Now I have to admit that I’ve been one of the main encouragers as far as this boondocking movement goes – I have been telling folks to get out of the commercial campgrounds, cut the plug-in electrical umbilical cord, and go out where the real natural world is. I should have been more specific – make sure you have the right equipment to do this before you do it.
I am at Assateague National Seashore, which is technically not boondocking but is still very close to nature. In fact, the Atlantic Ocean is right over that sand dune, and wild horses stroll through the campground several days a week. There are assigned campsites, to keep people from camping all over and tearing up the vegetation, but they’re pretty spartan. You get an asphalt pad to park on, a picnic table, and a fire ring. There’s water and a dump, and the price has gone up to $10 a night since I was last here four years ago, but it’s still a pretty good deal. The problem with being in a campground, though, is neighbors.
Many of the people here are usually in a campground with hookups somewhere. These are trailers or fifth wheel models, with nary a decent battery bank nor an inverter to their name. If you don’t plug them in, nothing works. NOBODY has solar panels. These units were designed to get their electricity out of a campground pedestal.
No problem, they say. I can still go to Assateague, all I need is a generator. So they go online, or to Walmart, looking for a cheap generator. What they find are Chinese-built models like Champion. Their main selling point is that they are cheap, and face it, these campers aren’t going to use their generator much, so a $2,000 generator doesn’t make much sense for them. They buy a Champion. For $250-$350, they can run the stove, microwave, even the AC. It’s 10 cents per watt of generating capacity, and maybe a dollar or two an hour for electricity over the short life of the generator, depreciation and fuel included. These generators last maybe two hundred hours before they finally rattle apart, and when they break you just buy another one.
I call these construction generators because you see them on construction sites to run the power tools. They usually have two wheels and a rectangular pipe frame around the motor so it can be thrown in a truck along with lumber, concrete blocks, and so forth without being damaged. They are usually yellow and black. I hate them. The reason I hate them is that they are loud and obnoxious-sounding. These are air-cooled, four-stroke motors with no provisions whatsoever for sound deadening, harmonic balancing, or any of the niceties of engine design. They may not last very long because of the cheap parts and assembly techniques, but if you have to listen to them you’d swear they’re immortal. Hour after hour, they rattle on, ruining an otherwise pristine setting with their racket. And the people can’t turn them off, because if they do everything in their trailer stops working.
So please, folks, come on out to the unspoiled beauty that is America’s wilderness. But leave your construction generator at home. Please. I have one on the campsite just to the south of me, and one each on the two campsites north of me. I may have to go to the Walmart in town just to get some sleep.