While Walmarts might be free, the whole point of the adventure is enjoyment. You won’t experience that in a Walmart parking lot. People need to understand that this lifestyle requires money, frequently more money than traditional living. To enjoy your adventure you either need a big savings account, or you need to be working. Otherwise you’re just broke and homeless.
Short of savings or retirement income, the only formula that I know of that actually works involves working enough to be able to afford the good life. The good life to most means nice campgrounds or RV parks, and possibly travel, but not Walmart or BLM land. I typically park for free in cities, but on the street in neighborhoods, not parking lots. By being a good neighbor, I can camp for free in nice neighborhoods for as long as I like. For me, going camping is a treat, just like if I was living in a house, but the jobs, the supplies, the entertainment, and everything else I want is in the cities, not the boondocks.
Only a very tiny percent of the people who waste their money on solar ever wind up with a half decent system. It’s the most expensive battery charging option available, will never pay for itself, and kills batteries prematurely due to poor charging methods.
I’ve personally had several different solar systems installed, two professionally, and one where I carefully followed the directions of others that they swore worked good. Total cost, at least $10k, and not one of them was worth the powder to blow it to hell. On the final install, that I did myself, after it proved to be another failure, I decided to go against all the advice, and added an isolator to charge while driving, like my good non-solar rigs all had and worked flawlessly. Installing the isolator did solve my problems, but after the solar panels got stolen, it became obvious that it was the isolator doing the work, not the solar. But after several months of solar only, it had already damaged my $600 worth of house batteries to the extent that they were dead within a year.
Sick of buying expensive batteries continually, I switched to slightly used, deep cycle batteries from junk yards for under $20 each. Without the solar, the battery lifespan immediately returned to 6-7 years, and all of my power problems were solved.
99%+ of the time, the isolator is all the charging I need, even though I am mainly a city dweller and don’t do that much driving. My house battery will typically last a week, and I drive a little every 2-3 days so it never gets drained too low. If I’m boondocking, between my house battery and my identical deep cycle starting battery, I can go for 2 weeks and still have plenty of power to start my rig.
I did add a $99 (on sale) generator, and a $29 battery charger to my arsenal for a backup plan. A whole lot cheaper than solar, more reliable, not dependent on the sun or weather, and perhaps most importantly it charges batteries correctly with a full charge, not just the shallow charge provided by solar.
I’ve also known several people that their solar caught their van on fire. Same with lithium batteries, and propane. The more I learn, the more I understand that taking unnecessary risks is NOT a good choice. My system does not compromise on safety, comfort, or reliability. Everything is bought locally, and is easily replaceable almost anywhere.
I like cheap, reliable, efficient, and effective, and solar isn’t any of those things.
In contrast, I do have some individual self contained solar powered things that I can sit in a window to charge, including a aa/aaa/c/d/9v battery charger, a radio, lanterns, and a bug zapper. Unlike my house battery, if they fail, it isn’t a big deal. If it takes days or a week for them to recharge, I have alternatives, because I’m not without power.
The people getting paid to promote solar rave about it, most of the people with it, cuss at it, but their complaints are quickly deleted. There’s simply no money in it for the promoters if the actual truth gets exposed. While they’re busy selling fantasy and fiction, the rest of us are left to deal with the reality of things. So unlike the promoters, I try to expose the cold hard truth.
Can you be the 1 in a thousand or more that has success with solar? Sure, it’s possible, but is it worth the gamble? If I could turn the clock back, I would have stuck to the tried and true and saved $10k+. The promoters have taught me a lot of very expensive lessons, all of which made them money at my expense, and caused me a lot of grief. I was doing it right long before the internet or the promoters, and not a single thing has changed. What worked 50 or 100 years ago are still the best choices today, with rare exception.
"Spending money to save money is usually a scam." ~ SmartSavers