We’ve been dry camping for a while now, and the greatest draw for me is that it offers an awesome way of getting close to Mother Nature.
On top of it, I don’t have to spend much compared to traditional camping.
Now, if you’re new to the term dry camping or interested in an off-grid experience, I’ll share everything you need to know about it.
I’ll also share some tips for a successful dry camping experience.
What Does the Term Dry Camping Mean?
Dry camping is a form of off-grid RV camping without utility hookups such as water, sewer hookups, shore power, electricity, cable TV, or telephone and may or not require a fee.
Usually, dry camping can be in a city, state, national, private campground, parking lot, or sporting venue.
When dry camping, you’re usually off the grid and reliant on the provisions you brought along.
In short, dry camping is camping at an established campground, which lacks the amenities of a regular campground, such as water spigots, sewer lines, and power connectivity.
Is Dry Camping Legal?
Yes, dry camping is a legal recreation activity as long you are authorized to be on the land. However, this can be tricky because different land spaces are under management by different entities.
Most campers prefer public grounds to avoid paying fees, although they still have to get permission from the RV park service or whoever runs things there.
One point worth noting is that no space owner wants to have their land degraded by a group of dry campers. Always leave the place as you found it, do not litter the ground or contaminate water reservoirs.
Leaving no traces is part of the dry camping experience.
Boondocking Vs. Dry Camping
It rattles me how most campers use the term boondocking and dry camping interchangeably.
While there’s plenty of overlap between these two terms, there’s also a huge difference between them.
Boondocking and dry camping are wilderness or primitive camping in an RV.
However, boondocking is camping in the boondocks, away from established grounds. It’s usually for free and with no access to amenities and hookups.
In short, you always dry camp when boondocking, but you don’t always boondock when dry camping.
Boondocking is a form of dry camping, only now that you don’t practice it in established campgrounds.
Instead, you do it in the boondocks, away from civility, and usually in public lands like BLM or National Forests for FREE!
All the conditions I’ve just mentioned must be met. Otherwise, it’s not boondocking.
So, no, you’re not boondocking if you’re camping in a tent. Similarly, you’re not boondocking if you’re paying for your campsite fee or are in a campground, no matter how basic it is.
The purest definition of boondocking usually adds that you should also be “in the boondocks” and away from civilization.
Now, I’ve done more boondocking and dry camping. But for today, I’ll share my dry camping experience.
Is Dry Camping Safe And Should You Try It?
Yes, dry camping is safe. That, of course, depends on the camping environment.
If you manage to secure a safe spot, the experience is like no other. Very few reports of people running into serious issues while dry camping.
Dry camping comes with advantages like:
- Quiet space with minimal human interaction
- You get to escape the noisy city life
- You get to feel nature first-hand
- It arouses your curiosity about new possibilities
Essentials of Dry Camping
If you’re looking to forsake the convenience and “comforts” of easy camping to try roughing it, you’re in the right place.
See, camping with no amenities such as water, electricity, and sewer isn’t the easiest task. The experience can be challenging if you don’t know the basics.
The good thing is; that we’ve done dry camping for close to thirty years now, and I’ll share the essentials of how to get into this new camping experience.
I’ll share some tips I usually employ when we head out for dry camping.
Power Options and Sources
- We usually have a small inverter for the RV/DVD player. It saves us from the need to run our generator at night
- Carry 2 batteries with you to prolong the battery life.
- Consider an inverter generator. It’s quieter, more powerful, and convenient. Pick an option with an output of at least 3000W
- If your RV lacks an onboard generator, go with two Honda EU2000I parallel capacities. They offer more power and are less bulky. On top of that, they provide a cleaner form of energy, perfect for running your AC, TV, microwave, and charging your phone.
The other crucial thing to consider apart from the power option is the water and water usage.
Water management is crucial when dry camping because it’s a scarce resource.
Here’re the water management tips I usually employ when dry camping:
- It’s always a good idea to fill your freshwater tank 100% before the final destination. It keeps you stocked up and prepares you for emergencies.
