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How to Start RV Boondocking Camping Easily, Cheaply, and Quickly

I have a bumper-pull travel trailer for sale: 1997 AeroLite, 7 X 21 foot (nominal), weighing 4000 pounds loaded. (I am the original owner.) It would work best for a single person. The inside standing height is 6' 3.5". 

At its weight you can pull it with any half-ton pickup truck (e.g., Ford F150), Tacoma or Frontier, or truck-based SUV, Chevy Astro, or full size van (e.g., Econoline). You wouldn't want to use a crossover utility vehicle (CUV) or a 4 cylinder truck.

This travel trailer would be a clever way to slip into boondocking if you are uncertain whether you will really like the lifestyle, and you don't want to spend a lot to give it a try. It would be a fair test; otherwise you might use a rig that just isn't meant for dry camping, with the result proving nothing. 

This travel trailer would also be ideal for someone who doubts their skill or interest in volts, amps, sabre saws, and electric drills. All of that has been done a long time ago. You can start boondocking the first day you own it.

This travel trailer would also be excellent in non-travel mode: as a portable, ready-to-live-in cabin for an acreage or a driveway.

Model year 1997, 7 X 21 foot nominal, tandem Torflex axles, good for somebody up to 6'2".
280 nominal watts of solar panels on top. Four deep cycle batteries.


Outside it looks pretty normal. Inside it has been tricked out with all the stuff that makes boondocking and dispersed camping a pleasure. But let's be clear: the inside of the trailer is completely functional and utilitarian. There isn't a dollar wasted on being pretty, cute, or stylish.

No matter how much two people's preferences might differ, our bodies are virtually the same, and with the same physical needs. By self-contained, I mean:

1. The ability to eat: a 3 burner propane stove, with two 5 gallon propane bottles in a front compartment. Also, a 40 quart, Whynter refrigerator that uses a DC compressor, so that it runs off the batteries.

I've given up on expensive conventional RV refrigerators, and switched to a compressor-based frig that works directly off of  the 12 volt batteries.

The two metal cages that lift out of the Whynter frig, hopefully giving you some guide to what it holds.

2. The ability to anti-eat, that is, to urinate and defecate. There is a standard Thetford RV-style toilet, with a 19 gallon black water holding tank.

3. The ability to wash. There is an indoors shower for navy-style showering -- and you'd be surprised how many "boondocking" rigs don't have this feature -- as well as a double kitchen sink, 26 gallon grey water tank, and small bathroom sink.

I got rid of the conventional water heater years ago, and replaced it by heating water on the propane stove, and then transferring it to a small water tank. The latter is connected to the water pump, so you can take a nice hot navy-style shower.

4. Sleeping. A 4" upholstery grade foam bed that takes standard twin bed sheets: 39" X 74".

5. Staying cool. Three roof vents, one of which is a Maxx-Air electric exhaust fan.

6. Staying warm. A "Wave 3" Olympian catalytic propane heater.

7. Thinking, reading, and writing. A rather roomy desk, with a swivelly and adjustable office chair. Numerous LED lights.

8. Staying electrically powered. 280 nominal watts of solar panels, with a controller, of course.

Four 6 volt, deep cycle batteries.

Running all your gadgets is a 300 watt pure since wave inverter. It is powerful enough to run an electric drill, sabre saw, or orbital sander.

Also a 1000 Watt Yamaha generator, circa 1998. It is pretty quiet. When using the generator or shore power there is a 20/2 Amp battery charger.

9. Storing stuff. My goodness. There are shelves and spaces for over 40 (!) of the medium size Sterilite plastic storage drawers. To a large extent this is the thing that dominates the physical appearance of the inside of the trailer. 

It astonishes me to go into other people's large or expensive rigs and find so little storage. I filled every cubic foot of empty space with these plastic drawers or boxes: the equivalent of over 40 of them!

What it doesn't have, and for good reason(!):

1. RV industry normalcy inside the travel trailer. Anybody who expects a cute little house will be disappointed. The inside looks like a closet or a garage without the grease. An RV boondocker can find visual beauty anytime he wants by stepping outdoors.

2. An air-conditioner. (Like boondockers ever use them!) There is an electrical exhaust fan in the Maxx-Air vent. I supplement that with a Fantastic Endless Breeze floor fan.

