As an avid camper who tries just about any form of it, I’ve had my fair share of trips without any of the normal hookups like water or electricity. Before I got this far into camping, I didn’t really know it was a thing, but over the years I heard people throw around the term dry camping and I just wasn’t ever exactly sure what it was.
So what is dry camping?
Dry camping is when you go camping in an RV or camper of some sort without any hookups for electricity, water, or sewage. This can be done at a campground, on public lands, or in the middle of nowhere. It’s basically amenity-free, off-the-grid camping where you’re more self-reliant.
As you’ve hopefully seen here at Outdoor Andrew, everything we publish is done to provide you and the rest of our readers with the best information we can. It is my goal to bring as many people outdoors taking advantage of the beauty of nature as I possibly can. Whether that’s hiking, tent camping, or dry camping, I want to teach you everything I know.
Without further ado, here’s your complete guide to dry camping.
What is Dry Camping? Fundamentals of Having No Hookups
Dry Camping Terminology
Dry camping refers to the practice of camping in an RV, van, or motorhome without access to the usual hookups such as electricity, water, or sewer connections. This type of camping emphasizes self-sufficiency and spending time in nature.
While not exactly the same thing — as we’ll touch on shortly — people often refer to dry camping as boondocking. In both cases, dry camping means that you’ll be setting up camp in your RV or camper without the hookups and amenities that you might be used to at a full-scale campground.
Types of Dry Camping
There are various types of dry camping locations that you can choose from. You can set up camp on public lands such as state parks, city parks, and county parks. Alternatively, you might opt for private locations, such as resorts or private lands, with the permission of the owner. Each location offers unique experiences for you to enjoy the great outdoors without the usual amenities found at traditional campgrounds.
Difference Between Dry Camping and Boondocking
Although the terms dry camping and boondocking are often used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between the two. Dry camping refers to any type of camping without hookups, while boondocking specifically denotes camping on public lands for free. Both forms of camping require you to be self-sufficient and prepared for an off-the-grid experience.
To thrive during a dry camping trip, you’ll need to plan carefully and ensure that you have all the essentials for a comfortable stay. Starting from basic necessities like tents or RV accommodations, you should also prepare your own source of water, power, and waste disposal.
Bring plenty of fresh water, invest in portable solar panels or generators for electricity, and have a plan for waste management. Additionally, make sure you have all the necessary gear for cooking, such as a portable stove or campfire setup.
In conclusion, dry camping is a rewarding experience that allows you to connect with nature and test your self-sufficiency skills. By understanding the terminology, types of dry camping locations, differences between dry camping and boondocking, and ways to stay self-sufficient, you’ll be well-prepared for your next off-the-grid adventure.
Preparing for Dry Camping
Choosing the Right RV
When preparing for dry camping, the first thing to consider is selecting the right recreational vehicle (RV) for your needs. Some RVs are better suited for off-grid living, while others may lack essential features for a comfortable experience. It’s essential to research different RV models, focusing on their water and power capabilities, as well as their interior layout and storage space.
Dry camping means you’ll be without hookups for water, power, and sewage. Therefore, it’s crucial to bring along the necessary supplies to sustain you during your trip. Some fundamental items to pack include:
- Portable water tanks: As you won’t have access to running water, portable water tanks are a must-have. These containers allow you to store and transport water while keeping it clean and safe for consumption.
- Solar panels: Solar panels can provide renewable power for your RV’s batteries, ensuring you have enough energy for your appliances and devices during the trip.
- Propane tanks: Propane is essential for various activities like cooking, heating water, and running the RV’s appliances. Make sure to have enough propane to last for the entire duration of your camp.
- Battery-powered devices: From flashlights to portable fans, battery-powered devices can save your RV’s power and make your life more comfortable.
Check out our complete list of camping hacks, tips, and tricks for more useful advice and helpful suggestions before your next camping trip!
Planning your meals ahead of time is a vital step in preparing for dry camping. Due to the lack of running water, you’ll want to minimize the number of dishes you need to wash and conserve water in the process. Focus on easy-to-prepare meals that require minimal cleanup and don’t spoil quickly. Some ideas include:
- Pre-made meals (like canned goods or dehydrated meals)
- Meal-prep recipes made in advance and stored in reusable containers
- One-pot meals cooked on a propane stove
Also, always carry enough non-perishable snacks and bottled water. With proper planning and smart meal choices, you can make the most out of your dry camping experience without sacrificing your comfort.
Choosing Your Location
When planning your dry camping adventure, selecting the right location is crucial. Here, we’ll discuss some popular options to consider.
National and State Parks
Most National and State Parks permit dry camping, granting you access to beautiful scenery, hiking trails, and wildlife. While facilities like water and electric hookups might not be available, these parks often provide restrooms and access to water sources.
