Boondocking is camping off-grid without hook-ups. That’s right: no water, no public bathroom, no electricity, no picnic tables, and no trash cans. You rely only upon what you brought with you, remembering to pack it all out – including trash and waste – when you leave. With all of this in mind, you may be asking what exactly is the best RV for boondocking? And you’re right to ask!
In this article, we’re highlighting what makes an RV great for going off-grid.
TIP: If you’re not familiar with the term “boondocking” then you should start here: What is Boondocking?
What is the Best RV for Boondocking?
There is certainly a lot of room for personal preference when it comes to which RV is best for boondocking. One common element most boondockers agree on, though, is the desire to get to more remote locations.
Various amenities are going to be more or less important to different people. If you desire some of the more luxurious amenities that come with a larger motorhome or fifth wheel, there will be fewer RV options that will get you where you want to go. Or, you will have fewer options when it comes to where you can go. It’s a give and take.
Most longtime boondockers fall into two camps:
Camp one: folks who like the extreme maneuverability of truck campers, smaller RVs, and camper vans. These folks don’t just go off-grid, they go off-road!
Camp two: folks who give up a bit of maneuverability for some of the added amenities of a travel trailer, fifth wheel, or motorhome. Of course, camp two might still be able to go off the beaten path, but not as far as the folks in camp one.
Key Features of a Great Boondocking Rig
To make the most of your boondocking adventures, there are some common features to keep in mind no matter what type of RV you are looking to purchase.
Be sure to consider what type of boondocking you want to do, and be sure the vehicle you purchase can handle the roads and terrain you’ll be taking it on. This includes what tires, suspension, and traction you might need for those off-the-beaten-path locations, as well as the following general factors:
The overall size of your RV and how it handles tight roads can really determine your boondocking experience. If your rig is too big to navigate the roads or to fit in between and under trees, it can be difficult to get to a lot of remote boondocking spots.
This is not to say there aren’t any boondocking sites that are big-rig friendly, they just might be a little more popular and not quite as far off the beaten path. There will be far more boondocking options for smaller RVs than large ones.
Large RVs can also be a real challenge to get out of a sticky situation – whether that’s turning around on a narrow two-track or actually getting stuck. Always use caution and scout ahead if possible when checking out a new boondocking spot.
Clearance & Wheel Base
Many great boondocking spots on public lands can be found down narrow, windy, washboard, rutted roads. They may also have steep inclines into or out of your desired camp spot, or berms created by road graders that can scrape or bottom out your RV just getting off the roadway.
If you have a long wheelbase, like a Class A motorhome, you’ll have to be very careful about inclines and berms so you don’t get stuck.
Boondocking spots may or may not have solid-packed ground. Heavier RVs have to be cognizant of ground stability so they don’t sink in and get stuck in the sand, loose gravel, or mud. Even grassy camp spots can be “soft” and sink under a heavy vehicle. If it should rain and make conditions slippery, you might get into the spot but not out.
The best RV for boondocking has ample tank storage space for fresh, grey and black water. This is because the more fresh water, grey water, and black water you can hold, the longer you can stay off-grid.
If you run out of freshwater or fill up a waste tank, you’ll have to leave your campsite to find a place to dump your tanks and refill. Remember, it’s never okay to empty your tanks on the ground in the middle of nowhere. 99.9% of the time dumping on the ground is illegal.
One way to significantly reduce fresh water use and the need to dump your black tank is by installing a composting toilet. A composting toilet doesn’t use any water for flushing, and can be emptied into a trash bag until proper garbage disposal can be found.
Your personal habits have a large effect on how quickly you go through fresh water and fill up your grey and black water holding tanks. So, thinking in terms of water conservation will help stretch the number of days you get out of your tanks.
Plus, you can bring extra containers of water with you, so you don’t run out of freshwater as quickly.
Off-Grid Power System
A major element for most of us boondockers is getting power while off-grid. When thinking about power for boondocking, you’ll have to figure out how much power you typically use. Based on this, you’ll have to figure out what battery storage you’ll need, as well as how you will recharge those batteries for continued power to your RV.
Best RV Batteries for Boondocking
All RVs are going to have some sort of battery storage but can differ drastically in quantity and energy availability. How much battery storage capacity you have can make a big difference in what appliances you can use. It also makes a difference in how long you can use these appliances before you have to charge the batteries again.
The best RV for boondocking is going to have lithium-ion batteries due to their superior energy storage and energy availability. We recommend Battle Born Batteries for their high quality, amazing warranties, and because they are assembled in the USA.
Best RV Battery Charging Methods for Boondocking
Also, consider multiple options for charging your batteries. Most batteries can be set up to charge off of your vehicle’s alternator while driving, off of solar power from panels, and/or from an on-board or stand-alone generator.
Solar power is a great way to get power while off-grid and is very popular among avid boondockers. This is because of its silent power generation.
If you’re interested in using solar panels to power your off-grid adventures, check out our article The Beginner’s Complete Guide to RV Solar Battery Chargers.
If you want to see a major solar system in action check out our Ultimate Off-Grid RV Solar System Build.
Many RVs come with an on-board generator, otherwise a stand-alone can be purchased. While a noisier option to solar panels, generators are a reliable power source as long as you have fuel. They have the added benefit of being able to generate power when the RV is parked in the shade, you’re in cloudy conditions, or the power is needed when it is dark out.
