Dry Camping? How It’s Done in a Camper

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Dry camping or boondocking, as most campers like to call it, is a great way to enjoy the wild outdoors aboard your RV or van. Although camping away from a regular campground may sound a bit overwhelming, with a few tips and tricks, you too can learn how to dry camp with minimal effort. 

Dry camping in a camper entails camping with no access to water, electrical, or sewer hookups at the campground. Hence, besides carrying essentials like food, you will also need to learn how to conserve resources like water and power, plus devise ways to dispose of waste.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What dry camping is
  • How to have a successful dry camping experience
  • Tips and tricks to make the most of your dry camping trip

What Is Dry Camping?

Dry camping goes by many terms like: backcountry camping, dispersed camping, off-grid camping, and boondocking. These are all terms used to refer to camping in a van, camper, RV, or motorhome without any hookups.

Dry camping can be done within developed campsites, or outside. To be exact, boondocking best describes camping without hookups outside of developed campgrounds.

Campgrounds and RV resorts offering full-hookups are excellent for weekend getaways and family vacations. However, they tend to be expensive. On the other hand, dry camping provides you with a unique opportunity to camp, mostly for free. The only catch? You forego some creature comforts.

This means that for the duration of your camping trip, you will have no access to electricity, wifi, water, or sewer hookups.

These technologies might seem indispensable. However, once you discover that you can do without these modern-day distractions, it’s remarkable how much freedom you experience. And how beautiful nature can be in its most natural form.

Where to Find Dry Camping Locations

Dry camping sites are available in:

  • Rest stops and truck stops
  • National and state parks
  • Parking lots of big box chain stores like Walmart and Costco
  • Dispersed camping areas

…and much more.

Now, let’s have a look at how you can have a great dry camping experience in your camper. There are several things you need to consider. Some of these include your comfort level, the type of camper you have, and how to manage water, among others. Here are some useful tips:

Consider Your Needs and Comfort Level

In general, dry camping requires a certain level of sacrifice in regard to modern conveniences.

As such, you need to decide what things are most important to you, what you can do without, and what adjustments to make to be most comfortable.

Consider the Type of Camper You Have

The success of your dry camping depends to a great extent on your type of camper. You see, if you have a small camper, you can camp almost anywhere since your trailer will fit into most parking spaces. Unfortunately, a small camper limits your space; hence you are not able to carry many resources. Besides, you have reduced capacity for black water, gray water, and batteries.

On the other hand, with a large motorhome or RV, you have access to fewer dry camping locations due to your camper size. Still, your capacity for holding water and generating electricity is more substantial. 

Ultimately, the best RV for dry camping is one that can accommodate your power, water, and storage needs.

Conserve Your Water

Water is one of your most essential resources, so you want to ensure that you don’t run out. 

Consider the size of your freshwater tank and the duration of your camping trip to enable you to plan how to spend your water.

Always plan to arrive at your dry camping location with a full tank of freshwater. Don’t assume that the camping site will have a water refill point.  To preserve water, you can do the following:

  • Keep showers short. Turn off the water in-between, lathering your body and rinsing to allow your tank water to last longer. Or use bathing wipes.
  • Wash and rinse dishes in minimal water. Avoid leaving the water running while washing dishes or brushing your teeth. 
  • Use a solar shower. Fill up a gallon with water from a stream, river, or lake. Keep it in the hot sun for some time, then use it for your shower. You can also use the water for other purposes such as cleaning or washing dishes.

Manage Your Gray and Black Tanks

Refilling your freshwater tank means that, ultimately, there will be more water in your gray tank. 

But with no sewer hookups, you can find creative ways to get rid of your gray water. Some of these might include:

  • Collecting shower water and using it to flush the toilet.
  • Using your gray water to irrigate nearby plants.
  • Collecting rinse water in a dishpan and pouring it into the bushes or a dump hole. 
  • Emptying your gray water on the way, to ensure that you arrive at your dry camping site with an empty tank. You can do so at gas stations or state parks along the way.

Your black tank is the smallest of your camper tanks, so you need to be even more careful in managing its contents. You can dump your black tank in the same dump stations you use for your grey tank before getting to the camping destination. (Remember to dump both tanks before storing your RV.)

Dispose of Your Trash Responsibly

How do you dispose of your garbage when dry camping? 

With limited or no access to a campsite dumpster, you’ll need to figure out how to get rid of your trash responsibly. You can do so while refueling at gas stations or buying groceries.

Be careful if you’re going to dispose of a large amount of garbage, for instance if it won’t fit into existing garbage containers on the disposal site. We recommend confirming with the establishment whether it’s okay to do so first. If it’s not ok, they might be able to recommend a better-suited disposal location.

How Long Will Your Battery Last During Dry Camping?

When dry camping off-grid, you have no access to shore power. Hence your RV can only access up to about 12 power volts via your batteries.

This is only enough to operate your lights, fridge, and water pump and will last 2-3 days in normal conditions. You can extend this duration by switching off the lights and not running the water pump. 

Unlike water, power is a little tricky to manage while dry camping. Still, you can use house batteries to store power for your camper, plus you can charge them while driving. However, if for any reason, you need the power to charge your electrical devices while dry camping, do the following: 

  • Install more batteries to enable you to store more power. 
  • Add an extra propane tank and use these to operate your fridge, heat water, and run your cooktop. With careful use, your propane can last a long time. (Don’t forget to fill up the propane tanks before proceeding on your dry camping trip.)
  • Consider investing in a solar power kit if you plan on dry camping regularly. While this is a big-time investment, it will help you save money over time.
  • If your camper comes equipped with a generator, use it to charge your batteries. If not, buy one and hook it up to the batteries. The good thing about a generator is that it allows you to use both 120 and 12-volt power.

It’s advisable to limit how often you use the generator since it’s noisy and might disrupt your fellow campers. Though expensive, solar power might be a better option since it’s noiseless, low maintenance, and gives you free electricity whenever the sun is out.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, dry camping can be quite an enjoyable experience once you get the hang of it. Hopefully, the tips in this article will give you the confidence you need to try it out. 

To make it easier for you, start with short trips in a familiar location, such as an overnight stay at a Walmart. Then after building confidence, extend your adventure to a weekend.

Follow the tips on conserving freshwater, power, and gray and black tank capacity. With time, it will become second nature, and you soon be able to last 3-4 days without refilling your water or dumping your tanks!


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