RV LIFE: How Switching From Lead Acid to Battle Born Lithium RV Batteries Changed Everything

When I was first told the RV needed to be solar powered I scoffed at the idea. Yes, solar power would be nice, I thought, but the cost was just too much of a barrier. Or so I thought. At first glance it just didn’t seem economically viable. I was even walked through a couple system options and all of them had sticker shock associated with them.

That all changed several months later, however, when Gary Quimby of Pau Hana Travels walked me through the numbers on how he paid for his system in just a part of a year by not staying in campgrounds. Gary and Stacey primarily boondock when and where possible. They do this thanks to their solar system empowering them to be off grid for long periods at a time.

You see, when you just get the sticker price and don’t really crunch the numbers over a twelve month period, it kind of seems out of reach. Or lower on the priority list at the very least. But when you consider the fact that campgrounds can run you $10,000 or more a year it really kind of puts things into perspective.

BOONDOCKING IS WHERE IT’S AT

This reality was presented a few weeks after my first real boondocking experience at the 2018 Annual Xscapers Bash in Quartzsite. We boondocked in Quartzsite for 10 days, then moved to American Girl Mine for another 10 days of boondocking. The mountains, the views, the space, the privacy, the peace and soul-quenching experience of boondocking changed me. It literally only took those 20 days to determine campgrounds were no longer desirable.

From that point on campgrounds have been used for occasional laundry and tank flushing stops. And even these short occasional campground stays now make me cringe. I can do a night in a campground, but more than a night gets me anxious to leave and head back out.

There is simply no comparison between campgrounds and public land boondocking. Not even close. Camping alone at the base of a jagged Arizona mountain beats being slide-to-slide with 50 amp hookups any day of the week. Of course, making a transition is easier said than done and I learned that quick.

LEAD ACID BATTERY BANK = NOPE

While in Quartzsite in January of 2018 I learned very quickly that a couple lead acid batteries just weren’t going to get the job done. Not without spending about $10 a day in fuel for the generator. And even then the batteries were drained by morning after a night of the furnace fan running to keep the rig warm. This meant that at 7:00 AM every morning I was that guy cranking up the generator to get some juice in the batteries for coffee and morning work.

It was a ridiculous battle to keep energy stored to run the computer, charge all the devices and control the temperature in the RV. I felt I was having to manage the battery bank and generator all day, every day. This was a royal pain in the ass.

I was in love with boondocking. But at $250-$300 a month in generator fuel costs to charge batteries that were inefficient, heavy and laborious I knew a change would be necessary in order for the RV to function like an actual home. The decision was made… lithium batteries were a must. Solar panels could come later, but an upgrade to the battery bank just couldn’t wait.

BATTLE BORN TO THE RESCUE

I began doing some research and Battle Born Batteries quickly became the go-to solution. I reached out to Battle Born up in Reno and the game was changed. I knew lithium technology was going to significantly improve the energy storage situation. While I wasn’t ready for solar panels, my research had made it clear that at the very least I would cut my generator usage by 75% with lithium batteries.

After several conversations with the Battle Born crew it seemed that I would need 400amp hours of storage in order to run the rig the way I wanted it to run throughout each day. I didn’t want complicated algorithms to try and figure out how much storage was needed. I just wanted to be able to run laptops, desktops, charging devices, the vacuum, an occasional microwaved meal, the TV now and then and the furnace without having to stress about any of it.

Let’s face it. Lithium RV batteries are not cheap in comparison to lead acid batteries. But, it’s also true that you get what you pay for. And with lead acid batteries… well.. you don’t get much. You don’t pay much, but you don’t get much.

If I was going to move to boondocking over campgrounds, I would save a ton of money by doing so. But I had to be able to function while out there.

Battle Born shipped the four batteries and the lead acid batteries were removed. I knew going into it that this was a great decision. I had no idea it was going to be that good of a decision.

The benefits were/are extraordinary.

  • The Battle Born Batteries weigh in at about 32 pounds, or a third of the weight of my lead acid batteries
  • The lithium batteries are 100 amp hours each, giving me about 360 amp hours of usable energy provided I don’t want to drop them below 10%. (I don’t drop them anywhere near that)
  • They charge EXTREMELY fast!

