When we got on the road in December last year, we thought we’d stay in RV-parks all the time and did not really think about staying in the middle of no-where. Mostly because of the inconvenience of not having water and sewer. The exception was when we were between destinations and stayed at a Walmart, Cracker barrel or at a rest area.
As we headed further West things opened up and more and more opportunities to boon-dock arose. Especially in Arizona and Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – Lands were abundantly available. The first time we spent the night in Dispersed Camping was close to the Grand Canyon when a friend suggested to stay in one particular spot. We enjoyed it so much that we stayed another night. Of course the Grand Canyon made it an easy decision and we might have stayed even longer but we had to be at a convention in Provo Utah. On our way from the Grand Canyon we stayed at Dispersed Camping again. Each time we set up camp in the dark and were amazed where we were in the morning. In Arizona we woke up in the forest with no one else in sight. In Utah we woke up on a small field with mountains around us. Just recently we stayed near the Salt Flats at the Nevada border in Utah and loved it.
I think we like Dispersed Camping so much because we are connected to our surroundings much closer, we are seeing things from a completely different angle and in a way are feeling more free than in an RV park worrying about the noise and occasional chaos in our trailer at an RV park. The children are less restricted and can do things more freely. We as parents don’t have to worry about the well-meant opinions of other people of how to bring up our children. In general there are much fewer restrictions than in any RV-park.
We are also closer connected as a family as we have to spent more time together. We play games, have bicycle races, the children built a fort together etc. But there is of course time to step back and have some alone-time.
Up until then…
we had to learn how to set up and live in an RV. We were looking for the comfort of hook-ups for power, sewer and water. It did not take us long to figure it out and we became very comfortable. I trained Noah and Sebastian to help set up and break down and everyone has their responsibilities. We can move within 2 hours if we did not prepare anything the day prior, faster if we get a few things done the night before.
But one thing seemed to be missing. We did not explore much, go on hikes or bike rides. We went to the pool a lot and the kids spent a lot of time in the club house and with other kids. The first time we went hiking was in Arizona when we went up Cathedral Rock. We made it a point to go hiking that time. Yes before we went to visit towns, the beach or other sights but we had to travel there and set up camp and of course pay. Much of this changes when you are camping on BLM Lands.
What we’ve learned so far
Of course you need certain things to live in an RV. Power – we have a (gas powered) generator and one solar panel on the roof of the trailer; Water – until now we always bought water at the store and used tap water with the Birkie; and Food – we have a Costco membership and can store food in various places. Of course we need to do laundry once a week and run a few other errands as well. The Internet is important for us to have for our business. And then of course we have to empty the tanks every now and then.
With the generator we get enough power to run one A/C. Of course it runs on gas and with the prices currently (Thanks to the current administration) we need to be mindful of how much we use it. With the one gas can we are carrying with us we have enough power for about 3 days. Food we usually buy with a few exceptions for one to two weeks.
Water we store in a large tank in the trailer. I always was worried about the extra weight and the water moving while we were traveling, but it has been fine. So now we carry about 60 gallons fresh water in the tank. We also have another two 10 gallon tanks in the back of the van. Water is a precious commodity when you’re boon-docking. We never have enough for our family so we have to constantly get more. Most gas stations with a dump station have potable water as well but in the dessert near the Bonville Salt Flats none of them did. We had to buy water at the store once we ran out. we went to the swimming pool one day to refresh and got on the road again a couple days later.
Of course you need water for the dishes as well but you can limit that by cooking food that does not require a lot of dishes like grilling or the pressure cooker and use disposable plates which we do not like to do.
In the forest we told our boys to use gods bathroom and saved water this way as well.
For the internet when parking on BLM land we look at our phones for cellular service and internet. Certain apps ie. Campendium will give you a good idea about cellular service. Through a tip of friends we started using the wifi hot spot from T-mobile and have had great results. Our phones are using the Verizon network but the T-mobile router has been the go to source for internet.
Campendium is a great source free campgrounds or dispersed parking, dump sites and amenities. Another app we have used is The Dyrt.
But I found out recently that the Garmin GPS I bought especially for our RV travels has all this built in and I get the directions for a rig our size rather than for a regular car. I can avoid tolls and dont have to worry about a bridge being too low or weight restricted. It has also been better finding spots to stay than the app.
Are we worried about anything?
I come from Germany and we do not have any harmful animals in the wild. Coming to the US and knowing there are venomous snakes, scorpion, bears and mountain lion makes me think when we are in the forest or elsewhere in the wilderness. But people have lived with them for a long time. Usually most creatures want to be left alone so we told the children to make a lot of noise and stomp their feet when we are walking outdoors and to avoid certain areas or be extra careful. Mountain lions and bears are rare enough that we don’t worry about them.
As a homeschooling family we are aware that certain states have stricter laws than others. We have our routine every morning and are usually done around one o’clock. occasionally when we go hiking we learn on the road, read in the car and being outside in nature is a way of learning in itself. We are members of Home School Legal Defense just in case we run into any issues.
The same thing could happen with any kind of laws so we are checking those online before we cross state borders.
Leaving our trailer unattended
When we staying near the Grand Canyon we obviously wanted to go see it. We arrived at our site in the dark and stayed pretty close to the dirt road. After school before we left for the Grand Canyon I moved the trailer a little further into the woods and we left it there. We were told by friends who coincidentally parked close to us not to leave the trailer alone with the slides in as it is easier to steal and also to get a lock for the hitch which will make it much harder, yet.
We have been enjoying our life on the road in general but have fallen in love with being out in the desert, the forest or in the mountains. You can’t get much closer to nature than this. The kids are also enjoying this lifestyle. We want to offer them both opportunities; to play with other kids and have a swimming-pool and amenities nearby but also to experience the life outdoors – near a lake, a river, the desert or the mountains.