A snapshot of our Wild Drive Life story and self-built bus conversion design are featured in the new book Tiny House: Live Small, Dream Big by digital entrepreneur and really nice nomad, Brent Heavener.
Brent curates the inspirational design account on Insta @tinyhouse which we follow. It’s less over-glamorization of tiny living, more incredible design inspiration. He lives in South America, has a passion for helping others, manages a cattle ranch and so much more. Social media, for all its flaws, creates opportunities for connections and collaborations with others on a global scale, which we love and truly appreciate.
Tiny House: Live Small Dream Big
Brent reached out to us about the Tiny House: Live Small Dream Big project on Instagram last summer. We were excited to contribute. We’re among some truly incredible and innovative personal takes on HOME and PLACE. The individual and collective talents on these pages are so inspiring! The landscapes, design skill and bold lifestyle moves are humbling to say the least. Each page features photos and short descriptions of the stories behind each home. There are cabins, treehouses, shipping container homes, tinys and more.
That’s our Bus!
To flip through and see our FIRST (so imperfect in all the ways possible) BUILD, our diy blue beast is a pretty cool thing. We almost sold our bus, our first and only home at the current moment, this summer. I’m still not sure why. In the end, we couldn’t do it.
As I look at the picture featured in this book, I replay the string of tiny moments, everything it took to build the experience before and after the photo was taken. The “hmmm… what are they doing?” kind of path we deliberately chose without hesitation. Imperfect and wild and winding, but entirely ours. Sometimes you start something without knowing what it will look like in six months, a year, three years, but, you just KNOW you’re heading in the right direction.
The book is officially on sale now in hardcover and Kindle editions on Amazon here.
I also love the matte paper and matte hardcover design that was chosen for this book. Our blog contains affiliate links that earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you whatsoever, it just keeps us writing and sharing as we move ahead in this adventure.
Follow us @wilddrivelife as we FINALLY “break ground” (haha) on our space van conversion this fall!
Ever since we got our Jackery Explorer 240 lithium battery portable power station earlier this winter, I’ve developed a small obsession with off-grid portable power options.
292 Watt-hour energy storage
The Honda by Jackery HLS290 is the latest portable lithium ion portable power station release from Jackery and it features a partnership with Honda which is super exciting. We recently had the chance to test it out!
From Jackery: “The HLS290 provides safe, quiet, mobile power to go places wherever your adventure takes you. Now you can charge up activity electronics such as drones, cameras, smart phones, and a host of other recreational equipment. The HLS290 is solar-ready and designed for an active outdoor lifestyle. Plus it also serves as a reliable power source in case of emergency.”
Meanwhile, Back in New Hampshire
We have 356 Ah of battery bank in our off-grid bus conversion slash tiny home. That gets us pretty far. However, we recently made our return to our favorite place in northern New Hampshire which happens to also be the second cloudiest county in the country. Winter is also still in full swing. Yay! Less solar means more planning and exploring our other options.
We already love the Explorer 240 by Jackery so we had a feeling we would appreciate having their new model around as well.
We had a little snow squall for a couple days that dumped 12 inches on our solar panels. With no power coming in to charge our batteries (we’re also not traveling right now) we have to be extra cautious of our usage. Luckily our Explorer 240 just got a new buddy for us to hang out with and test, the brand new Honda by Jackery HLS 290.
Tested by Ben and Meag
We’ve tested all of the products we mention in this blog with the exception of the E160. We love researching, testing and figuring things out, especially when it comes to low impact living and off-grid living. That is EXACTLY how we built our bus and our lifestyle over the past few years. Nothing fancy, we’re just curious by nature! Always learning and improving…
First, Let’s Go Over a Few Jackery Favorites
We incorporated Jackery into our day to day lives and outdoor activities for the past couple of months (the HLS290 was the latest addition this month!) to see what works and where so we can share our favorites with you.
Price: $399 (Even more power! This is their brand new release and partnership with Honda!)
Highlights: Same design & benefits as the E240 with more power and a design partnership with a well rooted and trusted brand, Honda. At only 9″ long and weighing just 6.6 lbs — the 290 is also super portable! We brought it on a couple Jeep trips already.
Price: (on sale!) — $249 + an additional $15 off with Amazon coupon.
Highlights: Versatility! Car camping, weather emergencies, off-grid or tiny living power options, etc. (these benefits go for all models, really!) — It has a solid amount of power and doesn’t take up a lot of room in your living space (6.6 lbs and 5” wide and 8” tall, with an easy-carry handle). You can read our last blog about the Explorer 240for more information.
