by Morgan Rogue – When my husband first told me about boondocking, I honestly couldn’t believe it. People just go out into the middle of nowhere and camp? How is that even possible?
One of the main reasons for my confusion was because we’re originally from Texas where it’s all private land and the only public land that exists is through state parks. So when we went camping, we went to a state park.
The majority of boondocking is done on public land, or at least undeveloped land.
So, What is Boondocking?
Boondocking is free camping without hookups. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘dry camping’, however, dry camping would be more along the lines of staying in a developed campground without hookups. Whereas boondocking usually refers to staying in an undeveloped area, also without hookups.
Why would anyone want to boondock? Many beginner RV families have asked us this question. I can’t speak for anyone else but our reasoning is pretty simple; boondocking allows us to live on our own terms. We’ve set ourselves up so that we don’t have to rely on hookups. Here are my top 10 boondocking tips for full-time RV’ing families.
Top 10 Boondocking Tips
1. Consider solar panels for your RV
If you’re planning to camp without any hookups, solar is a great option for electricity needs. The amount of solar panels and batteries that you need will vary greatly on your family size and overall needs, and should be determined when you’re beginning the process of picking the right RV for your family.
In general, when boondocking conserving power will be important, with or without solar. Another great power source option for boondocking is investing in a quality RV inverter generator.
2. Consider an RV composting toilet
If you have a black tank in your RV then eventually it’ll need to be emptied. I don’t know of any state where it’s legal to dump the contents of a black tank on the ground. It needs to go in the sewer. Thus, switching to a composting toilet would eliminate that need.
With a composting toilet you can dump the urine far away from camp, then place the feces in a garbage bag and safely – and legally – dump in any dumpster. Nature’s Head is a really great composting toilet.
We did a lot of comparing, examined our toilet space (we all know that living in such tight RV quarters requires careful planning) and made the decision to go with Nature’s Head. Do some research and figure out which one is going to be right for you.
3. Free RV Camping
When searching for free campsites, start with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. It’s one of many federal agencies in charge of public land. Their website has an interactive map to show you where the BLM land is across the US. It should notate whether it’s free or a developed campground both for tent and RV.
Most national forests in the US allow free camping off of the forest service roads. The best way to find these places is by going to The Army Corps of Engineers website, which has free RV camping in developed campsites without hookups all around the US that offers lights and sometimes an officer or ranger patrolling. They offer a book to find the locations and you can also find some on freecampsites.net.
4. Be Prepared with Backup RV Camping Locations
Since these spots are most likely being visited for the first time, they may not pan out or be exactly what you were expecting. If for whatever reason the spot doesn’t work out, be sure to have some nearby backup locations. This saves time and in some cases, there may be no internet access to look up a new spot.
5. Service and Internet May Be Slim to None
Since you’ll be traveling to an undeveloped bit of land it’s important to understand that cell service and/or internet may be slim. This may not bothersome, but this could be a problem if something breaks or if there’s any other emergency.
Think about getting a SPOT, a satellite GPS messenger, or other similar device that can reach emergency services if necessary.
6. Know the Legal RV Camping Stay Limit
Many places have a stay limit of 14 days or in some cases, 30 days. This means, you can remain parked for 14 days at a time, leave for a day then return and stay for another 14 days. Some places have a total yearly stay limit of 30 days. It depends on the area.
The best way to figure out the legal stay limit for the area you’re staying in would be to search the website of the BLM or national forest or wherever you’re staying.
7. Fill the On-Board RV Water Tank
Before embarking into the wilderness, make sure your onboard water tank is completely full. Many truck stops will have a potable water hookup, but be sure to ask before using. Regular gas stations usually have some type of water spigot on the side of the building that you may be able to use but be sure to get permission first.
Most sources to fill the water tank will be free, though be prepared to pay, or at the very least, buy something from them as a thanks. When boondocking you’ll want to be conscious about conserving water.
We can make our 80 gallon on board water tank last 14 days when we: reduce shower times, don’t let the water run when washing hands, doing dishes or brushing teeth, use a spray bottle for general cleaning needs, etc. Take a close look at how you use water and get creative with how to conserve water.
8. Respect the Area and Others
Instead of making a brand new campsite, try to park in an already established site. Practice Leave No Trace, properly extinguish campfires and leave the area better than how you found it for others to continue to enjoy for decades to come.
Many people live the boondocking life because they want some solitude. While there may be safety in numbers, please respect others’ privacy. Also, please keep music low. If you have pets, keep them contained on a leash or in a fence.
9. Consider an RV Propane Transfer Tank
Moving the RV to get the propane tank filled might be a hassle, as well as time consuming. Before heading to the boondocking site, fill the propane tank. A transfer tank is an extra, filled propane tank, if your on board tank is low, the transfer tank is there to fill the on board tank. Talk to your local propane dealer about a transfer tank along with the proper hoses.
10. Dumping Grey Water
Just like with the propane, when settled into a boondocking spot, going to a dump station can be a huge ordeal. There are some options available, however.
First, minimize what goes down the drain. Instead of pouring water down the drain, pour it onto the outside vegetation. If pouring water outside that contains any soap, make sure it’s far away from any water source and use an environmentally safe soap.
Next, consider using a portable waste tank. Many people call this portable waste tank a ‘blue boy’. The grey water goes into the portable waste tank then it’s taken somewhere safe to dump.
Always use designated dump stations. You can find a list of dump stations at Campendium.com. In addition, never dump your black tank anywhere except designated dump stations.
From coyotes yipping nearby, watching the sunrise every morning at breakfast and exploring vast, wide open spaces; boondocking has allowed us to see the US in all of its amazing glory.
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Morgan lives and travels full time in an RV with her husband, two daughters and two dogs. They travel the US sharing preparedness and outdoor knowledge. She is the owner and founder of Rogue Preparedness where she teaches emergency preparedness and survival skills.