The Federal Government owns and maintains vast expanses of land that are open for public recreation all over the country.
The most popular areas are scattered throughout the Southwest, and if there is a Mecca for snowbirds it’s often considered to be Quartzsite, AZ.
Main Street at Quartzsite, Arizona.
A simple desert town with a year round population of about 3,500, Quartzsite turns into a megalopolis during the winter months with over a million visitors annually.
Snowbirds from all over the US and Canada flock to this little haven, safe and far away from anything resembling winter.
There are many things happening in Quartzsite throughout the colder months, but the biggest draw is the opportunity to spend the winter in a more comfortable climate – without shelling out a big chunk of your life savings to do it.
Sure you can rent a spot in one of the many RV parks in town, and generally the prices are better than most other areas of the country.
But if you really want to save – and experience – Quartzsite, you’ll want to park on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.
You can spend the whole winter in one of their Long Term Visitor Areas for under $180.
If you want to stay for a shorter time, that’s OK too. The same loosely organized BLM areas cost around $40 for two weeks.
Another option is to head off into uncharted desert and stay the two weeks for free.
Tents at Quartzsite, Arizona.
Of course spending the winter this way takes a bit of preparation. You see there are no electrical, water, or sewer hook ups.
They do provide one dump station, and a fresh water source, though. And also dumpsters are provided to take care of your trash.
But that’s it! The rest is up to you.
See also: How to Stay Cool While Boondocking in the Summer – These 7 Easy Ways
When people ask, “What do I need to bring?” my standard reply is EVERYTHING! The nearest Walmart is about 40 miles away.
In this article, I’ll cover the basics of wintering in Quartzsite, and explain some options for long term boondocking or dry camping.
How to Make Electricity at Quartzsite
One of the issues you’ll face when staying at Quartzsite is producing your own electricity. Here are a few ways you can make your own power for off-grid living.
Most motorhomes come with an on-board generator as standard equipment. Usually this generator is powerful enough to run however many air conditioners are on board, and all your other electrical equipment.
In my own diesel pusher, the 7KW onboard generator uses diesel fuel like crazy.
Boondocking is all about energy conservation.
Running such a large generator on a regular basis would be costly, and a waste of fuel.
I also carry a small, quiet gas generator that will run pretty much everything except the air conditioners just fine. But there are other ways to get power in the desert.
Solar Power Options
Anyone who returns to the desert every winter, and spends months in one location, will quickly realize that a few solar panels will eliminate the need for a generator at all.
Not only is living without the use of a generator more environmentally friendly, it’s also a lot more convenient.
No hauling fuel, no noise, just peace, quiet and free electricity.
You can get your own solar setup for a couple of hundred dollars by investing in a 100 Watt solar panel and charge controller. 100 W of solar will take care of your needs if you live simply.
Or you can pony up a few thousand dollars for multiple panels and additional batteries – enough wattage to live quite luxuriously.
For us boondockers, Quartzsite’s annual rainfall of about 2” means there’s always enough sunlight for your solar panels!
Wind generators offer a more cost effective way to add a higher wattage output to your battery bank. One 400 watt wind generator will take the place of several 100 W solar panels.
Of course there is a catch, the wind needs to be blowing.
Though Arizona is known for having bright sunshine almost year around, the number of windy days are few.
Still, wind generators make an excellent add-on to a solar power system, and might help you avoid using a gas powered generator.
Waste Management While Camping at Quartzsite
Yes, there is a dump station in the La Posa Long Term Visitor Area.
But with all the other RVs around, you’re going to have to wait in line a long time to empty your tanks.
See also: Dry Camp Longer With A DIY Gray Water Recycling System From USI-RV
Also remember that you’ll have to break camp just to move your RV to the dump station as well.
Many bring their own portable waste tanks, often referred to as Blue Boys.
These wheeled containers allow you to empty your onboard tank and transport the waste to the dump station without disturbing your campsite.
Camper usually use the back of their pickup trucks to move the filled Blue Boys.
Other Options and Services
You can also drive into town and pay to have your waste tanks emptied and fresh water tanks filled.
The advantage to this is that you’re less likely to spend long periods of time waiting your turn in line.
In the Visitor Areas designated for tent camping, portable out houses are provided. It’s also legal to make use of Cat Holes (dig a hole at least 6” deep and bury your deposit) out in the open desert.
Another option is the roving honey wagon service that travels throughout the camping areas. They come right to your door, and for a modest fee will take care of everything for you.
The main draw to Quartzsite is that anyone who can manage the expense to get there will be able to afford to spend the entire winter in relative comfort.
You’ll see people of all levels of financial means at Quartzsite. Some live in tents with vehicles barely able to make the journey, while others – right next door – stay in million dollar Prevost coaches.
Everyone is welcome, and everyone is responsible for bringing everything they will need to be comfortable. That includes both warm and cold weather clothing – because the desert is a fickle lady.
There are grocery stores near Quartzsite, though you’ll pay a bit of a premium for their goods.
You can also frequent truck stops and gas stations. Diesel, gasoline, and propane are readily available there. Many restaurants, including McDonalds and Burger King are all right there on Main Street.
Boondocking for months at a time can be simple and comfortable. It’s all about how well you prepare, and how much effort you put into conserving your resources – financial and otherwise.
Break the “Full Hookups” habit, and get out into the wilderness.
Come on down to the desert, and get away from all that snow.
Sure there are a lot of us here, but there’s still plenty of room for you, too!
More Quartzsite and Boondocking Resources:
General Quartzsite Reading:
- How to Stay Cool While Boondocking in the Summer – These 7 Easy Ways
- 8 Tips For Shopping & Boondocking At Quartzsite, AZ
- Boondocking Tips – the How to and Where to
Quartzsite Travel Reviews:
- Boondocking Site Review – Dome Rock, Quartzsite, AZ
- RVers Can Enjoy Free Camping In Quartzsite Arizona
- America’s Largest Parking Lot
- RVing on BLM in Quartzsite, AZ
- Social, Crazy, Diverse – Quartzsite, AZ
- They came, they saw, they left… well… for the most part.
- Woodstock For RVers
- Quartzsite boondocking questions answered
Recommended Equipment for Your Trip to Quartzsite: