Many full time nomads or boondockers or wheeled travelers, however you want to call them, are on the road because they choose to be. Their are many others who have had the choice forced on them and it is to these that I write this for.
When the only option is going homeless, you have to get your priorities in order and the very FIRST thing to think about is downsizing to fit your mode of travel (living). I have seen people full timing it in everything from a honda, a prius, a small sedan and various vans, SUV’s, buses and everything else. The fact is that you can do it in just about anything if you are determined enough. Let’s discuss what you need, what you MUST have, what you absolutely don’t need and how to comport yourself on the road.
First, what will you need?
Clothing: How much room do you have that can be allocated to clothing? Only have enough to get you through the time it will take you to get to a laundry or hand wash your clothes. When you are “homed” you probably have many options for clothes but on the road you will need to trim that down significantly.
Bedding: Depending on your mode of travel this may be simply a pillow and a blanket if you will be sleeping in your vehicle. If you will be sleeping in a tent you may want to invest in a cot (they can fold up pretty small) or an inflatable air mattress (watch out for sharp rocks, twigs, stickers, etc).
Food Storage: I know of people who have been on the road full time for years and still use a cooler and ice. Of course your needs will depend on your eating habits. I use a small 12v Dometic refrigerator.
Food: Keep it simple. Your dietary needs will tell you what you need. Only buy what you need until you can get back to a store if you don’t have a means to cook yet, then keep it finger food for now.
Stove/Cooker: NEVER cook inside your vehicle unless it is made for that purpose!!!! You can kill yourself!! Cooking over a fire is always nice but many times it is impractical. Using a 1 burner Butane stove is certainly doable and there are other options based on your needs. I know of a Boondocker who only eats finger food – absolutely no cooking. She eats fresh veggies, canned tuna, etc. Not for me, but it is an option.
Personal Hygiene: You can put all of your personal hygiene into a small plastic container hopefully and keep it stored easily. Baby wipes are a MUST on the road – they are useful for a great many reasons.
Water: You can buy individual purified water bottles or larger water containers, it just depends on your storage area.
Charging your gadgets: Depending on your situation, you can use your vehicle cigarette lighter plug to plug in an inverter. Truckers use these on the road. I have one that I can plug in and it has 3 USB ports as well as 3 sockets which I use for my GPS, camera and a small inverter to charge my laptop. Be VERY careful that you do not run your vehicle battery down. I only use my vehicle battery when my vehicle is running.
If you have the room, you can get a 12volt battery, 100 watt portable suitcase solar kit and a small 450 watt inverter. I have one that I always take with me. The panel folds open and you set it outside, hook it up to your extra battery and then hook up your inverter and wa-la, you’re ready to go! Make sure that you put it where it gets the most sunshine it can get and that means you will be moving it from time to time. If the wind is up make sure you either lay it down flat on the ground or put it where it won’t get knocked over and broken. If the day is cloudy the panel will still pull in energy, it just won’t be 100% of what you are used to. You can hook a suitcase solar panel to your vehicle battery also, Most of them come with connector clips and the controller.
Battery management is CRITICAL!! I use Walmart 29 series Everstart Lead Acid Marine battery. I have since I began doing this in 2015. The key is knowing when to turn everything OFF so you don’t run the battery down too far to ruin it AND when to start using it again. I love having “options” so I keep a spare battery always fully charged. I alternate between them. Once my battery gets down to 12.4 I stop using it. I attach the suitcase solar setup and get the panel out and pointed towards the sunrise and wait until around 11am to start using it again so I am using a fully charged battery and not sucking out what is coming in (which means I get zero charge).
Let me explain a little more…. Do you have a cell phone that you have to keep replacing the battery (which usually means replacing the phone)? I have never had a cell phone that I had a battery problem on – do you know why? Battery Management! I use it until the battery shows red and then I charge it 100% before using it again and I never charge it overnight. Over charging a cell phone is just as bad as not charging it. Using it while charging it just sucks out what you are putting into it. Over time your battery will fail because of misuse. Vehicle batteries aren’t as sensitive, but the premise is the same. If you continually draw it down to 12.0 or lower and then immediately start using it when you hook it up to solar you will eventually ruin it much much faster than you would believe.
Organization is paramount!! Use containers wherever and whenever you can. Keep your surroundings clean – that means inside and outside. Just because you are unhomed doesn’t mean you have to prove it to everyone else. If you have to stealth live, you cannot look like you are doing that. Putting up curtains, setting camp chairs out or putting up tables and having trash around you are definitely NOT going to help you stealth camp. Keep it simple.
