Living off the grid in a camper trailer

Discussion in 'Camping/Outdoor Living' started by +-Freedom-+, Sep 1, 2013.

  1. +-Freedom-+

    +-Freedom-+ Member

    Hello everyone, lately I have been doing lots and lots of research. I have decided that I want to make a self sufficient camper trailer. I will get power using solar panels, water from collecting rain water, and have my own garden to produce as much food as I possibly can. I realize that I will still have to buy food, I just want to be able to live without having any electric or water connections. Has anyone here ever done this? Does anyone have any experience on being self sufficient or living in a small vehicle? I would love to hear some stories and get more information from someone who has been through what I dream of doing! I have been looking on craigslist and it looks like I can get a decent camper for around $2,000. Does anyone know how many watts of solar power I would need to produce a day to be able to power a camper full time? At this point I am just trying to absorb as much information as possible on this subject and would appreciate any and all advice. Thanks!
  2. skitzo child

    skitzo child PEACEFUL LIBRA

    Move to arizona they already got houses like that in the desert
  3. Freedom,

    Most of my neighbors, when I lived in Carroll county Ohio, lived just as you desire. We called them Amish. :)

    Solar set ups are expensive. I've been looking for years and 120 watts is the BARE MINIMUM to be worthwhile for my small Class C motor home. For me it hasn't become cost effective.

    By the way, the Amish in Carroll county do use solar panels to reduce generator use. They also use cell phones (usually kept in the barn) and battery tools. Wringer Maytag washers (easily converted to gasoline engines) are getting harder to find so the Amish are depending more on generators even for washing clothes. The modern world is having a big impact on them too. An Amish contractor friend even has a smart phone- it takes customer credit cards.

    I guess I'm trying to say that you'll need to change your habits, lifestyle and attitudes more than anything else. Maybe less computer and TV use as a start. Most folks don't understand what a self sufficient lifestyle entails. Ever slaughter a hog? Gone a week without "Netflicks" or "farcebook/tweeter"? Most inexpensive property seems to be too far away from cell towers for broadband coverage.

    Take a look at this site for non-electric items:

    Of course if you're among the wealthy few, just go with a gazillion watts of solar and 28 tons of batteries. Then you can microwave and use satellite TV to your hearts content.

    I'm not trying to be snide- just offer a reality check. Unless you are very wealthy, you're talking about a tremendous amount of backbreaking work. When was the last time you performed hard manual labor from sunup to sundown?

    And if you need help, what percentage of communes are successful?

  4. stormountainman

    stormountainman Soy Un Truckero

    Hey Vendor, I've been living in my 13ft trailer that is pulled by a Ford Ranger for two years. I used a solar panel to power the lights and fan. It is easy to do that. You just need to learn the ropes when it comes to free camping, BLM lands, State Parks, and federal forest service camp grounds. I recommend that you get something not too big, because in some camp grounds the big ones just don't fit. Little trailers would use up less fuel. If I graduate to a bigger one, it would be about 16 or 17 foot.
  5. +-Freedom-+

    +-Freedom-+ Member

    Thanks for the tip! I was looking at 18' and below. I can get solar panels off craigslist for decently cheap. Around 50 cents a watt. Are you able to run your lights and fan on just solar power without ever having to hookup to power? Thanks!
  6. +-Freedom-+

    +-Freedom-+ Member

    Thanks for your advice. I do not have a whole bunch of money but I do have several grand that I am willing to put into this lifestyle. I do not have facebook or netflix or any of that really. Thank you for that website I found lots of neat helpful things on there. How long have you been living in your mobile home for?
  7. Manservant Hecubus

    Manservant Hecubus Master of Funk and Evil

    Google "boondocker"

    You'll get a pile of sites that can help you out!
  8. Freedom,

    I've been full time in my Class C for about 3 years.

    I'm completely mobile so my situation is a little different from what you plan. Recently my little 1000 watt generator died. Prior to that I was using about a gallon of gas a week, along with normal driving, to charge my batteries. During the summer I usually plug in once or twice a month- sometimes free in somebody's driveway and sometimes included with my flea market spot.

    Winter on the gulf coast is different. I usually plug in at least once a week. Sometimes I'll live at a market for several weeks with power for an extra $10 or so a week. That extra $10 a week gives me heat, refrigeration and cooking along with lights and computer. Normally I'd burn 10-12 gallons of propane in my refrigerator every 5-6 weeks depending on temperature- let's say around $5 a week. You can't buy ice for that price.

    Southern folks tend to be a bit (OK, a LOT) friendlier so I spend more time in people's driveways too.

    Solar would have to be really cheap AND really powerful to compete with that. Most solar users I've talked to (and read posts from) still have to supplement their solar with a generator or plugging in to the mains. Solar panels are only about a third of the issue. The controller and the battery bank are the other two thirds. Most folks "kill" their first bank of batteries learning how to use them.

    The big thing is to cut consumption. LED's are still more expensive but worth it to change over half your lights. In reality, they don't last as long as automotive incandescent. Vibration and bumps seem to kill them. Even the ones supposedly normal looking aren't. If I have the juice, I mix in a "peanut" incandescent marker light bulb to give a more pleasant look.

    My current laptop is 18.5 volts. I'm still looking for another that is 12 volts. Inverter loss for the computer is probably my biggest waste of power. If you can find one that is native 12 volts; go for it.

    Go for your dream sooner rather than later. Just understand that there is a whole lot of work involved no matter what you do.

    "Giggle" searches and Yahoo groups usually turn up more bad advice than good. It's always best to talk to people eye to eye. There are people all over the country living a simple inexpensive lifestyle. Those who know how are NOT putting "vids" on "Utube"

  9. Manservant Hecubus

    Manservant Hecubus Master of Funk and Evil're gonna run into a good many 'elite' who will tell you that everybody else's experience is wrong and theirs is the only real advice.
    Get used to that. There's a reason this kind of lifestyle attracts certain personality types. LOL
  10. kenwilkes

    kenwilkes Member

    Look at a yahoo group called Vandwellers Lots of good people and help
  11. snowtiggernd

    snowtiggernd Member

    You need to go to EBay and pick up what's called a Kill A Watt. You plug into your outlet then plug your appliance ito it. It shows you how many watts your appliance uses. Do that for everything you will use in the trailer. Work it out on a worksheet how many watts you use daily. Then you can go about sizing up your battery bank and Solar panels and inverter. You will need to make it a little bigger than what you use. Microwaves and toster ovens use a lot. Your better off just using a generator to run them.
    1 person likes this.
  12. drumminmama

    drumminmama Super Moderator Super Moderator

    Great advice.
    Solar 101 is what do you use now? What can you upgrade to lower draw or eliminate.(or save for shore power in your case)
  13. Logan 5

    Logan 5 Confessed gynephile

    A group called "" is a good group. Lots of info, friendly members. You can learn a lot, there.
  14. Vincent2012

    Vincent2012 Perpetual Smiler

    I have a $149 100W Renorgy panel, a $5 charge controller, and a $118 Walmart deep cycle. It runs my computer from 10am to about 7-8pm, and from time to time also charges my phone or my little AAA/AA charger. I don't have a friedge, and I don't have a microwave. My battery isn't hooked up to my alternator, so my vehicle doesn't charge it. My little meter has never dropped below 12.3, and maxes out at 14.6... I do just fine. No generator needed. No wasted gas turning my van on.

    I've been living in my 1995 Plymouth Grand Voyager like this for 5 months, four of which were spent in Quartzsite, AZ on BLM land. It can be done. I'd like to add another battery and maybe anothr 100W or 150W panel, but all in all, works well for my personal needs.

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