What is dry RV camping or what is dry camping?
The best answer to this question is adventure camping. Ok, that does not really describe anything.
But to tickle your fancy a bit, just imagine a scenario where you have decided to go RV camping but you actually never make it to the campsite.
So you consult your map to see where the nearest public land is, you confirm that it is legal to camp on the land. You pull off the road, and set up camp, right there, without any modern campsite amenities like electricity or electrical hookups, no water supply like drinking water or water tank to wash dishes that you usually see in designated campsites or traditional campground. That is dry camping in an RV for you.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
What is dry camping in an RV?
If you ask me, I would say that the average American is always looking for a thrill. Quite a lot in nature appeals to the wild side of the Americans.
Therefore, with the cowboy era having ended, the Harley Davidson/Marlboro wild biking days gone, camping in the wild or national forests is the next best thing on the list since you can find a wide choice of places and many national parks to dry camp. Americans take to it as fluidly as fish takes to water.
However, wild camping or dry camping adventure sounds so fantastic when you are reading about it. Until rubber hits road and you find yourself in the actual camping spot, secluded from everything! No water supply, no fresh water tank, no drinking water, no shore power, no electrical hookups or sewer hookups.
And then it hits you … this is so survivalist … well, not to worry because with good preparation like reading articles about dry camping tips or what to expect when dry camping, you will not only hack it, but you will love it and you may never want to camp in a crowded campsite ever again.
The first week or perhaps the first few days of dry camping trip in an RV can be hard. But then every adventure is hard when starting especially in RV parks or BLM land, when there’s no fresh water or freshwater tank around or when you have to use solar power to charge your solar led lights to conserve battery power since we don’t know how long will the battery last and enjoy camping at night.
Once you have tasted this unadulterated kind of camping, you will always look forward to dry camping.
What is the difference between dry camping and Boondocking?
First, what is boondocking? Boondocking is a fancy name for dry camping.
Basically, to boondock means to stay in an off-the-beaten-road camping site. However, nowadays, some smart dry campers also camp in areas such as parking lots for shopping malls or in the truck stops. Some do it in private property as another option but with the owners permission.
While dry camping and boondocking are used in place of each other, they mean different things. Dry camping in an RV or camper van means camping in a campsite that does not have hookups, fresh water or sewer systems. Boondock on the other hand means camping in a totally undeveloped spot.
Boondocking is not the act of camping itself. Rather, it is a word used to describe the place where you will make camp, practically in the middle of nowhere.
But I am sure you are not here to worry about the shenanigans of language, so whether one is used for the other, it really does not matter.
Dry camping in an RV – how to prepare for dry camping
When dry camping, there are some things to keep in mind before hitting the road. Your RV is the main tool for dry camping. Take your time to make sure it is running properly. For the next several days, this is going to be your home so you have to prepare every essential that you could ever think of when dry camping and plan your camping trip suitably.
RV 12-Volt Power
You must make sure that your RV is outfitted with all the important things. You need to ensure that the wiring is working well. This means that you have access to 12-volt power, which is just about all the power that you will get in an RV.
This can be used for powering the fridge, the TV, the air conditioner, and the lighting. Switch off everything that you are not using so that the power can last longer.
Another way is to get a solar panel or solar panels and charge your batteries using solar power. They are a bit pricey but if you plan to dry camp often in national forests, state or national park it’s worth it to invest in it.
Propane gas for cooking
To help with powering things up, do consider outfitting your RV with propane gas as such can be useful for powering the fridge, cooking, showering and so on.
Another option for power at your disposal is to install solar systems on your RV so that you can tap into the summer sun and charge your batteries.
Of course, the more power you have at your disposal in your motorhome, the more enjoyable the camping trip will be. Also, the longer you can stay outside.