3. A high power, high $$$ inverter for running devices like microwave ovens or toasters. It does have a 300 watt pure sine wave inverter that can power an electric drill, sabre saw, or orbital sander.

4. A large conventional freshwater tank. I carry the water in 5 gallon jugs in the tow vehicle. They are easier to fill. And it spares putting 250 pounds of water in an "ultralight" trailer!

5. Conventional water heater, as explained above. I boil a gallon of water in a pan on the stove in about ten minutes.

5. Slide-outs and awning. 

6. Granite counter-tops. (grin.)

Does anything need to be done right away to fix or improve it? No. 

But most owners would want to throw down a new floor. If it were me, I would just buy vinyl runners or vinyl pieces from Home Depot. There is no need to put floor coverings underneath cabinets, beds, etc. In fact, that is harmful because it keeps condensation in cold weather from drying out.

How much, When, and Where?

So what's the catch? It isn't the price. I want $1500-2500 for it, depending on whether the new owner will let me transfer some of the things to my new trailer. 

So I am prepared to "eat it" on the price in order to win on something else: timing and convenience. How's does a full-time RVer transition to a new rig when their old rig is non-standard? How do they avoid temporarily owning two rigs or zero rigs? How do they avoid ruining their summer travels by being in two places at once, answering curious-but-unserious Craigslist shoppers, consignment lots, etc.?

My geographical location this summer will be my typical western New Mexico, Springerville/Alpine AZ, and southwestern Colorado. Hopefully that's an area the buyer considers convenient. 

It takes 3-10 weeks to order my new trailer, unless I buy one off the lot. I'd like to take care of this before the monsoons hit in July.

Last but not least, I learned boondocking from experienced people. Asking questions and poking at things with your hands is the best way to ramp up quickly. I will coach the new owner on their questions. You will probably get more know-it-all opinions than you bargained for!

If interested please contact Boonie at I'll be happy to email you any needed photos.


edlfrey said…
Good Luck in getting into your new rig. If I am lucky I'll get to see it as I pass through Farmington on June 10th. I'll be on my way to Chama for a month. Perhaps our paths will cross.
Wayne (Wirs) said…
Another option, if the timing turns out to be more of a hassle than it's worth, is to take what you want from it and donate it to a school or, possibly better, a habitat for humanity type organization (to use as a "contractor" trailer).

Glad to see you're finally :) making your move to a new rig/vehicle. Can't wait to see what you come up with!
Good idea since that removes timing problems from the picture.
Michael said…
I like it. But I'm too far away. : )
Shared on cheap RV living
I appreciate it. I might actually put a paid ad on his site.
Karyn-Lee said…
I'd be more interested in the solars, batteries and controller, as I already have my RV.
Ideally I would like to move the solar and batteries to my new trailer. That might work well if the buyer wants to use the travel trailer as a moveable cabin, and use "shore" power. But I am leaving it as an option to the buyer to keep the solar and batteries WITH the trailer.

So I'm not interested in selling parts out of the trailer, but thanks for your interest.
John V said…
So does this mean you're coming up to Idaho now to build the new rig? Free place to park, good crago trailer dealers to compare prices, unlimited tools/technical support, and cheap suppllies! :-)
jonthebru said…
Your write up is a lesson in practical trailer outfitting. Anyone interested setting up a mobile lifestyle but who knows little can really benefit from your practical experience. Good luck getting what you need!
Hey, no kidding, Mirage cargo trailers are based in Nampa ID.
TooRisky said…
Email me I am in the market and have been a boondocker for a while, personal friends with Bob on cheaprv... Buying land in the Williams area and will spend summers there and winter in the Ehrenberg/Q area... It is time to up the comfort level, the price is right and we are in the same region... Let me know what the $1500.00 version is to include and we can work from there... Also more pictures of the inside big picture of things would give me a better idea of what I am looking at as for plans etc...

Serious buyer, cash in hand...

Steve and Zeke the mountain dog...
TooRisky said…
Too add to the above comment, I do not need the generator or the pure sine wave inverter... Also you can keep the toilet and shower as i would not use them, if they are removable...


Steve & Zeke...
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