Boondocking, also called dry camping or wilderness camping, is one of the amazing experiences that RVing can bring us.
To relax in some remote spot in nature, self-contained with all that we need can do wonders in recharging our spirits, but the reality of camping away from traditional campsites is not to be taken lightly.
Without the adequate preparations, RV boondocking could easily become a stressful and potentially dangerous endeavor.
Before setting out on a boondocking trip way off the grid with your RV, make sure that you feel comfortable and prepared. new faraway places and take your adventures to the next level.
Keep a checklist with all of the supplies you need and the tasks you have to do before leaving the security and convenience of water and electric hookups.
When dry camping without hookups requires a change of lifestyle, but the insider scoop and a few pro tips from those who have lived it can help to ease the transition.
To give you a head start, We’ve put together this guide sharing our top 20 RV boondocking tips and tricks to make off-grid living more fun, safe and effective.
Stock Up on Essentials
One of the last things you’ll want to do after settling into the perfect spot in some remote location is to have to break camp early because you ran out of something.
Not only is it a hassle, but it can really kill the mood of being self-sustainable out in nature.
Packing efficiently and traveling light can be a fun skill to learn, but there are certain essentials that you should not skimp on. These include:
Running out of any of these will likely require you to travel to the nearest store, while properly stocking up will let you enjoy your spot in nature without interruption.
1. Bring Additional Water Containers
A sufficient water supply is always a main concern when boondocking. After all, we use it for everything from bathing and washing our dishes to cooking and staying hydrated.
Even with good water usage habits, a limited water supply can often deplete much more quickly than we’d like.
Having the option to stock up on an additional supply of water in a separate container from the RV freshwater tank allows you to stretch out your supply.
One of the best ways to do this is to carry a separate drinking water container.
These containers made especially for drinking water are sold with camping supplies or at freshwater dispensers and often come with an easy-pour spout.
Water containers are especially great for those with a separate tow vehicle, as they can be taken to a refill station without breaking camp.
And while freshwater tanks can accrue buildup over time, having a designated separate tank can keep your drinking water supply clean.
2. Stock Up on Lightweight and Long-lasting Food Options
Bringing enough food to last your trip is a given, but choosing the best foods to do so is a learned skill that primarily comes down to the weight, size, and shelf life of what you choose.
While we love fresh produce, be selective and realistic about how long it will last and how much room it will take up in your RV.
And while canned products have a great shelf life, they are bulky and heavy, and could significantly increase your gross vehicle weight.
We love frozen goods because they last, weigh less, and take up less room. If you use them to cook in bulk, you can then also use the same space in the freezer for any leftovers.
Dry goods are also great to stock up on. Some ideas could include:
To begin preparing your grocery list, stock up on shelf-stable essentials that can be used in different preparations, then supplement these with canned goods and any other select items you may want.
3. Fill Up Your Propane Tanks
Boondocking implies not having an electric hook-up, which means that many of the appliances in your RV will rely on propane to run. These can include the:
Before boondocking, be sure to top-off your propane supply and ensure that all connections are working properly.
4. Bring Extra Gas Cans
Without an electric hookup, the only way to get power while boondocking is with a generator.
Many generators run on gasoline, and even those who use solar panels may encounter a cloudy day.
Although we’re all about looking at the stars instead of our phones while boondocking, an extra gas can is a safety precaution and could come in handy to those who need to stay connected.
Learn Ways to Conserve Water
One of the greatest things about boondocking is to become immersed in a remote location.
However, extensive supplies of water are heavy to transport, so conserving the supply of potable water we do have while away from hookups becomes critical.
We use water for so many of our daily tasks (including staying hydrated, of course!) that it becomes one of the biggest concerns when we don’t have easy access to more.
5. Take Short Showers
Avoid washing your hair daily, or even showering daily if not necessary. Also practice turning the water off between rinsing rather than letting it flow.
Many RV showerheads come with a shut-off valve that allows you to retain the temperature of your water, making this habit easier to adapt.
6. Don’t Let the Faucet Run
Only turn the water on when you need it and turn it right back off. Don’t let it run while you brush your teeth, wash dishes, or anything else of the sort.
Letting a faucet run is one of the quickest ways to unnecessarily move your freshwater supply into the gray water tank.
7. Use Less Water Pressure
Only turn the faucet on as much as you need it, which is often less than many people are used to.
A low, steady stream will often be enough for tasks such as washing hands or brushing teeth.
8. Wash Dishes with a Basin or Bowl
Rather than using running water, use a basin that can be used to clean multiple dishes.
Wiping food and grime off dishes before washing will also help keep the water clean longer.
9. Replace Showerheads and Faucets with Water-efficient Models
When purchasing replacements for your old fixtures, pay attention to the Gallon Per Minute (GPM) flow rate.
If you do not wish to completely replace your faucets, you may instead consider simply changing the aerators to ones with a more restricted flow rate.
10. Catch Sink and Shower Water
If it is very clean, such as any unused water that comes out as you wait for your shower to warm up, you have the option of putting it back into the fresh water tank.
If it is relatively clean with perhaps some soap suds, you can use it to flush toilets, water plants, rinse dirty dishes, etc.
11. Use Spray Bottles for Dishes and Showers
Did you know that we don’t need to use nearly as much soap and water as many of us are used to?
It’s true, which is why using soapy water from a spray bottle in place of concentrated soap and running water is a great swap.
Use them for your hair or your dishes, you’ll be surprised at how far this technique will make your supplies stretch.
