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