- Always fill up water containers to bring along. Carry the 7-gallon Aquatainer water containers to supplement your fresh water tank. With the Aquatainers, I’ve gone for a whopping five days without depleting my fresh water tank or needing to fill my tanks. Of course, it also depends on your water usage pattern
- Our rig lacks a gravity fill for the fresh water tank, so we usually bring the cheap harbour freight water pump to make the job easier.
- I don’t wash dishes: Instead, I prefer using paper plates, solo cups, and plastic cups. But if I’ve to do the dishes, I don’t do them after every meal. Instead, I prefer doing all the dishes at once to reduce water wastage
- If dry camping near a stream or water source, consider using it for a dip or cleaning utensils rather than your water reserves. I’d suggest you go with Ivory Soap. It floats like a rubber ducky, so there is no need to worry in case it drops. More importantly, it is environmentally friendly.
- If fresh water in your dry campsite is an issue, consider draining the gray water in a small bucket for flushing the toilet. When the grey water tank fills up, dump it in the nearest dump station.
- We don’t use harsh chemicals or flush tissue paper in our black tank.
- You don’t always have to use your RV toilet, especially for the male campers. You can take a dump or urinate in the woods to preserve water. We usually do this, especially at the end of the stay when we’re low on water supply.
Clean Water Conservation
Water conservation sounds like a skill every camper should have, but the truth is; that not many off-grid campers can conserve enough water to last a week.
If the camping ground is located in an area with a limited water supply, it would be safe for you and your team to alter your water usage behaviour to accommodate the situation.
The first step should be establishing the amount of water you have left. Yiu can read directly from your tank or the essentials list. With an actual number, you’ll know how to manage it to avoid surprises.
Always bring your water to the camping site-assuming that the site has refill points is a stupid idea. Your water reserve should be enough for everybody on your team’s nutritional and hygiene needs.
Now, you’ll need to devise a plan to conserve every drop you have for the duration of your camping endeavour. You might need to be highly strict or less strict with water usage-it all depends on how much you brought along. Larger-than-normal tanks are available for large families or teams planning to extend their stay in the outdoors.
Keep your baths short and avoid showers if you can. Close the tap after brushing your teeth-most people forget to do this when dry camping.
Minimize the water usage for your dishes as possible. You can set the tapes to trip to reduce wastage when rinsing the dishes. Some experienced campers use one-time-use only plates, so they don’t have to wash them every time-this is a smart idea.
To minimize water wastage, keep an eye out for the tank meter. This way, you’ll know when your tank is three-fourth or halfway spent, and a no-more-water surprise is the last thing you want on a relaxation-seeking trip.
The water tank meter will help you to align your water usage behavior to match your reservoir and camping time remaining.
Gray Water Management
Gray water is the wastewater generated from showers, laundry, dishwashing, and other related activities. The water you use to wash your undergarments, dishes, and brush, the more water you’ll be sending from your clean water tank into your gray water.
These water usages are considered less important as far as survival is concerned, so the amount spent on them should be minimal. You can track your gray water levels through the grey water tank’s marks or the RV manual.
This tank is most of the time smaller and tends to fill up faster ensure. It is available for use whenever the need arises.
Always arrive at the dry camping national park with your gray water tank empty-you can empty it along the way at gas stations or service bays. As you enquire about dry camping grounds, ask about gray water dump stations and empty waste tanks along the way.
Never assume the gray water tank’s capacity-always check to avoid fill-ups at night. Most dry camping destinations won’t let you dump gray water on their land; ensure your gray water tank has enough capacity to last your team for the entire stay.
How To Prepare For A Dry Camping Trip
No dry camp is like any other: plan for yours accordingly and brings everything you are likely to need. Prepare all essential and non-essential items and hope for the best.
You probably can’t light a campfire; it’s ok. We bring propane fire solutions to save ourselves the hustle of fetching firewood and things like that. With these, we can cook our meals by simply triggering the automatic switch.
The propane tanks, however, are small and are not designed to last as long as we might want to stay. There is a need to conserve fuel as well.
To eliminate the need to cook food every night, bring foods with longer shelf life. Packed foods don’t need re-cooking. A simple reheat is sufficient.
