Boondocking 101

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

Are you ready to start RVing? Did you know there is more to RV camping than just hanging out in an RV park or campground? That’s right!! You can really explore nature in your RV with a little boondocking or dry camping. It is simply RV camping without hookups (so no water, no electricity, and no sewer). Before your first boodocking trip, you will need supplies and a few strategies to make it a success.

How to Handle Lack of Water

First up, let’s tackle RVing without a continuous fresh water connection.

When you are RVing without a water connection, you’ll need to fill up your freshwater tank. The size of the tank varies greatly. We have a 26ft travel trailer and have a 45 gallon freshwater tank. We have met folks with 100 gallon tanks!! You can up your fresh water tank at a campground (usually for a fee), rest area, and many other locations.

When you first start out, you might not know how long your fresh water will last you. If possible, conduct a few trial runs before your trip to get an idea of what you water needs are and if there are ways to extend your water supply.

It’s always a good idea to keep some extra water on-hand. You can purchase reusable water jugs or collapsible water bladders and fill them up when you fill up your fresh water tank.

Next up, How do you ensure you have enough water for all your needs?

Now that you have a full fresh water tank, how do you make it last?

All the fresh water you have will be used for dishwashing, hand washing, brushing your teeth, showering, and your toilet.

Most of us already know how to conserve water in our everyday life:

  • Turn off the water when brushing your teeth and washing dishes

  • Military showers - initial rinse, turn off water, lather up, turn on water, rinse, get out.

  • Or use wipes instead

  • Use dry shampoo (do it outside so you don’t set off your carbon monoxide/propane alarm!)

  • Don’t fill up that toilet bowl! Use as little water as possible

  • If you wanna get a little hippie with it, use the old adage: “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”.

If you are really concerned about water usage and plan to boondock often, a compositing toilet might be a good fit for your family. I’ll address composting toilets when I discuss RVing without a sewer connection.

RVing without Electricity

I find RV electrical systems to be overly complicated, so I’m just going to hit the basics, remember this is Boondocking 101!!

All RVs come with a 12v battery (or a series of batteries) that will run the following when you RV is NOT connected to electricity:

  • Interior and exterior lights

  • RV roof vent fan

  • Propane heater

  • 12 volt outlet(s)

  • RV range hood fan

Some RV appliances won’t work when the RV is disconnected from electricity, but can run on propane:

  • RV refrigerator

  • Water heater

Your RV outlets will not work unless you have a solar system setup or a generator (motorhomes have on-board generators). If you purchase a portable generator, make sure it is an RV ready inverter generator. You don’t want to damage your electronics or electrical system.

A typical RV battery (the one that your RV came with), will need to be recharged every day. If you are only overnighting without hookups, you will not need to run a generator to recharge your battery. When you drive it (motorhome or trailer), your batteries will recharge.

To keep your batteries from running too low and getting damaged, use the following conservation tips:

  • Only turn lights on when you need them

  • Keep that RV roof vent fan closed when you can (although you may need it to get that air moving around)

  • Only use the 12 volt outlet(s) if you need to and unplug your devices/appliances as soon as they are charged or you are done using them

  • Don’t use your water heater if you can skip it

You will want to know your electrical needs before you invest in solar or a generator. What do you need to run? For us, we only need to recharge our devices. Occasionally, we have found ourselves boondocking in hot weather and turned on our air conditioner, but we prefer not to. For our small RV with 1 AC units, a 3500 watt RV ready inverter generator does the job.