Looking for some RV boondocking tips? We’ve been full-time RVing for over 5 years now, and boondocking is our favorite way to camp. Over this time, we’ve picked up quite a few tricks for extending our off-grid stays and making the most of the resources we have. Most of the following tips are things we still do every time we boondock.
Ready to learn what they are? Let’s dive in!
What Is RV Boondocking?
Boondocking is camping off-grid without hookups. While this is often done on public lands in undeveloped camping areas, many National and State Park campgrounds don’t provide water, electricity, or sewer hookups at their campsites. So no matter where you go camping, it’s important to know how to boondock, or camp without hookups.
The main goals of boondocking are simple: conserve fresh water, don’t fill your holding tanks too quickly, and conserve power.
When you don’t have a water hookup, you will be using the limited supply of water from your RV’s fresh water tank. Your grey and black water tanks also need to be monitored so that they don’t overflow.
Finally, you need a way to recharge your RV batteries, and it’s best to try to make them last as long as possible before firing up a generator.
RV Boondocking Tips for Before You Go Boondocking
Many of the key things you can do to extend and improve your boondocking experience happen before you even go boondocking. Some of these are specific things you can do while you have access to hookups or other facilities.
Let’s dive into our 40 top RV boondocking tips!
1. Get an RV that facilitates boondocking
While you can boondock in pretty much any RV, some are better suited for it than others. While you might think that getting an RV with a solar package would be helpful, adding solar is a relatively simple thing. Changing holding tank sizes is much more difficult!
Since fresh water and waste tank capacities are such a limiting factor, you should look for an RV with larger tanks. For reference, our fifth wheel RV has a 100-gallon fresh water capacity, 75 grey, and 75 black. We could very comfortably go 2 weeks without hitting our limits.
Pro Tip: Learn more about the characteristics of the Best RV For Boondocking.
2. Practice water conservation before your first boondocking experience
One of the smartest things you can do is to practice water conservation before your first actual boondocking experience. Try keeping your tanks closed and using your fresh water tanks at the RV park.
If you run out of either, you’ll have the convenience of full hookups. But practicing helps you gauge how much water and tank space you go through and how quickly. This will let you prepare a boondocking trip of appropriate length.
3. Start with a full freshwater tank
Unless you know you’ll only be out for a few days and are familiar with your water usage, it’s counterproductive to start your boondocking trip out with less than a full tank of fresh water.
While we don’t advise driving around with a full tank all the time due to RV weight concerns, you should find a fill station near your boondocking destination and head out to your campsite full.
4. Get portable water jugs or bags so you can refill freshwater without moving your RV
Collapsible jugs or water bags are a simple way to refill your fresh water tank without moving your RV. We’ve used 5-gallon jugs in the past for adding a few gallons in to get us to the end of a stay. For longer-term boondocking, we recommend looking into a water bag to carry a larger quantity, like 15 – 300 gallons at a time.
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Both of these options collapse down to a small storage size when not in use, making them great for RVing.
Pro RV Boondocking Tip: Get a cheap, simple drill pump like this one to quickly and easily transfer water from jugs to your RV tank without lifting.
5. Use dedicated refillable jugs for drinking water so you don’t drink down your freshwater tank supply
If your fresh water tank isn’t large enough to last as long as you’d like while boondocking, you can stretch it by separating out your drinking water.
We don’t recommend getting bottled water, as this takes up a lot of space, fills up your garbage faster, and is terrible for the environment. Instead, we suggest getting some drinking water safe refillable jugs for use at water refill stations. Many come with an easy dispensing spout for filling water bottles and cups.
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6. Start with empty grey & black water tanks
You’ll want to find an RV dump station so you can empty your RV grey water and black water tanks before you start boondocking. This is especially important since level readers for grey and black water are notoriously unreliable. Unexpectedly filling one of these will not only smell bad but will likely ruin your day plans if you have to leave to go dump your tanks.
7. Get a portable waste water disposal tank to dump grey/black and transport without moving your RV
One way to avoid having to break camp when the tanks are full is to have a portable waste tank with you. These are very handy to have just in case you fill-up. If you’re in a campground with a dump station, you can hook these to your vehicle bumper and easily pull it to the dump station without moving the RV.
