So what does boondocking really mean? It is camping your RV without any hook-ups. Yes, no electricity, water or sewer connections.
Well, you will have to make some sacrifices when it comes to modern conveniences. But it all comes down to planning and preparation. If you are adequately prepared, then boondocking is not only a great way how to save money on camping fees, but it also opens a whole lot new world of freedom and scenic beauty.
This guide is not for those experienced dry campers that have their RVs specially equipped with expensive fancy gadgets and that run everything on solar power.
We have gathered together some useful tips and tricks for beginner boondockers.
As I said earlier, then boondocking is a great for your wallet. You can save hundreds on camping fees just on one trip (depending on location and length of the stay). And there are so many beautiful and amazing places that you would otherwise miss.
Be careful as boondocking can get quite addictive ?
Know the capabilities and limitations of your RV
As I mentioned before, then proper planning is the key to success when it comes to camping without hook-ups.
Your period of stay is not only dependant on your ability to conserve water and power but also on your RVs capacities. The larger the capacities the longer you will be able to stay out there without hook ups. Do you know the size of your holding tanks?
This might sound obvious, but you really want to make sure that all of your grey and especially black tanks are emptied, and fresh water tanks are full before you head out.
Take a collapsible 3 or 5-gallon water container with you to fill up with fresh water whenever you get the chance.
How to conserve water when boondocking
Using water efficiently is essential when it comes to prolonging your water supply. You will have to make some small sacrifices to preserve water however with practise these habits will become natural.
Try to be as conservative as possible (especially in the beginning of your trip) as once the water is finished you will have to break the camp. The more conservative you are with your water use the longer you can stay in your dry camping spot.
It`s no fun to realise that you have used most of your fresh water, but you were still plaining to stay extra few days.
Of course, you are out there to enjoy yourselves, so you have to factor in the most important things for you and your family to stay comfortable.
Minor changes can make significant difference. You may have not thought about that before when water supply was not an issue, but it is time now to consider some changes in the way how you use water everyday when dry camping.
In fact, a lot of people use some of these tips and tricks also in their everyday life in their homes to save water and their money on bills.
The key is to make sure that no water goes to waste. Always avoid your tap running when unnecessary.
Useful Tip! Check if you don`t have any water drips or leaks. If you have, make sure to fix as soon as possible.
How to save water in bathroom when boondocking
- Consider switching to a low flow oxygenics shower head (like this ETL Spa Oxygenics Shower with 60″ Hose). This is huge when it comes to saving water in your RV.
- Take short “military” showers (also known as “navy” showers). Rinse, shut water off, soap up, rinse. You might be used to having long nice 15-minute showers, but with this method it is possible to reduce water use by 95 %. Standard shower can use as much as 60 gallons of water while “military” shower can use as little as 3 gallons of water.
- A sponge bath is something you may consider. This method was frequently used by our grandparents. All you need is just a small basin of water, washcloth and soap.
- When washing your hands, turn off the water while you lather.
- Turn off the water while shaving or brushing teeth.
- Keep a bucket in the shower to catch some water which can be later used to flush the toilet.
- Use a bucket (or bowl) to collect clean water from bathroom faucet while you are waiting for it to warm up.
- Avoid any creamy bath soaps that require a lot of water to rinse off.
- Use things like baby-wipes, dry shampoo and hand sanitizer to reduce water use.
- Let the yellow mellow – it is a personal reference, but a lot of boondockers don`t flush toilet every time after going number one. Use any RV holding tank treatment. Walex drop ins (can be bought on Amazon) are great to prevent odours and break down paper.
How to save water in the kitchen when boondocking
- Use paper towels to wipe off all food residues from the dishes before washing them.
- Wash dishes in a bowl so the water that you save can be later used to flush the toilet.
- Use disposable plates and bowls to reduce water usage. This is very useful if you are getting to the end of your trip and you are running low on fresh water.
- Do not use water from your fresh water tank for drinking. Carry a separate container for drinking water.
- Wash dishes only once per day. Use less soap when washing the dishes so you won`t need to rinse as much (on average we use to tend use more washing liquid than necessary).
- When cooking, use non-stick coating pans and pots that are easy to clean.
- Wash all your fruits and vegetables in advance (before heading out).
- Steam your vegetables instead of boiling them (not only it saves water, but it is also healthier as vegetables keep more of their nutritional value).
How to Save Power When Boondocking
It is important to know the size of your battery bank as it will be your main source of electricity when boondocking. You should have either a generator or solar power in order to keep your reserve battery power sufficiently supplied. Your battery is also being charged whenever you are driving.
As I said in the beginning of this article, then I will not discuss solar power as energy source when boondocking. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great source of power and it is definitely our future, but it requires large initial investment that is just too much for most beginner boondockers.
