important to calculate the amp hours needed for your type of boondocking and size the solar panels accordingly. Solar panels are rated in watts, volts, and amps, and matching the correct solar panel array to your style of boondocking is important.
With limitations of battery power, available on-board water, and dump tank capacities, it is essential to find ways to be conservative with power, water, and LP. Military showers, body wipes, and biodegradable dinnerware can not only help conserve water but also limit the amount of water going into the holding tanks. Supplemental heaters, French Press coffee pots, and campfire cooking helps stretch the LP. And, battery power can be extended by using LED lights, limiting heavy appliance usage, and finding alternative methods for activities.
Water at a campground is typically supplied by an on-site well rather than a municipality, therefore it is not treated and could be suspect to contamination. All campgrounds are required to have the water tested once a year; however, things can happen between testing. Portable testers can test purity in parts per million, and test kits from home improvement stores can show over 15 different levels of water quality.
When you are getting off the grid, connecting to cell phone service, internet, and television signals can be challenging. There are several products on the market such as cell phone boosters, hot spots, and Wi-Fi connections with either cell phone towers or even satellite connections. And, television entertainment can be provided by over the air antennas, satellite providers, or even streaming. Check out the latest options for all your connectivity needs.
10 Lessons
1  hrs 14  mins

Today, a record number of RVers are hitting the highways and campgrounds are filling up! Because of this, more and more people are wanting to get away from the crowds and enjoy their own “space”-meaning boondocking has become very popular. There are several terms associated with Boondocking, such as dry camping or getting off the grid, but it basically boils down to camping or RVing somewhere that does not have hook-ups like water, power, and dump stations.

If you are going to be RVing without these connections you will need to understand your house battery capacity, what systems run on 120-volt power, LP, and 12-volt power, and what your rig is capable of handling or how long you can Boondock.

In this class we will cover what to look for when buying a new rig as far as how well it is equipped or can be equipped for boondocking. Understanding what power your appliances and components run off is important and how long you can run them before needing to recharge the house batteries will also be covered.

12-volt deep cycle batteries are one of the most important aspects of boondocking so we will look at the options available, such as lead acid all the way up the “big boys”, Lithium, and how long we can go before needing to recharge them, and what the charging options are such as solar power.

Conservation is probably the second most important part of boondocking as you only have so much water, LP, battery, and dump tank capacity, and you don’t want to pack everything up to go dump or get more LP every other day.

Dave Solberg

Dave Solberg is the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. For over 25 years, Dave has conducted a wide range of RV maintenance and safety seminars, developed dealer and owner training programs, written RV safety and handyman articles, authored an RV handbook reference guide and logged over 100,000 miles on the road in an RV.

Dave Solberg

Bonus materials available after purchase

Boondocking Purchase this class for $15.99.