Don’t worry, it’s just a Talking Heads reference but I’m starting to realize there’s a lot of truth in this song title. We’re addicted to electricity. Can you even remember a full day where you used zero electricity? I sure cant. Yes, while backpacking in the wilderness, you’re not racking up many kilowatt hours but even then, you use a flashlight to see at night, right? Unless you’ve found some bizarre nuclear or flame flashlight, you used SOME electricity, even miles from the nearest outlet.
We have officially been living in the Airstream for a month and two days and one thing that is really becoming apparent to me is how precious electricity is.
At the inception of this fantastic idea to give up “regular” life and pack it all into a 25’ aluminum tube, I had next to no understanding of how much energy our 1600 square foot home took to run. I still don’t, but I’m sure it was a lot.
When the Schminuss is hooked up to shore power, we can run all electronics freely. Refrigerator? No problem, beers are cold. Need to charge two phones, two computers, a camera and a GoPro? You’re covered. Is it hot as hell and you feel the need to run the A/C? Easy peasy. Is it chilly as all get out and you want to run the furnace to keep the inside at a cozy 68 degrees? Piece o’ cake.
We have officially spent 8 days without electrical hookups and while we purchased two 2,000 watt Honda generators, there have been some instances where we weren’t able to use them. The reason we went with two 2,000 watt units is because they are relatively lightweight (50 lbs per unit vs. 150 lbs for a 4,000 watt generator), we can run them in series if we need to power the A/C (one on it’s own doesn’t provide enough power), and for times when we don’t need the A/C but still need more than just battery power to say, use the blender, we can run just one!
Speaking of battery power, we have two group 24 marine batteries to run our rig. I will be honest with you, I have absolutely NO idea what this means. All I know is that it’s not enough on it’s own to power lights, a DVD player, and the LCD TV, followed by charging two iPhones and running the furnace for an entire night. We killed the batteries doing this in Tofino and I know that this isn’t good for longevity. Thankfully, we had those generators to give it a good recharge the following day.
Also, you may be wondering about what happens to those cold beers I mentioned earlier when we are not connected to shore power… well, I have excellent news. Our refrigerator automatically switches to propane when we aren’t hooked up to anything! I was incredibly relieved when I learned this because having to transfer everything to a cooler every time we drove more than an hour would be a real pain.
After our time in Tofino where we drained the batteries, I’ve been a bit paranoid about repeating this episode. I just spent these past two nights at a really beautiful campground just north of Squamish, British Columbia called Paradise Valley. Remember how much I said I love northern coastal rainforests? Well, I finally got to camp in one!
Moss just dripping from the trees everywhere around me. I was in heaven. Only issue? I absentmindedly managed to book a site without power at a place that also doesn’t allow generator use under any circumstances. At first, I was a tad concerned but then I realized my iPad had enough juice to allow me to read for entertainment instead of watching shows I downloaded on my computer whilst in Vancouver. I didn’t need to run the A/C or furnace at all because it stayed a comfortable 70 degrees during the day and a cool 50 degrees at night.
The only issue I encountered was keeping my phone charged.
It crapped out on me several times yesterday, including once not even a third of the way into my hike which had me a bit uneasy. I like knowing I have the safety net during solo hikes in case anything were to happen along the trail.
I also conserved energy by only using the overhead lights when absolutely necessary. Thankfully, when you’re this far north, it’s light out until about 9pm but the dense tree cover at this campsite certainly blocked out a lot of sunlight so it was headlamp time around 7:30pm for things like washing the dishes and using the bathroom. After 48 hours sans electricity, the batteries were still kickin!
Some of you may be wondering why we haven’t opted for solar panels to power things. Initially, I was hellbent on this. I didn’t like the thought of running noisy, smelly, gas guzzling generators but Duke talked some sense to me. What is most important for us is keeping things comfortable for Paisley dog and we wouldn’t have been able to do that if we had opted for only solar, or even just one 2,000 watt generator because those two things combined do not provide enough power to run the air conditioning. If we were stuck in a heat wave somewhere, A/C is essential to make the inside of the Airstream tolerable. I would like to someday get a 160W portable panel to pop out into the sun to keep the batteries topped off while we are boondocking (camping without hookups) though we need to save up some dough before we make that purchase!