If you’re looking for a more secluded and personalized experience, consider private properties. Websites like Boondockers Welcome or Hipcamp connect you with property owners who rent their land for camping purposes. This option offers a chance to explore unique, off-the-grid locations.
Free campgrounds are available on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service. These sites don’t charge fees and allow a wide variety of setups, including tents, vans, and RVs. Basic amenities might be available, but full hookups are unlikely. You can use websites and apps like Campendium, and FreeCampsites.net to find free camping locations.
RV Parks and RV Resorts
Though not technically dry camping, RV Parks and RV Resorts provide a more convenient option for those willing to pay for amenities. These locations typically include electric, water, and sewer hookups, as well as additional facilities like showers, laundries, and recreational areas. RV Parks and Resorts can be found through directories like CampgroundReviews.com or Woodall’s Campground Guide.
Managing Water and Power
While dry camping, managing your resources is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. In this section, we will cover water conservation, power solutions, and managing tanks.
Conserving water is essential during dry camping, as you won’t have access to running water. To ensure you have enough fresh water for your needs, consider the following tips:
- Plan your daily water consumption based on your activities
- Use biodegradable soap and other products to minimize the impact on the environment
- Reuse cooking and cleaning water for other purposes when possible
- Collect rainwater, if accessible, and use it for non-drinking purposes
- Utilize water-saving devices, such as low-flow faucets and showerheads
Power sources are limited during dry camping, so having an efficient energy plan is crucial. Here are some solutions for maintaining power during your trip:
- Invest in a portable solar panel system to charge your batteries during daylight hours
- Utilize LED lights, as they consume less energy than traditional bulbs
- Turn off electronic devices when not in use to prevent energy waste
- Carry a portable generator for backup power, but consider the cost and noise-related issues
- Consider a propane-powered refrigerator and stove for cooking
We also have a complete list of solar power banks that are perfect for camping, which includes a generator with solar panels to power your whole campsite.
Proper tank management is vital for a successful dry camping experience. These are a few suggestions for managing your tanks:
- Monitor your freshwater, gray water, and black water tanks regularly; this will help you understand when it’s time to refill or empty them
- Opt for a portable waste tank to empty your gray and black water tanks if dump stations are not nearby
- Be cautious about using harsh chemicals in your tanks, as they can damage the plumbing system or harm the environment
- Practice proper waste disposal to avoid contamination of natural resources and maintain hygiene around your campsite
- Make a schedule for tank maintenance to ensure their longevity and prevent unexpected issues during your trip
Pros and Cons of Dry Camping
Advantages of Dry Camping
- Cost-effective: Dry camping can save you money on campsite fees, as many locations offer free or low-cost options since you don’t need to pay for amenities like water and electricity hookups.
- Greater connection with nature: Without the distractions of modern conveniences, you can fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the outdoors and enjoy a more serene, peaceful experience.
- Less restricted and more flexible: You have the freedom to camp in remote areas, allowing for unique adventures and the opportunity to seek less crowded, unspoiled locations.
Disadvantages of Dry Camping
- Lack of amenities: Dry camping does not provide access to electrical hookups, running water, or dump stations, requiring you to find alternative sources of power and water, such as solar panels, generators, and water tanks.
- Potentially more challenging: Preparation is crucial for dry camping; planning for water usage, waste disposal, and power needs can be more time-consuming and complicated.
- Limited resources: You’re responsible for managing your water, power, and waste disposal, meaning increased vigilance is required to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience.
Final Thoughts on Dry Camping
Dry camping, also known as boondocking, is an outdoor activity where you camp without any utility hookups, such as electricity, water, or sewage. This type of camping is done in an RV, van, or motorhome and tends to be set up either on public lands or private properties, with the owner’s permission.
When you embark on a dry camping adventure, remember that you’ll need to rely on your own resources. This means utilizing solar power, generators, water tanks, and portable waste tanks to meet your needs. Take the opportunity to enjoy state parks, city parks, or county parks for your dry camping experience.
There are several considerations and essential items for a successful dry camping trip. First and foremost, prioritize water and waste management, as you won’t have access to public utilities. This includes carrying enough water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning, as well as having a waste disposal plan in place.
Additionally, power management is crucial for dry camping. Solar panels, generators, and portable power banks can help maintain the necessary charge for your devices and appliances. Lastly, don’t forget safety and security measures, such as having first aid kits, communication devices, and emergency tools like flashlights and fire extinguishers on hand.
In summary, dry camping offers a unique and more self-reliant outdoor experience. With proper planning and careful management of resources, you can enjoy beautiful and often free camping sites across various landscapes. Embrace the opportunity to connect with nature and escape the hustle and bustle of traditional campgrounds.