Price: (on sale!) — $139 + there’s an additional $20 off with the Amazon coupon.
Highlights: This is the smallest, most portable and most inexpensive option in the bunch. It also has a cool built-in flashlight. To me I see this rocking in a car camping adventure or just on hand at home as a quick grab backup. It cannot support devices over 100w. We have not personally tested this one.
Highlights: Portability! I have to mention the next two on our list because we’re taking them on our Appalachian Trail thru-hike. We’ve been testing this teeny portable power bank for the past couple months and it’s perfect for keeping our phones charged on hikes or on the go.
Price: $27.99 + an additional $5 off with Amazon coupon
Highlights: Waterproof! I love the durable design on this portable power bank. Both this and the Bolt charge your phone REALLY quickly, twice as fast as a standard iPhone charger.
Great for Challenging Weather Conditions
Now that we’re pretty certain we’ll build roots in northern New Hampshire after we hike the Appalachian Trail this summer, we want to know as much as possible about our off-grid power options in a cloudy place like the White Mountains!
On cloudier stretches of weather, we’re able to avoid tapping into our bus batteries that power our absolute essentials like the fridge, water pump, toilet fan, and lights. We can run the blender for smoothies in the morning, charge our devices, and power our white noise fan all night while we sleep, all off Jackery lithium battery portable power stations.
When the 240 is discharged to 20% we can switch to the HLS 290 until the next sunny day comes around.
When we’re pulling in lots of solar and our batteries are fully charged in float mode, we plug in the Explorer 240 and the HLS 290 to optimize the sun’s power and charge them back up.
Portability for our Bus (home) and our Jeep
Our bus is our FIRST build. It was a Sherrif’s department mobile command center beforehand the electrical was already setup for that purpose. We made use of their setup so our outlets are not in the MOST convenient locations. Sometimes we’ll charge up our laptop on the dining table or nightstand with the Jackery instead. Portability, baby!
Another benefit to these easy to transport power systems is we can now leave one in the bus and take the other with us in our Jeep Wrangler.
We generate our income online. Our laptops, phones, and camera are our livelihood. So if we’re out and about and need power, Jackery is there for us. I just brought the 240 with us to a meeting in North Conway the other day. It was perfect to charge things on our way through the mountains in the Jeep!
Affordable Power Options for All
Adventuring isn’t the only viable reason to own one of the new Jackery Explorer HLS290s or another product in their lineup; they’re also great in an emergency situation.
Typically in the US we lose power a few times a year averaging between 2-4 hours at a time depending on the state. With standby generators costing between $4,000-$10,000, the Jackery power stations are a much more affordable solution for those who don’t live in areas that need to worry about freezing temperatures during outages.
If you’re not ready for that level of investment, it’s a nice way to have some options available!
How to the 240 & 290 Models Compare?
Now, after owning both the Honda series and the Explorer series it was only natural to want to compare the two. Unboxing, there isn’t much difference.
They both offer pure sine wave output, both come with a two-year warranty, both use lithium ion technology, and as far as the 240 and 290 go they both have all the same input and output ports.
Major differences… the 240 is orange and the HLS is red. I know, that’s huge. 🙂 Of course the most obvious difference is the the 290 has a slightly larger capacity (it’s in the name).
Overall Consensus: We love the Jackery lineup. There’s something for most of your needs.
Honda Partnership – Pretty cool!
So aside from the increase in capacity, which in my opinion is pretty impressive considering they are the same dimensions and weight, what’s the big deal here? Well, it’s what’s going on behind the scenes that’s really intriguing to me. Honda, a juggernaut in the portable power world, has partnered with Jackery. What does that tell us?
One: Jackery is just rocking it right now. A company that’s only been around since 2012 has made such a splash in portable power supply technology that they’ve attracted Honda. Enough said.
Two: A partnership with Honda only further solidifies the quality of these products. Jackery’s products have always shown nothing but excellence, and now they have the seal of approval from a company that’s had their hands in things all the way from humanoid robots to formula one racing. I think I trust them.
And Three: having a relationship with Honda can only mean great things in Jackery’s future. With the launch of their new 1500W power station coming mid 2019 (I hope I can get my hands on one of these!) it’s clear Jackery isn’t slowing down anytime soon. I have no doubt they will only continue to innovate above and beyond to better battery technology.
Their collaboration has already shown in the Honda series that they can pack more power into the same space without any weight increase. Rumor has it that Honda is working on new fluoride ion technology that could succeed lithium ion batteries in power, weight, and affordability. Possible partnership here some day? Hope so!