Another smart idea is getting pre-made foods that you can easily run over the grill and eat. They are very convenient for when you don’t have cooking resources.
If you plan to dry camp in the winter or cold weather, heating might take up all your fuel if you are not careful.
Rather than flaming your propane tank throughout the night to keep warm, you can opt to carry a few heavy blankets and use them instead.
Blankets are a safe way to keep warm throughout the night without the risk of fires or heating equipment failure.
If you must heat the RV, do it to one area in the car where those who feel overwhelmed by the cold can move. Fuel is one of your most precious resources in a dry camp; use it wisely.
Think About Solar Panels
No dry camp can run smoothly without at least a little power. You might bring your charged batteries but depending on your stay; they will wear off at a point.
The idea of dry camping revolves around going off the grid, so there’s a high likelihood that there’ll be no battery charging locations near the dry camping site.
To save yourself the hustle of having to deal with power shortages, you can carry your power generation equipment.
With a solar panel and a few hours of sunlight daily, you can comfortably charge your batteries without extra costs. Solar power is free and very reliable if harvested and used correctly, of course.
Solar panels are available everywhere and in different sizes. It’s handy for powering your lights and running the AC.
Employ A Signal Booster
We go to the wild to detach ourselves from everyday living, but a complete disconnection is a bit extreme-we still need some connection with the rest of the world.
This is, however, difficult, if not impossible, because most dry camping locations are in areas with very weak cell phone coverage.
You can remedy this by introducing a signal booster or bringing a satellite phone. You never know when you’ll need to make that urgent call.
Familiarize Yourself with the Camp Location
The first dry camp is usually pretty rough for most people. This is because they experience a life they had never anticipated. RV lifestyle and eating pre-cooked food is fun but can also be hell.
To familiarize yourself with the conditions on the ground, try living off the camping provisions while still at home and see how long you can survive.
This will also give you a rough idea of how long your fuel, food, and batteries can last, so you’ll be more prepared for when you are in an actual dry camp.
You don’t have to do much; a few days camping on your driveway should give you a clear feel of an actual dry camp. If camping in your driveway does not sit well with you, why not test your dry camping thrill on short trips before progressing to longer ones later?
As stated above, leaving no traces of you at the camping site is a priority. This, in simple terms, means: cleaning the camping ground and collecting any form of waste that might have surfaced as a result of you being there.
The property on the site should also be left intact and not damaged unless an accident occurs.
You should collect the trash and dispose of it accordingly. You can identify a safe and legally accepted dumping area to leave your trash or just dump it at the first gas station on your way back.
Leaving trash on the site might cause issues between you, the camp location owner, or the local government.
There is so much information on dry camping on the internet.
There also are multiple dry campers’ forums where like-minded persons share experiences. From here, you can learn so much from people who have been to dry camps and maybe save yourself the trouble of finding these things yourself.
Things Every Dry Camping Team Needs To Have
You will want to bring these items to your dry camping trip if you expect the experience to match the sweet stories you’ve heard.
Portable Dump Tanks
At this stage, it is obvious that the rate at which your dump tanks fill up is of primary concern. Gray and black water tanks are usually the first to fill up-if neglected; they can fill up in less than four days.
To control how fast your gray and black water tanks fill up, why not deal with the issue at the source?
These tanks are filled with water from the toilet, kitchen, and shower. If you can minimize the water you use to flush, do the dishes, and bathe, you can comfortably maintain these tanks’ levels low.
If you can’t, however, there’s an option-portable tank. They are similar to the ones already installed on your RV but act as extensions.
They are connected to your main tanks and receive excess water, thus keeping levels on the main tanks low.
When filled, you can easily detach and cart them away to a dumping location for emptying. This way, you can empty the in-house tanks into portable tanks for emptying.
Water Bladder And Filter
If you can easily empty your tanks, why not have a portable container to fill them up?
You’ll use the water bladder to carry water from the source to your RV tank. This works best when you are on the road, coming across a water source, and can’t drive the RV into the compound.
The water filters simply help you filter the water from unknown sources before feeding it into your tanks.
