Living and boondocking in a travel trailer… it’s totally rad! But tiny living doesn’t allow for you to own many things.
The few things you own should be VERY useful.
Some things are must-have’s when you live off the grid as I do. Why? Partly because some places aren’t so hospitable as far as wind, sun, rain, and, er, dust.
In my first year ‘booning’, I learned what can’t be lived without in that time. Wanna know my secrets? Let’s get started…
7 Of The Best Boondocking Things…
Here are some of my top must-have items for boondocking… off the grid… dry camping life… whatever you prefer to call it.
I’ll make this as entertaining as I can. 😛
1. A Big Buddy Heater
This little pack of power can be a lifesaver. It already has for me!
One fateful night just recently, my furnace was on the fritz and the temps were getting down to about 28 degrees. 😬
The Buddy Heater saved the day (night). I left it on on low all night and it kept my 24′ travel trailer at around 68 degrees. It was almost too warm but I’ll take that over freezing.
The Buddy Heater is great to use when it’s cold and you don’t want to run down your batteries for your furnace. It’s also pretty great if you don’t HAVE a furnace.
On cold mornings, if I want to make it warm fast, I turn it on if my RV batteries are low.
Most of the time, me and The Girls are perfectly happy under my down comforter with the furnace set to somewhere around 49 degrees.
In the morning, I’ll get up and pop the Buddy Heater on to warm it up quick, sparing my battery bank.
Here’s how Gizmo stays warm. She gets INTO the duvet. Then, sometimes has a hard time finding her way back out.
Anyway, my favorite thing is to bring my Buddy Heater into the bathroom with me for a shower.
(Sorry, no video of that. 😅)
JEEZ!! CALM DOWN!!! Alright, alright!!! …but just a quickie.
Now, back to business:
With the Buddy Heater, I do wish you could set a temperature and it would maintain that temp. But you can’t- that’s not how it works. It’s either on low, medium, high, or it’s off. They come in about three different sizes. I think the Big Buddy (the largest) is perfect for my size living space.The Big Buddy Heater takes two small green “Coleman” canisters of camping propane. Or, you can get a hose to attach it to a bigger refillable propane tank, like this one:
The Big Buddy Heater takes two small green “Coleman” canisters of camping propane. Or, you can get a hose to attach it to a bigger refillable propane tank, like this one:
If you’re a full-timer, or you just don’t care to throw money away, don’t constantly buy the green Coleman propane bottles. They retail for around $3-$4 each!!! That’s crazy expensive!
There are two much cheaper solutions.
- Refill your green bottles
- Get the above hose and use a small propane tank.
How To Refill Your Green Coleman Propane Tanks
To refill the Coleman propane tanks, you only need an adapter, some CURVED forceps, and a small enough portable propane tank that you can turn upside down when full. (You have to turn it upside down when filling)
Below are the three items you need to refill your green Coleman tanks. Sure, you can click on them to get them, or any of the stock photos in this post. 😘
Here’s my little setup, sans the propane tank. I have pliers but I can see how forceps would be better. At times my curved pliers are a little too thick and I have a hard time gripping the valve inside.
Hey- Want to see what cheapskate hell looks like? Look at THIS price tag:
Yaaaaaaah…. that was in Banff National Park. Before I knew to have a stash of tanks with me. Before I knew about refilling. #WhenIWasANewbie
I could do a video showing you how, but someone else already has, and I can’t beat it.
So here it is… an awesome video showing you how to refill your green bottles.
(In a hurry? Jump to the 3:50 mark to skip the economics of filling the bottles yourself.)
2. Five Gallon Collapsible Water Containers
These are awesome! I have 6 of them. You can get these so that when you run out of water then you don’t have to move your entire house to get water. Instead, you bring the water to your house.
Usually, when I am refilling my fresh water tank in between spots, I fill these at the same time, saving another trip into town with my truck. I also use a couple to hold down my solar panels.
The 5-gallon bags weigh about 40 lbs each when they are full. Of course, you can fill them as much or as little as you would like so they aren’t too heavy.
This is a must-have so you can stay at your site for even longer without moving your house.
But wait… how do you get the water out of the and container into your rig?
Yeah, I know, one could use a pump. But remember, a pump is an electronic device. Therefore a pump = $$ purchase expense + repair costs. No thanks.
To keep it simple, all you really need is an adapter like this one:
CAUTION: Not all bag openings are the same size. I only know 100% that the bag I linked to here DOES fit this adapter. You can choose another type of bag, but just know this particular adapter may or may not fit.
No, it’s not the EASIEST setup in the world, but it is simple and cheap.
Now, if you have a huge water tank (I do not, mine is only around 25 gallons) then this could get too tedious without a pump. It depends on how much work you want to endure and how simple you want your life to be. I’m choosing simplicity.
How To Put Water In Your RV Tank
- Take the cap off of your water holding tank:
2. Attach the nozzle to your water bag.
3. Insert the nozzle into your tank and push or lean into the bag.
Leaning into it does two things:
- Pushes the water in
- Keeps you from really having to hold it up. Instead, your body does the work.
3. Portable Solar Panels
THESE THINGS ARE AMAZING! There is nothing more freeing than being able to wake up with low batteries only to have them magically charge back up during the day!!! It’s free power.
To me, it’s like a daily miracle…
Even better, you don’t have to stay in campgrounds. If you have fairly low power needs, a portable solar panel you buy will be paid off in maybe 3-6 nights of free camping. (A miracle!)
I have two 100 watt panels now that I connect directly to my two 12 volt batteries. One of the panels is wired to the other and it’s disconnectable. When I unpack, I simply get them out, set them up, connect the panels together then hook the line up to my batteries.