That’s all for Now!
We hope our research and testing of these adventure and off-grid lifestyle products helps YOU as embark on your journey. Whether you’re looking to adventure out there in the wild or have reliable emergency backup solutions, these guys won’t let you down.
This is a sponsored post and does contain affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase through our blog, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Our affiliate relationships help to keep us rolling and writing helpful tips, posts and more for YOU. That’s why we’re here. Thanks so much for your support!
Living off-grid in our bus conversion taught us a deep appreciation for so many practical simplicities; a full water tank, a freshly stocked fridge, a full tank of diesel, or a full charge on a device that helps us generate mobile income and keep living the DIY lifestyle we enjoy!
All of these simple pleasures make us feel more secure. It helps to be appreciative of the little things! For us, expanding our off-grid capabilities is a never ending endeavor and the Jackery 240 Explorer portable power station is a welcomed addition to our collection of power options. The BEST part is it’s portability.
We received the Jackery Explorer 240 portable power station shortly before starting our two-week van trip experiment and it was ESSENTIAL to us during that time. So, we wrote this blog to spread the love!
Jackery was awesome enough to send us a complimentary charging station and sponsor an Instagram post. They did not pay us to write this review blog, we simply wanted to because this power station rocks — it exceeded our expectations. The opinions and experiences we share have and always will be genuine Meag & Ben honesty regardless. Anyhoo — we wanted to share that with everyone. 🙂
About the Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240
The “240” in the name stands for 240 watt-hours, which pretty impressive for just over 6 lbs. of battery. The lithium ion battery means light weight, zero maintenance (aside from charging, duh), long life and a higher discharge capability. At only 5.19” x 9.05” x 7.67” in dimension it’s extremely portable and easy to stow away in a bus, van, car (car camping!), tiny home or regular home for that matter.
Jackery sells through Amazon and their products are available with free Prime delivery!
You can plug virtually anything (200W or less) into the Explorer 240. It has 2 USB, a 12v DC, and a 110 AC output and will charge almost any electronic device multiple times. Each output can be toggled on or off with the press of a button to conserve battery life.
The LCD status screen is a handy feature. It shows exactly what watts are coming in when charging and how much is going out when a device is plugged into it. It also displays the % of battery life left, no conversions no math.
How do you charge the power station?
We charge our Jackery in the bus through our inverter (basically the sun charges our batteries via solar panels on the roof, that goes through an inverter which we’re able to plug into and charge things…). We’ve also charged our Jackery in the 12V port of a rental van recently, same would go for charging in a car or van. Easy peasy.
Optional Jackery Solar Panel
You could also charge Jackery products through a regular wall outlet or with Jackery’s optional add-on solar panel. Lots of options!
We have 600w of solar on the roof, 356 Ah of battery bank, and an 8000w Cummins generator (this came with the bus!), that’s a lot of off-grid power already. So why add another battery to the mix? For anyone who has off-grid systems they know it’s not just about what you’re plugging in but when you’re plugging in.
During the day, when we’re pulling in a lot of solar, is the time to be charging devices and running appliances. Typically we have more solar coming in than we tend to use but that’s the Arizona desert. Not every location has this level of abundant sun. At night or when we’re parked in a cloudy/rainy weather for a while we have to be a bit more conservative about our usage, that’s where the Jackery shines.
We also spend a lot of time back home in the White Mountains of New Hampshire! Did you know that the Mt. Washington area (where we met and love to be most) is the second cloudiest place in the country, INCLUDING ALASKA?!
Soooo… we like to have options and backups.
Update 2020 — We’re now renovating a house in New Hampshire rather than traveling in the bus, and the Jackery still comes in handy on an almost daily basis!
Less Waste if we have Excess Solar
As I said earlier, we tend to pull in more solar on a sunny desert day than we use. We try to charge all of our devices during the day to avoid plugging in at night, but even after two laptops and two iPhones there’ still plenty of solar to go around.
The Jackery takes a good 7-8 hours to fully charge which makes it a great solar dump for when our batteries are in float mode.
This means when our AGM batteries are fully charged we are still bringing in electricity from our solar panels that just gets wasted. The Jackery is able to capture it and act as a power source at night, during a stretch of cloudy weather, or when we’re away from the bus. This has and will continue to help us optimize the overall efficiency of our power capabilities.
Yes, we could just add to our battery bank with another AGM battery or two, but the versatility and portability of the Jackery 240 makes it worthwhile. It brings something to the table that bulky batteries cannot. Ever try to move a 178 Ah AGM battery? It’s heavy, very heavy. Not only is portability out of the question, but you’re also adding more weight to your vehicle. In a bus that’s probably okay, but if you’re living in a van you need to be careful about every pound you add.