Finding a place to park when there are no public lands available can be difficult but not impossible. Ask your employer if you could park in the lot where the company is. If you do this make sure you keep your vehicle looking like a “normal” vehicle as much as possible. Even if you have it packed to the top, as long as it is organized and looks good people will leave you alone. Another option is parking where others park overnight and only you will be able to see what that means – Walmart, Home Depot, Cabelas, Casinos, Gas station parking areas, Churches, etc… IF you stay at a commercial parking area, please use it to PARK – not camp. That means no chairs outside, no cooking, nothing like that. If you cannot do that then keep looking for a place that can accommodate you. When I was in Montana last summer I hung out at the local city park during the day and then at sundown I went over to Cabelas and parked for the night.
Now that you don’t have any rent to pay, you should be able to afford a membership in a national fitness club where you can go to get showers and work out. I use Planet Fitness.
What if you get bored or are forced to stay inside because of outside circumstances (including the weather): Have you thought of knitting or crocheting? Don’t laugh if your a guy – I happen to know of several boondocker males who do a great job of crocheting! You can make all sorts of blankets from full bed to lap, caps, socks……. You may want to get a booklet that identifies leafs so you can tell what plant or tree they come from. Bird identification books are great as well. Stargazing even from your window can be fun as well. Insect identification can be fun as well. There are several apps you can get that can help with any of these. The thing is – make it fun! You’re next adventure is just a key turn away. Enjoy!!
How to comport yourself on the road:
There actually are camping courtesies that you should know about. Giving others space is one of the most respectful things you can do. That means try to park at least 50 feet from another nomad. There is no need to camp right next to someone when there are literally thousands of acres of land all around you. Most of us appreciate “Breathing Room” so try to keep that in mind.
One of my biggest peeves is when I am setting up or trying to leave. I have a certain way to do what I need to do and interruptions seem to always mean that I forget to do something important. No matter how much you want to talk to your friend or even someone new, please wait until they are all set up and “ready” for you. I pull a trailer. When I am ready to leave, many people want to come over and “help” me hook up – even though I do appreciate the thought – I prefer to do it myself because I know exactly how to do it and it is very hard to work with someone trying to guide me to my hitch and hookup. If I DO need help, I will certainly ask you to help me.
Be respectful of others “space”. That means that walking right through someone elses campsite is very rude. Please just keep an eye out for the space that your neighbor has claimed and they will do the same for you.
The only time I want a knock on my door is when it is “THAT” knock (that’s a lie.. I NEVER want that knock! LOL). You know, the one that tells you to move on. So, either text me or give a shout out. A good way to know if I am available is this: If my door is closed, I am not available (unless it is weather related and then I may put a green or white ribbon letting others know I am available). If I am sitting outside, come on over – everyone is welcome. If my door is open but I am not outside – shout out to me first. Also, ALWAYS bring your own chair. This is a BIGGIE! Bring your own chair, drink and snacks.
I appreciate a clean campsite. In fact I cannot stand trash laying around in any form. If you bring anything that will be trash please either take it with you or put it in my trash bag if I have one out. Many times I hang a plastic grocery bag from a tree to put trash in. In fact those are the only trash bags I use – they are easier to dispose of at the gas station.
Please be respectful of my space. Even though I said “everyone is welcome” it is respectful to ask before charging into someones space. Also, there has been times when I have found a nice little “sweet spot” and a friend will text me and ask where I am. I don’t mind giving someone directions to my spot, but that doesn’t mean I am inviting you and all of your friends. ASK FIRST. Be respectful and polite!
When chatting with others there is a golden rule: NO POLITICS OR RELIGION! Period. ’nuff said
If you have a pet, please keep your pet on a leash. Mine is always leashed and he has a food aggression. If another pet gets near his food bowl he will attack. I warn people of this but sometimes they don’t listen and I have had to break up several dog fights. It’s no fun being bitten. Even though you think your pet is the nicest in the world, others may not be.
Campfires are great!! We all love sitting around the campfire at night. Be sure you have a 5 gallon jug of water close by so that when the last person leaves they can put the fire out completely. This is mandatory at all times.
Everyone needs a quiet time. I normally get up and down with the sun. Many of us prefer an unsaid courtesy of a 10pm-7am quiet time. If you need to be noisy for any reason during these times, please park as far away from others as possible. That includes music and generators.
Finally – Please obey the rules of the land you are on or we will not have them much longer.