Let’s take a look at my setup:
Here are my two panels. On the right, a 100 panel GIVEN to me as a gift by my badass friends Denny and Veronica of RvOutlawz.com. What an awesome gift! I was needing another 100 watts and lo and behold, they provided. 😀
On the left, my Renogy suitcase 100-watt panel that I got as soon as I started boondocking full-time. The Renogy has a controller, the other one does not. (You need to have a controller so you can make sure you’re getting juice, see how many amps you are pulling in and if your batteries are full/almost full.)
Thanks to my friend and travel partner FindingMarshall, they are now wired together and work in sync so I have 200 watts of solar.
Here’s half of the reason Marshall did it and not me. I’d be this guy:
Originally, both panels came with the type of clamps you use for jumper cables. I hoped I could simply attach both sets of clamps to my battery terminals.
No can do… the panels have to be wired to each other first. Then only one set of ‘jumper cables’ should go to the batteries themselves.
Why get two panels when you can have one? Sure, I would like one 200 watt panel, but I am not made of money so these will have to do for now.
Also, never listen to me regarding any electrician work. Remember, I’m the one above testing the electric current with my tongue.
I have had trouble with the connectors on the Renogy. As the panel gets moved, the wires bend. This causes the protective coating to wear off and the wires get exposed and start to break off. This is my only beef with the Renogy solar panel. It may be a universal issue with portable solar panels.
For strength, I wrapped the wires for extra support with this ‘Wrap-Fix” tape to help strengthen those areas. Seems to be helping some.
Also, that’s why in the solar controller photo above, the wires have been zip-tied by Marshall to try to keep them from being able to move so much. …So he doesn’t have to keep fixing my shit. 😂
Here is the Renogy solar panel WITH a control panel, that I purchased from Amazon and still love to this day:
Getting Solar installed is MUCH more complicated. Just ask my friends Brandon and Kerensa of DriveDiveDevour.com. If you’re interested in getting rooftop solar, here’s a link to their solar installation on their Class A. It paid for itself quickly and afforded them the freedom of boondocking for free in the most beautiful places the USA has to offer.
4. UV sleeves
I LOVE UV sleeves! I have two sets. When driving, especially in the strong western sky, I can’t stand to have my arms getting so much sun.
I have had bouts of skin cancer (thanks, Florida) and prefer not to have any more, hence the sleeves. The ones that cover your hand for extra sun shading are the best.
I wear them A LOT in the summer:
Also, premature aging. It sucks. I don’t want it. So, UV sleeves to the rescue. 😀
5. “Sun Day Afternoon” Hat
I got this hat in 2015 and I wear it ALL THE TIME. It would be in probably every photo I have, but I take it off. Otherwise, my face would be totally shaded and all you would ever see is my hat on top of “who is that?”
Both the sleeves and the hat are two things that make up a good part of my daily wardrobe and I would be worse for wear without them.
The hat is also great when my workstation (a camp chair) is outside. If I want to sit in the sun, I can work with the sun behind me, and my hat puts just enough of a shade on my screen so I can see what I am doing.
No worries… the sun warms my back and I can still see my screen. This might not work for everyone. Cool beans.
The back has a velcro tab where you can ‘fold’ up the back and get it off of your neck if you need less coverage.
The chin strap keeps it from flying away in big winds. I use the strap at least half the time I am wearing it out here because some days are like this:
There’s a way you can tighten or loosen the band just above the brim and it’s super simple.
It’s light, collapsible and small enough to stuff in a backpack if necessary. Perfect!
6. Rayovac Flashlight/Boogeyman Exterminator
When you are all alone in the middle of the wilderness and you need to let your dogs out after dark… THIS powerhouse saves your life! Headlamps are a necessity too, but this thing is so powerful, it is a good buy for the money.
It keeps important things away, such as:
At night, I set it on high, peek out my door and do a scan around for any lurking monsters, dolls or boogeymen. When none are found, I let the girls out and keep the flashlight on them.
This light shines FAR.
Sure, there might be other/better flashlights out there, but I grabbed this one from Lowes before I launched and it has worked flawlessly ever since. It has saved me from god knows what out there.
It deserves a spot here.
7. 12 Volt Fan
Now, when you boondock and you are thrifty, you don’t have the capability to run your air conditioning because you don’t have a hefty enough generator. (You have a quiet one)
I can run my ceiling Fantastic Fan from my RV’s batteries, but some days that is not enough.
Here’s some great detailed information on portable camping generators.
I have the Yamaha EF2000is generator, and I love it, but it won’t run my A/C.
I try to stay where the climate is mild, but there are times when it’s plain HOT. When that happens, I am VERY happy to have my 12-volt fan. I can’t just leave my rig and go somewhere where there’s air conditioning because I have two dogs.
Therefore, I have to stay with them and the rig and keep it opened up.
On the hottest days, though, you would give just about anything for a few seconds of this, despite the cat’s opinion of it:
You can use it anywhere you have a 12v plug- the cigarette lighter type. It doesn’t use many watts, so it’s a great little appliance to have all around!
That’s A Wrap!
There you have it- those are some of the things I am happiest to have and MUST have to live this life full-time boondocking RV life comfortably.
You can click on any of the ‘stock’ photos above to see the item for sale online. If you do, thank you VERY MUCH for clicking through, it will help me stay on the road, blogging about full-time RV life!
Sure, I want to educate a little about this lifestyle. But mostly, I hope to make you laugh!
I’m currently exploring southern Utah, heading to Oregon for the Summer.
See ya next story!