Do a physical check on the RV for dry camping
One of the best camping tips to keep in mind is to know the types of RVs and the capacity that fits your needs especially if you plan to try RVing with your family. Prep your RV just the same way that you would prep a vehicle for a long distance road trip. Change the tires that need to be changed, carry spare parts, and others. If you are dry camping enthusiast, you must learn how the RV works. Learn how to do basic repair and so on, just in case your RV breaks down when you are in the middle of nowhere.
It will also determine how much stuff you are going to carry. If it is just a small regular sized van, you can only carry so much stuff as to last you just a few days. On the bright side though, you can virtually camp anywhere as the size of your RV does not limit you at all.
At the same time, if you are using a 40-foot RV, well, it is huge! You can fit just about anything including a camping toilet, a lot of food, a lot of water, camping generator and any other stuff that you need to bring with you.
This kind of motorhome for camping is actually a true home away from home. However, you will be limited as to the places where you can go boondocking with such a big vehicle.
RVs typically come with three tanks, and two of them are for waste tanks, to keep things running smoothly. The fresh water tank is for fresh water or drinking water. The black tank is for human waste and must be disposed of at RV dump sites very carefully. The gray tank holds all waste water that you use for washing dishes, showering and brushing your teeth-primarily water that drains through the various sinks like the kitchen sink, and bathroom sink.
Carry enough water in your RV. No one can overemphasize the importance of carrying water with you, both for drinking, showering as well as for your toilet needs. Knowing the tank capacity of your fresh water tank allows you to estimate the number of days you can stay in your established campground and when to conserve water.
There are RV water tanks of different sizes. For example, there is a 50 gallon RV water tank. It is small and does not consume a lot of space in your RV.
If you have a bigger RV, carry more water because most campsites don’t have a water supply. It will serve as your backup to wash dishes and showers while staying in the RV park.
Talking about the RV toilet, you can buy one of these camping toilets that have a detachable waste tank which can allow you to pour the waste into any other toilet. The bigger it is the better because it means you can go to the toilet as you wish. One of the main things that ends camping trips prematurely is toilet needs. With a toilet handy, you can stay much longer on your camping trip.
Always make sure you empty the toilet in designated places and you should never pour that waste or waste water on the ground.
Bring a backup camping generator
Who says you have to be miserable just because you are off the grid? You can have a good time in your chosen campground if you bring all the essential items along. One of the things that you need is a backup camping generator, with enough fuel for it, just in case all the other options for power fail you.
You also ought to bring 12-volt charges for your devices. If you have a few portable chargers and power banks, bring them with you, already charged from home. In my article about best travel power banks, you will without doubt find some good travel chargers and power banks that you can take with you for your camping rendezvous. Keep your devices juiced all the time, play games and have fun and you will not miss home.
Additional Dry Camping Tips
Dry camping in an RV or a van in RV parks is different than camping in developed campgrounds. It has a learning curve that one should know or practice before dry camp. If it’s your first time to dry camp, it is recommended to get the complete information and start slowly by dry camping for a night and slowly increase the days as you get used to it.
Always check your surroundings before pitching a tent or parking your RV. Private property and state parks require permission before you can stay in the area.
Save water when you are out on a dry camping trip in an RV park. Monitor the amount of water used to know if you still have enough for the next few days. Conserve water by changing to low-flow faucets, cleaning with wet wipes, and taking short showers.
Know the black tank and gray tank capacity and monitor these tanks so you can adjust your water usage accordingly while on dry camp. You need to dump your tanks on designated dump station or gas stations and observe proper waste disposal to get rid of the waste before it reaches its full capacity to avoid problems resulting to shorter trips.
Bring portable water filters along so that you avoid drinking contaminated water on dry campsite or water tanks.
Manage your garbage and observe proper trash disposal, and follow the leave no trace principle as dry campers.
Where can I find Boondocking sites?
By now, you have already guessed that dry camping or boondocking is hard enough. Thus, one of the best ways to make sure you have a good experience is preparing thoroughly before leaving.