If you’re not in a campground, be warned – portable tanks get quite heavy when full and are difficult to lift into/out of a vehicle.
Pro Boondocking Tip: Be sure to wash out/rinse between each use.
Remember: Do NOT dump waste water on the ground!
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8. Unload all garbage before heading out boondocking
While established campgrounds may have garbage disposal facilities on-site, many boondocking spots are pack-in, pack-out. This means that you have to bring out everything you bring in, including garbage. To make sure you have room for garbage that accumulates while you’re boondocking, unload all garbage before you set off for your camping spot.
9. Top up on propane
Don’t forget to top off your propane supply! When camping without electricity hookups, propane is a great way (and sometimes the only way) to cook, cool your RV fridge, heat water for showers and cleaning dishes, and keep your RV warm by running the furnace.
If you run out of propane while RV boondocking, you can be severely limited in appliance functions.
10. Fill gasoline jugs if you’ll be using a generator for power
Even if they have a solar system, most RVers use generators as a power supply while boondocking. In situations when weather is cloudy and solar isn’t enough to charge up your RV batteries, the generator is the backup…but only if you have gasoline to run the generator!
Make sure to bring a small tank of gasoline out with you dry camping.
11. Start with smaller boondocking trips to get the hang of it
Even after practicing at a campground with your tanks closed, you might still want to start with shorter boondocking trips. Shorter trips will help you get the feel of things.
As you get more comfortable and confident with boondocking, you’ll be able to enjoy longer and longer trips.
12. Pre-wash veggies and fruits
Pre-washing your veggies and fruits while you’re hooked up is a great way to conserve water while boondocking. You also prevent that water from going into your grey tank.
13. Prep meals and freeze
Prepping meals so that they are easy to reheat will cut down on dirty dishes while boondocking. This will reduce the amount of water you need to use to clean up after meals.
14. Plan to make one-pot meals for fewer dishes
Stock up on ingredients for your favorite one-pot meals. Again, fewer dirty dishes mean less water used to clean and less water going into your grey tank.
If you’re looking for some ideas in this department, here are 5 Instant Pot Recipes For Easy RV Cooking.
RV Boondocking Tips For Conserving Water Off-Grid
Once you are at your off-grid camp spot, there are many things you can do to cut down on your water usage. Here are our RV boondocking tips for conserving water in your kitchen and shower:
15. Use water-efficient RV kitchen faucet techniques
When washing dishes, you should not leave the faucet running constantly. You should also not use the faucet on full blast. Instead, turn the water on only when rinsing the dishes. Turn it off when you are scrubbing or placing dishes in a drying rack.
One thing that helps with this is upgrading your RV kitchen faucet to a model with an efficient spray flow.
We also personally use and recommend a touch faucet for RV kitchens. The “touch” on/off switch makes it super easy to set the desired stream power and temperature and forget it. The quick on/off response of the touch technology makes it so we save more water by not finding the right flow and temperature every time we turn it back on.
16. Capture sink water in a smaller basin for washing with less water
If you’re used to filling your sink with water to wash dishes, think about using a smaller basin or bowl for the same thing. You’ll still get the same job done but with less water used.
17. Toss out captured sink water rather than sending it down the drain
While you’ll still use water from your fresh tank, sink water doesn’t necessarily need to go into the grey tank. The RV grey water tank is often the most limiting tank of the three, so if you instead toss the water you catch outside, you’ll extend your stay.
While you should NOT dump your grey tank water on the ground, small amounts of dishwater captured pre-tank shouldn’t harm anything.
Pro RV Boondocking Tip: Use only biodegradable soaps whenever you plan on tossing your water outside.
18. Clean dishes/wipe down with wash rag quickly versus letting food dry on them.
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to clean dishes that have dried food on them? If you can clean or at least wipe the dishes down while they are still “fresh,” it will be much easier. Once food has dried on them, though, dishes require more water to clean.
19. Capture shower water for flushing the toilet or rinsing dishes
Similar to the basin in the kitchen sink, you can capture water from the shower pre-tank. Often when you first turn the RV shower on, it will take a few seconds for the water to get hot. All of the cool water is wasted unless you catch it.
This water can either be dumped outside (it’s pretty much clean), or you can use it for other things. Common uses are soaking stubborn dirty dishes or aiding with toilet flushes. Just be mindful that dumping extra water in your black tank will make it fill more quickly.
