Boondocking Tips

RV Boondocking, dry camping, free campgrounds or RV overnight parking. Whatever you call it, here are some tips from our experience as fulltime RVers.

Here are some random snippets on boondocking.   Or perhaps you prefer to call it dry camping.

As we have traveled along, we have used traditional campgrounds, membership parks, state and national parks, quick overnight stops and boondocking.  It is fun and interesting to dry camp, especially out west, without connections.

Our coach is equipped with a generator and fresh water and holding tanks that enable us to dry camp for at least a week.


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is a great website that helps you connect with other RVers who have a location for you to dry
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RVers. Check it out.


A few thoughts on boondocking:

  • Sometimes there really “ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”.
    For instance, the Walmart parking lot may not charge a camping fee, but
    running the air conditioner off the generator for 5 hours burns about
    $10 worth of diesel in our motorhome. We can be pretty frugal, but in
    the midst of summer temps approaching 100 F, the motorhome can turn into
    a giant toaster oven. It is just not an option to “stick it out” for
    the entire night without air conditioning. Ideally, you can find a
    free camping spot with electrical hookups, such we found in Blue Earth, Minnesota. But these sort of boondocking spots are few and far between.

  • Another point to bear in mind when selecting a free camping spot
    is how far away it will be from the places you want to visit. Again, the
    high cost of fuel may be a factor.  A campground closer to the places
    you plan to visit may, in the long run, be cheaper than a free parking
    place that is miles away.  And as you make your choices, don’t forget
    about travel distances to run errands such as going into a town for
    groceries, internet access, laundry facilities, etc.

  • Buy plastic or paper plates, cups, utensils to
    minimize your use of water. In general, conserve water. When you
    first try dry camping, this means pay attention to every drop of water
    you are using. Don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth or
    wash up. Dishes should be wiped with a paper towel to remove food
    before they are washed. And so on. 
  • If you are boondocking for any
    length of time, you need to consider how much fresh water you have and
    where you are going to find your next supply of decent water. But you
    also need to consider where you are putting the water you use, and
    manage according to the capacity of your holding tanks.
  • Plan meals that are easy to make and clean-up. Perhaps you can live off
    pre-packaged meals that can just be reheated, and then the containers
    disposed of with no clean-up. If you are not a fan of frozen dinners
    or other store-bought dishes, then try to plan meals (and maybe cook
    things ahead of time) that can be easily reheated stovetop, or in the
    microwave (using the generator). Another option is to just stick to
    cold dishes. Or eat out.     In any case, when you are boondocking avoid using a lot of pots and dishes that will need to be washed.

  • Be discreet. If you are spending a night or two in a parking lot, you should strive to blend in. Don’t haul out the lawn chairs and put up the awnings. We just park out of the way in the lot. We come and go quietly. We usually don’t put out the slides.   We might put out the bedroom slide at night, if it is facing the outside edge of the parking lot where no one is going to see it. Otherwise we keep the slides in as they would be while traveling.



  • To this point, if you have an RV with slides, you
    will probably make a habit of considering what things are blocked when
    the slides are in. If you want to boondock, or even stop for lunch
    while enroute, will you have access to what you need? Pay attention
    to which kitchen cabinets will be blocked off with slides in. If
    there are things you might need (utensils, pot holders, food, spices,
    dishes, etc.), move them before you head out. Do the same check in
    bedroom, bath, living areas.

 

  • Save battery power when boondocking. Look for
    hidden drains on batteries.    For instance, we have a Hurricane Heater
    that provides instant hot water.   

    The heater would regularly cycle on and off,which was an unnecessary drain on the house batteries (as well as using diesel).    

    So now we leave it off until we need it or are hooked up to shore power.   
    Please don’t assume your hot water system works the same.     Read the
    specs for your RV to determine the appropriate ways you can conserve
    power.      Different RVs have different operating systems, components and
    configurations.

We bought a couple solar panels for two purposes.

  • One, we knew we would be storing our coach without hookups for over a
    month and wanted to make sure the batteries would take care of the
    phantom loads on our coach. In our coach, these phantom loads consist
    of a number of things that run in the background. Examples include
    engine and transmission ECMs (electronic control modules), LEDs, the
    electronics for the refrigerator and other things we probably are not
    even aware of.

  • Different RVs will have their own nuances. We bought our
    solar panels from AM Solar in Eugene, Oregon – two AM 100 panels (rated
    at 100 watts each) with a HPV-30 charge controller. We have AGM house
    batteries.

  • Two, we wanted another source of power for boondocking.
    Especially in places like sunny Arizona, the solar panels keep
    the bateries charged. In the evening, we then have enough
    battery power for lights and for the invertor to provide power
    to the TV, satellite dish, computer, cell phone and camera
    battery chargers, water heater, etc.

  • We seldom use the
    batteries/invertor to run heavy draws like the microwave and
    coffeemaker. But the solar power gives us enough juice to
    reduce our generator usage. And with some advance meal
    planning and instant coffee, we can minimize use of the
    generator even more. And of course power management is a lot easier if
    you are in a climate where you don’t need to use air condiioning or
    electric heat.

Frugal Shunpicker’s Boondocking Guides:    Enjoy the freedom to camp off the grid, amidst the best nature
has to offer and save money too.

In many areas of North America,
including the most scenic states (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah,
California, and Colorado) there are still plenty of free, scenic, legal,
and safe camping areas.

These RV publications tell you where to find these places, so you can enjoy the wonderful experience of boondocking.   

A popular boondocking spot is Quartzsite, Arizona.

And our favorite for a quick overnight is Wal-Mart. Be sure the
specific Wal-Mart allows overnight parking, spend a few bucks in the
store and be discreet and courteous.

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