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Trip Report: 10 nights boondocking. Success!


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@MarkV and I just returned home from one of our first trips in Olivia (hull #953), this one 10 nights of boondocking/dry camping in the Pike National Forest at around 7500 feet.

TLDR: we had an absolutely spectacular time camping and mountain biking with a pile of our friends.  Olivia's systems performed nearly flawlessly, and we could have stayed off-grid for at least 10 more days.

Some notables from this trip:

1. SOLAR/BATTERY:  We have the platinum package - 630 Ah lithionics, 340 W solar, 3000W inverter- coupled with an external 200W Renogy Solar Suitcase.  This system performed flawlessly, although we did have an issue with the portable suitcase -- its output is 20A, but the inline fuse at the Ollie's solar port is 10A.  Based on the wire guage sizes along the entire portable system (10) we made the decision that a 20A fuse would be just fine, since the wires are rated up to 30A and the total input into the batteries would never exceed the maximum recommended by Lithionics.  Even in the brightest direct sun, the Renogy never put out more than 17-18A.  Success, but I do intend to call Oliver and discuss with service.

We did not skimp on our electrical useage -- baked cookies and a couple of meals in the convection microwave, toast in the toaster every morning, made at least 3 meals in the InstantPot, frothed hot milk every morning, held 2 "boondock refill sessions" where we ran the water pump for what seemed like forever, 24/7 fan use, and kept the fridge on DC during travel.  We even ran the air conditioner for 2-3 hours on 3 of the the hottest days.  Even though our first few days were partly-to-mostly cloudy and our camping spot didn't get direct sun until noon, our batteries never dropped below 75%, and the solar managed to bring them back to 100% FULL twice on sunny days. Based on this first data point, I'd estimate that we could camp indefinitely with occasional full-sun days, and at least two weeks in cloudy conditions.

2. WATER:  We are very water-wise while camping, but 10 days is a long time.  We started with 30 gallons of fresh (forgot to turn the HW bypass before we left, so didn't have that extra 5) and 15 gallons of drinking water in jerry cans.  Our son and friend brought us 10 gallons of fresh mid-trip. We also used our Lifesaver Pressurized Jerrycan to purify another 5-8 gallons of creek water and used 6 gallons of creek water to do 2 loads of laundry in our Scrubba bag.  Our miserly ways included doing dishes just once a day at night in a basin in the kitchen sink, then using that water to put out our campfire rather than putting it in the gray tank; showering just twice during the week, and sponge bathing the other days.  While we did have to use the boondock port twice to add about 15-20 gallons of water, we ended the trip with around 4-5 gallons in the fresh tank and the grey tank at about 60% full.  We could have gone another 5-7 days easily, but we might have run out of food first!  🙂  The only thing I want to change for our next big boondock trip is the addition of a "touch" faucet at the kitchen sink.  The stock faucet is nice, but very tricky to get the very low flow I prefer for rinsing dishes. The touch would allow you to set the flow once and forget it.   We love the one we have at home, and my BIL is visiting for a month and loves projects, so.... If anyone has attempted a touch faucet in their Oliver and has advice/warnings, we'd love to hear them!

3. ALTITUDE: While we expected to have issues with our refrigerator on propane at 7500 feet (it's "rated" to 4500, with a recommendation to run on DC above that altitude), the fridge performed remarkably well on 100% propane.  It did seem to need a bit of babying with regards to temp setting, though, having to turn it down at night and up during the heat of the day.  (Anyone know why Norcold doesn't just install a thermostat instead of a 1-9 setting?  Hate that "feature"!)  While we might have been able to get away with running on DC full time if the sun was full every day, 10 days is probably just a bit too long to run it 24/7.

Where we DID have issues with altitude was with the Suburban water heater.  Apparently, this must be "derated" 4% for every 1000 feet above 4500.  We'll be taking advantage of Google and Oliver this week to figure out what needs to be done, but  the water heater was not happy at 7500 feet.  It would sputter, stop, sputter, run, sputter, stop, run.  And eventually we would get hot water.  Clearly, we need to figure this out since 99% of our camping is above 4500 feet.

4. ENVIRONMENT:  I remember long ago, before ordering an Oliver, that someone on the forums pointed out that the Oliver is very well-insulated and it likely wouldn't be necessary to run the A/C while we left the dogs inside to go riding.  It's true!  When we left for our rides in the morning, temps in the Oliver were around 65 degrees.  We closed all windows tight, and when we returned 2-3 hours later, inside temps were at most 73 even when the outside temp was in the 80s.  It helped that we parked in a spot where Olivia didn't get sun until around noon.  Given how well the battery/solar package worked for us, if we're camped in a sunnier spot, I won't hesitate to close everything up and set the A/C to come on at 75 degrees, just in case.