12. Flush Less
Doing a full flush after every time you use the bathroom sends a lot of clean water — well, down the toilet.
Forming a habit of letting liquids sit can help to reduce some of this. So can turning off the water pump and using recycled water to flush instead.
Pro Tip: Depending on where you are traveling, you may be allowed to dispose of wash waster outside. If you haven’t yet, this could be a good reason to make the switch to environmentally friendly soaps.
Add Space to your RV
Remembering the essentials is important, but so is having enough room to store and carry waste back out.
This goes for all waste, from what flushes into the gray and black water tanks to the garbage that we create.
13. Prepare to Collect Garbage
Although you may find trash cans or even dumpsters near less remote boondocking spots, the chances are that you will not have anywhere to dispose of your garbage until you leave.
Always Leave No Trace principles and bring more than enough trash bags to securely seal and hold all garbage.
If you need to store garbage outside until you leave, consider bringing bins that will keep it secure from any wild animals you may encounter.
If you plan to boondock regularly, for extended periods of time, or in groups, cargo carriers are an almost essential addition to your RV.
While they create a useful space for any bulky items, they are especially useful in carrying trash out of your campsite and to the nearest open dumpster.
14. Increase Your Holding Tank Space
Both black and (even more so) gray water tanks can fill up fast. Without a place to dump them while boondocking, they can easily become the reason you’re forced to leave your remote spot.
If you foresee this being an issue, you may want to consider bringing along a portable holding tank.
Portable tanks can be used for gray or black water. They can be used as extra storage, and they can be towed behind a vehicle to the nearest dump site within a campground.
They can get extremely heavy as they fill, so keep in mind how you plan to lift and transport them as if you plan to use them as additional storage.
Become a Boondocking Chef
Boondocking doesn’t have to mean eating nothing but instant ramen and chips.
On the contrary, it’s possible to have nearly all of the same meal options as you would have at a campsite with hookups, it just requires a bit more planning and preparation.
The beauty of this, however, is that there’s less work to do later!
15. Prepare Your Food
Taking advantage of hookups when you have them becomes normal the more you boondock. This is especially true in terms of how you stock your kitchen.
A great way to eat an array of your favorite dishes while boondocking is to make them ahead of time and freeze them for the trip.
Pre-made meals are great not only because they allow you to add all of the vegetables and proteins you want to your diet, but they also save you on dishes while boondocking as well as on all of the resources needed to make the meals.
We also recommend pre-washing all produce that you decide to bring with you.
Washing fruits and veggies can take a lot more water than you’ll want to use while boondocking, but putting in the work while you have hookups will give you the luxury of fresh produce without wasting any precious water when you need it.
Pro Tip: Fresh produce doesn’t always last as long as we’d like. To supplement them on longer trips, try growing some countertop herbs! They don’t need a lot of water and they’re a great way to add some fresh flavors to your meals.
16. Cook Efficiently
When you do cook while boondocking, it’s handy to do so with as few dishes as needed.
There are a ton of great one-pot meals for all types of diets and appetites that make cooking and cleaning simple, yet delicious.
While instant pots and pressure cookers work great, you’ll want to make sure that your generator can support it for the length of time that you need it to cook your meals.
Otherwise, one-pot recipes can also be made on stovetop (or even over a fire for those who feel adventurous).
17. Clean Up Immediately
The longer food sits on dishes and counters, the more it hardens and sticks to them.
Getting it off them requires more energy and water, while the sitting food can also draw bugs in the meantime.
A great way to clean your dishes with a minimal amount of water is to fill a bowl and set it in the sink.
Use a cloth to wipe any dishes that aren’t overly greasy, rinsing the cloth in the bowl instead of in running water.
When you do need to run the water, remember to use as little as needed and to turn the faucet off between rinsing dishes.
Practice Boondocking Beforehand
Boondocking for extended periods of time requires adopting certain lifestyle practices that help conserve resources.
Learning all of them can be a bit overwhelming for those who are new to boondocking, but starting small and practicing before a big trip can help you avoid a lot of stress and hassle.
After all, there are a lot of boondocking habits that differ from conventional ways of going about daily tasks.
18. Practice Somewhere with Full Hookups
The only way you’ll truly know how long your freshwater tank can last or how long it takes for either of your holding tanks to fill is to test it out with your personal use and habits.
Practicing at a campsite with full hookups or even at home is a great way to test these with the security of being able to empty or fill up at any time.
If you really want to prepare, you can practice a few times before heading into the wild. Do it once to get a gauge, then again trying to extend your time.
The more you practice, the better you will get and the more you’ll figure out your own unique tricks to becoming a boondocking pro.
19. Practice Water Conservation Habits in Your Home
Once you see how much less water we really need to use in life, it becomes easier to permanently adopt some of these habits even when we are back in a brick-and-mortar house.
By continuing to regularly practice water conservation habits, we become increasingly comfortable and good at going about daily tasks this way.
In turn, you’re decreasing your impact on the planet and increasing the length for which you’re able to enjoy boondocking.
20. Do Research on the Area Around where You Plan to Boondock
If something were to happen or you do run out of some essential supplies, you’ll want to know where to go.
You can’t always count on a reliable internet connection, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with the area before you go.
This includes knowing the locations of a few key businesses that could include the following:
Don’t Let Resource Conservation Scare You Away
Boondocking can lead to some amazing experiences, but these don’t come without a bit of work.
It combines the comforts of RV travel with a need to harness a survival mentality in the great outdoors.
By practicing these RV boondocking tips, you’ll be prepared for a safe and hassle-free trip.