Anyway, we took the Jackery 240 with us and it was an absolute dream to have. We charged it while we drove from place to place in the 12v port of the van. We had enough power for blending smoothies in the morning, grinding coffee, charging all our devices, and even powering a small fan overnight for that sweet white noise. 🙂 All without it being discharged past 40% each night. Not too shabby at all!
Overall This Jackery Provides a Great Backup Power Source
2020 Update: We’ve had our Jackery Explorer 240 for two years now and we’ve really enjoyed having it.
This post contains affiliate links which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and make a purchase, this is at no additional cost to you and it keeps us writing, researching and sharing on Wild Drive Life. As always, we only recommend products we love and use personally.
When your mobile income depends on internet connectivity, cell signal strength matters! Wi-fi isn’t always readily available along our travels, especially when we’re boondocking in more remote locations, which happens to be our favorite. So we began our search for a cell signal booster!
The system was pretty simple to install, set up and use. WeBoost has booster kits for RVs as well as home/office. We took it on a test run after install in one of our favorite boondocking spots in the Arizona desert west of Phoenix and wanted to share the experience!
Intro: Full-time Living and Working from our Bus
We’re over a year into full-time living and travel in our 1989 bus conversion tiny home. We have just about everything we need to make it feel like home. However, there’s one thing we can’t always take with us… a strong internet signal.
We are able to go just about anywhere as long as there’s a semi-decent road to travel on. We can store enough food and water to sustain us for up to 3 weeks, a tiny wood stove for heat, a shower, a toilet, solar power, and an 8000W generator; pretty much all the comforts of home on a smaller scale with the ability to change our backyard whenever we want.
What do you need reliable internet for anyway?
Don’t get me wrong, we love to unplug and simply enjoy the outdoors. It’s a great way to reset, recharge, and appreciate nature. It’s important to find balance. The reality is, and this is true for many full-time RV’ers and digital nomads, we rely on staying connected, it’s our livelihood. Even right now, I’m writing this blog from a remote spot in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.
For a long time we limped by fairly well with an unlimited data plan (Verizon) and using our phones as mobile hotspots. This was hit or miss depending on our location. When that frustrated the heck out of us, we sought out coffee shops with free, stable Wi-Fi (Starbucks has been our reliable go-to).
Depending on where you are in the country, you may not have an option nearby. It’s not exactly cost effective to drive an hour to find free Wi-Fi with a blue beast of a bus that gets 10mpg on a good day. It can be frustrating when you have project deadlines.
Mobile Hotspot + Unlimited Data Plan —
Before we left Maine in the bus full-time (January 2018) we upgraded our Verizon cell phone plan to include unlimited data. Let’s pause to justify that expense ($119/month which includes a monthly device payment for our iPhone X):
You have to think, we’re not paying for our apartment Wi-Fi anymore, electricity, PLUS — the unlimited data service pays for itself when we’re able to complete projects and bill clients, update our blog and earn ad revenue, etc. We use it for photos and video as well. It’s a business expense.
We REALLY like justifying and analyzing expenses, can you tell?
What are These Cell Signal Boosters all about? —
We searched around for our options (a separate mobile hotspot from Verizon, boosters, etc.) compared reviews and found WeBoost.
We recently got our hands on their Drive 4G-xRV cellular signal booster. We tested it out in one of our favorite BLM camping spots about an hour west of Phoenix. We’re VERY used to the roughly 2ish bars of Verizon LTE we’re able to get there. This is relatively GOOD service when compared to other remote spots we’ve boondocked. Still, we experienced frustrating lags in load time and weren’t able to be super productive work-wise there.
With the WeBoost Drive 4G-xRV installed, we were able to boost our cell phone mobile hotspot signal to full bars in that same boondocking spot in the desert. We were able to get work done, stream Netflix and listen to music with fewer interruptions. We’re still a little ways away from doing major website edits and downloading large files in the middle of the desert, but hey, it was great to see any improvement!
We’re still using one of our phones (the iPhone X, it’s way newer) as a mobile hotspot as we have an unlimited data plan. It’s tethered to our laptops and acts like a regular Wi-Fi signal you would get at home or in a coffee shop. WeBoost’s signal booster enhances the signal so we’re using a hotspot with full bars instead of 1 – 3 bars.