5. COMPOSTING TOILET:  In short, love it.  We wouldn't have been able to dry camp 10 days with a conventional toilet.  Given the altitude we were camping at, as well as the level of activity (2-4 hours of mountain biking every day), we consumed a LOT of water so we, well Mark, emptied the pee bucket every day and a half, but the solids container still has plenty of room.  Solids did get a bit cloggy, probably due to too much moisture (I over-did it) and too much TP.  Next time, I'll adjust the coir/water ratio and we'll put ALL TP into a waste bin.

6. CONNECTIVITY:  I am pleased to report that our CradlePoint system with both AT&T and Verizon sim cards failed to produce any signal at all at our campsite.  🙂  Seriously.  That made me very happy.  Had we known that Starlink was going to go mobile this summer, we might have gone that route instead of CradlePoint, but....then we would have had internet in a place that we have always said is better enjoyed "unplugged".

7. FOOD:  We don't believe in "roughing it" when we camp, and why should you when you own an Oliver?   We ate like kings while out for 10 days.  Our setup includes the InstantPot as well as a two-burner camp chef stove with the optional griddle and grill.  While we did run out of fresh veggies after 7 days, we still did all right.  A sampling of our favorites:

Organic Chicken Flautas (Costco) with avocado and poached eggs (made in the microwave)
Garlic Parmesan White Beans (themediterraneandish.com)

Steak and Grain Bowl - NY strip, pearled barley, grilled onions and mushrooms, roasted brocolli, avocado
InstantPot Oatmeal - steel cut oats, dried apples, mashed bananan, spices, maple syrup, toasted nuts
InstantPot Honey Chipotle Tacos (cooking.NYTimes.com)
Turkey melts: flour tortillas, cheddar cheese, apple, bacon, greens
Seared Salmon with brown rice and sauteed spinach
Beef Short Ribs with wine and tomatoes (pre-made at home, leftovers frozen for camping)

And wine....plenty of wine.

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MaryBeth
Boulder, CO

2022 Elite II #953
TV: 2021 Ford Expedition Max Platinum, Max Tow Package

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Oh! And in case you were wondering, we didn't drink all that wine by ourselves.  We like to share with our friends!  🙂

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MaryBeth
Boulder, CO

2022 Elite II #953
TV: 2021 Ford Expedition Max Platinum, Max Tow Package

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16 minutes ago, RunninOnMT said:

We volunteer to be your friends!  😄

LOL.  We're always happy to make new ones!

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MaryBeth
Boulder, CO

2022 Elite II #953
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1 hour ago, VBistro said:

Oh! And in case you were wondering, we didn't drink all that wine by ourselves.  We like to share with our friends!  🙂

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😅

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2020 OLEII - Hull #634   TV -2021 F 350 6.7 liter Diesel Lariat Ultimate “Tremor”

 

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What great pictures! I appreciate the report, thanks for taking the time to post your information!

Kirk

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Kirk and Carrie Peterson

Twin Falls, Idaho

2018 Ram 3500, 8 foot bed with overland conversion.

Elite 2 before the end of 2022!

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1 hour ago, VBistro said:

Where we DID have issues with altitude was with the Suburban water heater. 

Interesting in that I fly fish each summer for two months in the Rocky Mountain West.  I have never had an issue with the water heater firing up and my camp sites are virtually always at or above 6,500 feet and have been as high as 11,500 feet.

One "issue" that I did have early on was an accumulation of "stuff" in the burner area that was caused by paint, rust, dirt ("stuff") falling down the vent/exhaust pipe and "shorting" the burner sensor.  I always carry a small can of compressed air for the purpose of blowing out this area.

Bill

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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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Great report, I am glad the Ollie worked so well. What solar port is on your trailer? If it is the round Furrion one, that connector is only rated for 10 amps, which is why the 10 amp fuse is there. The wires are plenty large. So if you have that round connector you are grossly overloading it with 18 amps. If you have a different brand, it may be rated higher. 

I haven't ever had any issues with water heater or furnace at 7500 feet. You should check and adjust your gas supply pressure to be sure there isn't a problem there, before swapping jets around. For the gas check you need a special tool or have an RV tech do it.  If the gas supply is in spec, then you can proceed with the following.

FYI it is about a two minute job to swap out the gas jet in the Suburban water heater for a smaller one. It simply clips in place. Since it obviously was having issues, try a smaller jet, ask your local RV shop what they recommender for the size. A larger number stamped on the brass jet is a SMALLER hole. You don't need to pay somebody to do this! Put the original back in when you get back to say 5000 feet.

