Coronavirus and Truck Camper Life: A Few Thoughts

We live in crazy times. With 68 deaths and confirmed cases in 47 states, most of us here in the United States have been affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in one way or another. Schools, churches, places of employment, and even sporting events have all been impacted by the respiratory disease. In an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) has urged everyone to adapt “social distancing” and to wash our hands regularly (this is because the coronavirus spreads like the common flu). As one would expect, the need to keep our distance from others has had a negative impact on tourism with theme parks, cruise lines, and airlines hit the hardest.

While the coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted tourism, the same can’t be said for attendance at U.S. national parks. In fact, as of this date, national parks remain open with strong attendance being reported at Smoky Mountain, the Grand Canyon, Zion, Joshua Tree, and Arches. High occupancy rates are also being reported in many RV parks and campgrounds throughout the southeast and southwest. Florida and California, in particular, appear to be hot spots for vacationers with no sign of letting up in the spring and summer months. Low fuel prices seem to be helping as well.

This is all good news, of course, for tourism in general. But there’s another aspect of RV life that isn’t being reported by RV news sources—boondocking on public land. What better way to adapt social distancing and to “self quarantine” than RV boondocking in the wilderness far from neighbors? Sure, the risk of contracting the virus can be reduced by staying at an RV park or a campground, but you can avoid far fewer people at a free, dispersed campsite on public land. With 450 million acres of public land (BLM and U.S. Forest Service) in the western United States, the options where you can explore and camp in isolation are nearly limitless. And for those who own a 4×4 truck camper, the ability to get far off the beaten path is even better than the standard RV.

Public land where you can explore and boondock for free is plentiful throughout the American west.

Jeff Reynolds, a frequent contributor to this website, expressed this sentiment well on the Truck Camper Adventure Forum. “How fortunate we are as truck camper owners to be isolated from the teeming mobs of folks in close proximity,” he wrote. “We have our own air to breathe with no one except family to cough on us. We don’t have to stand in line. We sleep in our own bed and travel at our own pace and leisure, owning and using a truck camper is truly a breath of fresh air. We have two trips planned this spring, out for several weeks, one to Death Valley and environs, and one to Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. I can think of no better way to avoid the fear and contagion of the coronavirus scare. Yes, our portfolio has dropped like a rock, but at this point only the most important things in life matter.”

Fortunately, a good number of truck camper owners, like Jeff, are prepared for contingencies like the coronavirus scare. Most have 4×4 truck camper rigs ready to “bug-out” with a two-week supply of clothing, water, food, vitamins, and basic medical supplies. Many are equipped with solar panels, large battery banks, and inverters all of which reduce the reliance on full hookups at RV parks and campgrounds. The biggest limitations to extended time off-grid, it seems, is food and water. Aside from what’s stored in the truck and camper, both will have to be obtained from public sources, so some contact with the public is unavoidable.

Limiting contact with the public is particularly important, especially for those who are over 60 with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease. According to the Chinese, the death rate for those who contract the coronavirus between 60-69 years-of-age is 3.6 percent. The figure climbs to 8 percent for those who are between 70-79 years and for those over 80 the death rate rises sharply to 14.8 percent. Of course, the big unknown is that none of these figures take into account those who never seek medical care or get tested because many who contract the virus exhibit mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. As a result, we could discover that there are far more coronavirus cases than are actually being reported, which could lower the fatality rates significantly.

The Doulton SS2 Gravity-Fed Water Filtration System makes up to 10 gallons of filtered water a day.

This all leads to a very important point—water. If you’ve been to a grocery store lately, you know that drinking water is one necessity that’s in short supply. “Panic buying” has cleared-out many store shelves. The longest one can live without water is only three days. This makes it imperative to have a way to purify water not only at home, but also off-grid in your RV. Water micro-filtration systems like the Berkey and the Doulton SS2 Gravity-Fed System and Under-Counter Royal Elite are excellent and affordable ways to do this. The filters they use are EPA certified and filter out cysts and 99.99 percent of pathogens such as cholera, typhus, amoebic dysentery, e-coli, colibacillose or bilharzia, cryptosporidium, giardia lamblia, and anthrax spores. These filters also remove up to 95 percent of chlorine, herbicides, and pesticides greater than 0.2 µm (dirt, asbestos, iron etc). At least one way to filter water at the micro-level should be in every RV and truck camper. The basic charcoal filters sold in RV stores won’t do this.

So what’s the bottom line? If you aren’t prepared, get prepared. My gut feeling is that the novel coronavirus pandemic will soon pass and routines will return to normal. If anything, this crisis should serve as a wake-up call to get your own personal house in order. If you’re already prepared, good, if you’re not, you need to start. Stock up on the basics like food and water. If you live at home and vacation in your RV truck camper, make sure your camper has the basics you need to live at least two weeks off-grid. You never know when you may need to bug-out. “Be prepared in all things,” is one motto we live by; “be prepared, not scared,” is another. And if you have any plans to explore this spring and summer in your truck camper, keep those plans. What better way to stay active and healthy than in the great outdoors away from the “teeming mobs?” Personally, I can’t think of a better way.

Reservoirs are excellent sources of fresh water in an emergency when used in conjunction with a good water filtration system.

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About Mello Mike 467 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a Jeep and truck camper enthusiast, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently drives a 2013 Ram 3500 4x4 pickup truck with a 2016 Northstar Laredo solar powered truck camper mounted on top. He enjoys football, music, hiking, travel, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management until 2017, and now runs this website full-time. He also does some consulting and RV inspections on the side.

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