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Boondocking 101

Traveling in a camper is all about freedom — hitting the open road and exploring everything the world has to offer! But why stop there? Explore ]more and have unlimited freedom off the beaten path with…BOONDOCKING!

In this guide, we are going to dive into all things boondocking (what it is, how to do it, location, etc.) so that way you can confidentially hit the road no problem!

What Is Boondocking?

Boondocking is off-the-grid RV camping – meaning no electricity, water or sewer hookups at your disposal. Boondocking is also referred to as ‘dry camping.’ This can be anything from staying in the backcountry somewhere, a secluded forest or even pulled off the side of a highway to rest, forcing you to be self-sufficient.

Why Choose Boondocking?

I know, RV camping without any sort of hookups or electricity sounds crazy right?? Why choose boondocking when there’s so many campgrounds out there with hookups for you to use? Well, hear me out. There’s actually several different reasons why boondocking is something a lot of people do! Here’s just a few to name:

  1. Escape Into Nature – Camping gives you an amazing chance to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and get some much needed nature therapy. Boondocking is the best type of RVing to use for this little getaway. Boondocking in the muddle of nowhere allows you to take a break from the crowds at the campground, giving you peace, quiet and to get up close and personal with nature.
  2. Saving Money – Campgrounds can be pretty pricey, depending on where you stay at. Whether you’re living in your RV fulltime or just on a family vacation, those fees can add up. Boondocking helps you save money from those high campground costs allowing for more expenses on family adventures.
  3. Self-Sufficient – Lastly, people love being self-sufficient. You get to complete tasks on your own, feeling a sense of accomplishment! Boondocking gives you the practice to be self-sufficient and essentially, survive on your own so you can prove to the world that you can take care of yourself.

Where to Find Boondocking Spots:

Now, you can’t just park your camper anywhere and decide to boondock. Some places are illegal and you can get into some serious trouble. We suggest doing research, there’s plenty of awesome websites for dry camping options likes Campendium or Allstays. These websites give suggestions on which spots best suite your camping needs, from a tiny pop-up all the way to a 40′ toy haulers! Be sure to check out the reviews other campers leave so you can see if the locations has cell service, what size RV you need for that particular area and dumping locations.

Rules Of Boondocking:

Just like your regular campgrounds, there’s some rules that come with boondocking, you can’t just go buck wild.

  1. Stay Safe
    • We previously talked about this but, keep in mind the size of your camper. Some places are better accommodated for bigger RVs while others, not so much.
    • Depending on where and what time of year you camp, you’ll want to watch out for weather conditions.
    • A ranger may come but it’s not guaranteed, so you will most likely will be alone. They may come to the local campgrounds and maybe stop in known boondocking spots. So you may be far from cell service or other sources of communication so choose a location wisely. Since communication might be limited, you’ll also want to be extra cautious – don’t hurt yourself and put your campfires out.
    • Predators – cougars, wolves and bears – oh my! This one is self-explanatory, please be aware of your surroundings for these predators and take the extra safety measures if you come into contact with one.
  2. Leave NO Trace
    • It’s our responsibility to take care of our spots in order to help ensure we are disturbing and disrupting nature. You will be responsible of whatever trash you generate so keep that in mind.
    • Leave everything where you found it so in other words, take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints. Don’t collect pine cones, cut down any trees or move rocks/stones. Do your best to leave everything just as you found it.
    • Stick to existing roads unless it’s specifically permitted in the area you’re camping in.
    • Don’t dump your tanks on the ground. Boondocking means being self-sufficient during your entire stay, which includes your tanks. Know where you can drive to dump your tanks if they become full. Sometimes private RV parks, gas stations or public lands will allow you to pay a fee to dump into their sewage.
    • Smokey was not kidding when he said only YOU can prevent forest fires. It’s best to keep your fires small and tameable. Once finished, drown the fire with water and cover it with dirt.
    • Finally, one of the most important points is respect the creatures and critters. You are a guest in nature’s home so be mindful of the other creatures you’re going to share the area with. If you’re bringing your own fur babies with you, keep an eye on them. They can alter the habitats of the creatures that live there or get themselves injured/killed by bigger predators.
  3. Be A Good Neighbor
    • It may not just be you and your family enjoying some time in nature, so keep in mind of how loud you’re being.
    • Also create some space between you and your neighbors. They’re here to relax and get some peace and quiet too.
    • Lastly, be friendly and say hello! Especially if they’re boondocking for the first time, it’s always nice to be friendly in case they have any questions or if you have any questions.

