Sure RV resorts are nice with all their conveniences, but if you have never tried boondocking (camping with no hookups/dry camping) – I would highly recommend it. Some of my most memorable RV adventures have been out boondocking. There is just no match to having your morning coffee sitting out in the middle of some BLM land, and smelling nothing but nature instead of your neighbor’s bacon and eggs.
If you are new to the idea, start small with no more than one or two nights to get the hang of it. As avid snowmobilers for many years, our family of 4 would stay in the motorhome up to 7-10 days at a time in freezing temperatures with absolutely no hookups. We just brought along a portable generator that we would use to keep our batteries charged — and the furnace running. And while we aren’t much for snow camping anymore, we still love to go up in the mountains and stay in Forest Service Campgrounds, or even a Sno-Park parking lot, where the only evening entertainment is a campfire and star-gazing.
The only trick to successful boondocking is to always mindful of your electricity and water consumption. Here are a few simple conservation tips to get you started on your way:
- If you plan on camping with no hookups for more than a day or two – my recommendation would be to install a second 12 volt battery in parallel to your existing battery to extend your battery life.
- Switch out your incandescent lights to energy efficient fluorescent bulbs
- Make sure all your small battery powered items like cell phones and laptops are fully charged ahead of time so you don’t have to use precious battery power to charge them once you are at your destination.
- Only keep the bare minimum number of lights turned on
- Un-plug all unused appliances. Many appliances and all instant on TVs draw a small amount of power even when off but plugged in.
- Use a French press coffee maker
- Minimize running your furnace. There is nothing that will eat up your battery power faster. Put on a sweatshirt or an extra blanket on the bed instead of turning up the heat. If you know your boondocking plans will require you to run a heater, I would recommend one of two things:
- Consider installing a catalytic heater, which requires no electricity. You can find them at camping supply stores like Camping World. Be sure to follow instructions carefully.
- Consider purchasing a small portable generator (which will only use a fraction of the gas that your full size generator will use) that you can keep running during the day to keep your batteries charged. (Note: when running a generator, always be mindful of other campers who won’t want to listen to your generator droning on, and never run your generator before 8am or after 10pm)
- Bring an extra supply of drinking water along in gallon jugs and/or a 5-gallon container. I like to use the water in the gallon jugs for things like cooking or making coffee – and save the water in the tank for necessities like flushing the toilet.
- While waiting for hot water to reach the faucet, catch the cold water in a pitcher or tea kettle. This water can be used for things like your pet’s water dish, cooking or brushing your teeth.
- Brush your teeth with water in a small cup instead of letting water run.
- Use hand sanitizer instead of washing your hands with soap and water.
- Keep showers to an absolute minimum. When you shower, only run the water long enough to wet down and then turn the water off. Lather up. Then turn the water back on to rinse. You could also try taking a sponge bath on alternate days. (And remember to always save the water that you run when waiting for the right water temperature)
- Wash dishes and utensils in a small tub to save water. Pour the water outside if possible instead of needlessly filling up your holding tank.
- Before boondocking, cook some meals ahead of time and freeze them to cut down on dirty dishes. Planning menus that use your outdoor barbeque instead of the stove or oven will also significantly reduce the amount of dishes.
You are now ready go out there and enjoy nature!