What is Dry Camping? All You Need You Know!
“ Camping Rules. Stare at the fire. Listen to the birds. Jump in the lake. Read. Take a nap. Watch the sunset. Cook over the fire. Breathe the fresh air.”
Dry Camping is camping in your RV close to civilization, without hooking-up to Hydro, Water, and Sewer and for a temporary time. Usually, RVers Dry Camp while traveling for a few days to their ultimate destination.
For example, if you were to travel in your car from Ontario, Canada to Florida, USA, you would stop for the night at a hotel or two on the way there and on the way home.
For RVers they already have their bed with them, therefore, they have an inexpensive stay-over option by Dry Camping at a temporary location while they are traveling to their ultimate destination. However, unlike hotels, motels, or RV campgrounds that charge for shelter, washrooms/ showers, and hydro the Dry Camper is left on his own accord. Which means, no hook-up to these amenities. They have to go either go without, use local amenities around them, or use what supplies they have brought with them…sparingly.
Then there are RVers that Dry Camp for a longer time, around 10-14 days. It is doable to Dry Camp that long in an RV, but you need to know how to reserve the basic needs of necessity and practice them daily.
Essential Dry Camping Resources
Water, food, hydro, and waste disposal are the basic needs for survival. Of course, there are other sources of living requirements to make living comfortable but they are more wants than needs.
When Dry Camping, you will not have the luxury of endless amounts of these resources, therefore you have to learn, plan, and practice control of what you have on-hand, so you don’t run out.
How to conserve your RV Tanks
RV’s have tanks built within them. There are usually three tanks. A freshwater tank, a black tank, and a grey tank.
Black Tank: What is it?
The black tank collects sewer waste after each toilet flush.
each RV model is different, so it is best to check your owners manual and figure out a plan to minimize your use of it.
How to Conserve:
- Don’t flush every time you pee because you waste a lot of water on each flush. “If it is yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”
- Don’t flush toilet paper because it takes up tank space. Put your wasted toilet paper in a plastic bag and dispose of it the next time you dispose of your waste.
Grey Tank: What is it?
The grey tank collects sink and shower water waste.
Each RV model is different, so it is best to check your owners manual and to figure out a plan to minimize your use of it.
How to Conserve:
- Should be wiped down before washing and outside to avoid food pieces going into the tank. You can use paper towels, newspapers, or even bread. This will help reduce the use of the tank’s capacity and avoid odor build-up.
- If you run the water until it gets hot, collect the water in a bottle or bucket for later use. You can use this water to rinse dishes, fill your pet’s water dish, flush the toilet, and rinse dirty feet before entering the RV.
- Instead of using the RV kitchen sink, use a washing bowl outside to wash dishes then dispose of the water outside for plants (providing you use biodegradable/ eco-friendly dish soap) or save the water for the flushing toilet.
- Use a pre-made spray bottle that contains water and dish soap… spray your pots and pans as they sit before scrubbing down.
- If feasible, collect shower water in a bucket to use for toilet flushing. This helps save your freshwater from being depleted for toilet use and saves your grey tanks capacity use.
- Use a sponge, or wet washcloth to wipe your body parts down every other day rather than showering daily or use wipes that are meant for body washing
- Skip showering all together and sponge bath or Navy Shower
- Wash hair with baking soda or rinse with apple cider vinegar
Fresh Water Tank: What is it?
The freshwater tank stores water which is used for drinking, washing, and flushing the toilet
As with the Black and Grey tanks, check your owner’s manual to determine the capacity of your tank and figure out a plan to minimize your use of it. Once your freshwater is out, then you will need to pull out of the camp to find more water.
How to Conserve:
- Avoid daily showers, if possible
- Dry shampooing could be an option
- Use an alternative source for drinking by bringing water bottles or other liquids that can quench your thirst
- Use paper plates that can be burned in your firepit thus avoiding washing plates
- Don’t run it for a prolonged time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Additional Conserving Suggestions During Your Dry Camping Adventure
- Turn off lights, laptops, and anything else that uses energy when not in use
- Avoid hydro overload. For example, if you need hydro for hair drying, don’t have the microwave running at the same time.