Even though many resources make it sound as if you will just spot a clump of bushes and pull over and camp there, well, that is not the truth. You need to prepare in advance, mark the spots where you will boondock even before you leave home.
Contrary to what many people think, it does not mean that you will drive up to any spot and set up camp. Many, if not all, national parks do not allow boondocking. Thus, the most viable option is to find a spot in the public lands. If overnight camping is not allowed, there will be indications for the same.
To make your search for dry camping locations easier, look for tracts of public land that are under the USFS- US Forest Service or the BLM – Bureau of Land Management. Lands under these two services allow boondocking. However, all land under the National Park Service does not allow boondocking. This means that even the largest national parks are not open for dry camping.
If you do happen to find a spot for dry camping, adhere to a few rules and you are going to be ok. Here they are:
You must not make new fire rings. Use the old ones and obey all the fire rules. If it is a no-fire campsite, then it means the risk of starting a wildfire is real. So do not make a fire.
Do not exceed 14 days before moving on. Experts agree that it is easy for human beings to cause little to no disturbance to the ecosystem in 14 days. Any longer than that and you will cause many disruptions.
Take care of trash and human waste. You must take all of your trash with you to the next disposal area and you must bury human waste deep in the earth. Cover it up with dirt.
Dry camping benefits
In your quest to know what is dry camping, you have definitely seen that there are so many limitations, but that does not make this type of camping any less fun for you.
Just the thought of pulling over somewhere in a public land tract and setting up camp, to sleep under the stars many miles away from home is very exhilarating for you.
Motorbike camping also does allow for some form of dry camping. This is on a minimal scale. With a motorbike, you may not be able to carry as many resources as you would carry with a motorhome. Also, some people have tried bicycle camping, which is a lot of fun itself for a minimalist camper.
Dry camping costs
Adventure does not come without costs. One of the costs that you have to pay is that you are going to forego many of the comforts and luxuries that you get at home, and one of them is air conditioning.
Aircon is a power guzzler and turning it on will consume all of your RV power. Therefore, you have to know a few tips for how to survive a camping adventure without air conditioning. Keep the RV windows open, but make sure you bug-proof them.
To keep in touch with your loved ones, carry a cell signal booster so that you can keep in touch with people. This will also come in handy if your RV breaks down. Emergencies do happens and it is best to always let people know where you are headed, and your expected return date.
What does dry camping actually mean?
When all is said and done, what does dry camping actually mean? It means having crazy fun without paying through the nose for it or in simple term free camping. If you had to camp in a campsite with utilities, you would mostly pay a fee for them. However, with this bare-knuckle kind of camping, you can actually save that money towards your dream vacation in Africa or elsewhere.
Do not head out blindly amidst all the excitement because there is more to it than meets the eye. With so many resources online, read up about the advantage and possible disadvantages so that you can be ready. Remember, you can never be too ready when you are going away from home, and anyway, it is better to err on the side of caution.
When Dry camping with children
Heck yeah! Bring them along, get double the trouble, and triple, well, actually more than triple, the fun. Ok, there will be issues. You have to bring more resources because the further you are from home, the hungrier they get. Dry rations, much more water, games for fun, toys and everything else that should go into the RV should be brought along.
The sooner you teach your children that man can actually survive in the wilderness without all of the resources they have at home the better. That said, you still have to carry medication, clothing, bikes, balls and stuff.
Buy the best backpack bags for moms with toddlers so you can pack diapers and other toddler stuff there. For the bigger kids, let them pack their kids backpacks with the essentials and teach them to be the managers of their kits.
We have seen a few important things about what is dry RV camping, and how you can make it a success for you and your family. For the first few times, it is recommended that you do not go camping alone and this applies for all types of camping, except maybe for backyard camping. The more people you bring along, the more fun-packed it will be.
The most important thing is to get started. The first time will be hard as you will do either one of these two things:
Carry too little resources
Carry too many items for camping that you will probably not need
Will you get into that RV now? Cheers!