The day I switched to lithium batteries is the day I could store enough energy to run everything in the rig (outside of air conditioners) for a full day and a half and still have 40% remaining. You read that right, with no sun or generator I can run everything I want in the rig for nearly two full days. Just off the batteries.

Before my panels were added to the mix I could run the generator for an hour or two every other day and be good to go. With the solar panels (1,100 or so watts on the roof) I never worry about having power.

The first five months of RVing were spent in expensive and wasteful campgrounds. Since going lithium I’ve spent approximately two weeks total in campgrounds. I’ve had lithium batteries for about 7 months.

Which brings me back to the math. $4,000 in campground fees will get me 50amp service for four months. $4,000 in lithium batteries will power the rig out in public lands for years to come.

Making the switch completely changed the game. It changed everything.

Now instead of waking up to a view of someone’s slide, I see views like this.

Featured Image Credit: The RV Belonging to GeoAstroRV.com

EPIC Remote BLM Boondocking Spot Between Tucson and Tombstone Arizona

Mary Anne Radmacher, an author and artist, once said “I am not the same having seen the moon on the other side of the world.” And after having seen a crystal clear moon from a very special plot of BLM land to the southeast of Tucson, Arizona – I couldn’t agree more.

Our small group of RVs is slowly working towards Quartzsite, AZ and then Lake Havasu for the Escapees Annual Bash. We had some things to get done in Tucson and because we prefer the boonies over the hustle and bustle of city life, we were in search of somewhere to hunker down in nature. Tucson has a couple spots nearby, but nothing that we would consider quiet, remote and good for the soul.

The hunt for a good spot to spend a couple of weeks began to take us further and further away from Tucson. This was a little concerning, but we felt if the right spot presented itself it would all be very well worth the drive. On this front we hit a home run with the BLM managed Las Cienegas National Conservation Area.

To be honest, it was a bit of a gamble. We arrived after dark in an unfamiliar area with unfamiliar dirt roads in multiple 35+ foot rigs. Because this spot is about 37 miles from Tucson and it was late there was little room for error. If we had come all the way out here and found terrible roads or no place to settle in, we would have to turn back towards the interstate and overnight at a truck stop or Walmart. Not ideal.

But, fortunately, we hit a homer and the spot was perfect.

THE LOCATION

NAME: Airstrip Group Campsite
GPS: 31.7926, -110.6358

The area is designed around the historic Empire Ranch. The ranch, first established in 1876, is a joint venture by BLM and a non-profit 501c3. The BLM conservation area surrounds the ranch with the public lands opened up for dry camping and day use activities.

THE BOONDOCKING SPOTS

This conservation area actually has multiple boondocking spots.

We checked out the Maternity Well Group site, the Cieneguita Camping Area site and chose to stay at the Airstrip Group Camping Area. Oak Tree Canyon is not fitting for big rigs, Maternity is too close to the highway, road canyon was a bit too far for our taste and Airstrip hit all the right marks. Cieneguita was full of great spots but the cell service wasn’t as good as Airstrip. And Airstrip was elevated, giving it better 360 degree views of the epic surrounding horizon.

The space we chose could easily house 5 or 6 RVs with plenty of private space. We had 3 with us, all 33-36 foot class A rigs, and we had plenty of room to move around with privacy.

CONNECTIVITY

Verizon was solid without the booster and AT&T was spotty unboosted. With WeBoost setup Verizon got nearly full bars LTE and AT&T went to 2 bars LTE (from 2 bars 4G unboosted). No idea on T-mobile but other reviews suggest there is “some” connectivity on the network although it’s often times off and on.

THE ROADS

Roads were excellent. Airstrip sites are about 3 miles from the highway with roughly a third of it being dirt road. There was a little bit of washboard here and there but nothing crazy. As far as BLM dirt roads go, this was about as good as you could ever hope/ask for. Very accessible no matter the size of rig.

THE WEATHER

We stayed at the spot for about a week and a half. Right at the beginning of December. Because of the elevation nights get quite cold. We saw night temps range from 32 to 45. Definitely needed the gas buddy space heater!

Daytime temps at this time of year are very ideal. Typically around 65 with plenty of warm sunshine washing over the area.

