There are three kinds of RVers.
The first loves to stay in full service, high amenity parks. The second likes to stay in RV parks most of the time, but wants the option to camp for a couple of nights without hookups. The third kind wants to live off grid as much as possible. This is the Boondocker.
Boondocking or dry camping is the art of living in an RV without hookups. Setting your rig up as a totally self-sustaining vehicle is the Boondocker’s ultimate goal. If this is you, and you dream of camping in the wild, then this article will introduce you to the basics of wild camping. For more in-depth information, I recommend visiting Wheelingit.us. This couple loves to camp without spending their hard-earned money on campsites. Start with this article and then scroll down for more detailed articles on a variety of Boondocking topics.
If you'd much rather stay in an RV park, than live off the land, be sure to read my previous articles:
RV 101- Camping In An RV Park
RV 101- How To Dump, Hook Up and Park
RVI Boondocking Water PicThere are four main concerns for the Boondockers. These are water, power, waste, and location. Let's start with the most popular topic: power.
How are you going to run your electrical items if you don't have a way to plug in your RV? Today, many RVers are embracing solar as the ultimate off-grid option.
Solar energy is key to living without hookups if you don't want to rely on your fuel based generator. A generator is usually fuel-driven and makes a lot of noise. If you want to connect with the great outdoors, you may not want the noise, the fumes and the cost. A cleaner alternative is harnessing the sun, but it's not quite as easy as most solar fanatics make it sound.
Basically, a solar panel captures the rays of the sun in a low-voltage, direct current. Once captured, this energy must be stored in a battery for future use. Batteries hold the solar power like a bank. When it's time to make a withdrawal, an inverter is used to convert the DC battery power into AC power. With this done, you are free to plug in your favorite electrical items. Remember, everything from a computer to a microwave works on electric AC power.
When the sun sets, you can use the energy stored in your battery to keep your electrical items running! Sounds exciting, right? It is! Today, the possibilities of using solar energy are endless. The are three key items. You need solar panels, batteries and an inverter. The specifics of what you need depends on the amount of power required for your rig. The bigger the rig, the bigger the solar system.
For more information on determining the size of solar system, inverter and batteries you need, I suggest you read this article.
Power is only one part of the off-grid process. You must also consider your water and sewage tanks. Many RV's have small tanks which prevent owners for staying more than two or three nights without hookups. The longer you plan to Boondock, the more water you will need to take with you. Many people bring extra containers filled with drinking water for their time away from civilization.
Water conservation is key to the Boondock lifestyle. This means that the dishes should be done with as little water as possible. Instead of long showers, it's time to embrace the navy shower or sponge bath along with a low flow shower head.
Drinking water can be made from nearly any water source with a quality water distiller. Portable units are available for your kitchen and provide a great option for the serious Boondocker.
Waste comes in two forms. Your tank waste such as black and gray, and your garbage.
Garbage should be collected in a kitchen bag and then transferred to a heavy black bag. One of the unspoken rules of Boondocking is everything you bring in needs to go out with you. Plan to pack and take your garbage back into the real world.
Black tanks collect the waste from your toilet. There are several ways to minimize this issue. The most popular is the composting toilet. The composting toilet eliminates the need for a black tank. Human waste, once composted, is placed in biodegradable bags and disposed of. The Nature's Head composting toilet is a popular choice due to its lightweight and easy to assemble design. Specific RV modifications are required to replace your current toilet with a composting toilet. Be sure to do your research before attempting this procedure.
Gray tank water is the water collected from your sinks. This water is harmful to the ground unless you have used biodegradable, ground safe products. In some areas, if you have used the proper type of cleaning products, you can dump your tank on the ground. In other areas, this is illegal. Be sure to check the state and county laws before you venture out.
Once you are prepared to wild camp you must discover safe and legal locations. Immediately, many questions come to mind. How can I find someplace I won't get stuck? Will I be safe? How long can I stay? Will I be alone?
There are many areas of the U.S. where long-term off-grid parking is allowed. One of the most famous is the Quartsite, Arizona BLM land. Hundreds of thousands of RVers make their way to this warm desert getaway which amounts to thousands of acres in the southwest. While I am not an expert on choosing Boondocking locations, I can suggest a series of digital guides that are simply amazing.
The Frugal RV guides cover exact Boondocking locations, appropriate size of the rig, places to dump your tanks for free and much more. This series covers several states so choose the one right for you. For $17 each, you get a whole lot of bang for the buck!
Now you know the basics to Boondocking. In no time at all, you can start experiencing life in the great outdoors without the need for hookups. The RV life is about adventure and what's more exciting than finding your own private parking spot?