IMPORTANT NOTE: depending on how remote your camping location is and how many people are trying to feed off the same signal, well, that’ll affect your speeds for sure. There’s no “perfect” solution but balancing a workable signal and the beauty of a remote boondocking spot — I’ll take it! 🙂
Unboxing the Wi-Fi Booster —
Even the way the packaging was designed made installation easy. Inside the main box were four smaller boxes labeled in the order by which they should be setup. It came with easy to read yet thorough instructions with graphics. Pretty much anyone can set this kit up without having any experience what so ever.
What Comes with the Kit? —
The signal booster kit comes with everything you need to complete the installation. There’s an exterior omni-directional antenna designed to be clamped to a ladder or pole outside your skoolie, RV, or van. I chose to mount it on an extendable pole but we’ll get into that later.
There’s the actual signal booster unit complete with either a 12v hardwire option or 120ac plug in option. And then there’s the interior antenna that broadcasts the signal throughout your space.
What I really like about this setup is that they include all the coaxial cables, wiring, mounting brackets, and zip ties necessary for installation. They even give you a hole saw and weather proof cap to run the wires from the outside antenna to the booster! I mean, getting a free hex wrench is one thing but a hole saw!
That just makes us smile. 🙂
WeBoost Installation & Ben’s Special Customization Notes –
The installation was a breeze, even with my additional parts/features. The instructions say to first mount the outside antenna on a ladder using the mounting brackets provided. I didn’t really want to brush by the antenna every time I climbed up the ladder (especially with my Tim Allen in Home Improvement style clumsiness), so I decided to upgrade to building a separate mount.
I used a galvanized structural steel pipe mounted to the back of the bus using the corresponding rail supports and stainless steel through bolts with locknuts. This served as the base for my telescoping antenna, which is a “super high tech” paint roller extender. My setup is designed to be taken apart when in transit. This, of course, isn’t necessary. The WeBoost antenna is made to stay set up and withstand the elements.
I wanted the WeBoost antenna to be removable from the telescoping extension pole so it could be safely stored away when we are driving. Well, what screws into the end of a paint roller extender? Yup, you guessed it, a paint roller handle! I cut one off an extra roller I had laying around and sipped it inside a plastic pipe using some fancy duct tape to compensate for the elliptical shape of the handle. This was the perfect size for the mounting brackets provided by WeBoost to clamp to, then the extension pole slips inside the steel pipe base.
Normally the coaxial cable would be permanently secured to the outside antenna and snaked through an existing hole or one made by the hole saw provided. Because our antenna is removable the coaxial cable also had to be removable. I used a plastic weatherproof junction box to run the wire through. When in use, you pull the cable out of the junction box and screw it into the antenna. When not in use, you just snake it back through and the junction box is capped off to keep weather and any curious critters out.
Then came the hard part. Nope, just kidding, it’s still really easy. The booster is mounted to the wall and the outside coaxial cable screws into it. It can either be wired directly to your 12v system or be plugged into an ac outlet. For battery efficiency we chose to hardwire it. Then I simply screwed in the interior antenna cable into the booster and zip zap zoop we had a stronger signal!
How it Helps Boost our Signal –
Cellular signals are measured in decibels (dBm). You read them in the form of a negative number, -130 being no signal strength at all and -90 being full bars. If you put your phone in field test mode by dialing *3001#12345# (save this in your contacts, it’s very useful) you can see the dBm your dealing with. For Androids you can see it in your network settings.
Before turning on the WeBoost we were pulling in an average of -111ish dBm, pretty poor. After turning on the signal booster we were able to achieve -90 or better, full bars! Last night we enjoyed an episode of The Great British Baking Show (so good) as if we were connected to a home Wi-Fi router. Again, we’re in the middle of the desert here, jackrabbits, and cacti, and buttes abound.I
Helpful Tips –
1. The proximity to the interior antenna is key. Setting it up in a place where you typically work will greatly improve the signal. It’s recommended to be within 4-10ft of the device you’re using. My personal experience shows 4ft is miles better than 10ft. When we use our phone as a mobile hotspot we set it up directly next to the antenna.
2. Connecting to a mobile hotspot can be done in 3 different ways. You can connect via Wi-Fi, bluetooth, or USB. It seems to remain true that having a direct wire connection provides the best performance. However, we usually tether with Wi-Fi so we don’t have to be physically tied to the hotspot, and honestly we don’t notice a big difference.
3. Keep the mobile hotspot plugged in when in use, if you can. Using a mobile hotspot drains the battery quickly. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of something crucial (like The Great British Baking Show) and have the internet kick out on you because the hotspot died.