THE VIEWS

The views are simply stunning. There is something awe-inspiring to look at in any direction. The skies at night are epic. There are plenty of areas to hike through and no shortage of lands to explore. All of it is beautiful.

If you’re in the Tucson area and looking for a place to replenish your soul while here, this might make a great place to include as a part of your journey.

It certainly was for us. Two thumbs up and five stars!

(Note: Pack it in, pack it out. No dumpsters and no services.)

Pictured rigs are GeoAstroRV.com, RVNomadsTheMovie.com and HippieAndTheTech.com.

Cheap Tricks and Tips For Organizing Your RV (VIDEO)

When it comes to living in a smaller space, organization is key.  If we did not have a spot for everything we owned our RV would be one big mess! I love when everything is neat and in order. It helps the RV feel like a home.

Something I personally love for organizing our closet is storage bins.  These really have come in handy to keep my workout t-shirts, hats, gloves, and scarves organized. Command hooks are also my best friend to organize! They work in every part of the RV and it helps us avoid putting holes in our walls. One of our rules to help us keep the junk out is for every new thing we bring in our RV, we take one thing out!

Our friends John and Laura over at Hebard’s Travels share their storage and organizing tips after 2 years of full-time RV living:

RV Remodel: RV Interior Painting Over Wallpaper (VIDEO)

We have been considering painting over our wallpaper in the RV because, quite frankly, the brown on top of brown is driving me crazy!  It’s still up in the air if we are going to paint or apply a lighter modern wallpaper instead.  I have been looking at how to paint in case we decide to go the paint route.

Painting over wallpaper is not the same as painting over drywall. It’s important to choose paint that will not peel off. Doing research first will come in handy if you decide to paint your RV wallpaper too.  I personally love the all white look but with little ones I debate this idea because they are not always very careful. I am still undecided but I feel confident in what pain to choose thanks to my friends Lisa and Julie.

Julie from Chickery’s Travels did a video sharing her RV painting experience below:

How To Fill Water In an RV While Boondocking (VIDEO)

Boondocking (Dry camping) is full of all sorts of lessons.  A big no-no when boondocking is long showers (unless you want to run out of water quickly). When we first started boondocking we could barely go 3 days without running out of water.

We quickly learned some tricks such as turning off the water pump so our 2-year-old at the time wouldn’t wash her hands for hours.  We also filled gallon water jugs and used those for flushing the toilets and washing the dishes.  It was quite a learning curve because dry camping is a whole other world.  We didn’t even know filling up our fresh water tank was an option while boondocking until this past summer.  The cast and crew from the RV Nomads movie definitely taught us a whole lot!

We at 1st Class RV Adventures did a quick live video the first time we ever filled our fresh water tanks while we were boondocking in the video below:

RV LIFE: Making Friends On The Road (VIDEO)

Traveling has been an incredible experience, but for us the first two years were a bit lonely. After finally meeting fellow RVers in person this past summer we learned all about community. Community that has, in a profound way, changed our lives for the better.

The RV community is full of incredible people ready to help and offer a hand if you need one.  Finding friends in the RV world is not too hard if you are looking for friends. We have made a few friends in campgrounds but they have not been full timers so it was a little difficult to find areas of common interest.  Thanks to our most recent experience being part of the RV Nomads movie we really learned about community on the road.  I am super thankful for this because like I said earlier, I did not know it was even a thing.

Our friends over at RV Love share a little more about finding friends on the road in the video below:

RV LIFE: 7 RVers Share Tips for Downsizing (VIDEO)

Moving from a sticks and bricks home to an RV can be overwhelming on the downsizing front. Where does it all begin and end!

I remember frantically trying to get rid of so much junk we had accumulated. It was crazy how much useless stuff we had piled up and most of it had to go before we could fully transition into the RV Nomad life. We went through multiple garage sales, tons of donations to a wonderful Veterans association in our local area and listings in an app called Offer Up.

What worked for us may not be for everyone. There are certainly a lot of things to consider when downsizing for RV Life. Kyle and Olivia Brady over at Drivin’ and Vibin’ shared a great video where they teamed up with 7 other RVers who gave their tips for downsizing.  Check it out: