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RV Beginners Guide


Introduction to RVing and Boondocking

The open road awaits, and what better way to enjoy an outdoor adventure than riding cross-country in a recreational vehicle? For those with less ambition, there are even great options close to home that allow for rest and relaxation. Many travelers experience the freedom of enjoying nature’s many bounties by traveling from campsite to campsite, taking time away from the rigors of daily life with an old-fashioned road trip. However, understanding how to be self-sufficient can be an intimidating experience for many novice RVers, and finding campsites can prove both challenging and expensive. Although it means giving up some modern comforts, there is an option that can save a lot of money by providing free parking and no additional expenses: RV boondocking. Not to worry – this guide will provide all the details on how to enjoy life as a boondocker, including tips on where to find free camping and compensating for life “off the grid.”

What is RVing?

RVing, also known as recreational vehicle camping, is a way to travel and explore the great outdoors with the comforts of home. It involves traveling in a recreational vehicle, such as a motorhome or a travel trailer, that is equipped with all the necessary amenities, including a bed, kitchen, bathroom, and living space. RVing is a great way to see different parts of the country while enjoying the flexibility and freedom that comes with traveling in your own home on wheels.

Types of RVs

There are different types of RVs available for different needs and preferences. Some of the popular types of RVs are:


Motorhomes are the most popular type of RVs and come in different sizes, from small vans to large buses. They are self-contained and have everything you need to live comfortably on the road.

Travel trailers

Travel trailers are towed behind a vehicle and come in different sizes and configurations. They are less expensive than motorhomes and offer more flexibility in terms of choosing a towing vehicle.

Fifth wheels

Fifth wheels are similar to travel trailers, but they are designed to be towed by a pickup truck. They offer more space and amenities than travel trailers and are a popular choice for long-term travelers.

What is Boondocking?

In short, “boondocking” is a slang term for “dry camping,” which means enjoying the traveling and camping experience without many modern commodities, such as power, sewer access, or water hookups. Free parking does not necessarily mean delving deep into the backcountry; it can be as simple as finding a suitable highway rest stop. Boondocking is a great way to get off the beaten path and explore remote areas without the crowds and noise of traditional campgrounds.

Advantages of Boondocking

Boondocking has several advantages over traditional camping:


Boondocking is much cheaper than staying at a traditional campground. Most boondocking sites are free, which means you can save a considerable amount of money on accommodation.

Privacy and seclusion

Boondocking sites are often located in remote areas, which means you can enjoy privacy and seclusion. You can camp in a quiet and peaceful environment, away from the crowds and noise of traditional campgrounds.

Flexibility and freedom

Boondocking allows you to have complete freedom and flexibility in choosing your campsite. You can camp in any location that is suitable for your RV, without worrying about availability or reservation.

What to Know Before You Decide to go Boondocking

It can take a little time and research to learn how to be a proper boondocker. Otherwise, it is possible to find oneself stranded without a place to stay or facing self-sufficiency complications, which can be a stressful experience at odds with the relaxing atmosphere most RV trippers are seeking. First, consider the boondocking benefits:

  • It is free!
  • Campers do not have to suffer overcrowded or noisy RV parks.
  • With seclusion comes peace, quiet, and the ability to commune with the natural environment.
  • Many pay locations require scheduling in advance, so boondockers enjoy the flexibility to travel where they want, when they want and are not tied down to any specific location.
  • Without modern amenities, it is possible to enjoy a life away from technology and experience simplicity.

While these are fantastic benefits and are many reasons why so many people decide to give boondocking a shot, there are a few important considerations to take into account:

  • Cell service may be unavailable or of low quality, depending on the location.
  • As expected, there are some rules and regulations about where RVers can park for free.
  • “Off the grid” means just that – access to amenities such as showers, trash receptacles, water hook-ups, power, picnic tables, bathrooms, and other luxuries will more than likely be unavailable, which means finding alternatives if necessary.
  • Roads can often be rough and more difficult to navigate further from civilization.
  • Stores, medical facilities, and other services will likely be unavailable or distant, depending on the chosen location.

Boondocking Tips for Beginners

More than likely, the first boondocking experience will involve a lot of trial and error. While one of the greatest benefits of boondocking is the amount of freedom and flexibility associated with it, the very first time should involve a good amount of planning to ensure there are fewer of the latter. Consider these helpful tips to help prepare for the journey:

Choose a Date and Location

It is a good idea to have at least the first destination established (and a backup location just in case) so more time can be spent making sure that all supplies and other necessities are prepared. After all, one of the most common problems newbie boondockers face is not having something that they will later need upon arrival.

Weather Watch

When more experienced, weather may not be as significant of an issue, but it is best for the first trip to take place during ideal weather conditions. Keep in mind, there may not be cell service available upon arrival, so make sure to check the weather for as many days in advance as the duration of the stay at least, so there are no untoward surprises.

RV Maintenance

Whether renting an RV or using an owned model, run through a maintenance check to reduce the opportunity that something could go wrong, especially if the journey will be extensive. Remember the basics, too! No matter how tip-top the RV might be, running out of gas in off-country terrain is a challenge most do not want to face.

Bring More than Sufficient Supplies

One of the most important tips for boondocking is to have the right supplies and more than enough in case of the unexpected. This does not just refer to the absolute essentials such as food and clean water, but also to clothing, toiletry supplies, cooking supplies, and anything else that is part of the RV camping experience.

Charge Technology in Advance

Even if the point of the adventure is to get away from technology, have all cell phones charged and ready to go. This can make all the difference in the event of an emergency or if additional research is necessary to help solve beginner problems on the road, especially in the likely event that the site has no electricity. Even if the location does not have cell service, it can have several benefits (such as the flashlight feature), and can still prove a life-saver in a difficult situation as it may be possible to drive to cell service range if the need arises.

Rules of Boondocking

There are, of course, rules that should be followed when boondocking to maintain safety and environmental purity. In fact, dispersed camping sites such as National Forests and State Parks have mandatory rules that must be followed. Here is how to stay out of trouble:

  • Leave no trace – pick up everything brought in so that the site appears in its natural state.
  • Don’t dump tanks on the ground, especially waste tanks
  • Park at least 200 feet from water sources to maintain the purity of the water and vegetation natural resources
  • Choose an open spot, preferably one that has been used previously to prevent damage to the natural environment and its flora and fauna.
  • Never leave fires unattended and do not harvest firewood without permission.
  • Respect the wildlife – do not leave out trash or other harmful contaminants and leave any encountered animals alone.
  • Be a good neighbor. If there are others nearby or the property belongs to others, be considerate about noise, waste, loud generator usage, and appropriate distance to avoid being inconvenient to others.
  • Know the stay limits and observe them.

Other Tips

There are a wide variety of other tips that can help ensure there are no bumps in the road when it comes to the first boondocking journey:

  • Avoid arriving at night, as ample daylight is important for establishing and organizing the initial camp location.
  • Determine whether the site has generator hours beforehand, and if not, consider bringing a generator if necessary.
  • Be conservative with power, as it is often a limited resource when boondocking.
  • Prepare supplies for cooking and other necessary activities that require little or no electricity.
  • Ensure the RV has an appropriate water supply and practice methods to conserve water. Always fill the water tank completely before leaving home.
  • Have portable jugs or other containers to refill water without having to move the RV. A drill pump can make transferring water to the tank much easier!
  • Establish an effective plan for dealing with human waste, as this can draw animals or contaminate nearby water.
  • If using a generator, bring extra gas. For solar panels, make sure there is an inverter.
  • Using reflective covers on RV windows is a cost-effective way to regulate temperature.
  • Leave any site as good or better than it was upon arrival. That means picking up any garbage and avoiding causing any damage to the land itself.
  • Consider a short journey for the first time as a dry-run to work out the kinks. That way, if something goes wrong or is forgotten, it is easier to accommodate.

Get Out and Start Boondocking

With this ultimate guide in hand (or on-screen), there’s no reason not to set out on an epic RV boondocking foray. Remember to keep the first trip simple and prepare accordingly! It can be helpful to design a boondocking checklist before each trip to ensure the completion of all basic RV maintenance and that nothing is forgotten. Once the maiden voyage is over, the various included resources can serve as guides to a longer journey to more exotic locations. Boondocking is a great way to escape the bustle and stress of city life and enjoy a rural experience, getting back to the basics with nature.  It’s time to enjoy nature’s bounty and explore the many wonders of the wild, so get out there and start boondocking!

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