Boondocking Basics

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How Much Money Do I Need to Make to Live Full Time Boondocking?

How Much Money Do I Need to Make to Live Full Time Boondocking?


At the lowest, you will need to make $500.00 per month to live full time as a boondocker, and still enjoy some reasonable amenities. But to live more comfortably, you will need to make $1,000.00 per month. How much money you will need to make to live full time boondocking is largely dependent on how comfortable you want to be, and how often you want move to a new campsite.

how much money do I need to make to live full time boondocking
Full time boondocking on BLM Land, deep inside the Arizona desert

How Much Money Do I Need to Make to Live Full Time Boondocking?

The cheapest way you can live full time boondocking is to find BLM land where you can remain camped for up to a month. This lowers your fuel cost in having to move camp.

However, most BLM field offices and state offices will limit you to 14 days. But in our experience, BLM officers rarely kick out campers out who exceed their stay. Even though they may be aware you are there, enforcing occupancy limits has historically been the least of their concerns.

Let’s look at the one-month costs that we see…

Fuel for Driving – $300.00

  • This assumes you’re getting 6 miles per gallon of gasoline pulling a trailer or driving a small to medium sized motorhome, and driving 300 miles per month. This accounts for two campsite moves per month, and sporadic drives into town for supplies.

Fuel for Generator – $100.00

  • This assumes you’re burning 30 gallons of gasoline per month, to run an air conditioning system, microwave, and to power wall outlets.

Propane – $100.00

  • This assumes you’re burning four 20# tanks (five gallon tanks) per month, to power a refrigerator, cook top, furnace, and water heater.

RV Dump & Water Refill Fees – $20.00

  • This assumes you’re dumping every two weeks, and assumes you’ll find at one place per month to dump and refill for free.

Food & Toiletries – $300.00

  • We won’t define what your food and toiletry preferences are, you can figure that out.

Other Expenses – $180.00

  • Haircut, oil change, shipping, purchases from Amazon, cellphone bill, auto-insurance. Not all of these are monthly.

Total: $1,000.00 per month

Let’s Slash the Above Total by 50%

So, now we take the above cost breakdown, and try to slash that in half…

Fuel for Driving – $150.00

  • You can move only once per month by finding BLM land where you can get away with camping in the same spot for the entire month. Or, you can move your camp every 14 days, but move somewhere at least 25 miles away. Try to limit your drives into town for supplies by buying everything you need in one visit for the next month.

Fuel for Generator – $50.00

  • If you can manage to camp in places where the temperature doesn’t get hot, (maybe even camp naked if you can), you can save a lot of money from having to power your air conditioning unit. It’s good to still have a generator to run a microwave, which is only needed for a few minutes at a time. You won’t even need your wall outlets if you can recharge your cellphone and laptop from a battery or a small, fold-up solar panel.

Propane – $100.00

  • If you can get by without a refrigerator, your propane needs will go way down. The same with having hot water. You will still want to have a couple of 5-gallon propane tanks to power a cook-top, which usually is only needed for 10-15 minutes at a time. You’ll also want propane to power a much smaller, yet more efficient, portable heater, like a Mr. Heater Buddy (see it on Amazon).

RV Dump & Water Refill Fees – $0.00

  • If you camp on BLM land, they actually don’t mind you dumping your gray water on the ground. It’s the black tank they have a problem with. But you can maximize your black tank capacity by going outside to pee. Technically, you can poop outside too. The BLM actually tells people to dig a hole at least six inches down. But, there are also places where dumping your tanks and refilling with water are free. Eventually, you’ll find these places.

Food & Toiletries – $100.00

  • There are already lots of articles on how to cut down your grocery bill and maximize your calories. You’ll have to figure out what your food tolerances are. For toiletries, all you need is a bar of soap, toothpaste, a bag of disposable razors, and a month’s supply of RV toilet paper. I mean, how much do you need?

Other Expenses – $100.00

  • At the very minimum, you need auto-insurance, which we’ve found can run you just $50.00 per month for a truck & trailer. If you can find a pre-paid cellphone plan for the remaining $50.00, then you can cut your own hair and do your own oil changes.

Total: $500.00 per month

Other Ways to Cut Boondocking Costs

Running From Solar and Battery – You’ll have spend at least four thousand dollars to get 600 watts of solar, a couple of lithium phosphate batteries, a 2,000 watt inverter, (along with wire and mounting hardware), but you can power your microwave oven, wall outlets, and all of your RV’s 12 volt system, from solar. This may eliminate your need for a generator. Before you do so, figure out how many years it’s going to take to recoup that investment.

Wear Warm Clothes and Thick Socks – You can cut your need for propane heating just by wearing warmer clothes. Get a down comforter for your bedding. At the minimum, keep your feet warm. It’s in your feet and toes where your blood cools down the most. You’ll still need propane heating for the colder nights, but you can greatly reduce your need by using warming clothing.

Keep Your Windows and Doors Open – In the summer, the best way to keep your RV cool inside is to move the hot air out. Let the breeze blow through. Open your ceiling vents, run your ceiling fans. This will help minimize your need for air conditioning. If your RV has an awning, position your rig so that the awning faces the sun, so that it casts a shade over you. Try also to park your rig in the shade of trees and boulders.

Burn Your Trash – The biggest reason why boondockers have to drive into town is to throw away their trash. You can’t store a full bag of trash outside because raccoons, mice (and bears) will tear it apart. Trash also brings a lot of flies to your camp. The solution is to buy products that you can burn. Buy food that comes in paper, cardboard boxes or plastic instead of glass or metal. The more trash you can burn, the less often you’ll have to drive. Read, “How to Minimize Trash Accumulation While Boondocking“.

Use the Sun to Take a Shower – Instead of firing up the water heater, let the sun heat up a couple of one-gallon jugs. You don’t need hot water for a shower, you only need warm water. If you know you want to take a shower that day, make a point to set a couple of jugs in the sun for a few hours.

Don’t Shower Every Day – It’s actually unhealthy to shower every day. This is because you wash off the oils that suspend micro-organisms from passing through your skin. Washing your body also creates dry skin, which cracks more easily. But come on… if you’re boondocking for weeks at a time, you won’t have any visitors to offend.

Keep Several 5-Gallon Jugs of Fuel With You – Eventually you will need more fuel for your generator. Instead of driving into town to buy more fuel, keep several 5-gallon jugs of fuel with you. All this does is reduce the number of trips you need to make to buy more fuel. We always kept two 5-gallon jugs with us, and always refilled them during trips into town for groceries.

Keep Several Propane Tanks With You – For the same reasons above, the fewer reasons you need to drive into town, the more money you will save from having to drive your vehicle.

Write Down a List of Things You Need in Town – What sucks is when you return to your campsite and realize you forgot something important when you were in town. You don’t want to have to make a special trip into town and burn more fuel to get there. Instead, keep a list of everything you need to do when you make your trip into town. Refill your fuel jugs, refill your propane, send and receive packages, wash your laundry, etc. Fix a sheet of paper to your refrigerator so that you and your partner have a common place to write things down. Don’t believe that you can just file something away in your brain, because you will never remember it when you’re in town.

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