The best generator for boondocking is one that is reliable, quiet, and efficient. We recommend the Honda 2200i Generator.
- More Power. Same Legendary Quality. - The EU2200i delivers 10%...
- Co-minder - Advanced Carbon Monoxide Detection System. CO-MINDER...
- Honda My Generator App + Bluetooth Capability - Honda's exclusive...
Pro Etiquette Tip: If boondocking near others, do not run your generator during the evening, night, or early morning. Also, try to get your generator as far away from your neighbors as possible, and point the exhaust away as well.
Using Power Off-Grid
Besides battery capacity, there are other things to consider when it comes to power, such as the versatility of the appliances in your rig. Do they need 110-volt AC power or can they run off of 12-volt DC power, propane, or other fuel sources? If you need 110-volt AC power, be sure you have an inverter, which converts your 12-volt DC battery power to 110-volt AC power for the appliances that need it.
Last but certainly not least, we can’t stress enough that you have multiple power sources and emergency sources when boondocking, such as a portable battery jump starter. Having multiple options for charging your batteries is essential when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and may not even have a cell signal.
Best Types of RVs for Boondocking
Of course, there are going to be pros and cons for boondocking in each type of RV, but some have very clear advantages for going off-grid.
Pros: Fifth wheels provide a spacious living and sleeping area, which is great if you’re boondocking with friends or a large family. Their size also means you’ll have a lot of storage! Plus, you get the added benefits of large holding tanks and plenty of roof space for solar panels, allowing for extended time off-grid.
Cons: On the flip side, their length, height, and weight can limit your boondocking options. You’ll need to watch clearance – not just of your vehicle but the space between the bed rails and the underside of the fifth wheel near the hitch. If you get on a berm or on too steep of a dip you can hit the underside of your RV with the rear corners of your truck bed.
Finally, if your truck is 2WD (like ours is) you’ll want to be cautious of ground surface type.
Pros: Depending on the type and size of the travel trailer, they can provide you with ample living space and a good amount of storage when compared to truck campers or camper vans. However, their length and height are less restrictive than a fifth wheel, so they can fit more easily under branches and into smaller campsites.
Cons: Travel trailers typically have less carrying capacity and storage space than larger RVs, therefore you can be a little more limited on solar panels and adding batteries to the RV. Tank capacities are frequently smaller than larger RVs, but still doable for boondocking.
Pros: Truck campers are a fan favorite for maneuvering on tight roads or into tight, hard to reach spots. Why? Because they sit on the back of a pickup truck! This means they take up much less space and don’t have the same height and length limitations as other RVs. Not to mention, the truck provides great ground clearance and makes having a 4x4 RV possible. Some truck campers are specifically designed for extreme off-road reach.
The fact that these campers sit on the bed of the pickup truck also frees up the hitch for other towing purposes, so you can bring your toys along.
Cons: Truck campers can have limited tank space, limited living space, and limited storage space due to their size. The most off-road friendly truck campers may not allow the most extended time out before needing to refresh resources.
Class A Motorhomes
Class A RVs are probably *generally* the least boondocking-friendly rig out there. With their typically large size, boondocking locations are pretty limited. However, we personally know many RVers who boondock with their Class A RVs and have outfitted them into awesome boondocking rigs.
Big tanks allow for extended time off-grid. Power is also easily scaled by adding solar panels to the large roofs and bigger battery banks. These RVs also typically travel with a toad vehicle (the vehicle that is towed behind it) that can be used to scout ahead and find a qualifying boondocking spot.
Once out in a boondocking spot, these RVs are often quite comfortable for remaining out there for 2+ weeks.
Class C Motorhomes
Class C RVs tend to be smaller and lighter than larger motorhomes and larger fifth wheels. Therefore, they can be less location-restrictive in some regards. On the other hand, Class C motorhomes don’t typically have great off-road 4x4 capabilities and can be underpowered if you’re navigating rougher terrain.
As a medium-sized RV you’ll have decent living space and decent tank sizes (though it varies greatly), but don’t expect huge tanks and storage capacity.
Camper Vans & Class B RVs
Class Bs and camper vans provide a level of convenience you just don’t find in other boondocking rigs. They are small enough to fit in a standard parking space, so can make a campsite out of pretty much anywhere they can get to. They can maneuver pretty well off-road with decent clearance and small wheelbases, though not all are 4x4 so some caution is still required.
Whether you only require basic amenities or you like your RVs fully loaded, you’ve got plenty of choices with Class Bs and camper vans. Moreover, they are a perfect pack-and-go option.
Of course, convenience can come at a price. With Class Bs and camper vans, your tank space, living space, and storage will all be limited. In fact, many camper vans don’t have tanks at all. This will limit the length of stay before needing to refresh resources.
When Boondocking, Home Truly Is Wherever You Park It
The greatest thing about boondocking is your home can literally be wherever you park your RV. If you want to set up camp in a van down by the river, you can do that! If you like to hike or mountain bike, you can find an RV that will take you directly to the mountains. Instead of driving hours back and forth between remote destinations and home, you can just park and stay awhile.
The possibilities for where you can boondock are limitless. And the options for how you get there are just as varied. The best RV for your boondocking adventures is really up to you and where you want to go.
Find Great Boondocking Locations
Now that you know what you need in a great boondocking RV, you need to be able to find great places to camp! Check out our Best Boondocking Apps and Websites we love to use.
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