Tag Archives: RV campgrounds

Series: 5 lessons I learned boondocking: Part 4 of 5

RV boondocking or dry campingLesson 4: A one-dump station town presents interesting challenges

Traveling to a dump station beyond your campground

After our generator adventures, which I hope you read for the safety information I share for you and your pets, we learned how to not be our own worst enemies by under planning for RV campsites.

Hopefully, you realize that you need to use a dump site to dump your black water, or poo water as I call it, and gray water, which is kitchen sink and shower water.

Since we shower, cook, and wash dishes often in our RV, we needed to dump our gray and black water approximately every three days. The gray water would fill up first and if you don’t want stinky water backing up in your shower . . . dump it when it is full.

Our particular bathroom sink water also is black water, so not wasting much water brushing our teeth helped us not have to change black water so often (wetting brush, turning off water, brushing teeth, turning water back on to rinse).

Let me interject here as I will elsewhere that you need a longer wastewater hose than may come with your RV. Ours has an extension for 20 feet and is most of the time 10 feet. But you never know how far away the dump location will be or even if you need to park in an unusual manner because of the site you have.

Borrowing your neighbor’s longer poo hose may not be fun–who knows how clean or umm, not clean it might be–so best have your own.

A female elk plays around in a field.
You can see plenty of frolicking elk around West Yellowstone, but you have to frolic a long time yourself to find a dump station. Photo credit: Christina Goebel, rvbycampfire.com

West Yellowstone has, at least in 2016, one.dump.site. Yeah. My husband Gerald knew that we were camping without a dump on our campsite, but not that our whole campground didn’t have it, either. Most campgrounds we’ve been to that don’t let you dump at your site have one at least for the campground. Not this one.

What was strange was when Gerald asked someone and received a list of potential dump sites, those potentials didn’t have one.

Finally, we located One. The one. The only one in town.

Never in my wildest dreams, people!

Now that I’ve thought about it, West Yellowstone borders the Madison part of Yellowstone National Park. The area has environmental regulations and you’ll see when you’re there that they take precaution to preserve this great wilderness.

I don’t know if that’s the reason West Yellowstone makes you understand why Clark’s cousin Eddie in Christmas Vacation empties his “crapper,” his RV sewage down the city sewage, which is wildly illegal, so don’t consider it!

Metal sign on street says No Dumping Drains to Stream.
Yep, someone tried to dump their waste here, that’s why there’s a warning. photo credit: No Dumping – Drains to Stream – Ashland, Oregon via photopin (license)

But at least you can understand it, ha ha.

The lesson for you is to learn before you book a campsite is where the dumpsites will be if not at your campsite.

In our case, it was far away and we made this trip every three days, over a hideously crappy road. And it also had no WiFi and I work remotely via computer and need WiFi like water. Of course, I also need a dump site.

Ah, the joy of planning.

Sign with WiFi symbol and words Zone Wi-Fi
Any free WiFi sign is a delight to RVers, who may have limited data plans. photo credit: 01_paris2009_YannBona via photopin (license)

Since that experience, my husband has extended his list of questions that he asks every campground before booking so that he doesn’t have to get up extra early to drive down a bumpy road for miles to get his wife’s mobile office into WiFi range.

Why not work using McDonald’s WiFi? It’s not the right solution for working nine-hour days. Barnes and Noble is a better option, but everyone else has the same idea and I don’t like fighting for seats.

A mobile office offers the comforts of home—and cushioned seats.

So generators, campers, dogs, and dumps–what’s next? Ha ha. Water problems.

Building a Campfire on Wet Ground

How to build a campfire on wet ground, showing a picture of an RV at night behind a campfire and the RV by Campfire logo on the bottom on the pictureBuilding a campfire is a challenge that has troubled men and women since the beginning of our relationship with the element that cooks our food and warms us.

In the wilderness, if you can’t build a fire, you can’t sterilize water or cook food. If it gets cold, you can’t stay warm. Fire keeps many animals away, as well as insects. Once we lit our fire, the mosquitoes at the campsite pictured above left us alone.

If you were lucky enough to be a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, you probably received information about different types of wood being necessary for building a fire: tinder, kindling, and fuel. If you need to know more about those, you can read that here.

Even for experienced campers, though, building a fire can be a challenge. Sometimes, we don’t have the materials we need. Strike that. Often, we don’t have the materials we need.

It’s not as easy as throwing a log (fuel) into a pit and lighting it.

Tinder, the tiny, easy to light wood and other materials like moss, is lacking in most sites, particularly if the campground prohibits the use of sticks and wood from their grounds. This is pretty common for us, since we’ve camped at state parks.

Gerald and I like to watch survival shows and one of our favorite parts is learning where they will find water, what kind of shelter they will make, and if they will be successful building a fire.

Our favorite was Cody Lundin from the series Dual Survival, because Cody liked to go everywhere barefoot–even in the snow!–and because he could light a fire in the most difficult of situations.

If you want to learn from Cody himself how to build fires, you can join him for $395. Sound like too much? He can make fire from poo, Fritos, toothpaste, duct tape, etc. He also makes a mean bow drill.

Cody can build fires in the rain. Oh yeah.

Gerald and I had trouble doing that when we were camping at Fort Pickens Campground, part of Gulf Shores National Seashore on the island of Santa Rosa in Florida. We had a fire ring, a place to light the fire. We collected tinder, kindling, and had a cord of firewood for fuel. But, it had rained for a few days prior. The ground was soaking wet.

No problem, we thought. If we had a lot of tinder and kindling, by the time that burned up a bit, the ground would be dry.

Yes, and no. It took a long time and Gerald deserted the fire pit, thinking we had failed to maintain the fire and had lost it.He came in and told me it wouldn’t stay lit.

Aww, Cody would have been ashamed of us.

Strangely, it fired back up and was almost completely burned out by the time we noticed it.

What happened and how to light a fire on wet ground?

Next time, I will try this fire building formation to dry out the ground beneath it. Just lay some branches across the ground like a wooden float. Then, layer your tinder (pencil-sized wood) and kindling (thumb-sized wood) over that. When the fire gets going, you can slowly add some fuel (logs).

You can learn more about lighting a fire on a wet site here from Paul Scheiter. His method is simple, illustrated by pictures, and most likely one of the most effective.

I’ve also seen a platform built from people adding wood in a cross hatch pattern, first one way, then another. Get that fire off the wet ground.

There are many tricks to building and maintaining fires, and I’ll share more in the future. Also, Gerald and I are big on fire safety and I’ll share more on that too.

The fire above was actually taken at Fort Pickens National Park in Florida. It was taken before the rain came.