Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rally Camping

Dear Joe and Vicki: We are thinking about signing up for what will be our first rally. What can we expect in the way of camping facilities?

Joe: Depending upon their location, rallies can offer a variety of utility hookup connections. Some will offer full hookups with electric, water and sewer. Most, however, will provide only partial hookups; meaning an electrical and possibly a water hookup. And others will only provide dry camping. It is a good idea to read the rally literature carefully so you know exactly what to expect. No matter what you sign up for or what you expect, however, it is a good idea to show up at a rally prepared for dry camping.

Dry, or self-contained, camping means living in your RV without the benefit of being connected to a campground’s electric, water and sewer facilities. Here are a few tips to make dry-camping at rallies a little easier.

If you have a generator. Ask to be parked in a generator area. You may be given your choice of camping in an area that permits unlimited (24 hour) generator usage or one with limited generator usage (7:00 AM to 10:00 PM for example). Be prepared for the noise and exhaust fumes of your neighbors’ generators.

Operate your generator only when you actually need to. Most of your electrical needs can be supplied by your battery(s) and they should automatically recharge while the generator is running.

Schedule your generator operating time to cover the usage of your high-amperage appliances. Running your generator from 7:00 am to 10:00 am for example might cover operation of the furnace, microwave oven, electric coffee pot, toaster, hair dryer and the water pump for showers. Your batteries will also be recharging during this time.

Check and service your generator before leaving home. You want your generator to be in good operating condition.

If you do not have a generator (or you choose to camp in a non-generator area). You will be relying upon your coach battery(s). Obviously, two coach batteries will last longer than one.

Conserve battery power by limiting your electrical usage. A single 12-volt ceiling light bulb draws about 1.5 amps per hour; a color TV (and inverter) about 12 amps; the furnace fan and the water pump 7.5 amps each while operating. Obviously, the less amp-hours you consume, the longer your battery will last. So turn off unnecessary lights and keep 12-volt appliance operation to a minimum.

Check and service your battery(s) before leaving home.

Vicki: Arrive with your water tank full! Dry campng means you will not have a water hookup so you will have to rely on the capacity of your RV’s fresh-water tank. Depending upon the duration of the rally and the capacity of your water tank you might even consider arriving with a few containers full of drinking water. The two-gallon containers of drinking water you buy at the supermarket work well here.

Conserve water by using the campground’s restroom and showers.

Wash dishes only once a day. Instead of pre-rinsing, use paper towels to wipe leftover food from the dishes. Use paper plates to reduce the number of dishes that have to be washed.

Do not let the water run while showering. At the shower head, turn on the water to get wet, turn off the water while you soap, turn on the water to rinse off. Don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth or while washing.

Use a pan or kettle to capture the water you run while waiting for warm water to arrive at the faucet. The captured water can be used for other washing purposes.

Shave with a battery operated razor.

Eat out more often. Remember to use the restaurant’s restroom before leaving.

Large rallies might have “water wagons” circulating through the campgrounds. They will fill your water tank or container for a fee.

Arrive with your holding tanks empty! You will not have a sewer hookup so you will have to rely upon the capacity of your RV’s holding tanks.

Conserving water will automatically conserve holding-tank space. One method of conserving space in the gray-water tank is to wash dishes in plastic dishpans and then dump the dirty dishwater into the black-water holding tank by pouring it into the toilet.

Large rallies might have “honeywagons” circulating through the campgrounds. They will empty your holding tank(s) for a fee. Most rally locations will have a dump station. Ask for its location.

Take a practice dry-camping trip. You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it can be.

Remember, arrive with your propane and water tanks full and your holding tanks empty!

Note: Occasionally a rally will only have 15 or 20-amp electrical hookups. You will need a 15-amp male to 30-amp female adapter in order to connect your 30-amp power cord to the 15-amp outlet. Keep in mind that you will have to keep your RV’s total amperage draw to 15 amps or less. It is a good idea to switch both your refrigerator and water heater to propane operation before connecting your rig to a 15-amp outlet. An RV’s absorption refrigerator can draw in the neighborhood of 5 amps of power and the water heater 12 or more amps while operating on a 120-volt electrical connection..


Joe and Vicki Kieva are the authors of a number of how-to books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

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