Final Thoughts & Links —
We hope this blog helps in your search for a better cell signal and internet connectivity on the road! All in all we are thrilled to have improved internet capability wherever we go. No more chasing signals like ghost hunters, no more driving an hour out of our way to find a coffee shop that may or may not have Wi-Fi.
The Drive 4G-xRV is a MUST HAVE item for anyone considering a mobile lifestyle, an absolute game changer. So without further delay, on your marks, get set, BAKE! We REALLY like The British Baking Show… 🙂
You can browse more WeBoost cellular signal solutions for RVs here.
This blog post contains affiliate links. We share our honest opinions and experiences with products and beyond in our travels. If you make a purchase through our affiliate links we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you whatsoever. This keeps us rolling and sharing with you! Thanks in advance!
A major part of living full time on the road is finding out where and how to source fresh potable water.
After 14,000 miles and counting traveled in our self-converted bus and staying in over 30 states along the way, we’ve tasted our fair share of flavors around the country. Like the people and the landscape, the water seems to be different in every state we visit.
Mineral content, salinity, contaminants, and treatment all play a role in how it hits the ol’ palette. The further west we go the harder it becomes to find water to fill our two 40 gallon tanks. Sometimes that means we have to take it where we can get it, occasionally resulting in less than favorable tasting water.
It is one of our all-time favorite bus tiny home and nomadic living purchases (tied with our Dwarf Wood Stove, of course).
The Berkey Water Filter System transforms water from pretty much any source into safe and delicious drinking water. We used it in our apartment before moving into the bus full-time and plan to keep using it for the long term, wherever we end up living!
There was a time in Arizona where the only water source we could find was off a spigot on the side of a state park parking lot bathroom. It was borderline acceptable for showering and washing dishes, but was difficult (and potentially unsafe) to drink.
One pass through the Berkey water filter and it was like it came from a fresh mountain spring. This might sound like an exaggeration but, believe me, it’s not. The Berkey freakin’ works that well!
Big Berkey Highlights (to name a few):
Filters out bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, foul taste and more;
Comes in multiple sizes to suit different living situations;
Filters last for 6,000 gallons of water filtration;
Retains important minerals in water;
High quality materials and construction; and
Comes with a lifetime warranty.
Our bus is completely off grid capable but water is the most important resource we need to stay out longer.
Electricity has always been plentiful with our solar panels and generator. Our main source of heat is from our Dwarf Wood Stove and we never have a problem finding fuel. We can store enough food reserves for a month or more if we really needed to.
We even have a composting toilet so we never have to worry about dumping sewage. With a ground clearance larger than most RVs we’re able to go pretty far in the middle of nowhere, it’s bumpy and slow but we get there.
Out of all things listed above, nothing determines how long we can stay more than our water supply. We have two 40 gallon fresh water tanks on board.
Safe, Tasty Water
Being able to safely filter water from remote sources allows us to boondock safely for longer periods of time. We can get all our drinking water from a lake or stream and reserve our tank water for showering and washing.
There’s no worry about viruses, bacteria, heavy metals, or chemical contaminants like pesticides and petroleum products.
If I were to list all of the things these filters eliminate to undetectable levels it would take up this entire blog post and then some. See for yourself (add link).
Did you ever drink water that tastes like wet air?
It’s probably because it’s lacking important minerals that naturally occur in water. They are responsible for much of the unique flavors of water around the world.
Water from a Canadian glacier is going to taste much different than water from a spring in Georgia. Not better or worse, just different. It’s not that much different than tasting a particular region in a wine, minus the buzz of course. The point is the Berkey maintains the natural flavors of the water.
Berkey Works in All Living Situations
I’ve stressed the importance of fresh water in an RV but good water should really be a part of everyone’s lives.
We used our Berkey in our apartment before traveling because the old building we lived in had equally as old pipes. Wells can have natural contaminants like arsenic and fluoride*, municipal water supplies can vary in taste, and, as we’ve seen in Flint Michigan, vary in quality.
Now, public water supplies are heavily regulated and have strict quality standards, most will be safe to drink. Having a Berkey, however, puts you in control of the taste and only further ensures and implements the highest quality standards possible for you and your family. Plus, the high grade stainless steel construction looks great in a kitchen.
Financial Impact: Tap vs. Bottled
Okay, we’ve talked health now let’s talk dollars and cents (literally, it’s dollars compared to cents) of tap water vs. bottled water.
According to statista.com, the average consumption of bottled water per capita in the United States in 2017 was 42.1 gallons per year. That’s approximately 319 bottles of water per person per year.