Filtering helps you eliminate debris in the water objects in water tanks that cause blockages and contamination.
Portable Indoor And Outdoor LED Lights
The RV has reliable lights at night or during situations, but their power draining levels are too high for a team looking to camp for several days. These lights are usually too bright and wrongly positioned, making them unsuitable for the modern dry camping experience.
You can replace the RV light with a more convenient option-portable, LED lights. These lights are not only power-saving but also lightweight. This means you can use them for several days before they go off, they have brightening and deeming adjustments, and they can be placed anywhere around the camp area.
Portable lights allow you to concentrate lighting where needed and, in the long run, save on power while having the dry camp of your life.
Propane Space Heater
We get cold by simply sitting in our cars in normal weather and conditions. Imagine what would happen if we went dry camping in the winter. Temperatures can dip, so you need to find a solution against cold.
A propane space heater is a propane run heating equipment that will keep you warm all night and day if you wish. It is very safe to use and comes with adjustable features to fit different conditions.
However, a point to note is that propane heaters can only be used in RV s with adequate ventilation unless you want a gas emergency.
You might be wondering what leveling blocks have to do with dry camping. Well, for the most part, you’ll have your RV parked in an open field or abandoned area where perfect parking spots are hard to find.
This is where leveling blocks come in-you. Use them to create a level ground to park your RV. You can also use the leveling blocks when changing the RV’s tires.
In the outdoors, the weather can be unpredictable. You want to have your temperature regulating equipment.
The RV comes with its AC system, but the electricity consumption by these devices is too high, thus rendering them inconvenient to use in dry camps.
Instead, we advocate for portable 12-volts fans that are easy to use and can also be moved to different areas of the RV or camping ground.
The fact that conventional RV AC systems are not compatible with some solar solutions makes them even more inconvenient as most dry camps rely heavily on solar power.
Washing dishes with running water is a perfect way to wastewater. The constantly running tap will drain your tank faster than you can think of a solution.
To curb this hindrance to dry camping, bring a dishwashing basin with you. All you need to do is fill the basin with soap and water and wash your dishes.
Nothing raises my spirits in a dry camp than the smell of a well-grilled meal. Dry camping is all about spending time close to mother nature-getting. Fresh food can be a challenge.
One of the most recommended solutions is propane-powered grills. Since the whole thing runs on propane, no electricity wastage concerns exist. There are no batteries to recharge or solar equipment to connect; just light it up and cook your favorite camping dish.
How To Locate Dry Camping Site
Dry camping might seem easy and fun. But, finding the right spot to camp, however, is the tricky part. You’ll have to look through multiple old-style maps or visit sites in advance to confirm suitability.
Luckily for those planning their first dry camping trip, there are multiple information sources today where you can easily find the perfect dry camping locations.
Even areas have been dry camping sites for so many years that everything seems to be in place. They include;
- National Forest
- RV Park
- National parks
- Wildlife management areas
- Bureau of land management areas
Each mentioned location has rules regarding camping-research about these guidelines before driving there.
You Can Try Camping Apps
You can use these mobile applications and websites to find dry camping sites. They are cheap and very easy to use, aside from the fact that you get to read other people’s reviews of different RV dry camping sites around the country, so you’ll know what areas to avoid.
You should, however, be weary of these sites as some offer misleading or outdated information. You could spot a perfect site only to arrive and find the whole area covered in crop-the owners converted the dry camping location into a farming field, but the site-finding app had not been updated.
Vet the site finding website before taking their word for it. Vetting might involve reading reviews or just comparing their information with other sites.
Dry camping is the smartest way to escape the everyday hustle of civilization and just absorb nature from its source. You get to relax as you watch the sun rise and set every day from the comfort of your camping chair.
Aside from the fun aspect, RV dry camping is the perfect training ground for survival-oriented skills. If you can push through 3 or 4 days in a dry camp, you can survive longer in the wild.
Our tips for dry camping delve into the whole dry camping concept with insights on finding the perfect RV parks, essential items to bring along, and how to conduct yourself throughout the trip.