Boondocking gathers what I like the most about RVing: finding beautiful remote places and spending memorable nights there. Hunting hidden gems in the Swiss Alps and Europe is one of my favorites activities, and I can tell you… no hotel can compete with the spots I found so far!
RV boondocking is all about finding a nice spot, disconnected from any hookups or amenities, and enjoy the night. Most of the time it is totally free and will give you a real taste of adventure.
Whether you’re staying in a parking lot for a night or going off the grid for two weeks, you will find here some useful tips to take into consideration so you can enjoy the adventure.
- Any Size RV Can Go Boondocking
- Manage Water Smartly
- Boondocking Etiquette
- Know Your Power Needs
- Be Aware of Regulations
- Respect the Locals
- Campsite Security
- Reduce Trash
- Be Prepared for Emergencies
1. Any Size RV Can Go Boondocking
If you already have an RV, you can take it boondocking as long as you pack smart. While some RVs are optimized for boondocking by having a generator or being built for off-road driving, any RV can safely boondock.
Regardless of the size of your RV, make sure you’re aware of the space you take up when you’re boondocking. Trying to drive a large RV on tight and steep roads can cause you some serious cold sweats… so make sure you target appropriate spots!
2. Manage Water Smartly
When you plan your boondocking adventure, think about how long you plan to camp so you can manage your water smartly. If you’re only venturing out overnight, having some water in your freshwater tanks should be enough. If you’re trying to make it the full two weeks allowed, you’re going to have to pack a water bladder so you don’t have to go without.
Empty your black and gray tanks according to guidelines before you boondock. Consider getting a pump and filter that pulls wastewater from the grey water tank and uses it to flush the toilet.
You can use your RV bathroom without water hookups, but you won’t be able to dispose of the waste. If possible, you can use public toilets when you go out for the day—if they’re available. You could also opt to bury your waste safely.
Showers will use a lot of water, so you might choose to shower in public facilities if they’re available. You can use biodegradable wipes to clean up, or just take advantage of your location and jump in the nearest body of water!
Washing dishes is another task that will use a lot of your freshwater. Consider grilling instead of using cookware. You can also meal prep before your trip so you don’t have to cook or wash at all.
3. Boondocking Etiquette
Boondocking is legal, but you also need to consider that you’re camping on natural land, often without paying. Be gracious about the experience you’re getting and make sure you don’t overstay your welcome or leave anything behind you.
As with any camp, be courteous to neighbors you might have while boondocking. This can be nearby campers or people who live in towns near the land. Be considerate about the noise and smell if you’re running a generator, and don’t trespass on their space.
4. Know Your Power Needs
Boondocking means you won’t be able to use any appliance or outlet on your RV, so unless you’re prepared to do without, you might want to invest in a generator, battery, or solar setup.
Large motorhomes have built-in generators, but if you have anything smaller than that, you can purchase a separate generator. The generator will pull gas or diesel from your fuel line to power your appliances.
They’re rigged with a failsafe to cut off when your gas tank hits a quarter, so you won’t be stranded without gas. You will, however, be making a lot of exhaust when you burn the gas. Some boondocking sites don’t allow generators due to the pollution and noise they make, so you’ll want to check your options before buying one.
Heavy-duty batteries can power your refrigerator and power outlets, giving you enough charge to watch TV or cook dinner with kitchen appliances. The batteries will have to recharge periodically, so you’ll have to factor in that time and effort.
Solar setups are the most environmentally friendly option for boondocking. It works best when paired with batteries because it’ll recharge them when they’re not in use. Consider the weather if you have solar panels—you need to make sure you’ll be getting enough sun during the day to charge your batteries for later use.
Honestly, I’ve found that one of the biggest things for new boondockers to overcome is the lack of electricity. It’s easy to think you can go without, but you soon realize that you depend on the appliances that make life easier. Consider your needs before you venture out and invest in a generator or rechargeable batteries to make the transition smooth.
5. Be Aware of Regulations
If you’re parking on land with park rangers, check in with them before you set up camp. Make sure they know you’re there, and ask for any permits you might need to stay there. If you’re not certain that you’re able to stay in an area, err on the side of caution and don’t park there until you find someone to talk to. It’s better to change your plans slightly than to park somewhere illegal and get towed, fined, and give boondocking a bad name.
6. Respect the Locals
When you’re boondocking, locals can refer to other campers, people and rangers who live nearby, and wild animals. No matter who you’re interacting with, show respect. Keep your space clean and be quiet during late night and early morning hours.
Leaving food and trash out not only looks bad, but it’s disrespectful to the land you’re able to stay on. Also, it invites wild animals to your site, and you don’t want that!
7. Campsite Security
If you’re parking in the lot of a big box store, you’ll have streetlights and security cameras on your side for the duration of your stay. When you’re at developed or undeveloped campsites, you’re less likely to have security patrolling the area.
Play it safe when you’re boondocking just as you would on other vacations. Hide your valuables and keep your money and credit cards on your person whenever possible. Keep your doors locked at all times, and you can carry pepper spray for protection.
When you’re boondocking, you’re RV camping on land that isn’t often visited by humans. That means wild animals feel more comfortable on their territory, and you’ll have to be aware of that. Stay away from large animals and keep your food safely locked away.
8. Reduce Trash
Remember that the main goal of camping and getting close to nature is to leave no trace. By planning you can reduce trash for your entire trip. Don’t pack food that is individually wrapped and opt for fresh food instead. Try to limit your consumption and use of things that make waste.
If you do make a lot of trash while you’re boondocking, dispose of it properly. If your area doesn’t have a trash can, this might mean you have to keep waste inside until you find a place to throw it away.
9. Be Prepared for Emergencies
Have an emergency kit on hand, complete with a stocked First Aid supplies, flashlights, a radio, and batteries. Keep at least one extra day’s worth of food. Pack extra jugs of water so you can use it for drinking or other necessities.
Before you set out, tell a friend or park ranger what you’re doing. Make sure someone always knows where you’ll be and when you’re expected to return. Have an extra tank of fuel in the RV so you won’t find yourself stranded.
Keep your phone on your person at all times so you’ll have it when you need it. If you prefer to really get off the grid and go without service, make sure you know where the nearest landline is, whether it’s at a ranger’s station or in the nearby town.
The Bottom Line
Boondocking is an excellent way to go camping with the comforts of your RV while saving money and getting close to nature. Follow the advice above, find a good RV boondocking spot and go hit the roads!
If you need some inspiration for your next trip, feel free to check out our best road trip routes in the USA.