What is dry camping? The best answer to this question is adventure camping. Ok, that does not describe anything. But to tickle your fancy a bit, just imagine a scenario where you have decided to go car camping, or RV, or camper 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. That is dry camping for you.
One of the best types of camping
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. Thus, with the cowboy era having ended, with the Harley Davidson/Marlboro wild biking days gone, camping in the wild is the next best thing on the list and I can assure you that Americans have taken to it as fluidly as fish takes to water.
However, without kidding you, wild camping 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. And then it hits you … this is so survivalist … well, not to worry because with good preparation, 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 can be hard, but then every adventure is hard when starting. However, once you have tasted this pure and unadulterated kind of camping, you will always look forward to it and you will never want anything different.
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, although nowadays it is said that some smart campers also camp in areas such as parking lots for shopping malls as well as in the truck stops.
While dry camping and boondocking are used in place of each other, they do mean different things though. Dry camping technically means camping in a campsite that does not have hookups. Boondock on the other hand was coined to mean 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, which is 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 RV – how to prepare for dry camping
This is the main tool for dry camping and before you hit the road, you should take your time to make sure it is running properly. For the next several days when you will be away from home, this is going to be your home, so it had better be good.
You must make sure that your RV is outfitted with all the important things. For example, you need to ensure that the wiring is working well, which 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 and the lighting. Switch off everything that you are not using so that the power can last longer.
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 a solar system 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 and the longer you can stay outside.
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, 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. For example, if it is just a small regular sized van then it means 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 in there, 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.
RV water tank
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. There are RV water tank 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. However, if you have a bigger RV, carry more water because you will need it.
As much as you will be camping in areas that have no hookups, do choose the locations that have water so that you can top up your tank. You can also bring your portable water filters along so that you avoid drinking contaminated water.
Talking about the 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. You may also have a black tank for waste in your RV. This one is big and it also empties nicely 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 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 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.
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, just because you are a boondocking enthusiast, 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.
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, although on a minimal scale because 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.
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 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. Thus, 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. 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 about dry camping, do read up some about it 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.
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 one thing I have noted with my kids is that the further we 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 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!