My wife and I are big fans of boondocking (AKA dry camping) where you are not hooked up to any utilities. We have averaged boondocking about 12 nights per month for years—sometimes less and sometimes more. It’s the ultimate in convenience—after all, you can stop driving when you want to and have no obligation to keep going so you can make it to that campground where you have a reservation. Boondocking is also a great way to save money. Typically there’s no cost to boondock.
However, there are times when boondocking is really not convenient and those are when the outside temperatures are “somewhat” extreme. No, I’m not talking about a heat wave or blizzard conditions here.
We have found over the years that it is just more convenient (easier) to get a campground, plug in the RV, and use the electric shore power during those temperature extremes. For example, when it is hot—and I’m talking about hot enough that you really need air conditioning turned on—if you boondock, you must run that generator to run those AC units. We have actually ran our generator for 24 hours. If you happen to be in a location with little or no breeze, or that breeze is just hot air, you will be miserable trying to set in your RV or outside and sleeping is equally miserable. You need air conditioning—well, at least we do. If you can live comfortably without the AC, so be it. Be my guest!
The same logic applies when it is cold outside—at least below freezing. Those propane furnaces may not keep you toasty warm. It’s always best to use the roof-mounted heat pumps to supplement any heat source. However, to use those heat pumps, you must be running the generator or plugged into shore power.
If your RV has hydronic heating (we have had both the AquaHot System and Oasis System in our motorhomes), in the coldest of times, we will actually set up a combination of heat pumps (the roof-mounted units) and the hydronic system to heat our motorhome. For example, when we go to bed (in below-freezing weather unless it is too cold) we try to run th hydronic heat in the rear zone (where the bed is located) and middle zone (where the bath is located) and run a heat pump up front (remember, this is at night and we are in bed in the rear of the RV). However, some heat pumps have a type of “low temperature cutoff” meaning they won’t run when the outside temperature reaches a certain point. We have stayed (totally comfortable) in our motorhome when the outside temperature dropped to 12° F (11° C) for several days and we do not use any supplemental heaters.
The bottom line here is that while boondocking is easy (after all, we do it all the time), temperature extremes may cause you to rethink your usual process.
Some of you may gasp at the thought of running a generator all day (for AC) or all night (for heat). However, the generator is designed to run (so long as you have a load on it). ACs and heat pumps are an excellent load.
Also, the thought of fuel costs for the generator may cause a second gasp. However, my research on a 10Kw generator (in my previous motorhome) found that it used a little less than 1/3 gallon of fuel per hour running a half-load. (If diesel costs $2.40 per gallon, that is an 80¢/hour fuel cost to run the generator. I rounded this off at $1.00/hour cost so overnight, or 8 hours, would cost me $8.00.) This is NOT an exorbitant price to pay for parking AND heat or AC.