Water Conservation During Boondocking

In a recent ten-day stretch, we threw caution to the wind and decided to join in on the Escapee’s Xscapers QuartzsiteConvergence 2017.  We learned about this through networking with fellow RVers.  Approximately 70+ Campers and RV’ers rounded up in one location on the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) to boondock near Quartzsite, Arizona; boondocking…as in being self-contained…off the grid…no utilities.

Thinking we were well prepared, we’ve actually faced one of our toughest challenges not only as RV’ers but also as a married couple.

Continue reading “Water Conservation During Boondocking”

Our First Quartzsite Experience

In January of 2017, we boondocked in Quartzsite, Arizona with the Escapees Xscapers. Sadly, the weather was just plain snotty, cold, windy and rainy.  It reminded us of pre-winter days in New England.  Supposedly, we’ve heard that sort of weather is not typical that time of the year, but I digress.

So, what actually IS and WHERE is this place called “Quartzsite”?

Quartzsite is the Rock Capital of the World but to us RVers, its the Mecca west of the Mississippi where RVers make at least a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to. Quartzsite is located about 18 miles east of the Colorado River at the junction of US 95 and I 10 in southern Arizona.  

For the first two months of each year, this town blows up with popularity. Its famous Rock/Gem Show and Swap Meet as well as the RV Show are the town’s claim to fame. Its notoriety has grown to epic proportions as does its population from 4000+ residents to an estimated million visitors… (I’m just quoting what we’ve heard from area residents). It has become known for the largest gathering of RV’s in the whole world. We equate this to a bike week for motorcycles but for longer and with more people.

Now, if you happened upon Quartzsite during these two months, you’d see hundreds…no…thousands…no…make that tens of thousands of every possible kind of camper and RV known peppering the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) desert land ‘boondocking’ everywhere.  

You’d think we (RVers) had lost our marbles because, why would anyone buy a hundred(s) thousand dollar home-on-wheels with all the amenities to go live it up in the dry dirty desert?  Well, that question remains; we all do it for different reasons.  

 Quartzsite is an annual meeting place for some and a pilgrimage for others.  Some do it to get away from the daily grind to party it up while other more adventurous crowd goes hiking, dirt biking, or ATV riding. The usuals though, go rock shopping, RV shopping, and converge with big groups, etc.  

One thing we’ve learned; there is no right or wrong at the Q.

Captain America pulling our Landmark Liberty
 to our boondocking site near Dome Rock at the Q

Okay then, what IS ‘boondocking’?  

Also known as dispersed camping, dry camping or living off the grid, its when people, who live in homes on wheels or fabric houses go out and park in the middle of nowhere to live with limited or no amenities or hookups. That whole ‘let freedom ring’ thing. And, because its on BLM land, we really do it for free (up to 14 days per BLM).  There are no campground or utility fees unless you opt for one of the local campgrounds or RV parks.  

For us, our first Quartzsite experience was actually the perfect time to get away from the television because of the upcoming Presidential Innauguration. We had talked about trying this whole boondocking thing before and what better time than to start where there are amenities should we fail miserably at it.

So, being this was our first ‘long term’ boondocking adventure (more than 2 days at a time), this was a genuine learning experience.  

Owning our Landmark 365 fifth wheel with a residential refrigerator, convection oven, induction cooktop, keurig coffee maker, and other electricity suckers surely presented some huge power challenges. With a little ingenuity, patience and nerve, we got ourselves through.  

We called our friends…

A couple days after our arrival, we contacted our Heartland RV friends, Emily and Tim of OwnLessDoMore, who weren’t very far away and asked them to join us. They too, were new boondockers, so we did this whole experimentation gig together. Tim and Captain Dan worked on figuring out our dry-camping electrical power while Emily and I either relaxed, blogged or attended an Xscaper member-presentation or two…or bitched about having no electrical power.

Oh, about that ‘electrical power’…

Our coach was equipped with a 1000 watt inverter (because we have a residential refrigerator). Our battery bank lasted only about six hours which meant we needed to run our generator a few times a day to charge two batteries to keep running off that inverter. As we’ve shared in a previous blog posting, our Wen Generators have been our saving grace to allow us to boondock and going off the grid. 

