Tag Archives: generator

Series: 5 lessons I learned from boondocking: Part 3 of 5

RV boondocking or dry campingLesson 3: Doggie parents should probably babysit the generator

While many RVs carry their own electrical system, a generator, there are safety concerns you should know about so you can make the best decision for you and those traveling with you.

Our third lesson also concerned our generator, but not the noise it made. It had to do with our pet. Even if you  don’t have a pet, you should read this post because it will teach you about one of the greatest dangers RVers face.

Supervising the generator

A generator is a machine running on gasoline. Like most machines, it can burn up. It can also, as I’d mentioned earlier, put off carbon monoxide, especially if it malfunctions.

While in probability, it won’t catch fire or put off too much carbon monoxide, doggie parents should consider that It Could.

Here we were, in the middle of Paradise—the East Glacier area is one of our favorite U.S. locations—and we couldn’t leave our motorhome with the generator running because it wasn’t safe for our dog.

A German Shepherd sits in the sun with a valley thousands of feet down behind him.
This is our German Shepherd, Max, at the summit of Mt. Evans. He’s an adventurer like us, our “Road Dog,” and worth the extra trouble.

I guess some people might to do this, but gee whiz, if that generator catches fire and burns up Fido, that isn’t one to get over in a lifetime, so living for no regrets here, we did what we had to do.

We babysat the damn generator.

Well, come on, it’s no fun! Six hours a day, we had to be in the RV, not exploring Paradise. Utter bummer.

The six hours a day were from 8 a.m.-10 a.m., 12:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.

If you’re an avid traveler/adventurer, then you know this is the epic ugh.

Notice there are two hours between 10 a.m. and noon to travel.

Then, you have three hours between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to escape.

Since the drive to where we wanted to hang out in the mountains was an hour-and-a-half away, that meant going nowhere from 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., taking a brief excursion between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and then finally escaping with limited travel benefits after 7:00 p.m., right?

Umm, no. Remember my previous entry. We had to go somewhere else to continue to run our generator before bed, so we traveled from 7:00 p.m. to 9 or 10:00 p.m., then had to return, move the motorhome, and continue to babysit the generator.

So…this is why it was impossible not to curse.

Can generators be dangerous for people? Yes. Many RVers don’t go to sleep with their generators running, because if it puts off carbon monoxide, you can’t smell it.

Some people have died from inhaling the fumes from a generator. Roadtreking calls carbon monoxide poisoning “the RVers’ biggest danger.”

Keeping this in mind, we ran the generator until we were ready to sleep, then turned it off. If it was really hot, we used battery-powered fans.

Picture of an alarm that says Carbon Monoxide Alarm and reads 0
A carbon monoxide alarm. Make sure your RV has one, and change the batteries annually at the same time. photo credit: hardwired co alarm via photopin (license)

Even though we have a carbon monoxide alarm, and you should too (as well as a propane and fire alarm), our greatest risk is when we sleep and to avoid that risk, we just–don’t take that risk.

My next lesson didn’t have to do with unscented fumes, but instead, about what happens when you need to dump your RV’s dirty water… and you don’t know where you can!


Series: 5 Lessons I learned about boondocking: Part 1 of 5

Fiery sunset in the sky and reflected on water.
This portion of St. Mary, MT was right next to two area campgrounds where we boondocked, or dry camped with our RV.

RV boondocking or dry campingDo you know what boondocking is? Did you realize you can camp without being connected to electricity? This way of camping could save you money. Learn from my lessons so you get more enjoyment out of boondocking than I did.

While you may be an experienced RVer, boondocking throws us all for a loop now and then, so I hope every RVer can get something out of this.

According to RV bloggers the Wynns, boondocking is “camping or RV’ing without any hook ups (water, electric or sewer).”

So, here we were in Montana on the outskirts of Glacier National Park, and we also tried this experiment in West Yellowstone.

Campsites were cheaper if you went without electricity, dumping, and water. What awesome locations to explore boondocking, but…

So how did these factors affect us?

Picture of RV parking space with glaccier mountains in the distance.
St. Mary Campground, St. Mary, MT: For this view of Glacier National Park, we didn’t get to use our generator as long we needed to recharge our coach batteries. This caused problems.

Lesson 1. Not being allowed to use your generator as long as you need sucks

Limited Generator Use

When you aren’t connected to electricity, your RV uses a combination of its batteries and your generator.

We also have some solar power that trickle charges our batteries with the sun. At first my husband thought the trickle charge solar was crap. Since then, he’s changed his mind. It keeps the coach batteries from draining out completely.

I want to use newbie-friendly language, so the vehicle part of the RV is called the chassis (pronounced chass ee) and uses one battery, like a car.

The back part of our motorhome, called the coach, has two more of these 12-volt batteries that help run some systems. (When you’re looking into buying an RV, having more than one of these batteries in an out-of-the-way space for it would be a good thing. Ours are under our indoor steps, out of the way.)

Your 12-volt batteries power the light systems among other things and have to be recharged by the generator running and maybe a little bit by a solar charger, if you have one (worth having).

12-volt batteries are charged best by electricity. Since we’re talking about boondocking, that means no electricity, and using the generator, 12-volt batteries, and maybe solar.

One campground we were at limited generator use to a few hours, three times a day. This is the height of suckiness.

A generator takes hours, sometimes a whole day to fully charge your batteries, something that was never going to happen at the campground we were at with limited hours.

During the limited hours we could run our generator, we ran it.

Almost every night, at exactly 7:00 p.m., a ranger would knock loudly on our door and tell us generator use time was over. Maybe we were close to their office, but it was irritating.

Having been RVing full-time around the country for around 8 months, we’d had almost no one knock on our door—at least with bad news—so it was something new and yucky.

We ran the generator to the minute because it charged our batteries, which enabled us to have lights at night and watch some TV before bed.

Every morning, because of the various things that draw from the 12-volt batteries, their charge was gone.

My husband adds that since we used the generator to run the air conditioning because even in Montana during the day it was in the 80’s, that took away from the generator’s ability to charge our 12-volt batteries.

We didn’t get to run the generator long enough to give them juice. We knew this in our motorhome because we have a panel that lets us know how charged our batteries are.

The generator powers much more than our batteries, so we ran our air conditioning during the 6 hours a day we were permitted to use it.

In Montana, July days approached 80+ degrees, and sometimes the RV would get as hot or hotter inside than outside. It retained heat well after the evening cooled.

This problem was worse when we camped next to tent campers