We’ve had some great outdoor experiences during this Year of Covid-19. In fact, it seems that everyone has rediscovered the outdoors and state and national parks. For us, this year included our first off-grid, out-of-state, high-elevation, extended dry camping experience. Thankfully, we were blessed with great friends (R&M) who prepared us the best they could as they boondock often.
Drycamping? Boondocking? Why?
This last spring, we joined our travel besties Ry and Missy (names have been changed to protect the innocent) at the Robber’s Cave campgrounds in eastern Oklahoma. Full hookups, bathroom and showers were just a hop down the trail next to us. It was spring and we were unlucky enough to have a rainy weekend. We fully tested our little No Boundaries 10.6 in the rain and it’s ability to keep us dry (or not). Luckily, we were over asphalt and pulled forward just enough to avoid the constant streams of water going downhill. It was during this trip that the Ry really encouraged us to join them in Colorado later that summer. The catch? They prefer to camp on BLM and USFS land in their small Jayco trailer. Prime views and less crowded… usually. Or course, 2020 has been an outlier. We knew we could handle towing, setup, sleeping and cooking in the NobBo during rain or shine, but could we handle dry camping too? Other than a hop over to Arkansas, we hadn’t taken the NoBo/Subaru Outback towing combo for any long out-of-state road trips. Or high elevations for that matter. We were undecided.
Our decision to join them was solely based on the fact that we finally bought a truck. Did their invite kind of nudge us in that direction. Yes, yes it did. But, we were afraid that hauling the NoBo with the Subie from Oklahoma to Telluride would have been 1) anxiety-inducing, which is the opposite of camping goals; and 2) put some serious wear and tear on the Outback. The 2019 NoBo 10.6 barely falls under the Outback’s factory hitch capacity of 200lbs and towing capacity of 2,700lbs. It was time to live the Rowdy Outdoor way. We shopped around a couple weeks and found a used 2018 Ford F-150 with the full towing package, including the larger gas tank. We love it! We can now pretty much haul the NoBo anywhere we want without restrictions.
With our towing fears now put to rest, it was time to address our other dry camping needs – power, heat, water and bathroom.
1. Solar Power
Our little NoBo came with the factory-installed Insterstate battery. By this spring, it already needed to be reconditioned as it wasn’t holding a charge. After a half-dozen camping trips, we’d already realized that we could only get about 30 hours off grid running the Dometic cooler on the battery if we weren’t plugged in.
If we expected to dry camp for five-seven full days, that wasn’t going to cut it. Ry and Missy were upgrading their dual 6V batteries with some fancy, lithium ones so we upgraded ours by buying their used ones. BEST. DEAL. EVER. Why? Not only did we get the batteries, but Ry also helped us prep the trailer for the new dual 6V setup. He upgraded our wiring and helped us install a full solar solution to keep the batteries topped off. Ry sent us an entire Amazon shopping list prior to the conversion, and then proceeded to do most of the installation himself with Trey on assist in apprentice mode.
It was a full day’s work too! Pretty sure Ry’s neighbors are used to his DIY projects. 🙂 This man is a gem.
The new batteries and the two 100W solar panel setup is perfect for keeping the Dometic cooler running and powering a couple of the 110 outlets.
2. Heated Blanket
Now that we had power, we could also meet our heating needs in the simplest way possible. We bought the Serta 100W heated blanket recommended by The Camping Nerd. It worked perfectly. Paired up with our 30F rated sleeping bags, we were super cozy. The inside of the trailer is barely big enough to fit a queen-sized air mattress and is less than 50″ tall. We would close up the ramp at night and whomever got up first, would pop open the back so the person still inside could enjoy glorious mountain views while staying warm and cozy under the blankets…waiting for that first cuppa. #goals
3. Lots of Water
Almost as important as power was having enough water to rinse off every day. We brought two 5-gallon drinking water bottles (with a nifty dispenser) so we had enough potable water. The NoBo has a 30-gallon water tank. We’ve never truly boondocked before so we had no idea how long 30-gallons should last us. So…we purchased the 30-gallon Aqua Tank II Water Bag just in case we ran out. The plan was to toss the water bag in the back of the truck, fill up at the nearest potable water station, come back and hook up the water pump to bag and refill the trailer. But, we didn’t run out of water so the Aqua Tank backup plan has yet to be tested.
