How does professional angler, Miles Burghoff go from bass tournament to tournament? By boondocking in his 2019 Lance 975 Truck Camper. Miles weighs in on his experience boondocking without sacrificing comfort and where he stays while on the road.
When I bought my Lance 975 truck camper in 2019, I knew my lifestyle on the road, competing in fishing tournaments all around this great country, had evolved to a whole new level.
I had been dreaming of one day owning a truck camper which would afford me comfort, convenience and flexibility on the road.
From day one, I knew there were plenty of reasons why the RVing lifestyle was the way to go, but I quickly found unforeseen benefits that have become key reasons why I will continue living in some form of RV while on the tournament trail.
The ability to “boondock,” or set up camp without the need for external water or electrical hookups, is one thing that has transformed the way I travel and save money on the road. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the last few years.
First off, I need to clarify that my definition of “boondocking” may vary greatly from what some consider remote camping, or overland RVing. It has become very popular, especially among truck camper owners, to take their rigs into remote locations and live for extended periods. With this sort of boondocking, the experience is all about living simply and practically, in a beautiful remote setting, but not necessarily out of the need to save money. It’s all about the experience of — how my friends at Battle Born would put it — “getting out there, and staying out there!”
For me, boondocking while competing in tournaments is geared towards saving money, without sacrificing comfort. Besides, with gas prices at all time highs, my travel expenses have been on the rise, so using the versatility of my truck camper has really helped me avoid some other costs that I once had to bite the bullet on.
Admittedly, in most situations, I’m going to be booking RV sites in campgrounds that offer full hook-ups, or at least water and electric. For a week long event, I will have all the water and power I need to keep comfortable, charge my boat batteries, and use demanding appliances like my air conditioner and microwave.
However, there are many situations, such as events that are only a few days long, or if I need to stop in the middle of a cross-country trip, that don’t warrant the need for a campsite, where boondocking is a reasonable option.
PREPARING FOR BOONDOCKING
The biggest key for boondocking is making sure you are prepared!
The most important considerations are electrical power, propane, and water.
Let’s start with electrical power. Many of the amenities that I will need in my truck camper require good, off-the-grid power to operate. My Lance has two different options for boondocking power- a battery system, and a built in propane generator.
My first system, that I lean on, is my rock-solid, 12-volt battery system that includes- you guessed it- two 100 Amp-Hour 12 Volt Battle Born Batteries rigged in parallel. You’d be amazed how much power you get out of this battery system, and how many appliances work off of this system alone. Everything in my truck camper, other than the A/C, the microwave, and the 110V electrical outlets, work off of this system.
Since the lithium batteries last so long, I often will never have to turn on the generator to supplement the battery system, especially during the colder months. Sure, when things are hot during the summer, I will need the generator to run the A/C for a bit to cool things down, but other than the heat of the summer, my batteries are more than sufficient to run the furnace during cold nights, or the fans during warm ones. Usually, I only need the battery system to last for one night, because in the mornings, I’m heading to the launch ramp, or hitting the highways again, and my batteries will recharge through my truck’s alternator. I also have a 100-watt solar panel to help top off the batteries during the day.
As far as the generator goes, I certainly do use it from time to time, but again, only when I need to use the microwave, or to run the A/C for a bit during the hottest months when opening all your windows and keep the fans running comfortable. I will turn it on occasionally to make sure the batteries are sufficiently charged from time to time, but you will rarely have any issues if only leaning on them for the night, as I usually am.
As far as fresh water and propane, I always like to top off both systems before a trip, and since my camper features only two 20-pound LP tanks, I like to carry a spare with me for extended trips.
LP is especially important because in conjunction with my battery system, I can power not only my water heater, but also my furnace, the generator, or even my refrigerator- which I ALWAYS recommend using LP power to operate for boondocking as opposed to DC power, which I have found to be much less efficient for this purpose.
WHERE TO STAY
For me, once I figured out how easy it was for me to be completely self contained off-the-grid, I was a little concerned where I would be able to stay safely for free. Turns out, there are plenty of good options out there!
I have learned that there are some great businesses that allow you to stay in their parking lots for short periods of time. I wouldn’t recommend staying for more than a couple days in any of these places, but for short stays, places like Walmart and Cracker Barrel are businesses that can be found anywhere in the country, and are RV-friendly.
