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Quartzsite - Use What You Got
Posted On 01/06/2010 04:18:54 by KevsKnight

We are closing out our fifth day here in Quartzsite, and we are starting to feel like boondocking pros. We are feeling like pros because: we are still out here in the desert after 5 days; we have only used ~1/4 tank of water (25 gallons or so); and we are having a great time!

Ang and I have been living pretty normally - I get up and work all day, we walk the dog together a couple times throughout the day, we make dinner and have a cocktail and watch the sun go down. We watch a little TV together, she dozes off, and I go back to work. That is a pretty normal week for us. However, being off-grid, we have had to make slight adjustments HOW we do these things.




We have figured out that the consumption of resources is the most obvious thing when boondocking. I think that doing this makes a pretty big statement about our society - in normal lives, we consume because there is always more. We run the shower longer. We run the water endlessly to brush our teeth. We leave lights turned on. We throw stuff away without thinking about where it goes. We all do this because there is always more where that stuff came from. 

However, when there is an end to the consumable resource, a guy thinks twice about how it is being used. The batteries run down quickly, so we turn off extra lights. We turn off the DVRs and the computers at night. We sparingly use water. We refill containers. We re-use water that would normally be wasted. We think about where our resources are going every time we use them out here. 

Hopefully the above two paragraphs didn't come off as preachy, but more in a self-realization kind of way. Our 5 days here so far have been an awesome experience! We have found a few things that have really helped us watch our consumption and stretch our resources that I would like to share.

Fresh Water and Waste Water

Fresh water is a very obvious depleting resource because you can watch your tank drain down. Using water carefully has been a challenge, but we have been doing real well. From our fresh water tank (100 gallons), I estimate we have used less than 30 gallons between the two of us in 5 days. We have supplemented with R/O water we get from refill stations in town, but we normally do our drinking water this way.

If liquid is going down the drain, it is going into your gray tank. There are services that come around here to pump out your tanks (honey wagon), but it is costly. Driving to the dump station is not a lot of fun either. Conserve waste water to stretch that time out.

Some conservation tips we have used:

  • Always keep your hand on the faucet when using water. Use what you need, then turn it off.
  • Catch the water in the shower and sink in a pitcher while you wait for hot water to come. The shower only takes a little bit to warm up, but that is water that can be used for so many different things. It is fresh, clean water that would normally go into your gray tank!
  • Keep a large bowl in your kitchen sink to help with doing dishes. Rinse water can be used to help wash more dishes. You can pour used ice in there. The water in the bowl (food particles removed) can be tossed outside if bio soap or no soap is used. It also shows you how much water you are using to do dishes!
  • Use jug water for coffee. It is easier to refill a jug in town than drive your rig to refill your tank. I am a two pot a day guy, so that can end up being quite a bit.


This has been a challenge for us. We are normally hooked up to shore power at campgrounds, so keeping things on comes without a thought. When you watch the volt meter drop down and down and down, you learn real quick that you HAVE to turn things off.

  • Know your capacity, and how to recharge. We have only a generator to recharge our system - no solar (yet!). Because of this, we came up with a schedule - genny on first thing in the am - coffee, recharge, breakfast. Short run in the afternoon to bring charge back up a little. Genny on in the evening for full charge - dinner, dishes, TV, getting ready for nighttime.
  • Have a good battery meter. The one built in for our inverter shows amp load on the batteries. We use that to see when we have too much running. Turning things off has an immediate affect on that number.
  • Know that 120V items take more power than 12V items. If power goes through the inverter, it will have a power loss. Use 12V if you have the choice.
  • When possible, plug 120V items into a power strip that you can shut off with a switch. It really helps to shut items down even if they are turned off. Found out my surround sound/DVD player has ~12A load while off!
  • We are using solar lights at night instead of house lights. They are cheap, cool solar lights that charge up all day, then we lay them around the coach at night as night lights.
  • Group electric activities while the genny is running. Charging phones and accessories, making coffee, microwave, furnace, etc.

The above are a few of the things we have picked up so far. There are a ton more of things you can do to extend your resources. However, I do think that the most important thing we will take from this is that we should be careful in our on-grid life, just as we are during boondocking. It may seem like our resources will always be there, but we know they won't be. We should use them like they will be gone tomorrow, every day.


Next time: keeping warm at night while watching your battery voltage drop like a rock.



Tags: Quartzsite Boondocking Adventures


Viewing 1 - 4 out of 4 Comments

04/18/2010 00:02:45

Glad to hear that Quartzsite was a learning experience!  Boondocking for that length of time definitely can be a challenge, especially if you've never done it before.

While Geoff and I were on the road for three months this winter we faced very similar circumstances.  Our Lance 845 has a solar panel, but we don't bring a generator.  We found that with driving as much as we did (10,801 miles) we relied heavily on the truck recharging the camper battery and plugged in at campgrounds or friend's houses every week and a half to two weeks.

One way we really conserved on power was the 12v inverter in the truck to charge our netbooks (10.5 hour battery life really came in handy!) and camera batteries while we drove.  Cell phones were also charged via the truck's cigarette lighter.  

Because it gets dark so early in the evening during winter months, and it was too cold to sit around outside, Geoff installed some battery operated nightlights throughout the camper.  We also picked up 3 small, inexpensive LED lanterns that we used every night rather than running the camper's lights.  

Now that we're back home, I can really see where we waste far too many resources.  In fact, I think it's been more difficult adjusting to being back than it was learning to be frugal on the road.  


01/11/2010 17:14:10
Hench - that is impressive! High altitude sub-freezing boondocking. I'm not as tough as that. I am happy for my 70 degree days!!

01/11/2010 05:46:30
Kev: i just did a two week stretch off the grid at 5000' elev. Ive never done anything that long just off gens, I was impressed with how it all worked out. I came to town once to pick uip propane for heat since it was typically below 25 degrees the entire time and I need the heat. Otherwise I had plenty of water left, and aside from all the little stuff you mentioned in your post, everything was normal. I actually used some of the hot water runoff in a shower to soak a bowl that had a tough layer of food on it and it worked out perfectly. I have l;ittle solars as well, but I use them to showcase the rig at night....because im a narcisisst about my moho. ha.
Boondocking is tight, fully off the grid and capable of surviving it makes it exciting...

01/06/2010 15:00:38

The lessons one learns while living off grid last a life time.  I think back to life just 3 years ago before adopting a boondocking full time mentality - and am shocked at myself with how wasteful I was, even when I thought I was being pretty darn environmentally responsible. 


Think of boondocking as being at Burning Man full time, and you'll do just fine :) (Minus the thumpa-thumpa, of course).  


You and Ang are doing pretty darn good for your first boondocking experience.. congrats! 


 - Cherie 

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