- Use portable solar panels for RV Battery top-off
- Use the generator only when necessary
- Use lanterns, flashlights, and led lights that are independent of hydro hook-up
- Check out this Youtube for a husband and wifes experience with Dry Camping / Booncamping for further insight on hydro conservation
- Plan and shop for your meals so you know what is available each day
- Prepare meals, salads, and snacks before your camping trip and store in baggies or airtight containers
- Wash vegetables and fruits before your camping trip
- Store drinks in a cooler
- Garbage needs to be saved with you as there is no garbage pick-up or drop-off area. Storing your garbage in your RV’s outside storage unit is probably the best option until you can find a proper place to dispose of it…unless it is environmentally safe to burn in your camping firepit!
- Some gas stations and grocery stores have garbage bins available. It is best to ask their permission to discard your garbage in their bins before doing so.
How to prepare for Dry Camping
Make sure to prepare for comfort and that your needs are met more than your wants.
- Pre-planned and premade food, meals, and drinks
- Have a battery monitoring system – tells you how much juice is left
- Make sure your Black and Grey tanks are empty and clean before your trip
- Make sure your Fresh Water Tank is clean and full of fresh water before your trip
- Meet with family members and others that will share the RV journey with you and inform them of ground rules for the Dry Camping water, hydro, and sewer use and when to use them.
- Identify what RV features work with and without the hookups and do they drain your battery life.
- What appliances you decide you will need and for how long.
- Purchase a quiet generator
- Pack extra water (bottles/jugs)
- Have solar power lights, flashlights, and lanterns
- Have a cell phone booster
- Cables, rope, and chainsaw would be beneficial if you expect to be in backwoods that could cause tree falls in your path
- A first aid kit
- Road flares
- Pillows & Blankets
- Clothes for day and evening
- Jackets, sweaters, socks, running shoes, water shoes, sandals
- Personal hygiene products including toothbrush & paste, and hairbrush
- Tool kit with hammer & screwdriver (in case of toilet troubles, losing a tire, leaks, appliance issues, loose steps, loose kitchen table, etc.)
- Your medications
- Toilet paper
- Radio/ walkie talkie
- Full fuel tank and propane tank
- Mosquito repellant, bear repellant
- Leveling blocks
- Chairs & a Table
- Extension cord
- Propane tanks
- Lighter or matches
- Rechargeable batteries
- Books, puzzles, gameboards
- Sleeping bags
- Cooking utensils, garbage bags, plastic/paper bags, food containers, ice, kettle (plug-in or for over a fire)
- Smores! …marshmallows, sticks to roast, graham crackers, Hershey or aero chocolate bars… or premade Smores kit 🙂
Safety Tips for Dry Camp
In general, camping has been safe. Not many folks bring expensive items with them during camping that would attract thieves. However, you should always lean on the side of caution.
Here are some safety suggestions:
- Always trust your instincts. If the campsite feels off to you or uncomfortable, move on. Find a different place to camp just for peace-of-mind.
- There is safety in numbers. If you are camping alone, then place extra chairs out front, a large dog dish, men’s boots, or shoes in case you have suspicious people scoping your surroundings.
- Always keep your doors locked at night or when you are away for a while.
- Before bed, put away your fishing poles, cooler, bikes, grills, and anything that can easily be picked up and stolen.
- Place stickers on your RV like “Beware of Dog” and “Alarm System”
- Have a weapon (bat or tire arm) for security within reach for yourself should an unwanted intruder threaten your well being
- Engage an alarm system
- Share your GPS coordinates with family and friends in case of emergency
- Should bad weather be expected, avoid parking under a tall tree or by a metal fence that could attract lightening your way
- Keep your cell phone fully charged at all times
- Store your trash inside your RV to avoid unwanted animals
- If high winds are expected, pull in your awning and slides
- Have a portable rechargeable generator available
- Have a carbon monoxide detector on
- In winter months, have a shovel, chains, kitty litter or sand and keep roof clean of snow build-up
Dry Camping Etiquette
RVers camp because they are wanting a break from the hustle and bustle of the city life, peace, tranquility, enjoyment of the scenery, and being in touch with nature.
