6 Easy Boondocking Tips for Beginners
Boondocking, also commonly referred to as dry camping, is the art of camping without common amenities like water, sewer, and even electricity. Similar to tent camping, this art form requires some adjusting as most of us are used to some form of Rv hookups or at least access to most natural resources. So, how do you navigate everyday life without immediate access to water or power?
The truth is that boondocking can be an easy, fun, and financially beneficial way to explore the vast landscape this country has to offer!
Boondocking often refers to camping that is done in remote places such as BLM land, National Parks, State Parks, and even private lands that offer dispersed camping. It also refers to simply overnighting without amenities which happens mostly in parking lots or rest areas.
No matter the destination, its important to be prepared for camping with limited resources. Below is a list of boondocking tips to help prepare you for your first boondocking experience!
Know your boondocking needs
The first step to dispersed or dry camping starts well before you even begin your trip. In order to make sure you’re prepared for the experience of camping without hookups, you should get an idea of what utilities you most commonly rely on in your daily life.
So, continue your daily routine like business as usual except this time, make a mental note of every utility you are using. How many times a day do you shower or wash dishes? How many devices do you have to charge and how frequently? Do you watch a lot of TV at night?
Getting to know your needs can help you cater your dry camping experience a little more.
It’s true that dispersed RVing often happens in beautiful and remote place of the world, so you are never short of things to explore. But then you come home to your RV after a long, sweaty day of hiking and all your aching bones want is a nice hot shower.
Some of these creature comforts and everyday practices won’t be available when you’re planning an extended boondocking trip. On the flip side of that, it’s important to get to know what you can live without.
Make a list of the necessary resources you will need because there’s no need to pack the camper full of replacement amenities if you won’t end up using them.
Plan boondocking around the weather
Now that you’ve got an idea of what amenities you are using and what you will be without when you boondock, imagine that it’s also 100 degrees outside. Or -5 depending on where you’re staying and what season it is.
Possibly the most important step to boondocking is making sure you pay attention to the weather you will be boondocking in.
For instance, when running the ac isn’t an option, the last place you want to be is in the desert in the height of summer. Plan your trips around the seasons in order to have the weather work for you and not against you.
Choose to visit the south or desert regions during fall or winter saving the warmer months for states whose temperatures aren’t so harsh. And while it’s never possible to completely predict the weather you’ll be boondocking in, random snow storms in Colorado to heat waves in the Pacific Northwest, you can still map out a way to avoid such extremes on a consistent basis.
It’s also be beneficial to research tip and tricks to help your RV or trailer be better suited for the elements. For example, cooking outside can be a great idea when staying in warmer climates or keeping your vents and windows insulated in colder ones.
As long as the weather is not at one extreme or the other, there are ways to adjust to the climate.
Find amenities elsewhere while boondocking
The good news is that depending on where you are boondocking, amenities like showers and potable water may not be too hard to find.
Most campgrounds and state parks will have at least a bathroom or portable restroom available on site should you choose not to use any RV holding tanks. But remote public lands often lack such comforts.
That’s when seeking amenities from an outside location is often worth the effort! Luckily, a majority of bigger, well known camping resorts offer use of things like showers and laundry facilities for a small fee. These resorts often have dump stations and potable water as well for use before and after any boondocking trip.
This came in handy when I spent almost two weeks boondocking just outside the entrance to the Grand Canyon. No power, no running water, no sewer. But I still managed to shower when I wanted, and have laundry completed by my next trip by finding an RV park that offered these provisions. The best perk of choosing to boondock this way is that I was able to spend 12 days tucked in Pinyon Pine forest for $10 a night.
With this in mind it’s never a bad idea to start contacting parks in the area you plan to boondock in to see if they offer any amenities to guests not currently staying at the park. It could give you a sense of ease knowing you aren’t too far away from hygienic facilities should you choose to use them. Even if it’s just to fill or empty your tanks before the next adventure!
Now that you’ve found a solution to common household amenities like potable water, you have to be honest with yourself about your creature comforts and types of activities you like to do. Enjoy falling asleep to a movie or reading your kindle before bed? Or even just listening to music or using your phone?
All of these activities will eventually take electricity and, unless you have a generator handy, boondocking often doesn’t allow for such comforts. Being able to unplug can be an advantage in disguise as now you have a chance to explore things that don’t require you to be plugged in.
That’s why camping without common amenities can be a great time to get creative! Pull out any books or magazines you’ve been meaning to read, start your bucket list, or take up knitting. Or, depending on where you are, just sit and simply enjoy nature.
The experience is not only about camping but also offers a unique chance to reconnect with yourself and your hobbies.
Invest in portable charger for boondocking
The ultimate truth is that not only do we enjoy staying connected but it can be important to have your devices charged and available in case of any family needs or sudden emergencies.
Battery operated or rechargeable USB ports are a great way to keep your devices charged when boondocking without electricity. Even if you are not on your phone or tablet all the time, its nice to be able to have everything charged up and ready in case of an emergency.
What makes these portable devices helpful is that they themselves are very easy to charge and can often be charged in your vehicle. Charging these devices along with your cellphone and tablets while you are driving around exploring the area, can mean a long lasting battery life for when you are back at your RV and without power.
And depending on the brand and quality, the life of the battery pack can last for hours even with constant cellphone use.
So if you decide to binge watch your favorite tv show one night your portable charging device might have you covered.
Be safe while boondocking
The final tip of this boondocking journey is to always remember to stay safe.
Boondocking can be a great and affordable way to see the country but it can often mean camping in very remote locations. Just make sure you feel comfortable where you are docking and never be afraid to leave a place if you don’t feel right about it.
If you pull into a location and it just doesn’t seem safe, pull right back out. That being said, it’s always a good idea to have a few camping locations in mind should one not work out.
It’s also a good rule of thumb to keep a small budget placed aside in case you have to change plans and sign up for a campsite in a park.
You can never really be 100% sure of any dispersed campsites so getting an idea for most of the RV parks in the area is often a good thing to do even if you don’t plan to visit them.
Boondocking is fun- enjoy!
Boondocking is a great and affordable way to see the country.
From the pine forests of the Grand Canyon to the mountain lake views in Colorado this land is full of opportunities to pull off and unplug.
As long as you are realistic with yourself about your needs, you can easily cater your camping trip without the stress of not having utilities. Plan your trip around the weather and seasons, get to know the local area and seek out any available utilities you may be able to use.
Never be afraid to leave a place if you don’t feel safe and get excited for a chance to exploring new hobbies.
And above all have fun!
Meet Bre Henderson
I am a full time rver and solo traveler from the Midwest who enjoys hiking, writing, reading, and just sitting with nature. With a degree in Environmental Justice, I am also passionate about connecting people to the environment and discussing ways to make outdoor recreation more inclusive.