RV Living – Dropping Off The Grid

This state park in Alabama is about as close as we ever wanted to get to boondocking.

This state park in Alabama is about as close as we ever wanted to get to boondocking.

For the majority of people living in their RV are doing so for the sheer freedom of mobility. I interviewed a lot of people for the book about why they were living on the road. The vast majority were retired couples adopting the lifestyle so they could tour the country or spend their time where the weather was always perfect.

Everyone should do that once…chase a year of perfect weather. Spend the winter somewhere warm, like Texas or Florida, and a summer up north somewhere. That endless summer experience is one of the best parts of RV living and you should do that at least once. But I digress.

Another aspect to RV living were people adopting the lifestyle so they could drop off the grid. I don’t mean just the electric grid, but that too. Those are the people who, literally, just want to get away from it all. You can totally do that in an RV but there are issues you need to think about before heading out.

Wilderness Campers

There are a few RV and camper models designed specifically for really rugged back country living. Red Deer, Northwood, Open Range and Bigfoot have back country models worth checking out. If you have an insane amount of money, you could step up to an EarthRoamer or, if you’re not rich, ransom one of the kids. Most true boondockers find stock campers coming up short and customize their own for bigger battery banks, extra propane, higher ground clearance, more solar capacity and way more 12 volt outlets. Scamps are popular models to customize for back country living because they’re narrow and, with some suspension work and larger rims you can get them almost high enough to be Jeep towable. Here’s a Scamp 5th wheel conversion.

You Still Have To Come Back Down

An RV solar kit, like this 200 watt add-on system is a necessity for off-grid living.

An RV solar kit, like this 200 watt add-on system is a necessity for off-grid living.

Most boondockers are campers rather than full timers. It’s a hardy few who want to adopt that lifestyle as a permanent way of life and you still have to come back to civilization once in awhile. BLM limits your wilderness stay to two weeks and before that you’re going to run out of freshwater and your septic tanks are going to be full. You’ll have to either go somewhere to empty the black water tank and fill up on clean water or you’ll have haul your waste in a special carrier, called a blue boy. You’ll also need a lot of solar panels or a generator, which means you’ll need gas for that, too. Boondocking is not my idea of fun and, as a lifestyle, you really have to be committed to it.

I’ll be honest about my bias…for the wife and I roughing it is staying at a park that doesn’t have 50 amp service and a pool. A state park campground is about as close to roughing it as we ever wanted to get.

Domicile

Living in the wilderness will also present a challenge about residency. All of our governmental processes hinge upon you having a permanent address. When you don’t have an address, the state loses out on tax money and population figures. There are also the problems of licensing for your vehicles, insurance, voting and your driver’s license. Homeland Security is making it harder for states to accommodate people in RVs, boats and other off-normal living arrangements. Florida, Texas and South Dakota are the usual choices for what’s called a “domicile” and then you need an address. South Dakota has tried to limit voting rights for RVers at least once and it’s an ongoing issue up there. There are services in all those states, like Escapees in Texas, that help you with an address and mail forwarding. These days you can also have digital scans of your paper mail forwarded to you electronically.

What you’ll discover is that living off the grid is possible but it’s hard to do as a lifestyle. Mobile living is a lot more comfortable with shore power and if you spend long periods of time at a campground you can use it as an address. You can do wilderness camping for weeks at a time but, sooner or later, you’ll need to come down from the mountain and plug in for a while.

Who would bust up a strip club and take on the Russian mob to solve a mystery? These guys. Click on the picture to get your copy!

Who would bust up a strip club and take on the Russian mob to solve a mystery? These guys. Click on the picture to get your copy!

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