Boondocking: Fresh Water

99% of campers have a freshwater tanks so make sure you sanitize and fill up your tank before getting to your boondocking spot. This will give you clean water to use for cooking and washing up. There is however a limit on how much your freshwater tank can hold, so you’ll have to limit your water consumption or you can find a way to bring extra water if you plan on boondocking. My suggestion would be to purchase a couple 5 gallon water jug.

Conserving Water –

  1. Showering and washing your hair less often.
  2. Turn off the water when you’re lathering up during your shower, brushing your teeth and scrubbing while washing dishes.
  3. You can also flush used shower or dishwater so you’re not having to use fresh water.

Boondocking: Sewer

Thinking about how you’re going to dump your tanks is a key part in boondocking and could help you think ahead when choosing boondocking locations. Your black and gray tanks are going to fill pretty quickly and dumping on the ground is illegal.

Finding Dump Stations

You can usually find dump stations at gas stations, truck stops, campgrounds, and RV parks all over the country. You can empty your tanks without having to pull into a full-hookup site. Keep in mind there will most likely be a charge fee for using the dump station, but it will be cheaper than what you pay at a site.

When you’re researching a place to boondock, if you look at the locations reviews, people may list nearby dump stations.
That said, the easiest way to go about it is to use the Sanidumps website. This site allows you to type in a zip code and will give you information on dump stations in the area.

Dumping Mid-Camping Trip

Uh oh, you need to dump your tanks in the middle of your boondocking trip? Have no fear! You can always take your whole RV into town and dump your tanks BUT you risk losing your camping spot. My biggest piece of advice would be to invest in a “blue boy.” The blue boy is a nifty little doo-dad that allows you to empty out your black and gray tanks without having to completely move your camper! Once you’re emptied out your tanks, you can place the blue boy into your truck bed, take it to the nearest dumping station and voilà- empty tanks.

Boondocking: Electricity

Lastly, let’s talk about electricity. Having no electricity may be the scariest thing to not have complete access to when considering boondocking. But don’t worry we can help you be as prepared as possible.

The amount of electricity you need depends on how much you typically use and what type of camper you have. Typically your biggest electricity consuming appliances are residential/electric refrigerators, microwaves and air conditioners. So, if you have a camper with two fridges and a residential convection microwave the amount of electricity you need will be different compared to a camper with a standard RV microwave and a single RV fridge.

RV Refrigerators – Most RVs come standard equipped with 2- or 3-way refrigerators, which means you have the ability to switch your fridge over to propane mode.
Microwaves – can usually be used when the generator is running. Otherwise, both the microwave and the A/C should be avoided.

With all that being said, you’ll want to find alternatives to these or try to avoid using them altogether. So below we’ve listed tips on how to create, store and access what little power you need.

  1. Generators – A generator uses fuel to create electricity and is what many boondockers use as their main source of power. All you have to do is plug your RV into the generator, fire the motor up, and charge those batteries while enjoying running almost any appliance in your camper. The only downfall of generators is they can be pretty noisy. If you’re looking to get some peace and quiet, a generator will definitely disrupt that.
  2. Solar Panels –Another way to create power while boondocking is through the use of solar panels. Solar panels have become more and more popular with traditional housing and RV camping. Newer campers models are also coming equipped with solar panels on it or they are solar prepped. Solar panels and chargers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, making it easy to be budget friendly. If you don’t want to break the budget with a full roof of solar panels, having a couple panels will still help you a lot during your trip.
  3. Batteries – Batteries are super important and are what you rely on to get you through the day. There are three types of battery and from top to bottom is cheapest to most expensive
  4. The types include:

    • Flooded Lead Acid (FLA)
    • Absorbed Glass Matt (AGM)
    • Lithium

    Without going into too much detail, you’re main focus should be getting as many amp-hours (Ah) of storage as you can. Your boondock experts will invest in a giant load of batteries so they can store plenty of power between charges.

  5. Inverter –An inverter helps access the power stored in your batteries through your outlets, if you don’t have this, your outlets won’t work. It’s what you can use to create 120-volt AC from your batteries. You can run anything from your laptop to your dryer. There are many types and sizes of inverters to choose from that can help you run your entire camper.