What Is Dry Camping In An RV?
By Kelly Beasley
The definition of dry camping is as follows: camping in an RV without your camper connected to any public utilities.
It's camping 'off the grid.' One can dry camp in campsites, parking lots, national forests, Walmart parking lots, or on BLM (Bureau Of Land Management land).
You can dry camp anywhere.
So what does dry camping mean? It means providing your own:
It's harder than camping somewhere with dump stations, fire ring, and all the niceties because you're forced to be way more diligent about your consumption and output.
What's The Difference Between Boondocking And Dry Camping?
These two terms are often misused.
Let's get them straight.
• Dry camping = camping in campsites or other without connection to any public utilities.
• Boondocking = camping remotely, usually on public land.
Both boondocking and its 'cousin; share that both mean camping without hookups.
Boondocking is a remote camp situation, always without connections.
In both cases, you provide your water and power. You'll also need wastewater and trash containment.
What Your RV Needs
If you want to dry camp, you must be able to do these things:
You are not permitted just to dump your sewage onto the ground. In most places, you are also prohibited from dumping your grey tank on the ground.
Is Dry Camping Safe?
Anywhere in the world, the possibility of bodily harm or someone stealing your things exists. Some places are riskier than others.
Therefore, no matter where you go on your camping trip, use your head and intuition when you arrive. If it doesn't feel safe, don't stay.
It's that easy.
What we CAN tell you is this. Having been dry campers out west, we understand that the odds of being UNsafe are much lower than when parking in towns and cities.
Criminals want easy, low-lying fruit. They shy away from having to drive long distances to get what they want.
So you're more 'at risk' in cities and towns.
That's a fact.
Is RV Dry Camping Legal?
Yes, this style of recreating in an RV in itself is legal.
As long as you stay where camping is permitted and don't overstay the limit, there's nothing illegal about it. (Can you camp on public lands?)
Just make sure you aren't parked on, say, private property when it's not permitted.
Water Conservation Tips
When learning how to dry camp, one of the biggest challenges is water conservation. Here are a few tips:
If you're in a travel trailer or motorhome, you usually need LP for certain appliances.
Most RVs have a built-in propane system. But without being diligent about your usage, you might run out.
Try practicing at a campground to see how long you last before you run out.
Then adjust accordingly, OR bring a second tank while RV camping without hookups.
You know, the stuff RVers love to talk about so much!
When out with a travel trailer or motorhome, your RV must hold and contain the contents until you get somewhere that you can deposit the contents into a proper sewage tank.
This is another thing to test before you start dry RV camping.
Grey Tank Concerns
Your grey tank holds the wastewater from your kitchen sink and bathroom drains. Once again, your RV must hold this water in the gray water tank because you have no sewer connection.
Typically, keeping the grey tank from filling up is easier than keeping the black tank from filling.
You can catch used water in a small tub in the sink and throw it outside as long as you use all-natural soaps (and it's legal to dispose of gray water on the ground where you are camping).
Same when you bathe, you can catch the water coming out while waiting for the water to get hot to use for dishes and use it for something else.
Just be aware of how much goes down your drain so you don't fill up before your trip ends.
How To Keep Your RV Batteries Charged
Your recreational vehicle can only use so much of your house batteries' power (amp-hours) before it's time to recharge. Recharging happens in one of two ways:
Unless you have the lithium type (come with higher-end brands of campers), they MUST stay charged above 50%.
You cannot simply run them until they die and have no amp-hours left.
Well, you can, but that kills your batteries. So, test your power capacity before your adventure so you don't end up powerless.
Ha ha- seriously, the garbage you produce is something else you must manage. Where will you put full bags while you're out? Here are some options:
Just have a method set up where you don't have to sit and smell garbage when you're in the camper or are driving home!
Advantages and Disadvantages Of Dry Camping
Being off-grid has many advantages. First, let's look at the good.
Then we'll share the sticky side of RV camping without a water hookup or any other connection.
Do A Practice Run First
It's HIGHLY advisable to dry camp in a campground with full hookups before you try it for real. Just don't connect to sewer, water, or power.
Start with your gray tank empty, fill your fresh water tank and LP before you arrive (or right after you get there) and test how long you can make everything last.
If you need something, you can dump, fill, or use it at your camping spot. This is especially important when learning your power usage so you don't kill your battery bank.
This test teaches you a lot.
Dry Camping Tips
There's a lot to learn about this style of recreation. Here are some quick tips:
This is something every camper can do as long as their RV is self-contained. Learning how to live in an RV without hookups is the perfect way to get away from it all and learn about how your RV systems work.
If you want to get 'out there' and camp away from the city and into nature, sometimes camping without utilities is a requirement. It's pretty easy to learn and do. Just be stingy with what you consume, and you'll reap the benefits of a quieter camping experience, often out in nature. Enjoy!
Author: Kelly Beasley
I dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 6.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road.