4. Portable Potty
From the female perspective, traipsing to the woods or the nearest bathroom or vault toilet, especially when my bladder says it needs to go at midnight, is definitely a no-go. Last year, I’d picked up a Reliance Hunter’s Loo – a bucket with it’s own seat and lid and it works perfect. Add a trash bag and your potty compost material of choice – peat moss/coconut coir/wood pellets – at the bottom, and you’re good to go for days. Personally, we’ve only tried coconut coir and wood pellets so far.
I do tend to prefer the coconut coir, even though it’s much more expensive than buying a 40 lb bag of wood pellet fuel. It weighs less, is super compact for travel, and (imo) absorbs and masks odors better. The scent of pellets and waste just… ugh. Pellets work though. Have not tried peat moss, sawdust or wood shavings yet. I usually prep a compressed block of coconut coir with enough water to keep it at a slightly drier consistency and then place 1/3 of it in the bottom of the loo and the other 2/3 in a bucket off to the side. That way, you have an absorption layer at the bottom and can sprinkle on fresh layers as needed. We’ve tried a couple different brands of coconut coir from Amazon, but none have really stood out as better (or cheaper) than the others. I don’t like having to break up the big bricks so I usually get smaller ones.
Having the lidded seat on the bucket is great, but be aware of condensation. I wiped off the seat off occasionally as the lid will collect water moisture during the heat of the day and the cold of night. Heads up – unless you have a tiny badonkadonk, you’ll probably experience some post business suction as you stand back up. I’m considering drilling a hole and placing a small air vent tube at the top of the bucket to lessen that effect. Hah!
5. Shower/Potty Tent
We bought one of those no floor, pop up tents with a zippered opening on the back side to pull in the shower head. We had some good-sized wind gusts that flattened shower tent at least once. The pegs were still in the ground, but all the twisting and constant popping up and down of the tent in the gusts loosened some of the pegs enough that the loops slipped out. Luckily, we had some extra large flat washers and nails that we picked up to secure the 9×12 outdoor rug during windy conditions. These worked perfect to secure the tent loops. For the inside flooring, we used heavy duty kitchen rubber mats on the ground. If we start boondocking more, we’ll probably build a slight platform to get further off the ground and some kind of post for holding the shower head up high. We haphazardly hung the shower head through the tent opening. A bit awkward to hold and rinse after you’ve soaped up. We did move the loo buckets out while showering.
6. Hot Water
Hot water is definitely more of a glamping item. We get that. But at our age, some things are just worth the extra effort and money. 🙂 Hubs really wanted hot showers. Temps in the mountains would drop as soon as the sun set so being able to take a hot shower in the evening was amazing. Cleaning up every night before crawling into our sleeping bags was nice…real nice. After reading hundreds of reviews, I bought one of those small Camplux on demand water heaters. Camplux does NOT guarantee usage at high elevations, but I’d read some reviews from folks who said it worked fine at 8,000 feet so we crossed our fingers that it would work at 10,000ft. It did! Getting the temperature just right was a challenge as the propane only kicks in when the water was flowing. Since we were conserving water and hand holding the shower head, we would only turn it on in bursts as needed. But hey, it worked good enough! To optimize space and travel weight, we hooked it up to the NoBo’s pressured water supply and the existing propane tank. That did require positioning both the tent and water heater right up against the trailer.
Since we’ve already had multiple trips in the NoBo, we were pretty much set for everything else.
So, how was the trip?
I’d do this trip again in a heartbeat! The Telluride area of Colorado is gorgeous. Check out our trip adventure summary post coming soon.
Got questions? Leave a comment.
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