The Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada is the ultimate place to put your boondocking skills to the test. With extreme temperature swings, completely insignificant rainfall, and desolate land for as far as the eye can see, it’s the trifecta of conditions that challenge your survival skills. Beautifully stunning with its massive red sandstone formations, it’s not a barren landscape that will leave you feeling unfulfilled. The picturesque scenery and the many animals that call it home will ensure that this destination is one you tell everyone at home to put on their bucket lists.
Step Into the Valley of Fire
Located about 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas, the Valley of Fire State Park is approximately 40,000 acres of land that is rich in both history and fiery hues. While it has been a state park for over 80 years, the landscape started forming over 150 years ago! Extreme shifting in the earth caused sand dunes to reshape and rise up to the heavens, taking on amazing shapes that mimic arches, towers, and peaks. With the sun blazing down, the sandstone structures appear to be on set ablaze. Never has a state park been given a name that so aptly describes what you’ll find when you come upon the Valley of Fire!
Harness the Power of the Blazing Hot Sun
Boondocking, or dispersed camping, by definition is camping without hookups. No water, no electricity. You head out into the “boonies” and plan to sustain your needs without plugging into an electrical box or hooking up to city water. And one popular way of powering your everyday amenities is by converting the sun’s energy into electricity with a solar panel system on your RV. Located in the Mojave Desert, the area is awash in bright sunshine year-round and has an annual rainfall of about 6 inches! If there’s ever been a destination ripe for harnessing the power of the sun, this is it! Although most campsites have shaded tables for picnicking, solar panels on your RV’s rooftop will fully charge in no time when baking in the desert sun. Portable kits are a great introduction into using solar power as they’re easy to use and inexpensive compared to a full-blown solar kit. Many panels are adjustable so you can tilt and angle it so that it moves with the sun throughout the day. They also know (as if they have a brain) when they’re full. Most come with a charge controller that protects your batteries from overcharging (very important!). RVers seem to like the Go Power! GP-PSK-120 120W Portable Folding Solar Kit with 10 Amp Solar Controller. Take a look at what appliances you’ll want to charge with solar power to determine how many panels you’ll need. An A/C unit will require the most juice, and so will any residential-sized appliances you may have on board, like a large refrigerator.
Don’t Dry Up!
One thing that will dawn on you when boondocking is that we don’t realize how much water we use throughout the day until our supply of it is limited. On the same note, it also becomes obvious how wasteful we can be at home when all we have to do is turn on a faucet to get clean, running water. Do you ever step away from the sink when the water is running? Do you leave it running when you brush your teeth? Do you love long, hot showers? Yes, yes, and yes! We’re all probably guilty of taking our endless supply of water for granted. But once you go boondocking and see how much work goes in to conserving water, you’ll never see water the same way again. With only about 6 inches of rainfall a year, the Valley of Fire has to be one of the driest places on earth! So what’s a boondocker to do? With one gallon of water weighing over eight pounds, traveling with enough water to last your trip will definitely throw off your RV’s weight distribution and send your RV’s GVWR off the charts. Instead, give these tips a try:
- Seek out a nearby lake, river, or stream where you can collect water to be cleaned and turned into safe, drinkable water. It’s always best to let it sit for a day so that sediment can settle to the bottom for easier purification. To purify it you can boil it in a pot over your campfire, use a distiller, or treat it with chlorine dioxide tablets. Since using a distiller requires energy, and chlorine dioxide tablets take four hours to work, boiling it is probably your best bet.
- When out hiking, carry with you a portable water purifier like the Platypus Gravityworks that gets high marks for solo travelers and larger groups. It is lightweight, it works quickly, and it’s low maintenance. Since water is limited back at camp, take advantage of any water you come across when hiking or biking by always being equipped with a purifier.
- Washing dishes can be a huge water waster when done in a sink with running water. But you don’t have to worry about that since you won’t have running water when boondocking. For getting your dishes clean and shiny, use two buckets or pails—one to wash in, one to rinse in. Fill one with warm (or hot), soapy water that you purified over a campfire. Fill the other with clean, cool water (also purified, but cooled). When you’re done eating, put your dirty dishes in the soapy bucket. Give them a few minutes to soak and then have at it. Wash them over the soapy bucket, then dip them in the clean-water bucket, rinsing off the soap bubbles while you dip them. Stand them up in a dish drying rack to air dry. In the whole process of washing all your dishes, you’ve only used two buckets of water.
Getting Squeaky Clean
Boondocking does not mean you have to go without a shower for two weeks (nobody wants you to do that!). The Valley of Fire is a great place to use a solar shower. With the heat and sun of the desert, the water inside will stay warm all on its own (without the use of electricity).This Advanced Elements Summer Solar Shower makes showering right at your campsite quick and easy with Velcro straps that hold shampoo and soap and a large opening to fill it. The water is warmed quickly by the hot Mojave Desert sun so you don’t have to suffer through a chilly shower. Fill it with water from a nearby town or from your source of collected water. If your RV has a shower and you have water in your gray tank, you can modify your shower with a low-flow showerhead so that water comes out slower and there’s less waste. Just know that any water that goes down your drain is water that is collecting in the tank and will need to be dumped. Boondocking sites do not have dump stations, and emptying RV waste onto the ground is illegal. You’ll have to transport all of your waste to the nearest dumping station. Sanidumps.com will help you locate one nearby.
Let’s Talk Dirty
Many people openly and freely admit that the reason they’d never want to go boondocking is because they don’t want to poop in the woods. I get that! Not only is it unnatural (for us humans, anyway), but there’s that ever-present fear of crouching over a beaver tail cactus, getting bitten by a venomous snake, or being discovered by another camper! Yikes! But boondockers have clever ways of avoiding any of these scenarios, and one is by using a composting toilet. This eliminates the need to use your RV’s black tank (no black tank cleaning!) and is very environmentally friendly. This waterless way of disposing of human waste uses an aerobic process to compost, or breakdown, waste. A simple Google search will give you more information about composting toilets than you’ll ever want to know. Other RVers who choose not to go the compost route but also don’t want to disappear into the woods with a roll of toilet paper do use their RV toilets. Depending on the length of their stay, some people bring along an extra waste tote on wheels. This enables them to dump their black tank directly into the tote right at their campsite and then drive the tote to the nearest dump station. I’ve even seen people hook them to their trailer hitches and drive them out of the campground at 5mph (I hope they didn’t have far to go). The Valley of Fire has vegetation, like the creosote bush and burro bush, but there isn’t a lot of cover for going #2. It’d be best to give one of these ideas a try to spare your camping buddies (and the big horn sheep that call this park home) from seeing things they don’t want to see and in order to retain some of your modesty.
Don’t Be Trashy
Never is it more important to follow the Leave No Trace principle then when you’re camping in a state or national park. The LNT principle is in place to help protect our natural world so that it stays intact for generations to come. When visiting the Valley of Fire, only camp in designated areas, take all of your trash out with you when you leave, and only have campfires in a fire ring or pit. If we all abide by these rules, we’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of our country with our kids and grandkids for years to come. Have you visited the Valley of Fire in Nevada? If so, share pics on our Facebook or Instagram pages. If you have helpful tips on boondocking, share them with our readers in the comments below.