NüCamp created the TAB 320 S Outback (now called the Boondock) with off-grid camping in mind. My particular model has the capabilities to keep me safe and comfortable for days without having access to traditional campground hookups. To enhance the standard 320S features, I purchased a Zamp Solar Panel so I can keep my batteries charged when I’m in a place where I can’t plug in. Even though I’ve had the capacity to boondock, as a solo female RVer, I’ve not felt comfortable camping without the safety of others around me, so I’ve not used my T@B as intended until recently.
My Apprehension with Boondocking
Even though my camper is self-contained, I never wanted to boondock. The last time I was in a state park alone with no cell phone service, I felt disconnected from the world. Since then, I’ve intentionally stayed in places where people surrounded me, and I felt sheltered with hookups and semi-reliable cell phone service. When my friend Katie mentioned she wanted to go back to The Great Sand Dunes National Park, I jumped at the opportunity. I am an RVer, and she is a tent camper, so we knew we wanted to stay somewhere where we could both set up camp comfortably. We also wanted to bring our dogs, so we had to choose a place where our puppies wouldn’t disrupt other campers.
Hipcamp is Hip, But Our Experience Wasn’t
Katie found a pretty unique camping site from the website Hipcamp. The site promised our camping spot would have expansive views, quiet camping, a fire ring, a cleared camping spot, and minimal lights and noise. I made it to our site just as the sun went behind the mountains. Katie was sitting on her camp chair with her dog Hank in her lap when I arrived. She helped guide me into the space next to her tent, which required me to back in so that my door could face her tent. Even though I can back into spaces, backing into this space wasn’t easy. I bottomed out a few times, terrified that I’d pop a tire. Thankfully, my Outback has a higher ground clearance and off-road tires, so I didn’t do any damage to my rig.
My dog Pippa bounded out of the truck to greet Katie and Hank. Hank shivered and held one of his paws limply in the air. The ground had more cactus on it than cleared space, and the dogs had to sit on our laps the entire night because of the cacti landmines. The spiky terrain made it almost impossible to do anything comfortably, so we set up my propane fire pit and propane grill and did as much as we could without moving from our chairs. The concept of wide-open spaces and unlimited access to nature quickly diminished, and we counted down the time when we could retreat to our beds for the night. It’s a bummer that we were so uncomfortable because we both looked forward to sitting under the stars. Sadly, nature complicated our plans.
The Sounds of Silence?
Even though we couldn’t move around a lot, we tried to make the most out of our camping experience. Suddenly, the wind picked up, and the temperature went from cold to downright freezing. We were camping in the middle of an open space, and we had no shelter from the relentless whipping of air. In true Katie and Meg form, we both became crabby and irritated. We know when we get this way that it’s best to do our own thing because our impatience will only further irritate one another.
Katie still wanted to sleep inside of her tent, even though the wind continued to howl. She’d meticulously set up camp on the only section of cleared ground, and she didn’t want her work to go to waste. We both headed to bed for the night, and I snuggled up next to Pippa in my heated camper. All night, I could hear Katie’s tent flapping like crazy. It sounded like hundreds of bats flapping their wings outside of my window. I felt awful for Katie and Hank because I was perfectly cozy inside of my camper, while she and the dog couldn’t move without her tent walls smacking them.
Neither of us slept well. The dogs, both aware of every sound, never slept either. Pippa and Hank protected us and took turns growling, barking, and howling. Of course, every time one of the dogs growled or barked, the other dog would sit up and communicate back. Subconsciously, I also think I was worried about what might be outside causing the dogs to bark, so I slept the entire night restlessly.
It’s Worth the Wake-Up
Usually, I love to sleep in when I’m camping. My TAB’s heater, the Alde, keeps me at just the perfect temperature, and I never want to move from my warm bed and go outside where it’s cold. But, my boondock experience was entirely different. At 5:30 a.m., when the sun rose over the mountain, all of my irritation from overnight suddenly dissipated and I wanted to watch the sky transition from night into day.
I now know why people boondock. The sun rose over Mt. Blanca and slowly illuminated the Earth. For a few moments, in the middle of nowhere, I experienced the effects of camping outside of an RV park. So much so that I vowed to take my camper and boondock somewhere else again sooner than later.
As for Katie and I, as much as we wanted to love the atmosphere of our location, we couldn’t justify staying another night. We didn’t want our poor dogs to sit on our laps for hours. It just wasn’t fair to them. So, we decided to pack up, and drive back toward the interstate and take a chance that there would be an open camping spot at Lathrop State Park.