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https://olivertraveltrailers.com/forums/topic/3243-how-to-service-and-inspect-your-suburban-hot-water-heater-gas-system/

 

John Davies

Spokane WA

 

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

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1 hour ago, John E Davies said:

Great report, I am glad the Ollie worked so well. What solar port is on your trailer? If it is the round Furrion one, that connector is only rated for 10 amps, which is why the 10 amp fuse is there. The wires are plenty large. So if you have that round connector you are grossly overloading it with 18 amps. If you have a different brand, it may be rated higher. 

 

 

Excellent point about the port itself, John.  We hadn't considered that.

Ours is a zamp port, and I just chatted with Zamp customer service.  The port is rated to 345W, or approximately 20-25 Amps.  We're good on that front, and given that all of the other wiring is 10 guage, we should be fine.  I'll still put in a call to Oliver.

Thanks! And I'll take a close look at your info on the water heater.  It works just fine at home (5400 feet), so it likely is just a simple jet issue and not a supply issue.

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MaryBeth
Boulder, CO

2022 Elite II #953
TV: 2021 Ford Expedition Max Platinum, Max Tow Package

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Forgot, it isn’t uncommon for the gas jet to get a build up of crud around the hole, that thread shows how you can clean it. But if it is running too rich at 7500 feet that may not fix it. 

John Davies

Spokane WA

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags, Safari snorkel.

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3 hours ago, topgun2 said:

Interesting in that I fly fish each summer for two months in the Rocky Mountain West.  I have never had an issue with the water heater firing up and my camp sites are virtually always at or above 6,500 feet and have been as high as 11,500 feet.

One "issue" that I did have early on was an accumulation of "stuff" in the burner area that was caused by paint, rust, dirt ("stuff") falling down the vent/exhaust pipe and "shorting" the burner sensor.  I always carry a small can of compressed air for the purpose of blowing out this area.

Bill

Interesting...I did notice some black "junk" on the base in the water heater compartment.  I'll go blow all around the compartment later today.  Just stick it in the exhaust pipe, or is there a particular spot/method?

MaryBeth
Boulder, CO

2022 Elite II #953
TV: 2021 Ford Expedition Max Platinum, Max Tow Package

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46 minutes ago, VBistro said:

Just stick it in the exhaust pipe, or is there a particular spot/method?

The only place to NOT blow the compressed air is directly into the gas jet that JD showed in the picture above.  Other than that simply blow all of the stuff out of there.  A real telling area to direct the stream of air will be straight up the flue - if you get a small shower of particles back down, you just might have found the "problem".

Bill

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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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Great post and pictures.

Your post kind of changed my mind on lithionics,

I also see a new way to use the front storage basket. Never thought of that as a wine cellar.

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Your Lifesaver Jerrycan looks really interesting, and like something that could really extend boondocking time if you're near a water source, without worrying about contracting giardia or norovirus.  I read some great reviews on it after looking at your link.

How long have you had it? Is it difficult to clean? Easy to use? It looks a bit pricey, but "priceless" when needed.

I see they also make smaller sized equipment like the cube. 

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3 hours ago, SeaDawg said:

Your Lifesaver Jerrycan looks really interesting, and like something that could really extend boondocking time if you're near a water source, without worrying about contracting giardia or norovirus.  I read some great reviews on it after looking at your link.

How long have you had it? Is it difficult to clean? Easy to use? It looks a bit pricey, but "priceless" when needed.

I see they also make smaller sized equipment like the cube. 

This was the first time we used it...and we haven't gotten around to cleaning it.  But the process looks quite straightforward.  Sicking my better half on it today!  😉

https://iconlifesaver.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/LifeSaver-Jerrycan-Instruction-Manual-2-2.pdf?v=7516fd43adaa

This really did allow us to boondock for longer than we would have without it.  While we only purified 6-8 gallons, we could have easily done more if friends hadn't re-supplied us with potable water when they arrived at camp.

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MaryBeth
Boulder, CO

2022 Elite II #953
TV: 2021 Ford Expedition Max Platinum, Max Tow Package

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My experience at altitude was similar - the furnace didn't like it. Above 7k and it had trouble with ignition. Seems to be a hit or miss problem. Our companion Oliver seemed just fine....

Glad you're having fun.

RB

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We will be dry camping at over 10,000 feet the July 4 weekend.  I expect temps in the 30s at night.  We’ve camped at 9,000 feet with no issues.  Hopefully our furnace will light!  If not, I will take off my mittens and update this post!  Mike

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