20. Use a water-efficient showerhead
Most RVers end up swapping showerheads anyway, so why not go to an efficient one?
The best RV showerheads are going to have good pressure without using a lot of water. This means low gallons per minute (GPM) output. The most popular model for water-conscious RVers is Oxygenics. These showerheads add air into the flow of water to increase the water pressure coming out of the showerhead.
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21. Use Showerhead Shut-Off Valves During Shower
Also known as “navy showers,” you should use the showerhead shut-off valves to stop water flow completely in the shower when not actively rinsing. This saves a tremendous amount of water versus letting the shower run the whole time.
Pro RV Boondocking Tip: Boondocking is not the time for long, hot showers. However, we’ve developed the custom of taking a long hot shower at the end of our boondocking stay if we have extra water and tank space. We treat this as our reward for being conservative, and it just feels amazing!
22. Shower at other places
Often gyms, truck stops, or state parks are good places to pay for a shower. You could even use an outdoor shower or a good old-fashioned shower bag. (Just be sure to bust out the biodegradable soap for this too!)
23. Shower and do dishes at the same time once a day
If you can wait to shower and do dishes at the same time each day, you only have to heat up your RV water heater once per day. This saves water with your dishes and propane with your water heater. Or, you can get an on-demand water heater.
Pro RV Boondocking Tip: Check out the Truma AquaGo On-Demand Water Heater. We’ve had one for several years and we absolutely love it. It saves propane, saves water, and improves our quality of life both boondocking and camping on hookups.
RV Boondocking Tips For Dealing With Waste
Believe it or not, there are also things you can do to slow the filling of your RV’s black water tank.
24. Reduce the number of flushes of your RV toilet
Let the yellows mellow, if you know what we mean.
The more times you flush your standard gravity-fed RV toilet, the more water goes down into the black tank with your waste. By not flushing every time you urinate, you can save water and slow the rate of fill of your black tank.
25. Reduce the length of flushes of your RV toilet
There is a difference between a short flush and a long flush. If you hold the toilet flush pedal down, water continues to shoot down into your black tank. Using a toilet brush or sprayer can more efficiently clean the bowl with less water.
26. Switch out your standard gravity-fed RV toilet for composting (or another dry toilet)
Most toilets use water when flushing. This not only fills your black tank faster, but it also contributes to the sewage smell we all dread. A composting toilet uses no water or black tank. This cuts down on smell and you can use your black tank for extra grey water storage.
We personally swapped out our gravity-fed RV toilet for an Air Head Composting Toilet. This was after a couple of years of using a regular RV toilet, and it has drastically extended our boondocking stays.
27. Occasionally use a bush
If you’re in a remote spot and feel comfortable urinating outside, this is definitely something you can do to reduce water usage and black tank fill.
28. Store garbage in a wildlife-proof area
Our last RV boondocking tip about dealing with waste has to do with your garbage. You should find a wildlife-proof spot to store garbage accumulated during your stay to avoid attracting animals. If animals find your garbage bag, they can make a real mess of your campsite.
RV Boondocking Tips Related to Off-Grid Power
Our final category of boondocking tips has to do with your off-grid power. Generators and solar power are common power sources when camping without hookups, and we have extensive experience with both.
Managing your power consumption, your RV battery charge, and being strategic about running your generator is going to be key to avoiding battery anxiety and enjoying your boondocking experience overall.
If you’re constantly battling with power deficits or listening to a generator running 24/7, chances are you’re not going to have much fun boondocking. These boondocking tips will help you out:
29. Don’t park near other campers to avoid annoying them with your generator and vice versa
Whether you are going to be running a generator or not, avoid parking too close to others. For many, the goal of heading out to a remote place is to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. And the constant buzz of someone else’s generator (or your own!) doesn’t help with that goal.
30. Turn off lights and unplug electronics when not actively using them.
Light bulbs, while they can be small, can add up to quite the power draw. Similarly, electronics that are plugged in often have a small draw even in a sleep or inactive state. Unplugging is the simplest way to be sure computer chargers, countertop appliances, and other electronics aren’t drawing your batteries down without your knowledge.
