The “fiixin’ to” period, before you leave for your Boondocking destination, is a critical time to take care of all the concerns that will make for successful adventures. I would like to share some of the steps we are taking in getting ourselves ready to take the plunge.
MAKING THE DECISION
Maybe you are like us. We’re “fixin’ to” get started as full-time Boondockers. My wife and I have worked our entire lifetimes, raised a family of five, own a home, and have accumulated a ton of Stuff. I use the word Stuff, with a capital “S”, to indicate a special class of possessions that takes on a life of its own and may have overtaken yours!
We made a proactive choice to leave it all behind and hit the road, going where we want, when we want. We agreed to take six months to make all the preparations we need to start serious full-time Boondocking. We’d like to share some of the concerns we are dealing with as we get ready to go.
Homeownership - Owning a home is major Stuff! You may decide, as we have, to remove the financial burdens of homeownership. It’s not an easy choice to make, especially if you’ve lived in the same place for a long time. Not having a secure place to return to is like going into free fall, so take plenty of time making honest evaluations of your choices.
There are options to consider. We are lucky to have a son who loves our home place in the country and is willing to buy us out. Rather than sell to an unknown stranger who has no emotional stake in our past, we are passing it along to someone who appreciates it. We will still have that special place to visit as long as we stay in our son’s good graces!
Other Stuff - During a person's lifetime, just following the routine day-to-day course of events, most people manage to acquire a lot of Stuff! The clutter and maintenance burden can become overwhelming. You may wonder how you ever got to the place of massive accumulation! Boondocking is typically a minimalist activity, having everything you need for existence packed into an RV. What you needed in the past will likely not be needed as you pursue a new lifestyle.
There are several different ways to liquidate your assets. You may be able to get a fair return on your investments by selling your goods at garage sales or through Craigslist. You can pass some of your treasured possessions on to children and other family members. Donating material goods to charitable organizations that operate thrift stores will benefit others. We are in the process of parting with all the outdoor power toys, equipment, and household furnishings that we will no longer need. Honestly, it is a very freeing experience.
Budget - To gauge your financial ability to sustain a new lifestyle, you may want to design a conceptual monthly budget based on what you anticipate spending on the road. Include all the fixed payments you will need to make, then estimate the amount you will spend on groceries, gas and incidental items. The next challenge is to try to live within the limits of your design. Good luck with that one - old spending habits die hard! Living on a trial budget will help you get accustomed to spending within boundaries.
Savings - One major step in designing your Boondocking finances is pumping up a special savings account for major unforeseen circumstances. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a relatively new RV setup, you will likely have some major maintenance expenses. A failed transmission will take a big chunk of money to replace. Whether you’re traveling in a self-contained RV or a towed unit, there are a lot of moving parts that just plain wear out. You have a distinct advantage if you are a do-it-yourselfer who can tackle most minor repairs. The money you save by not paying someone to do the work can be invested in extending your travels.
Boondocking can be compared to starting your own business. Unless you can arrange a job that allows you to work remotely, you may give up the security of a steady income. Many experts advise start-up business owners to have enough money in reserve to survive for one year. Putting this same strategy to practice for your Boondocking adventures can make the difference between a happy, successful year or heading home in defeat.
PREPPING YOUR RV
Getting your RV in shape and well prepared is another task that can be tackled during the “fixin’ to” period. Time spent now tending to a few important components can save you hours of frustration if you break down on the road.
Power systems - The power converter in your RV does several things. When your RV is plugged into a campground power source, it provides 120 volt AC power to your air conditioner, microwave, entertainment system, and wall outlets. It provides 12-volt power to your lighting system. Most importantly, it charges the battery that lets you operate your lights, slides, and landing gear when not plugged up to a campground outlet.
We purchased a previously-owned fifth wheel with a defective power converter. As a result, we have had to use a charger to keep the 12-volt battery fresh. Instead of replacing the converter at a cost of more than $500, we are considering solar panels, a converter, and additional batteries. This system would enable us to run our 12-volt lights, landing gear, and slide out without the need to plug into a 120-volt power source. The converter component puts out 120 volts that can power low wattage devices like computers and fans.
A gas-powered generator that puts out enough juice to run the AC and microwave is really valuable if you plan on doing remote Boondocking. Look for a unit with an outlet that accepts a 30 Amp RV plug. Generator noise can be especially annoying when you’re camping beside a pristine mountain stream. Checking manufacturers specs can provide you with the information you need to make an intelligent choice,
Freshwater system - A properly functioning system is a must if you are going to be Boondocking at off-grid sites where no hookups are available. Personal hygiene and dishwashing are essential daily habits. Remember, you will have a finite amount of water to use, compared to the unlimited supply from a campground spigot.
Make sure that your freshwater tank is clean and sanitary. Achieving this may take several fills with a chlorine bleach solution. The 12-volt pump operates “on-demand”, so try it out to make sure it is working when not connected to a city water system.
Tires and wheel bearings - These two important parts of your RV demand serious attention. Blowouts on the road can not only slow down your progress but can also cause you to lose control of your rig. Changing a tire on a road shoulder puts you in a potentially dangerous location where you can be struck by a passing vehicle. Investing in a good set of new tires will pay you back with peace of mind.
Wheel bearings need regular attention. These wearing parts take a lot of punishment running long distances - especially in hot weather. It’s important to keep them well greased. Installing Bearing Buddies enables you to grease the bearing without the hassle of removing the metal cap. Bearings need to be adjusted periodically so they turn smoothly without excessive free play.
ORGANIZING YOUR RV HOME
Here’s another area of preparation that will make a big difference in making your travels smooth and stress-resistant.
RV Storage Compartments- Storage areas on most RV’s are irregularly shaped, making it difficult to judge how they can be packed efficiently. You may have had the experience of needing something you know is in a compartment, but you end up pulling everything else out of a mangled mess to find it. It doesn’t have to be that way.
We are fortunate to live in an age where countless sizes, forms, and varieties of plastic bins are readily available. Carefully select your containers to take advantage of the storage area configuration. Needless to say, put bins with items that will be used often at the front of or on top of other bins. Try several different layouts until you’ve maximized your use of available space.
Work Areas- If you plan on working while Boondocking, set up a well-designed, dedicated area for that endeavor. An inviting workspace helps keep you motivated and productive.
My wife operates a quilting and sewing business. To create a workspace for her projects, we placed a piece of plywood over the dinette table and benches. We like eating outdoors or sitting on the sofa, so the loss of that dining area is no problem. In addition, we now have lots of extra storage space under the work area.
Me? I’m just a writer. A notebook, pencil, and laptop computer are all the tools I need to be productive. My workspace? Give me a camp chair outdoors in a natural environment and I’m ready to go. Getting close to nature stimulates my creative thinking as well as calms my soul.
IN THE MEANTIME…
Don’t rush it!
Set a realistic target date for the completion of your preparations. Whatever length of “fixin’ to” time you decide on, learn to enjoy the journey. The anticipation of reaching your goal can keep you motivated to move through into real Boondocking. You might not be on the road yet, but having the intention and commitment to step out and do it makes you a Boondocker of the mind and spirit!
Dream and plan! Let your imagination take you to all the amazing places that will be available to you. You can choose to enjoy the adventure of Boondocking from where you are right now.