- When you find a site to park, be sure you are giving your RV neighbor ample room to enjoy the surroundings. Don’t encroach on their space by parking too close to them.
- Don’t walk through their site on your way to the lake or forest
- Keep your night lights off or on low so they don’t blind others around you. Remember, lights wash out the night sky too so you among them will not be able to enjoy the full effects of a beautiful star-lit sky if you have strong lighting.
- Keep your music down low
- Generators tend to be noisy. Use yours (if needed) during the day at a peak time where everyone around you is active and busy enjoying their day that they may not notice the noise.
- Refrain your dogs from barking too… it’s easy for dog owners to be used to their pets relentless barking that they just tune it out. However, think about your RV neighbors around you and how they can’t tune it out for various reasons.
- Cleaning up doggy poop- yes, you are in the wilderness, but there are other people around you or will be. Nobody wants to trample in your dog’s mess or have their child fall in it by accident too. It’s best for everyone for you to pick-up the poop like you have to do in a public park or on your street and bag it for garbage disposal or possibly bury it deep in a discreet location.
- Take your trash with you when you leave
- Clean up your campsite, like nobody was there before leaving (remember to sweep the site for anything that may have fallen or misplaced like your child’s favorite action figure!)
Camping in the outdoors should be relaxing and stress-free, so it is best for you and your RV neighbors to work towards that for one another’s sake.
Where to Dry Camp
It’s best to ask permission and look for signs before parking for a night.
- Walmart Parking Lots – however, ask Management first to be sure it’s ok. Not all RV Parking.
- Truck Stops
- Rest Areas
- Apartment Complexes
- Hotels and Motels
- National Forests – unless there are signs forbidding
- City Parks
Website & App Resources
- Free Camping Near You!
- National Forest Locators
- Free Roam – Boondocking
- RV Parks & Campgrounds
- Campendium (they also have an App for iPhones)
- Harvest Hosts (they also have an App for iPhones)
- Allstays (they also have an App for iPhones)
Dry Camping Pros
- Brings you closer to nature
- Leave the stress of city life behind
- Ability to use your RV without hookup
- Builds confidence in independent living
- Pick-up and go as you please with minimal check-ins
- More freedom
Dry Camping Cons
- Not every location welcomes RV’s for the night
- Smaller RV’s have smaller tanks and therefore provide a lesser amount of resources to last you a long time
- Large RV’s are not always pliable in rough off-the-road terrain for off-the-grid camping
- No hookup for hydro, water, and sewer – running out of supplies if not managed properly
- Theft and safety is unpredictable
- No Cell service
Permits are needed for the backcountry in order to protect the wilderness from being overcrowded and to maintain peace
Dry Camping and Boondocking are both without hydro, water, and sewer hook up. It’s the location that makes a difference. Boondocking is RV Camping in remote locations (in the boonies) away from civilization. Dry Camping is close to civilizations without hookup to basic amenities.
You can purchase an RV battery monitor to measure the energy that is coming and going from your battery. It can let you know the status of its charge.
You should always be prepared for the inevitable. If you are unable to fix any issues yourself then you will need to contact a service to help you. Having emergency contact lists at your disposal along with membership ID information if you prepaid for a plan, should be at your fingertips at all times.
Try to enjoy your Dry Camping experience by relaxing first. You wanted your trip for R&R right? So try very hard not to worry or hover over others to see what resources they are using and when.
Set ground rules so everyone is on the same page- before the trip!
Test run before a major trip too by practicing for a few hours in your driveway or at a local campground for a weekend. Try to get to know your RV and it’s limitations. See what your family’s needs are and how they can accommodate a dry camping experience. Get their feedback.
Plan ahead by knowing your RV’s capabilities. Plan on how to manage hydro, water, waste, meals, etc. so that you and your family can still enjoy a wonderful trip that you all hoped for. To me, Dry Camping is rustic but in a good way. You can still have the amenities you need to survive. You just need to control these resources to minimize any unwanted waste.
Dry Camping allows you to enjoy nature down to its core, in comfort, without a need to search for drinkable water, relieving yourself behind a bush, or bathing in a river. It’s about livable preparation in the enjoyment of nature.