A super cool benefit of traveling in an RV is the ability to go off the grid and spend a few days just soaking up the beauty of nature. That said, going completely off-grid and staying outside of campgrounds does require a bit of know-how in order to ensure you are camping safely, legally, and as comfortably as possible.
If you’re looking for information on how to boondock successfully, you’ve come to the right place. In this article we will discuss the basics of boondock camping and provide some of our favorite tips for getting started on the right foot.
What is RV Boondocking?
So, what is boondocking? If you’re new to the RV world, there’s a pretty good chance this is the question that’s rolling around in your head right now. After all, RV boondocking isn’t something you hear a lot about outside of the camping scene.
The answer? Boondocking (also known as dry camping) involves heading into the middle of the wilderness—the boonies, if you will—and setting up camp.
This means camping without electricity, water, or sewer hookups. It could also mean you have the luxury of camping without a neighbor in sight, and with some absolutely gorgeous scenery right out your window. Lastly, choosing boondock RVing means you will likely camp for free, something we can all appreciate.
Where Can You Boondock?
While motorhome or travel trailer boondocking is an awesome thing, it’s important to play by the rules. This means only setting up camp in places where dry camping is allowed.
Wondering where to boondock? Below is a list of websites and apps that can help you find awesome boondocking locations all over the United States:
- Bureau of Land Management
- National Forests and National Grasslands
- Fish and Wildlife Services
- Public Lands App
Just be aware that some government-owned (BLM) lands will require you to pick up a camping pass. Additionally, many boondocking locations have a stay limit.
Is Boondocking Legal?
Considering the restrictions so many cities have on pitching a tent wherever you like—or even parking an RV in your own yard—many people have a hard time believing boondocking can be legal. Luckily, as long as you stay in places where dry camping is allowed and follow proper etiquette, boondocking is completely legal.
Is Boondocking Safe?
Another common question is whether boondocking is safe. Some feel that going out into the wilderness simply isn’t a good idea. However, as long as you use common sense and use the simple safety rules at the bottom of this article, boondocking is just as safe as any other type of camping.
Best Boondocking Travel Trailer or RV?
If you plan on renting or buying an RV specifically for boondocking, you may be wondering which one to get. The truth of the matter is, there is no one “right” boondocking RV. In fact, any RV can go boondocking.
That said, there are some rigs that are better than others at going off-road and navigating mountains and forests. In our opinion, these kinds of rigs are the best boondocking RV options.
Below are our favorite boondocking travel trailer and motorhome options, as well as what you should look for when shopping for a boondocking camper.
Best Boondocking Travel Trailer Type
The best travel trailer for boondocking is a compact trailer that can be pulled by a smaller SUV. For this reason, we prefer teardrop trailers, pop-ups, and A-frame travel trailers over the bulkier hard-side traditional bumper pulls and even larger fifth wheels.
Best Boondocking Motorhome Type
As far as motorhomes go, we recommend looking for something nimble such as a class B or campervan. A small class C would also work well.
What to Look For in a Boondocking Camper
More important than style or size is what’s included in the camper you choose. Generally speaking, it’s good to pick an RV with a generator, solar panels (or at least solar panel hookups), or both in order to keep your battery charged. You’ll also want to have a nice amount of freshwater, grey tank, and black tank capacity.
Other things to look for include:
- A Bathroom — Unless you’re okay with relieving yourself in the woods and waiting to shower, you will want to pick a rig with a bathroom if at all possible. Unfortunately, smaller trailers may not provide this option.
- Roof Vent Fan — This fan helps move air through the rig, removing bad smells and keeping things cool in the hot months.
- LED Lights — LED lights use far less electricity than traditional bulbs. Therefore, an RV with LED lights is the better option for boondocking.
Best Boondocking Tips
Now that you know the most basic things about boondocking, let’s move onto our favorite RV boondocking tips. These tricks and suggestions will help you have safe and successful dry camping trips, time after time.
#1. Any Size RV Can Go Boondocking
First, we’d like to reiterate that any RV can go boondocking. Therefore, if you already own a bigger RV or you can’t find a smaller one that suits your needs, you should still go out and experience the joy of being in nature.
As long as you understand that larger rigs won’t be able to fit into some tighter spots and generally use your common sense, you should be good to go.
