Six months on the open road are now under my belt and while this still makes me a rookie as an RV Nomad, I feel it’s enough time to have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. I now have enough experience to pontificate a bit on the subject of camping, the ways we all camp and how they affect us on a day-to-day routine.
I’ve also sat around enough campfires to date to know what some of the greatest debates are amongst the full time RVer community. One of these common debates often puzzles me. It’s an argument I’ve heard time and time again. It’s the great debate on which is better… boondocking or full hook ups?
I feel most RVers are biased on this topic. Those who can’t live without hook ups are die hard on their position. Those who boondock and live off the grid often times view resort campers in a different way.
My view is very objective because I see and enjoy the benefits of both, and I don’t really side with one over the other. I’ve spent half of my time on the road in RV Parks and the other half out in the boonies. I love and hate them both.
For me personally I like good mix and probably always will. I come from Chicago where I had an apartment right in the heart of the city. I could walk to Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Starbucks, Best Buy, Home Depot and a plethora of other retailers that made my life super easy. I lived on the 21st floor and had a trash chute right outside my door. I never had to worry about water consumption/use, I had some of the fastest internet available in America and I enjoyed enormous control over the temperature of the indoor environment.
That was six months ago. Today I’m writing this post from the Northeast corner of the Wellington fairgrounds in the panhandle of Texas. A year ago I never would have imagined I would be living in a corner of a fairground. A year ago I probably would have laughed at the thought. I probably would have even passed unfair judgement on anyone who could live this way.
But today it’s where I’m at. Quite frankly… I’m totally content with it. Yes, I’m content living in an RV parked in a fairground. For some of you this may seem completely normal. For most of society, however, this is seemingly absurd.
Being here provoked me to think about the past six months and the styles of living I’ve enjoyed (and loathed). When it comes to the great debate on boondocking vs full hook ups I consider myself in the middle with a slight lean towards boondocking.
Let’s look at the two from that perspective.
I’m going to say something here that may offend full hook up campers. Please don’t let it. It’s not personal and it’s not meant to discredit full hook up campers. As I mentioned above, I’m in the middle. I appreciate and see extreme value in both.
But in my view RVers who boondock are a completely different genre of RVers. It takes a special drive to do this. It takes grit and determination that you just don’t have to be mindful of when hooked to 50 AMP in a resort with sewer always connected and fresh water always flowing.
Boondockers RV at an entirely different level. The contrast between the two styles of living could not possibly be wider. I have zero doubt that the vast majority of RVers would NEVER be able to boondock for weeks or even months at a time. Zero.
When you’re hooked up in RV park you don’t worry about water usage, power availability and tank dumps. You don’t worry about running your AC when it’s hot, you don’t worry about trash, you can take real showers and you won’t consume nearly as much propane. These are things you can take for granted when RV park camping.
When out on public lands, in a Walmart parking lot or in dry camping areas, however, you constantly have to process your usage of any resource needed to survive. It becomes a part of your routine. You have no choice.
You brush your teeth faster and with less water. You collect the first gallon of water to fall out of your shower as you check the temps and use that water for dishes. You consume less to ensure less trash accumulates. If you don’t have solar you schedule your heavy electricity usage around the time of day you want to run your generator. And if you run a generator you need to properly plan fuel storage/levels.
Your cellular availability will often not be ideal. You may have to drive down the road or walk up a hill to upload a YouTube video. You may not be able to be plugged in to email, social media and other various communication tools for days or weeks at a time.
The list goes on and on. You have to be mindful and actively monitoring all of this all the time.
The truth is most RVers have no interest in this routine. For most it seems counter-productive to the idea of relaxing and enjoying one’s self with as few requirements as possible.
Coming from big city life where answers to any question are provided by an app, I can summon someone to come solve my problems within hours, I can download full HD movies in a matter of minutes, I never have trash laying around and I can shower for 20 minutes if I want… this has been quite a transition. A difficult transition, no doubt, but one with extraordinary reward.
