As I'm trying to rig up the trailer, I think about camping in three modes:
1) Full hookups – water, electric, and sewer (and in some places, bonus services like free wifi and cable TV)
2) Partial hookups – water and electric (but no sewer)
3) Dry Camping (no hookups at all – completely self-contained)
In each mode, I think about what will limit or restrict the amount of time we can stay, or what we can do while we're there. It's an interesting challenge.
In 'Full hookups' mode, the only things that limit your longevity are your patience, your budget (full hookup sites tend to be the most expensive) and the campsite availability. Every feature of your trailer can be used – pretty much without restriction. It's like being at home. You can take long, hot showers (the Airstream's six-gallon hot water tank can deliver an amazing amount of showerage – and it re-heats very quickly). You can run even big, power-hungry electric appliances. You can use air conditioning.
NOTE: Even when you're hooked up to sewer, you never want to open your black-water tank to the system. You want to let it fill up to a reasonable level – halfway or so, then dump it, re-deodorize it, and start again. I won't go into details here about why an open black-water tank is a bad idea. Just trust me. For extra bonus points, when your black-water tank is near the dump level, close off your gray-water tank as well. Let the gray-water fill up enough so that when you dump your black-water, you can follow it by dumping your gray-water (thus washing out your sewer hose). You'll probably never know to thank me for telling you this.
In 'Partial hookups' mode, you have no sewer connection. That means your limiting factor is basically how much water you put down the drain – doing things like washing dishes and showering. If you've ever camped in an RV before, you probably know that your gray-water tank fills up about 10 times faster than your black-water tank. For some reason I have never discovered, however, RV manufacturers put about the same size black- and gray-water tanks on their rigs. That means that gray-water will be the limiting factor for how long you can camp at partial hookups. You have unlimited electric, unlimited fresh water, and your black-water capacity will last longer than your gray-water capacity.
The other possible limitation is propane. Our rig has two 7.5 gallon propane tanks, however, which will run the refrigerator, the stove, the oven, and the furnace for a week or so. Assuming you start your partial-hookup stint with full propane tanks, you'll be golden until your gray-water tank fills up.
In 'Dry camping' mode, you have no hookups whatsoever. In this mode, you have to plan carefully to avoid hitting limits that will make you either leave or curtail your activities. In this mode, in our unit at least, the two critical items are electricity and fresh water. It's a race to see which of these two things you'll run out of first. Since your fresh water tank is about the size of either your gray-water OR your black-water tank, and since all the liquid that's going into both of them is coming FROM your fresh-water tank, you'll run out of fresh water before you fill either of the other two.
We'll be doing a lot to set up our rig for dry-camping. I'll go into more details in future posts.
(posted by Kevin)