How to Ease Into Boondocking
Boondocking (also known as dry camping) is easily our favorite part of RV life. For us, boondocking allows total immersion into nature like nothing else. As much as we love boondocking now, we definitely did not always feel this way about boondocking!
If you’ve read the 7 Things We Learned Our First Night RVing Part 1 and Part 2, you know we did not exactly ease into the RV life. We don’t set about doing everything the hard way though, and with boondocking we certainly took our time. Taking it little by little, we went from zero boondocking experience to boondocking for 3 months straight!
Read on for tips to ease your way into Boondocking, from what supplies we recommend you have to where to try boondocking.
RV Supply Check
Above all you will want to determine if your RV is ready for boondocking. First, make sure that you have a full tank of propane. Next, you will want to be sure to have a generator for those of you in Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels, or an onboard generator if you are in a motorhome. Be sure you not only have said generator, but that you know how to operate it. (If your generator is not the onboard kind you will also want to have gasoline or propane depending on which kind it is.) An added bonus that will make your life easier is solar panels. These are nice to have, but it’s okay if your rig is not equipped with them from the start. We actually did all of our boondocking last year without solar power. Do keep in mind that there is a difference in how much solar helps depending on where you are. (Think the thick tree canopies of the Pacific Northwest vs the abundant sunshine of the desert in the Southwest).
Make sure that your black and gray tanks are empty. Fill up your fresh water tank. That covers the rig. We also highly recommend that you pack bottled water. The water from your fresh water tank will go to flushing your toilet and will be used anytime you open any faucet in your camper or motorhome. We stretched the limited supply of water while boondocking by using bottled water for our drinking water as well as for cooking and making coffee.
When starting out, stock your fridge and kitchen cabinets with the food that you need for the amount of days you will be boondocking. Two to three days is a nice length to practice with. Depending on where you are boondocking you may have a grocery store nearby, so the aforementioned piece of advice is just to make it as easy as possible. When packing food you may want to make sure it’s not majority frozen/microwaveable.
Practice with Partial Hook-Ups
I was very skeptical about boondocking in the beginning. Sure, I took to RVing right away, but we began our RV adventure in the East where water and electric hook-ups are plentiful. Nothing except for the space was really all that different from being at my house. We rather accidentally practiced boondocking during a stay in South Carolina. We were unable to secure a campsite with water and electric hook-ups. Our site only had electric hook-ups and water was available at spigots dispersed throughout the campground. If you’re feeling a bit iffy on the whole boondocking thing, we recommend first trying out a campground with partial hook-ups (by which we mean just power or just water).
Practice at an Event
Last year we attended the Florida RV Super Show in Tampa. We decided to camp onsite which was really our first experience boondocking. This is a fun way to practice before heading off to boondock in the wilderness! We stayed two nights, making it a short and easy stay. We ran our generator during parts of the day to turn on our AC and recharge our camper batteries. RV shows will be full of knowledgeable and helpful RVers should you need anything, but they are not the only options. Music concerts, sporting events, and outdoor festivals are other event options you can look into.
Practice on a Family or Friend’s Driveway
Before boondocking in nature, but fresh off the success of our two night stay at the RV Supershow, we actually boondocked on Jon’s grandmother’s driveway for a week. This was another great way to get used to the whole idea. The comforts of a house were only a few steps away, but we got a feel for boondocking and for how fast we were going through our freshwater tank as well as filling up our grey and black tanks. At a relative or friend’s driveway you also have the ability to easily refill your freshwater tank with the garden hose or plug into power with an extension cord if you need a break from practicing!
Your First Time Boondocking in Nature
There is no place like the West for boondocking. We can’t recommend boondocking in the western United States enough for a nice first experience. There is more land available for boondocking and it is also considerably less humid and less bug infested, depending on where you are, than the East. Our first boondocking stay in the middle of nowhere, was in New Mexico just outside of Carlsbad Caverns. We could not believe the vastness of the land and the way the sky went on forever.
Boondocking ended up being much easier and more pleasant than I had thought and we continued to boondock throughout New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. If the weather is right (spring is a great time), Flagstaff is a phenomenal place to boondock and we would highly recommend it to anyone new to boondocking. Our favorite boondocking spots were largely in the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest. If your first boondocking outing is in the summer we would recommend you try out the Pacific Northwest. Spring in the Southwest is amazing, but it warms up quick at the lower elevations as soon as summer arrives. Similarly, areas around Yellowstone in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana cool off very quickly as soon as Fall arrives. Overall, the final step in easing into boondocking is going to where the scenery provides a big payoff. There’s nothing like waking up to your own private mountain views to quiet any doubts you may have about boondocking.
Jon and I love boondocking! We will be adding onto this series of boondocking tips and tricks. Stick around for more specifics on how we find boondocking spots, conserve water, and more.