But we also had to run the generator at meal times because, like I mentioned above, our coach is ‘all electric’ (convection oven and induction cooktop). We had to monitor our electric usage and not have it running all day or night. 

We also needed to run one of the generators during the night to supply power to a CPAP machine that requires humidification for one of us so that presented a whole other added issue.  

Since, Dan installed a 12volt DC outlet close to the bed so we could plug in the CPAP to feed off of the battery bank so we don’t have to run a genny during sleeping hours. 

Sounds simple, right?

To do that though, meant we had to beef up our battery bank from two 12volt house batteries to four 6volt house batteries when we got back to Texas in the next months.  We figured approximate cost for that mod would amount to a cool grand ($1000). We estimated that would enable us to run on battery power from 18-24 hours barring use of the convection oven, induction cooktop, and both AC’s. (Note: at the time of writing this, we don’t have solid data yet).

Though we enjoy owning a full electric coach, our issue of cooking while not tethered to an electrical source meant we needed to fire up at least one of the generators just to boil water.  Seriously???

So, anytime I needed to use any appliance that produced heat or excessive power draw (i.e. Keurig, induction cooktop, convection oven, etc.), both generators needed to be paralleled to power the higher wattage appliances. *sigh*  

Sooooooo, that beautiful and super-convenient Keurig coffee maker I loved so much became a huge inconvenient pain in the behind! In fact, as I have learned, Keurigs are the worst energy hogs!  Additionally, anything that has a heating element of some sort replicates.

So, we had to look at plan B; pre-making our coffee when both generators were on and storing the hot coffee in our thermos.

Well, Plan B didn’t work as well as we wished as the coffee in the thermos didn’t really keep them hot-hot until the following morning (24 hours).  So we moved onto Plan C; a French Coffee Press that Emily lent us.  Well, that made the most awesome coffee but it sure took a ton of water to clean, which then, we entered into a whole other issue; water conservation!

So, those are just a few things we learned on how to survive out there in the Arizona desert in our ‘all electric luxury’ 5th wheel. 

Now, about this whole DESERT living… 

The desert around Quartzsite is not the pictoral desert of beautiful, rolling hills of sand dunes you’ve seen in magazines.  The Arizona Desert is actually craggy and rocky with small mountains and ridges with tons of washes where torrential rain water collects in rocky trenches. What may look flat from a distance is actually deep trenches and troughs. Oh, and when it rains, you best not be anywhere near them as they flood quickly which is one of the reasons why ‘we’ parked up on high ground.

There are Saguaros Cactus, Chollas, Prickly Pear Cactus and Barrel Cactus along with small Mesquites and Junipers peppering the landscape.  Its scruffy and quite ugly actually which leads to the question ‘why would anyone really want to go there?’ 

Well, as they say, ‘when in Rome, do as Romans do’ and we did just that. We, as RVers, went to Quartzsite because it was just the thing RVers do…at least once.

On a good note, despite the cold, wet and windy weather we experienced, Quartzsite boasts awesome scrappy terrain full of single track and double track trails; the perfect playground for Jeeps, dirt bikes, ATVs & RZRs. Being ADV riders, we took full advantage and rode through the washes and trails; as solos or with other fellow adventure riding Xscapers. 

Lisa being her rebel self
Captain Dan at the base of Dome Rock
Our Xscaper ADVer group is ready to roll

So, there you have it.  Now you know what Quartzsite or ‘the Q’ is all about and our ‘First Quartzsite Experience’. We learned a lot. We failed at some and succeeded at others but we came out alive knowing what we need to do to prepare ourselves for next year.

WEN 56200i 2000 Watt Generator – Product Review

In late 2016, we purchased
WEN 56200i 2000 watt generators for our
Heartland Landmark 365.  We planned to use these for limited dry camping
(boondocking) and for emergency situations.  These portable generators are
2000 watt inverter generators that can be run in parallel to provide up to 4000
watts and approximately 30 amps.  We purchased them from Amazon along
with a parallel kit for a total cost of less than a cool grand.  

Liberty’s Lisa posing with our new power sources.