#2. Scout Ahead
One of the best boondocking tips we can give is to send someone to scout ahead. This tip is especially helpful if you drive a bigger rig. Sending someone in a smaller vehicle with 4-wheel drive to take a look around and figure out where you’re going (and the best way to get there) can avoid some serious issues.
#3. Conserve Water
One of the hardest things to do when dry camping is making your water last. Fortunately, there are things you can do to stretch your water supply, meaning you’ll be able to stay off-grid for longer.
- Wash Smart — When you wash your dishes, scrape all food into the trash and wipe each dish down with a paper towel in order to use as little water as possible. Rinse dishes in a dish pan and dump the waste water outside to save tank space.
- Change the Way You Bathe — Reduce the number of showers you take and clean yourself with wipes and dry shampoo in between. When you do shower, turn the water off while lathering up in order to use as little water as possible. You may also consider showering outside if possible in order to save tank space.
- Flush with Grey Water — Instead of dumping your dishwater outside, consider saving it (and your shower water) to flush the toilet with. This way you won’t be flushing perfectly clean fresh water down the toilet.
- Invest in a Composting Toilet — Alternatively, you could get a composting toilet. These don’t use any water at all, meaning you save fresh water and make having a black tank completely unnecessary.
#4. Exercise Proper Etiquette
There are certain unspoken rules when it comes to boondocking.
As mentioned before, you will need to make sure you know you’re allowed to stay anywhere you set up camp. Secondly, you’ll need to be courteous of any neighbors you may have, ensuring you stay quiet late at night and early in the morning, and making sure you stay out of their space.
Other rules include leaving your site cleaner than you found it, putting out campfires, and avoiding dumping tanks onto the ground.
#5. Know Your Power Needs
Before heading out on your first adventure, get an idea of how much power you’ll need by unplugging from shore power for a day or so. Take note of how long your battery lasts and decide from there if you’ll need more solar panels or a bigger battery bank.
#6. Be Aware of Regulations
As mentioned before, you can’t set up camp just anywhere. If you’re unsure about whether you’re allowed to park in a certain location, find a ranger to ask. In the case of BLM lands, an internet search will tell you where an office is located, making asking a quick and easy thing to do.
Another option is to check the Benchmark Road and Recreation Atlas for the state you’ll be camping in.
#7. Respect the Locals
One of the most magical things about boondocking is the fact that you’re surrounded by local wildlife. That said, it is important to respect this fact, as wild animals can be dangerous. Therefore, you will want to avoid leaving food and trash out, keep your distance, and avoid disturbing the animals in any way.
#8. Campsite Security
While it’s unlikely that anyone will bother you or your things while you’re boondocking, you will still want to take some precautions. Avoid tempting thieves by putting expensive items away and locking your doors.
You may also want to keep a can of pepper spray and a baseball bat on hand for personal protection. Some people prefer to carry a firearm. If you do this, be sure you know and follow the proper regulations.
#9. Reduce Trash
As mentioned before, you will need to leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. The unfortunate side of this is that packing out whatever you pack in and holding onto a bunch of trash for an entire trip can get old fast.
Avoid carrying a mountain of garbage off your site at the end of your stay by taking food out of its packaging before you head out, avoiding individually packaged items, avoiding disposable dishes, and skipping packaged meals in favor of things like fresh produce.
#10. Be Prepared for Emergencies
Being prepared for emergencies is a good practice no matter where you camp. We said earlier that we would provide you with some good general safety rules in order to be prepared for any incident while dry camping. Here are those tips on how to boondock in an RV safely:
Have a Way to Communicate
Always have a charged cell phone at the ready and stay within cell range as often as possible. If you can’t stay within cell range, know where the nearest landline is in case of emergency.
Pack an Emergency Kit
Having an emergency kit is key in ensuring your family is safe while boondocking. This should contain a first aid kit, a weather radio, emergency snacks and water, and a way to keep warm without electricity.
Always Have Extra Fuel
Getting stuck in the middle of nowhere because you ran out of gas is no fun. Keep a tank of fuel on hand to ensure this never happens to you.
Sometimes when things go wrong, you have to fix them yourself. Make sure you have a complete tool kit so you can do that.
Be Willing to Learn
Of course, tools and an emergency kit alone won’t fix anything. You have to have the know-how in order to get the job done. Luckily, the internet can teach you how to repair or take care of almost anything as long as you’re willing to learn.
Ready to try your hand at boondocking? Find the perfect RV rental so you can start your adventure as soon as possible.