According to my Facebook memories, my maiden voyage with my beloved Cimarron LQ horse trailer was 8 years ago this month. This was during the previous era of my life, when I was married to a guy who never went camping with me. Fast forward to now, when Alan and I enjoy one adventure after another together. We have covered a lot of miles equitrekking. Now, we are planning on doing some boondocking with horses and dogs in tow…
We are actually quite social. However, we find that as we get older, we are less and less tolerant of obnoxious kids and canines, and their sometimes obnoxious parents. Additionally, we do have 4 dogs of our own. While we are extremely diligent in making sure they don’t bother other campers, it is harder when you are squished together. We struggle to maintain our dogs when we have neighbor dogs coming on to our campsite!
We own two homes in remote areas, so we don’t need to be where pizza can be delivered to your door. Our horses respect portable electric fencing. Alan and I are very happy in each other’s company. We love the idea of enjoying nature and our animals in our own personal space. Boondocking sounds like the perfect solution.
After much discussion, we took the plunge and purchased a Class A motorhome. We won’t sell our LQ trailer until we see if this arrangement works for us. The problem with the LQ is that we wanted to do some camping without the horses, but with the boat that Alan brought to our marriage. A diesel pusher motorhome has the capacity to pull the horse trailer, the boat, or the Honda, depending on what we want to do.
The biggest issue raised by horse campers was the lack of wheels when in camp if your rig is a coach pulling a horse trailer. We get that. However, if we are boondocking and the horses are in an electric pen, we’re not leaving anyway. It appears that the trick will be to have everything we need when we get to camp!
There is a Facebook group called Boondocking with Horses. There is a wealth of experience and information available from these folks. I asked them, “What do you wish you knew before you started boondocking?”
One of the first things to come up was how beneficial it is to have solar panels. Our LQ trailer has two regular automotive batteries and operates on 30 amp service. The coach, on the other hand, has two automotive batteries for vehicular use, and four large batteries that power the living area. It can use 50 amp service. We haven’t boondocked yet, so we really have no idea how long those interior batteries will last, or what they will or won’t power.
The first order of business when figuring out how much power you need is to understand how much amperage each appliance pulls, as well as how much time per day you plan on using those appliances. This article, RV Electrical Breakers & Amperage Usage, will help you do just that. It is mind-boggling when you read that to realize how many things we use all the time that will pull power. It’s just like when there’s a thunderstorm and the power goes out… and yet we walk from room to room and try to turn on the lights!
In the LQ, we had a 6 cubic foot refrigerator. The coach has a residential fridge with an icemaker. Who knew that the icemaker would pull more power than the microwave? Clearly, if we’re boondocking, we’re bringing ready-to-go ice!
Assuming you use propane to power your fridge and water heater, use the amperage usage chart to calculate how many “amp hours” (the unit of measure when talking solar energy) you plan to consume each day. A solar calculator can help with this as well. Factor in the reality that most experts recommend that you store 4 day’s worth of power. Therefore, if you decide you need 50 amp hours per day, you’ll want to purchase a solar package that will provide 200 amp hours of storage.
A 200 watt system will set you back about $350. Ah… but you will also need at least two batteries, wiring and an inverter. If you do not want to install it yourself, expect to pay about $1,000 for the system and installation. The bottom line is you buy watt systems that generate amp hours of stored power. Here is another great resource to learn more.
When Covid forced people to work at home, many chose to work on the road. The challenge, however, was strong, dependable internet. This is another hot topic for folks who’d like to be off and on the grid at the same time!
What are some of the options?
- WiFi available at the campground
- Use your cell phone as a hotspot
- Purchase a booster. They do exactly what their name implies… boost a signal. If there is nothing to boost, you’re toast.
- Purchase a mobile hotspot ($100 and up for unit, $50-$150/month)
- Add a router to your mobile hotspot
- Get a Peplink router, which merges multiple sources of WiFi into one stronger signal. (Monthly plan costs here.)
- Go for broke… try and get Starlink or get on their “wait for a year or more” waiting list. $600 to set up, $110/month.
There are some awesome articles and YouTube videos out there that explain this in great detail. Check out this video to get an overview of many of the options. Go to MobileMustHave for kits and lots of information. Good luck in finding what works best for you! Maybe we should just unplug and enjoy Mother Nature?
Places to boondock
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Backcountry Horsemen. I’d start there when looking for good places to boondock. Call the local chapter and ask where a rig your size could park, where the closest water is, what trails are available, and what other information should you know about that location?
Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts are two other options. I personally reached out to Harvest Hosts about the issue of boondocking with horses. A very tiny percentage of their places would take horses. These are just a couple of the many options. Here is another article about free places to camp, although again, I wonder how many of these could accommodate horses?
The photo below was provided by Jessica Isbrecht, who has a website called rideclimb.com. She has a map here that shows many of the places she has boondocked.
Some other “know before you go” suggestions
- Take more water and hay than you think you’ll need. Plan on 15 gallons of water per horse per day. This is where asking a Backcountry horseman where to camp near water pays dividends!
- Check to see if you need weed-free hay where you plan to ride. Or use pelleted feed.
- Bring a heavy duty tire inflator.
- Have a well-stocked first aid kit/medicine cabinet
- Truck oil, diesel fuel, engine coolant
- Solar motion lights placed strategically around the outside of your trailer
- Bring a water pump that allows you to pump water out of nearby natural water sources to water your animals.
- Test your horses at home in whatever kind of enclosure/high line you plan to use while boondocking. Fire a gun and make sure they don’t blow through the hotwire!
I have a cheap version of this lighted tag for the dogs. Mine only blink red and they are dying each time I drag one out… they must be 8 years old at least! Somewhere I obtained a dozen or more of those cheap blinking lights. I just ordered four new ones, as I love the idea of knowing which dog is straying from our boondocked trailer. Part of the appeal of boondocking is more freedom for the dogs, but I still have to be able to see them at night.
Many of the other suggestions related to good preparation for horse camping in general.
- Spare halters, lead ropes, etc
- A horse boot for lost shoes
- An emergency toolkit
One gal responded to my query with this comment:
Have a bucket of grain, an extra halter and flashlight set and ready just inside your trailer door. So when your horses, or your neighbor’s horses, get loose off their high line in the middle of the night you aren’t rummaging around looking for stuff in a panic. Ask me how I know this…
So… I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that I think you should have identification on your horses if you are camping in general, much less boondocking.
I would love to hear your comments about what you wish someone had told you before you boondocked. As Alan and I explore our beautiful country, I will enjoy sharing our experiences with you.