RVing in the Rough

Essential Steps for Self-Contained RV Camping
By Brent Peterson
  |  Gorp.com
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Beachside camping with a Jayco Eagle Camping Trailer
Happy campers

Before You Go

Before departing on your back-roads adventure, make sure the fresh water and LP gas (propane) tanks are filled to capacity, your gray and black water tanks (for waste water and sewage) are empty, and you have plenty of fuel. A generator and a high-quality converter/charger are a must to keep your coach battery charged and to run energy-hogging items such as an air conditioner or microwave.

When You Get There

Upon arrival, turn on the propane and be sure to switch the refrigerator to LP gas operation. If you're cold, set the furnace, which works off the LP gas. (A space heater might be a better option, since I don't recommend running the heater at night.) Make sure the carbon monoxide, smoke alarms, and propane leak detectors are activated and in good working order. And carry extra batteries if they run off dry cells.

If you're hot, switch on the generator (usually at the touch of a button) and turn on the A/C. The generator works off gasoline, so keep an eye on your fuel tank. To activate the onboard water system, you must first activate the water pump — for hot water, turn on the water heater for a while before you plan to shower or wash dishes. Be sure the water heater is filled with water before switching it on. Onboard lights and fans are powered off the coach battery, but I like to run the generator every so often during the day for a recharge.

Your RV should have some kind of monitor panel, informing you of your exact levels of LP gas, water, and tank capacities. Check these vitals daily to avoid any surprises.

Stretch Your Resources

You should have little trouble camping in this manner for two to three days — longer if you practice some good conservation of your resources. Take quick showers and wash dishes sparingly, which frees up your water and holding tanks and eases up on the LP gas. Turn off all unnecessary lights and appliances to conserve battery space. Keep furnace usage to a minimum. Solar power is a reliable, albeit expensive upgrade, but worth considering, as is a sophisticated, three-step battery charger and high-performance batteries — also expensive, but worthy of consideration for the serious boondocker.

The benefits of roughin' it are obvious, and with a little preparation you can go where few others have gone before. As for ideas about where to exactly to go, well, I'm not sharing.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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