What is Dry Camping?

Dry camping

If you’re a part of the camping community, you’ve probably heard of dry camping, but what does it mean? Dry camping is sometimes also called boondocking, and it means camping in an RV, van, or motorhome without any hookups. This means no water or electricity hookups. It is most often done outside of a traditional campground, although you can do dry camping at a conventional campground by not using the hookups.

Sometimes dry camping is closely associated with camping on private land (with permission). When done in national parks or forests, it is called “dispersed camping.” Some people set up camp in the parking lot of big box stores like Walmart and Cabela’s (where it’s allowed).

Why do people do it? Sometimes it’s a personal choice because it feels more rugged or allows a more profound exploration of natural habitats. It also gets you away from crowds and civilization. But sometimes people do it because the campgrounds are full, and they have to. Whatever the reason, there are some advantages to dry camping. Let Camping Necessities share those with you so that you enjoy it better.

Advantages of Dry Camping

Some of the advantages of dry camping are:

  • It’s free – standard RV camping can cost from $25-80 a night on average, and in very popular campgrounds, it could be even more.
  • It’s private – If you want to camp in isolation or with the best natural landscapes, dry camping can be the perfect option for you.
  • There are fewer restrictions – In designated campgrounds, there will be rules you need to follow, but dry camping lets you find the best site with the best view.
  • It’s challenging – Some people love that it is more challenging to do dry camping than traditional camping.


Disadvantages of Dry Camping

There are some disadvantages you need to navigate as well. Such as:

  • Some places are illegal – You can’t just set up camp wherever you want. You need to do your due diligence and learn the laws to make sure you’re camping legally
  • You need to bring more supplies – When you’re going “off the grid” camping, you will need to bring more supplies along
  • There’s more work involved – It’s also not as easy to go dry camping, which is part of the appeal to those who enjoy it. But you need to know in advance that there is more work involved.


Traditional campers may not understand the appeal of dry camping. At a standard campground, you have all the amenities like showers, picnic tables, electricity, flushing toilets, and usually even WiFI. When you go dry camping, you’re left to your own devices. But for those who enjoy it, this is part of the fun.

Is it Legal?

A good question, and one that we alluded to above, is whether dry camping is legal? In the general sense, dry camping is very legal. It’s legal as long as you have permission to be on the land you are camping on. This means you either need to know the person who owns or manages it, get express permission, or be in a place that allows public camping. You should always follow the rules, not disturb the land or wildlife, and always leave no trace behind (clean up after yourself).

What Do You Need for Dry Camping?

If you want to give dry camping a go, here are some things you will need. First, you need a van or RV to stay in. This serves as both your transportation and your shelter, so it’s vital that it is in good working order and can get you to and from your destination.

Then, you will also need:

  • Food – Enough food for every person camping with you for the duration of your trip and also a safe way to store this food. Modern coolers make it easier than ever before to keep food and drink cold without electricity, and these will be a wise investment if you plan to do dry camping.
  • Water – You also need lots of water. Water for drinking and also for cleaning and other uses is going to be very important. Some dry campers bring jugs of water, as well as water filtration pumps or systems.
  • A power source – Since you’re going “off-grid,” you will not be hooking up to electricity, but there are alternative power sources you may still use, like generators or solar power.
  • Emergency supplies – This is just a no-brainer for any camping but especially dry camping off the grid since you may end up in a location where it’s not as easy to get help quickly if you need it.


Where to Go Dry Camping

So, if this sounds like something that might interest you, you might first be wondering where you can go dry camping. If you’re worried about doing something illegal, you will be happy to know there are thousands of acres of public land that allow dry camping. Most of these spots are in national forests, which is great because they are so beautiful, and there will be so much for you to explore and experience there.

The U.S. Forest Service puts out maps that show you where you can drive off-highway and the places you are allowed to set up camps. Be sure to get these and study them and ensure you’re going to legal locations. They typically do not allow you to dry into the backcountry, so be sure to stay where you are permitted and look for signs about overnight stays. Usually, it will be posted if you’re not allowed to camp overnight.

And as mentioned before, you can always dry camp on private property with permission from the owners. Keep in mind that a single night or two-night stay of dry camping is much more easily managed than the long term. If you’re new to it, start with shorter stays until you get comfortable with the idea of being off the grid for longer.

When you follow these tips, you can fully enjoy the dry camping experience if it’s right for you.