Description borrowed from WEN’s website:

WEN 2000 Watt Inverter Generator Item: 56200i
– Extremely quiet operation is comparable to the sound of a normal conversation according to the US Department of Health and Human Services
– EPA III and CARB Compliant 79.7 cc 4-stroke OHV engine produces 2000 surge watts and 1600 rated watts
– Great for campgrounds, construction sites, tailgates and power outages
– Produces clean power to safely operate and prevent damage to sensitive electronics such as smart phones, tablets, televisions and computers
– Includes two three-prong 120V receptacles, one 12V DC receptacle and one 5V USB port
Remember when you had clean and efficient portable power? The WEN 2,000 Watt Inverter Generator produces clean energy free of voltage spikes and drops. The WEN 2,000 Watt Inverter Generator produces clean energy free of voltage spikes and drops. Designed to mirror a pure sine wave, this generator limits total harmonic distortion to under 0.3 percent at no load and under 1.2 percent at full load, making it safe enough to run laptops, cellphones, monitors, tablets and other vulnerable electronics. Generate 2000 surge watts and 1600 rated watts of power. Our 79.7 cc 4-stroke OHV engine operates at an extremely quiet 51 decibels, quieter than a window air conditioner or the average conversation. This limits its invasiveness while hunting, camping, tailgating and restoring back-up power. The lightweight design makes for easy portability while the ultra-efficient one-gallon tank provides over 6 hours of half-load run time. 
This fully-packed panel comes equipped with two three-prong 120V receptacles, one 12V DC receptacle and one 5V USB port. Maximize fuel economy by engaging the WEN 2000 Watt Inverter Generator’s Eco Mode. This feature allows the generator’s motor to automatically adjust its fuel consumption as items are plugged and unplugged from the panel, preventing the usage of unnecessary gasoline. Need more energy? Easily link up two generators using a parallel kit (sold separately) in order to share wattage amongst multiple units. Low-oil and low-fuel automatic shutdown with indication lights along with overload protection safeguard both your generator and your electronics from damage. And because this is a WEN Product, your inverter generator comes backed by a 2-year warranty, a nationwide network of skilled service technicians and a friendly customer helpline. Remember when your generator powered your electronics safely and quietly? Remember WEN.
Each weighs approximately 50 pounds and has one gallon gas tanks.

Our first thing to do was add oil and fuel to each generator and start them up to cycle the fluids through.
.37 quarts of 30W oil
1 gallon of 87 octane gasoline.
Each brand new generator took
about three pulls to start.  We let them both run at variable speeds for
about an hour and before hooking them to Liberty.

Paralleling the Wen generators using the Wen 56421 kit.
and providing full power to Liberty.

The generators were able
to provide power for Liberty’s residential refrigerator, battery
charger, lights and one 15000 BTU air conditioner with no problems.
 We only ran them for thirty minutes the first time. In the future, we
plan on conducting more evaluations to determine fuel consumption rate and
decide on what electrical appliances and devices we can power.  Liberty
has an Electrical Management System (EMS) on board that will shed power to the
desired appliances.  Liberty’s monthly maintenance plan includes
exercising the generators for two hours every month to keep them active and to
keep fresh fuel in them.  In the meantime, their light weight and small
size allow them to be stored in Liberty’s forward compartment.

After using the WEN generators for over 100 hours we are happy to report
on their success and reliability.  We have used the units in multiple
dry camping situations and one time at a campground that lost power for 14
hours.  The generators have been run for over 24 hours several times
with no adverse issues.  Ours averaged about 10 ½ hours of run time
on one gallon of gasoline.  We changed the oil in both generators
after 50 hours of use.  The oil change was straight forward and easy
to do.

Portable generators are
available from many different manufacturers and sales outlets
today.  They may not be for everybody depending on your situation,
but we have found them to be less expensive than installed systems and equally
reliable.  They have taken the anxiety out of dry camping with our
residential refrigerator and have allowed us to keep our batteries fully
charged while we contemplate if solar panels will be installed on Liberty in
the future.

Blog Post written by
Captain Dan

Disclaimer:  This review reflects only our
opinion of usage.  Though we receive commission via Amazon sales, we were not compensated in any way by WEN to publish
this review.  We will not be held liable for mishaps and/or misuse of any kind.  These opinions and review is our own.