The idea of driving your rig around Mexico can seem daunting and it isn’t for everyone, but if you’re thinking of heading to Baja, it’s an amazing adventure and totally doable.
Below are ways to prepare yourself and your rig for Baja. Even if you’re not heading to Baja, many of these tips are also handy when preparing to boondock in remote areas.
Powering your rig in Baja
Many campgrounds in Baja have less than ideal power pedestals. That is why we recommend some kind of solar set-up that can potentially prevent you from having to plug in at all. However, if you are looking to plug in, we highly recommend using a surge protector.
If you are already set up for solar, it can be a great source of power in Baja where the sun is plentiful. This will also allow you to camp on some pretty amazing beaches.
Here are a couple of tips for using solar power in Baja:
- In the winter the angle of the sun in Baja is lower. For this reason, we recommend having an adjustable solar panel mounting bracket.
- Many campgrounds in Baja have palapas or structures that you can park next to or under for shade. This can be a great way to stay cool, but not a great way to capture sunlight on your panel. We recommend a portable suitcase-style solar panel in addition to your regular panel.
Sourcing safe water in Baja is easier than you may think
Pretty much everyone knows that drinking water in Mexico, or even using it to wash dishes, is a no-no. So how do you handle that in your rig?
If you have the means and capabilities to install a reverse osmosis water filter system with UV light, you will be able to hook up to any water source in Baja just as you would in the U.S. However, this can be expensive and in our opinion unnecessary.
Our main source of water in Baja was the convenient and plentiful water filling stations. These stations supply cheap purified water in 5-gallon refillable jugs. Here are some tips to maximize and simplify your access to safe water in Baja:
- Carry a smaller pitcher that will fit in your refrigerator that you can fill from the larger 5-gallon jugs. Cold water is really tasty after a day at the beach!
- If you don’t have a regular sink in your set-up, a hand pump and spout system can be purchased in the U.S. and screw right onto the refillable water jugs. A couple pumps and you can have a stream of water, but it’s not the best for preserving water as the flow is pretty heavy.
- Before crossing the border, purchase your own 5-gallon jug that has a spout. The filling stations will fill this and then you can in turn pour it into the tank of your RV. Depending on how big your fresh water tank is, this will take some time, but you’ll appreciate it when you can just turn on your faucet and wash dishes.
- Another option for filling up your tank at these stations is to have your own food-grade clear vinyl hose. Not all, but some stations will attach the hose to their water source and fill your tank that way. This can be super convenient! However, it’s understandable that they don’t all want to do this, as the only way they have to measure the amount of water they’re giving you is your word on the size of your tank.
- As with anything else in Baja, it helps to brush up on your Spanish. Do not expect the people at these stations to speak English! Know the words and phrases that pertain to water, numbers and the metric system (think liters instead of gallons).
Tire care on Baja’s rough roads
We know from experience that the roads in Baja can do a number on your tires. We highly recommend driving slow and paying close attention to the roads, including the many potholes and hidden speed bumps or topés. Besides that, here are the things you’ll want to bring to be prepared:
- Brand new or nearly new spare tire.
- A puncture repair kit. If you’re driving a truck camper, van, small class C, or pulling a trailer, this kit will be helpful if any small punctures occur. It will allow you to make it to a safer place to change your tire or possibly prevent the need to use your precious spare tire at all.
- 12-volt DC tire inflator and alligator clips. This is also for tires on smaller vehicles or trailers. Be sure that the inflator is 12-volt DC so that you can clip it onto your car’s battery posts for power on the side of the road. Purchase alligator clips with extended wire so that the inflator can reach all four tires.
- A car jack. Again, this is only handy with smaller rigs, but if you have the space it can be a total lifesaver.
Read here for info on inflating big rig tires.
Pre-Baja rig maintenance
There are plenty of able-bodied mechanics and body shops in Baja. In fact, we went to one after launching off an unpainted tope (speed bump) and bending the metal frame that holds the job box on the back of our rig. The service was quick, affordable and high quality.
However, if you don’t speak Spanish, your rig doesn’t have standard parts, or you’re in a more remote part of Baja, doing basic repairs can be inconvenient. For that reason we recommend doing as much preventive maintenance as possible before entering Baja:
- Oil change
- Coolant flush
- Greasing of suspension and steering systems
- Checking and topping off all fluids
- Replace break pads if necessary
We also recommend bringing down some standard spare parts for your rig. This way you will have them on hand in case you do need a repair:
- Extra set of belts
- 1 extra fuel filter
- Extra set of brake pads (if you haven’t replaced them in a while)
- Extra spark plugs
Here is a list of additional rig maintenance and repair items we always have on hand.
Baja is an amazing area to explore with your RV. These tips will help you prep for your adventure and give you more time to relax and enjoy the culture, landscapes, beaches and more Baja has to offer.