Let’s say a 24 pack of bottled water costs $4.98. That equals out to be about $66.19 per person. For a family of four that’s $264.77 per year. source
That might not seem like much but let’s compare that to the cost of tap water…
According to slate.com the American Water Works Association a gallon of tap water costs $0.004 per gallon. That’s about $0.17 a year per person per year and $0.68 per year for a family of 4. Let’s not forget the 1,276 plastic bottles that were never used. source
A Big Berkey water filter pays for itself in one year and even more so if you factor in the reduction in single use plastic.
So friends, THAT is how we approach our frugal lifestyle purchase decision making (call us over thinkers but where our dollars go and how we impact the environment along the way matters to us!). It also prepares us to help YOU!
Remember, quality over quantity — how can we create the most value/impact with our deliberate purchases? To us, an investment like this was a no-brainer for our mobile lifestyle.
If you have ANY questions about our experience using the Berkey in our apartment or our bus, feel free to contact us.
*An additional PF-2 filter is used to target and remove these from the water.
After over a year of full-time testing and use of the Berkey water filter in our home and mobile lifestyle, we are now members of the Berkey affiliate team. We do earn a small commission for purchases made through our website at no additional cost to you. The proceeds help to keep our blog running. Thank you!
After 12 loud hours of bumpy bus driving all we want is to find a convenient place to park that’s safe and quiet. Those with smaller vehicles, vans might be able to get away with pulling over almost anywhere without anyone noticing. Ahh, that would be kind of nice. 🙂
For our 31 ft. happy teal home on wheels, inconspicuous is pretty much out of the question.
Where do WE like to stay?
The answer is, well, it depends. It depends what part of the country we’re in, how long we’ve been driving, how much food and water we have stocked and what our plans are (if we have plans…). But one thing remains, no matter where you are there is always a place to stay.
We prefer free or low cost options for parking our bus because active travel in a large vehicle like our bus isn’t cheap, well, I should say diesel isn’t cheap. Saving money on accommodations is a big help to keep things affordable and sustainable.
We’ll go over several bus parking options below along with our experience with and evaluation of each.
Wal-Mart Parking Lots
I can’t tell you how many times a curious bystander has come up to us and said, “Cool bus. Whaddya guys stay in Walmarts and stuff?”To be honest, it’s more of the “…and stuff” than anything else for us but it’s a great option on travel days.
While we have stayed at a few Walmart parking lots, it’s not at the top of our list for a peaceful night’s sleep. Stadium-style floodlights and noisy traffic can make it a challenge to count sheep.
Sometimes you just can’t drive another 30 miles so Walmart it is. Plus, it’s very convenient to resupply when you get there AND you can go back in when you wake up in the morning and shout, “Shoot, we forgot bread!”.
COST: Free — check with one of the apps we suggest below or just walk in and ask customer service to make sure RV parking is allowed at that particular location. We found southern California to be the least accommodating in this regard. Just a heads up!
Let’s talk about rest areas & rest stops. When we have a destination in mind it’s all about putting in as many miles as we can stand and finding the most efficient place to rest.
Especially true to the Northeast, some states have quite the urban sprawl and places to camp for free are few and far between. It’s in these instances where the good ol’ fashion rest stop shines.
There is something sweet about pulling off the highway and within 30 seconds your engine is off and you can zonk right out.
Now, not all rest stops allow overnight parking, but most do. I mean, that’s what they’re there for, to rest! If you’re parking at night and out early in the morning there shouldn’t be a problem.
Pay attention to signs, though, there’s nothing more annoying than having a cop knock on your window at 3 am telling you to move; so much for rest!
The other viable option is a truck stop.
Wait, truck stop, rest stop? Aren’t they the same thing?
Well, not really. While many rest stops do offer trucker parking they are typically run by the state. Most truck stops are privately owned, like a big gas station and usually offer fuel and convenience store products. Some even offer paid services like vehicle maintenance, Wi-Fi, RV water, dump, and propane stations.
Our favorites are Flying J, Love’s, and Pilot. They are some of the larger chains you’ll see out there and a lot of them offer RV amenities.
Some locations fill up FAST with truckers (their main purpose, duh), so just be courteous and patient if you’re considering this option.
Be aware that not all truck stops are RV/bus/van friendly. Ask first.
Many of the smaller truck stops cater specifically to commercial fleets and they are not always looking to share their limited spaces. Quite frankly, I don’t blame them. You try hauling a 50’ trailer all day only to find a hippy bus taking up the last space in the lot. Don’t be that guy. 🙂
The point is, truckers are working, they’re not on vacation or road tripping around the country. Most are on the road for days before they see a regular bed, you don’t really want to get in their way.
Cost: Free to minimal. Varies on location. Check with the customer service rep. or one of the apps. we suggest below.
Private campgrounds provide a broad spectrum of amenities and options across the country. Some are super rustic and affordable, others have all the bells and whistles and the price tag to match.
I know what you might be picturing — hordes of vacationers packed like sardines all enjoying the same fancy amenities, a pool, a hot tub, a restaurant, mini golf — glamping. They’re not ALL this way. We actually LOVE switching up our parking options every once in a while for an experience like this.
“Wait, you mean to tell me I have to PAY to stay here?!”.
I know, I know… While we love the solitude of wide open public lands (more on that below), there is absolutely nothing wrong with a little pampering once in a while.
After a week without a GOOD shower, it’s pretty freakin’ nice to have a few glorious amenities for a night. You really grow an appreciation for the simple things.
Plus, people on vacation are fun! We love meeting people out on the road. Might as well enjoy the company and join in.
Cost: Can be pricy. Varies by season, individual campground and location.
The Park Ranger
State and National parks offer the best of both worlds, nature and luxury. Well, luxury might be an overstatement, but being able to plug in, fill your water tank, dump your waste, and take a shower is luxurious enough for us.
We get asked about National Parks a lot. We stick to the periphery (national monuments, state parks, national forests) because of our dog Moose. We like hiking with him and the thought of leaving him behind is, well… sad. A lot of NP’s have strict pet policies (understandably so!).
We typically stay at a state park campground for one night every week or two, depending on how we’re doing on supplies.
It allows us to regroup restock, refill, and dump. Averaging at around $8 a night 4 times a month, that’s pretty cheap when compared to a hotel.
Cost: Mid-range. Varies, National Park campgrounds fill up fast and are usually more expensive. Call ahead & verify pricing.
Staying with Friends & Family
This is one of our FAVORITE options for our mobile lifestyle. It’s a win-win because you get to spend time with your friends and family and it’s (usually 🙂 ) free.
We’ve been relatively stationary for the past few months in New Hampshire with family and just loving it. It gives us a stretch of stability to get work done and plot our our next big cross country trip this fall.
We plan to spend chunks of time with friends on our way out west. It’s so special to roll up with your home on wheels & share that with your loved ones!
We also love exploring our Instagram family network too. The bus and van communities are so supportive and inviting.
Now for the creme de la creme of parking options for your bus, RV or van.
Public lands (Bureau of Land Management, BLM for short) offer stunning and vast landscapes like no other.
The western United States offers a wide range of free parking on public lands. This is our absolute all time favorite option for long term camping (14 days or less in each spot) AND DID WE MENTION IT’S FREE!
Public lands come in a few different varieties. According to the US Department of the Interior there are almost 250 million acres of public lands in the United States and they fall into 28 categories. National Forests, national monuments, national historic sites, wildernesses, national wildlife refuges, and national conservation areas are just a few.
Typically you are allowed to stay in these areas for up to 14 days and then need to move it along (relocating to another site on the same land doesn’t count). With literally millions of acres to choose from there’s always a place to relocate to.
Where do I find these places?
There are also a variety of travel apps that have been extremely helpful in locating the best places to stay. They typically show descriptions, amenities, camper reviews, and location.
Download these helpful apps:
freecampsites.net (website, not app)
Allstays ($9.99 – worth it, IMO)
It’s not a bad idea to cross reference apps for the area you intend to stay. Some of these lands are pretty remote so find out as much information about them as possible before heading out.
A site might work for a van or tent but not a big rig. Or maybe the road getting there is narrow and treacherous. Sometimes you just have to chance it. We’ve journeyed to some spots that had little to no information and found them to be real hidden gems.
Leave no Trace
Keep in mind using these lands means adopting leave no trace practices. There are usually no hookups, dump stations, water fill, or trash cans. You carry out what you carry in.
Respect Public Lands
I think we should all experience the beauty of our public lands to fully understand the necessity for their protection & preservation. RESPECT THESE LANDS!
There are few things in this world that are this beautiful and still free, and there’s nothing worse than finding them full of waste or excess signs of use. Enjoy them, treat them with respect and they’ll be here for the next generation.
So Many Options for full-time travel!
With all these resources combined you can quite literally live on the road for as long as you want or at least for as long as your wheels are turning.
We hope this helps you on your journey.
Go and explore the amazing natural and cultural diversity this country has to offer, you won’t be disappointed. Now if we could just find a way to get free diesel… 🙂