Walmart parking lots are perhaps my favorite in general, because they offer constant security, and there’s usually no shortage of level parking spots. It’s also a bonus to have pretty much any item you might need a short walk from your camper, at any point of the day or night!
Cracker Barrel’s are also good, and are known to be accommodating to RV’s, but I usually only use them for overnight stays. They usually don’t seem to have much security, but are much quieter than Walmart’s tend to be.
Other than these businesses, there are many others that I have stayed by, but a big key is to look for very large parking lots which have plenty of open space where you won’t be taking up parking spots from other customers.
Other options for boondocking locations can be launch ramps, rest stops, and truck stops. Though rest stops and truck stops are usually hassle free, I’m reluctant to stay in these because of noise from semi’s and the lack of security in most situations. Also, though it might seem convenient to stay at the boat launch you are launching from, I have found that often these launch ramps either have no security, or too much security that doesn’t want people taking overnight stays.
In the end, I prefer being at a place that offers the most security, and is being used by many other people -preferably other RVers in transit- which is why Walmart is my go-to.
Wherever you decide to stay, be sure you use your best judgement and common sense, practice awareness, and always be prepared to have a plan-B location if for whatever reason the first area doesn’t work out.
One additional tip I can offer is if your camper is equipped with a backup camera and a monitor you mount in your truck, I like to bring the monitor inside my camper (if it’s a rear-entry model) so I can see who’s at the door if anyone ever comes knocking. I personally have never had anyone knock on my door, but if this does happen, I’d like to know who’s there before I open it.
In every camper you have two different holding tanks, one for grey water (from the shower and the sinks), and one for black water (from the toilet). Part of preparing for a boondocking trip is making sure both of these tanks are empty before you depart.
In the case of my truck camper, I have about a 26-gallon black tank, and a 30-gallon grey tank.
The black tank usually takes at least a couple weeks before it needs to be emptied, so I usually don’t have any worries as far as that tank.
The grey water tank, however, fills up pretty quick with a shower every day. I’d say, on average, I can go about 4-5 days of normal shower use before it fills up. You could probably stretch that another day or two if you are really conscious of your water usage.
As far as dumping options, there are many different truck travel centers that actually offer tank dumping services. Many Flying J’s have this option to dump your tanks for a small fee. Ask any Flying J for a booklet that shows where each of their travel centers are and what services they offer, so you can find a place to dump your tanks.
Another option, which depends on the disposition of the person you ask, is to ask a campground owner or attendant if you could offer $20 or something to dump your tank in their dump station. Some people look at you like you’re crazy, and others are quick to oblige.
WHAT ABOUT THE BOAT?
In the past, boondocking would have been a pretty big hassle due to the fact that your boat batteries always need constant charging every night.
Old lead-acid batteries are just not powerful enough to go fishing for multiple days without charging them at night. Now, I will never make the recommendation not to charge your batteries every night, especially when money is on the line, but what I will say is that I have never had a situation where my Battle Born’s failed me when I fun fish for two days without hooking them up to a charge.
However, one thing that I also have installed in my Phoenix bass boat, that keeps both the trolling motor system, and house batteries, topped off, is the Power Pole CHARGE system. It is a power-balancing system that connects all my batteries and charges both systems as needed throughout the day. With the CHARGE system, I can keep a pretty high-level of charge on my batteries due to the fact that my engine’s alternator is supplying juice to the system while I’m running from spot to spot.
That all being said, if I’m going to boondock while fishing a smaller event like a BFL tournament, I always like to turn on my built-in generator and use it to top-off my trolling motor batteries just to be safe. For longer, and bigger events, I will always keep my batteries charged each night. Again, when money is on the line, you should never take any chances!
The best part is, with the fast charging capabilities of the lithium batteries, matched with the fact the CHARGE is keeping the system topped off while on the water, it won’t take much time for you to get a full charge with the generator.
In the end, I have found that boondocking isn’t the best choice for my week-long tournaments, but for smaller events, and brief stays while in transit, boondocking is a great way to save money- and a great benefit of traveling in an RV!
As a self proclaimed “road warrior” I wouldn’t travel any other way.