Last Updated on November 10, 2021 by Jessica Lauren Vine
If you want to see some of the most beautiful places in America, then you need to read through these boondocking tips. Once you get through dry camping 101, you’ll be able to go to just about any gorgeous location in our amazing country without having to worry about RV hookups.
What Is Boondocking & Dry Camping?
You might have heard these terms if you’ve been around the RV community for any period of time, but it can still be confusing.
When you go on a boondocking adventure, that means you’re going there without any hookups. Boondocking means no water hookups, no sewer hookups, and even no electric hookups. You have to be what is known as self-contained so you can go to these awesome boondocking locations without worrying.
Now let’s get into the important tips that will help you make your first boondocking trip a success.
1. Get an RV That Will Work with Dry Camping
If you’re like me then you want to be comfortable wherever you are—even boondocking. To be comfortable while dry camping, you need to get an RV that is going to work with your lifestyle requirements.
For us, that meant we would be able to use the bathroom in the RV, have some air conditioning for comfort and be able to cook in the RV and sleep without being on top of each other.
We did some RV camping without hookups in our small RV that was a 2018 Wolf Pup 18TO and it was an enjoyable experience, but having a bigger rig later did make it a lot easier. The bigger your RV, the bigger your holding tanks are—usually. Having bigger freshwater tanks and bigger grey and black tanks makes the boondocking experience much easier.
The smaller your holding tanks are, the more difficult it is to stay out for long periods of time. Unless you figure out some ways to keep clean without using water or the bathroom.
2. Take a Test Run Boondocking Trip
Before you go out and try to camp without hookups, try a test run. Even doing a partial hook-up stay can help give you an idea of how it will be when you do go all of the way.
When you do decide to go to your first boondocking spot, you shouldn’t go too far from town. You never know what might come up and before things get a bit easier when you know what you’re doing, you’ll have to go through some real-life lessons no matter how well you prepare.
When you’re on your test trip, you’ll be able to figure out things that you might not have thought about from water usage and how to conserve water from your freshwater tank or what to do when you need more blank tank or grey tank room that you just don’t have.
Things are also different depending on whether you’re in a hot climate or a cold climate. You need to focus on camping safely and being able to have an enjoyable time without breaking rules or being a problem to other campers.
Going on this first trip will help you see where you’re lacking and where you’re doing well.
The next tips will focus on water conservation and how to keep from filling up your grey tank and running out of water from your fresh water tank.
You should practice these water conservation tips before you head out of your first free camping trip when you’re boondocking.
3. Start with a Full Fresh Water Tank
Before you head out, make sure you fill up your fresh water tank. You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget when you’re excited to head out on your first trip.
Yes, you can bring water, but you want to have your tank filled up before you head out so you have as much water as possible.
4. Use Portable Water Jugs or Bags
Yes, you have your full fresh water tank, but if you plan on staying out for a while, you should bring other water.
Bring bottled water for drinking since you’ll have zero hookups and nowhere to get water.
Depending on how your storage is set up, you may find water jugs or water bags work best for you. Figure out which one is best and make sure to bring them.
If you can fit it, getting a five-gallon refillable jug can be helpful and allows you to save some money.
5. Pre-Wash Fruits & Vegetables
Before you head out, clean all of your fruits and vegetables. Every little bit of water counts and having your produce already clean can help you avoid using water on washing them.
6. Time Your Showers
Showers are a luxury when you’re at your boondocking spots. Most of the places don’t have a dump site nearby, so you’ll have to say self-contained as long as you want to stay at the spot.
If you have anyone in your family that was in the military, just ask them how to shower quickly and they’ll let you in on it. Basically, you should hit the important spots and then hop out as soon as possible.
7. Catch Used Water
When you’re in the shower, you can put a bucket in there to catch as much of the water as possible. You can then use that water to flush the toilet or do other things besides drinking it or cleaning dishes.
Using caught water to clean your hands off if you get dirty isn’t going to hurt.
If you simply don’t want to use it, you can toss it out as long as it doesn’t have anything harmful in it. If you use biodegradable soap, you’ll be good to go.
8. Use a Water-Efficient Showerhead
If you still have the same showerhead on your shower, it’s time to change it out. There are water-efficient models that make a big difference.
9. Use Showerhead Shut-Off Valve
Almost all showerheads in RVs have a shut-off valve on them. While you’re soaping up, you don’t need to have the shower running. Hit the shut-off valve and then when you’re ready, hit it again, and the water will start flowing again.
10. Shower at Other Places
There are some great boondocking spots that aren’t too far away from some spots where you can shower. You might be at a remote spot at an RV park that doesn’t have hookups but many times they will have a place for people to shower.
11. Wipe Out Dishes After Using Them
When you wipe out your dishes after using them, you can keep the food from crusting on the dishes. The easier they are to wash, the less water you have to use on them.
12. Use Paper Plates
Paper plates make it easy for you to avoid washing dishes altogether. Most people don’t want to bother with dishes while they’re having fun camping anyway.
13. Swap Your Normal Toilet for a Composting Toilet
Many people swear by their composting toilets, but we never boondocked enough to really make it worth it for us. I’m happy with conserving water, but I really didn’t want to go through replacing my toilet to do so.