This includes an inverter if you have one. Unless you need AC power turning the inverter off can save power. This is because it uses power to keep its electronics running even if your not using it.
Pro Boondocking Tip: Upgrade to RV LED lights if your RV doesn’t already have them. This will significantly help with your overall lighting power draw.
31. Cook on gas range instead of electric
Instead of using the microwave, an induction cooktop, or other electric appliances, you should use the propane range in your RV to cook and save electricity. For instance, instead of using your electric coffee maker, heat water on the range and use a pour-over or French press coffee maker.
Pro Boondocking Tip: If you are running your generator or have adequate solar power in the daytime, use your electric appliances. Once the sun starts going down (or hasn’t come up), switch over to your propane appliances for cooking.
32. Put reflective covers on windows and vents
Running your furnace and air conditioner are large power draws. In order to reduce having to run them (or avoid being uncomfortable), use reflective covers on your windows and vents. These will keep your RV cool when it’s hot and sunny and warm when it’s cold.
33. Use awning to shade side of RV to help keep cool
The shade of your awning can also do a lot to manage the interior temperature of your RV. Be sure to learn how to use your RV awning to take advantage of it. Just be mindful of the wind if it picks up!
34. Close windows to hold warmth or cool air in the RV
Opening and closing your RV windows will help regulate the temperature. Depending on the climate you’re boondocking in, you can hold in warm or cold air.
In cold overnight temperatures, you can close up the windows early to hold the warmth of the day in longer. In hot climates, you can leave windows open overnight to let the cool night air in and close up in the morning to hold it in.
Pro Boondocking Tip: Double pane RV windows help tremendously with insulation. Find out if they’re worth the investment for you: Top Reasons To Invest In Double Pane RV Windows.
35. Use low-power-draw electric blankets to keep warm instead of running the furnace
If camping in cold weather, we’ve found that camping heated blankets, although electric, use far less power than running your furnace to heat the entire RV.
36. Park your RV to work with the sun for warmth or staying cool
Most RVs come with more windows on one side than the other. Parking your RV in a particular direction increases or decreases the amount of sunlight and radiant heat that comes in these windows.
You should also consider where your RV fridge is located and how much sun it gets on its compartment. If your RV fridge gets too sunny and warm, you could have trouble with it staying cool.
37. Park your RV to optimize solar panels if you have them
Whether you have solar panels installed or portable solar panels, you’ll want to ideally park somewhere that has sunlight. If you’re parked in the shade, they will do you no good.
In addition to simply parking in the sun, you’ll want to think about the angle of the sun. If you have tilting panels, you’ll want to be able to tilt them towards the sun. We have solar panels on our fifth wheel front cap, so we like to point our RV with its nose toward the south in the wintertime.
38. Supplement a generator with portable solar panels
If you rely on a generator for all of your off-grid power, consider adding some portable solar panels. Even a small solar suitcase can help top off batteries and reduce the amount of time you have to run and listen to your generator. You’ll be surprised how much power these little systems can generate!
39. Rotate portable solar panels throughout the day to chase the sun
Once you have some portable solar panels, you can get the most out of them by occasionally rotating them to chase the sun’s position throughout the day. Direct sunlight is the best for solar power generation.
Now, this doesn’t have to be every 15 minutes. Even shifting them just 2-3 times a day can drastically increase their power output.
40. Upgrade your RV batteries from lead-acid to lithium-ion batteries for more energy storage capacity and greater availability.
Probably one of the best things you can do to reduce generator run-time and increase power capability when boondocking is to switch from lead-acid to lithium-ion batteries in your RV.
We’ve tested and written extensively about the superior performance of lithium over lead-acid. We found that in the long run, lithium is cheaper than lead-acid per power output.
Even swapping out 2 lead-acid RV batteries for 1 Battle Born Lithium Battery would significantly improve your power availability for boondocking.
Follow These RV Boondocking Tips To Up Your Off-Grid Game
These are tricks we’ve been using for years to expand our boondocking abilities, and we hope they help you do the same! While we might be weird, we’ve actually found the pursuit of conserving water, tank space, and power to be a fun game to play. How long can we go? How far can we stretch our resources? We invite you to play along and up your off-grid camping game!
Have another boondocking tip to share? We’d love to hear it! Drop it in the comments section below.
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