There are a lot of different generators in the market and it really depends on your needs to say which one is the best for you. However, my advice is to choose inverter type generator and stay away from those cheap construction type generators under $300 as they will be very loud, and you will not be able to use them without annoying other people around you.
In order to power your air conditioner you will need to be plugged into o a powerful generator. The size of generator depends on the the wattage of your air conditioner.
If you are running air conditioner you may not be able to run any other electrical devices unless you have a very large generator.
When you are plugged into power at an RV park you can just run everything in your trailer without any worries. But when you are boondocking without hook-ups to electricity and you are using generator you have to be vey conservative.
It is very useful to know which appliances draw the most power. You can run voltage meter test – you can buy one for about $15 in your local Walmart or on Amazon. Using your electricity in the smart ways is a great way how to conserve power.
Here are some useful ttips to save power when boondocking:
- Turn off all lights and any electrical devices when they are not being used.
- Switch to LED lights! LED bulb lights use way less power than incandescent bulbs and will save you so much power.
- Fully charge all your devices that need charging (like laptops, electric shavers, phones etc.) before you start the journey.
- Use battery operated lights as much as possible.
- Do not use electrical appliances that eat a lot of your battery (like microwave, TV) if you are not running your generator.
- When reading, use a book light.
- Plan your day. Do the activities that require more light (like reading) in the daylight hours.
- Switch off your water pump when not in use as it may still draw some power even when it is not being used.
- Use an inverter.
How to Stay Warm when Boondocking
Boondocking is also often called wild camping but it shouldn`t be called extreme camping. Weather can get quite tricky sometimes and surprise so you.
So here are some tips for staying warm when dry camping:
-Be prepared. Use weather app. Good app is Dark Sky which is the most accurate source of local weather information. This app can predict when weather down to the minute at your exact location.
-Mr Heater Buddy heaters (check current price on Amazon here) are very popular among boondockers and they are currently (at the time of writing this article) the most popular portable propane heater in North America. The heater uses two 1 lb cylinders and is perfect for indoors use for heating enclosed spaces. Personally, for me huge factor is safety and this heater is safe to be used inside RV. It can be easily moved around so you can heat any area of your RV. One single bottle will last you up to 6 hours depending on the settings.
– Try using RV friendly 12v electrical blanket (like this Stalwart RV-great travel throw) that you can use to pre-heat your bed.
– Cover all windows as they can let the cold in quite fast. If it gets really chilly, you can even stuff blankets between the blinds and windows. Or you can use reflective insulation (like Reflectix Bubble Pack Insulation on Amazon which is made up of seven layers) that will help to keep your RV cooler when it is hot and warmer when it is cold.
-Always keep your feet warm! If your feet are cold, you will be cold too. Wear thermo socks or wool socks. You can also wear a hat. It is proven that if your head and feet are warm, you will be too (I am not talking about extreme coldness, of course).
– Share the body heat with your other half and just keep snuggling ?
Well, if it gets to the point where you are struggling to stay warm no matter what you do, it is probably time to move to a different location or at least somewhere where you have all the amenities.
RV Waste Management When Boondocking
The larger your RV holding tanks the longer you can stay out without leaving the camp in order to dump the waste (if you still have fresh water).
Water from showering and dish washing will usually fill up your grey tank before your black tank so try to be conservative with the use of the water as it will also save your grey tank to fill up too quickly.
Make sure your fresh water tank is 100 % filled before you head out.
Tips for managing waste when boondocking:
– Use your regular grocery bags for trash so that you can just toss them at gas stations or fast food places if you don’t have access to the public dumpsters.
– Prepare “one-pot” meals. In that way you will not only conserve water and power, but also reduce water for washing the dishes and filling up your grey tank.
How to choose your Boondocking Campgrounds
Some newbies are still not sure if boondocking is legal. Yes, it is totally legal as long as you park in free public lands like National Forests or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and other public lands that allow recreational camping. You can find them by searching online or by using Public Lands App.
When choosing a campsite, try to park your RV in the sun on chilly days and in the shade on warm days. Extend the awning to help shade the walls of your RV (just don`t forget to put down your awning if you are leaving the campsite so it does not get damaged in case there is a sudden change in weather).
Keep all windows and doors open on warm days (don`t forget to close when you go to sleep).
If you are using generator as extra power source, then remember that there is an unwritten etiquette how to use them if you have any neighbours around (even if you are using reasonably quiet inverter generator). Don`t run your generator in very early or late hours. Position your generator away from others to reduce the noise. Make sure that the generator exhaust is pointing off towards the area where are other campers.
I hope some of the tips and tricks have been useful to you. We will keep adding more with time as we get more experienced. Please make a comment and share your experience with us. What is your best tip for camping without hook ups?