You see, when I’m in a campground there is always movement, noise, crowds, lack of space and too much light at night. Usually the view from the windows of this Class A is nothing short of other RVs. I walk outside and immediately find myself caught in conversations with strangers that I may not be keen to have. There is no peace. There is no majestic outdoor experience. There is no room.
Boondocking, while it comes with its challenges and long lists of tasks you can’t avoid, provides benefits you just cannot find in most campgrounds. Tranquility, peace, views, fresh air, inspiring environments and nature that is typically only seen in magazines and movies.
I’ve had the opportunity to watch thunderstorms move across prairies, see sunrises over majestic mountains and stare at ridge silhouettes in the midnight moonlight. When boondocking my front yard is typically the size of an entire city block. And I have it all to myself. I’ve seen wild horses five feet from the passenger side slide. I’ve watched deer roam outside and I’ve watched critters as they life their way through nature.
I’ve sat with friends at Lake Mead and watched, for the better part of an hour, the sky change colors like a 4K epic movie. I’ve breathed air fresher than I’ve breathed for the past ten years. I’ve listened to waves hit the shore and streams flow down crevices.
None of this happened in an RV park. None of it happened while hooked up. Boondocking provides a new world where we can experience the planet in its simplest, most natural form. Yes, it takes work. Yes, it takes grit and determination. But the payoff is outstanding. The reward is imply unmatched.
I love it. I thrive on it. But there is no question that after three or so weeks of it… I’m ready for some time to break away from the boondocking grind. It’s kind of funny, actually. After several weeks of boondocking I just want 50AMP power and a long hot shower with a trash dumpster within walking range. On the other hand after several weeks in a campground I want to drive as far off into the wilderness as I can and get away from everyone/everything.
So I head to a campground, check in and get set up.
CAMPGROUNDS – RV PARKS
If campgrounds and RV Parks are all you’ve ever experienced then you probably see no issue with them. They’re familiar, convenient and give you all the amenities you need right outside your door. They make life easy and enjoyable.
For the first few months of RVing I stayed almost exclusively at RV Parks. At the time I figured that was the way it was always going to be. It was my default approach and I didn’t really consider any other avenue. This was RVing in my mind.
Two months spent bouncing between RV parks was just fine. I was learning the ropes, meeting new and interesting people, learning how to manage and maintain a coach and learning the basics of RV life. I was comfortable, productive and enjoying life.
This all changed, however, when our convoy began boondocking while heading west. Suddenly we were parking at the base of epic mountains. We had space as far as the eye could see. We didn’t have a checkin our checkout time and we moved at whatever pace we damn well pleased.
This taught me the downsides of RV parks. From that point forward I became frustrated with only having 10 feet between myself and the rig next door. I didn’t like being told I couldn’t have a camp fire. I didn’t like hearing dogs bark at all hours and it began to feel just like living in the city… only in a smaller house.
That said, the ability to do laundry, run all the AC’s, power my Mac Pro throughout the day and have constant access to high speed internet was in its own way very refreshing. Campgrounds come with their stresses for those of us who have boondocked for long periods of time, but they can also act as stress relievers for… those of us who have boondocked for long periods of time.
Additionally, I’ve met people who have become great friends, business partners and amazing co-collaborators while staying in RV Parks. Relationships were created in campgrounds that I suspect will last for the remainder of my life. That cannot be overlooked or under-appreciated.
CONCLUSION – THE WINNER IS…
There are no winners or losers. Both have advantages for me. Both provide a break from the other. Both offer value and reward. Both can be a critical part of a positive RV life.
Some RVers exclusively boondock while others only stay in campgrounds. Both scenarios are perfectly fine. One should not be frowned upon below the other. One should not be considered elitist over the other.
Choose what works best for you. Live the way you want, when you want and where you want. That’s the beauty of this lifestyle. Options and choice.
And I say all of this objectively because I’m currently living at a fairground in the middle of nowhere in Texas. Yet two weeks ago I had an incredibly comfortable corner space with full hook ups in Pahrump, Nevada.
Both scenarios have been rewarding and healthy.
They both win.