14. Reduce the Number & Length of Flushes
Since I didn’t want to replace my toilet, I just used this strategy. Instead of a lot of long flushes, we flushed as little as we could by not flushing number one every time and when we did, we didn’t do a long flush.
I have to be honest and say that I really didn’t reduce the number of flushes too much. I just thought it was too gross and wasn’t sure it was worth it.
Conserving energy is a must when you’re out in the wild without hookups. There are a lot of things you can do to make sure you don’t run out of energy before you’re ready to go back to where you can get shore power.
15. Turn Off Lights
Even a small light in your RV can take much-needed energy from your rig. My youngest is very serious about keeping the electricity usage down, so he makes sure to turn all the lights off whenever he leaves an area.
16. Unplug Things
It’s easy to leave a cellphone plugged in and not check it for a while. After all, you’re having a great time in your RV, so why would you be checking your cellphone?
Taking a few minutes to see when it is fully charged will help.
Also, check other appliances and unplug them so they don’t drain any power. Even if they aren’t on, they can take power from your RV.
17. Park Where It Makes Sense
Depending on whether it’s cool or warm, you should park your RV so you don’t have to use a lot of energy.
If it’s burning hot then you need to find some cover so you can hide out under the trees and away from the blistering heat. On the other hand, if it’s super cold, you want to be out in the sun as much as possible so you can soak up all of the heat.
You can also use your awning to keep heat from coming in your windows whenever it’s too hot.
18. Block Windows During Extreme Heat
If you’re out somewhere and you can keep up with the heat, you’ll need to use your air conditioner, but you can reduce that by blocking the windows during extreme heat. You don’t want to have heatstroke and ruin your entire trip.
Get some reflective covers and you’ll notice a major difference. RV wind covers can also be helpful depending on the type of RV you have.
19. Use Your Generator Whenever Necessary
Yes, we know you want to camp in peace and quiet, but sometimes you have to use your generator so you can survive the heat or cold.
With a bigger battery bank, you can last longer without a charge from your generator, but it’s going to need to happen.
20. Cook with Gas vs Electric
If you can use your propane to cook, that will help you conserve electricity. A lot of people like cooking with gas more than electric anyway.
Bring a propane grill along and you’ll be able to cook outside and keep from warming up the inside of your RV if it’s warm in the summer.
21. Upgrade Your RV Batteries
This is a big investment, so you might be thinking twice about going from lead-acid to lithium-ion but it makes a world of difference.
When you do this upgrade, you’ll have more capacity for storage and greater availability.
22. Use Solar Panels
Many RVers have enough solar panel power to run their RV without generators. Yes, it’s a big investment but it allows you to have a lot of freedom.
Pair solar power with the upgraded batteries we were talking about and you’re a boondocking master.
Great General Tips
Let’s move on from water conservation and electricity conservation and go through some more great general tips for boondocking.
23. Keep Warm without the Furnace
The furnace can use a lot of propane but you can grab a heated blanket that doesn’t draw a lot of power to keep warm during the night. Put on an extra layer of clothes and you’ll be surprised at how warm you can stay.
24. Store Garbage in Wildlife Proof Container
If you don’t want to attract wild animals to your camp—and you don’t—then storing garbage in wildlife-proof containers is a must. Make sure to bring them along and putting it in an RV cooler isn’t going to do the job.
Animals have a great sense of smell and they are pretty tricky when it comes to getting into containers.
25. Track Generator Usage to Figure Out Costs
If you’re trying to boondock so you can save on camping costs, you should know how much you’re saving.
Figure out how long you’re using your generator and how much it costs to keep it going. Once you figure these things out, you’ll know if you’re really saving money or not.
26. Know Your Coverage Before You Go
Before heading out to your boondocking camping spot, you should figure out if you’ll have cellphone service or not.
You can use the Coverage app to see if your phone and internet will work. Having that piece of information will allow you to figure out how to prepare.
27. GPS Coordinates
Even if you want to get away, you should let someone know where you’re going to be. Give a trusted friend or family member your GPS coordinates so they know where to find you if they need you or in case something bad happens.
28. Get a Lay of the Land
Knowing the terrain of where you’re going will be helpful so you can figure out if your vehicle can get there or not.
You can do this by using Google Maps and clicking on the satellite view.
Many boondocking sites can be a little rough, so knowing what you’re up against will help.
29. Bring a First Aid Kit
If you’re without a first aid kit when someone gets hurt, it can be a life-threatening problem. Having an emergency kit can make a big difference when someone needs help.
30. Check the Weather
Before heading out on your trip, know whether it’s going to be good weather or if you’re going to have a troublesome dry camping experience. If it’s storming and a hot mess, you might want to reschedule your trip.
31. Pre-Plan Your Meals
You don’t want to have to figure out what you’re going to eat and when. Pre-plan your meals and know what you can look forward to after a day of enjoyment.
Some people even freeze their meals and heat them up once they’re ready for them.
Getting Ready for an Enjoyable Boondocking Experience
Now you have some great boondocking tips that will allow you to make the best out of your trip. If you want to learn more about RVing and other important things you should know before you head out check out my other articles like these important RV tips for new owners.
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