Essential Guide to RV Boondocking for Beginners

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How to Boondock – Tips for Exploring Free Camping

 

RV boondocking is an affordable, environmentally-friendly way to enjoy the beauty of nature in solitude. Welcome to our Essential Guide to RV Boondocking for Beginners. Boondocking, also known as dry camping, involves RV camping in remote wilderness areas, highway rest areas, and anywhere without traditional campsite amenities like water, sewer, or electricity hookups.

Before starting boondocking, it’s crucial to understand the following:

  • Boondocking locations: Ensure you’re allowed to camp in your chosen location. Some areas may require permits or have restrictions on where you can park your RV.
  • Resources: Have enough water, food, and waste disposal arrangements for the duration of your stay. This will require careful planning and packing, as you won’t have access to these resources on-site.
  • Respect for nature: Maintain a “leave no trace” attitude, ensuring you don’t harm the environment. This means packing out all of your trash, disposing of waste properly, and being mindful of your impact on the surrounding area.

 

Pebble Creek Campground
By via flickr

Choosing the Right RV for Boondocking

The process of choosing the right RV for your boondocking adventure requires considering factors such as size, amenities, and off-grid capabilities. Understanding the different types of RVs can help you make an informed decision about which kind might be the best fit for your lifestyle. RVs come in a variety of sizes, styles, and amenities to suit different needs and budgets.

Here is a brief overview of the most common types of RVs:

VW Bus at CampsiteImage by TheoRivierenlaan from Pixabay

  • Motorhomes are self-contained vehicles that provide everything you need for a comfortable stay, including a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping quarters, and a living area. Motorhomes come in a variety of sizes, from small Class B units that can fit in a standard parking space to large Class A units that can be up to 45 feet long.
  • Travel trailers are towed behind a vehicle and come in a variety of sizes and configurations. They are less expensive than motorhomes and offer more flexibility in terms of choosing a towing vehicle. Travel trailers typically have a kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping quarters, but they may not have a living area.
  • 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. Fifth wheels typically have a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping quarters, and a living area.

popup camper
Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

  • Pop-up campers are lightweight, compact, and can be towed by most vehicles. They expand and pop up to create a comfortable living space.
  • Teardrop trailers are small, lightweight trailers ideal for solo travelers or couples. They often have a sleeping area and a small kitchenette at the back.
  • Toy haulers are a type of towable RV designed with a built-in garage space for transporting “toys” like motorcycles, ATVs, or bicycles.

When choosing an RV, it is important to consider factors like the size of your travel party, your budget, the amenities you need, and how often you plan to use it. Do you want the luxury of a motorhome or the flexibility of a towable trailer? Remember, each type of RV offers its own unique advantages.

Power Sources for Boondocking

When boondocking, or camping without access to power hookups, you need to have a plan for generating electricity. There are three main options: generators, inverters, and solar panels.

Generators

Generators are the most common way to power an RV while boondocking. They produce electricity by burning fuel, such as gasoline, diesel, or propane. Generators come in a variety of sizes, from small portable models to large built-in units.

  • Portable generators are the most popular choice for boondocking. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. However, they can be noisy, so it is important to choose a quiet model if you are camping in a remote area.
  • Built-in generators are a more expensive option, but they are also quieter and more efficient. They are typically installed in the RV’s engine compartment.

When choosing a generator, it is important to consider the size of your RV, the appliances you plan to use, and the amount of power you need. You should also factor in the noise level and the fuel efficiency of the generator.

Inverters

Inverters are devices that convert DC power from batteries to AC power. This allows you to use your RV’s appliances even when the generator is not running. Inverters come in a variety of sizes and power ratings.

Types of inverters

There are three main types of inverters: pure sine wave, modified sine wave, and hybrid.

  • Pure sine wave inverters produce clean, undistorted AC power that is safe for all appliances. They are the most expensive type of inverter, but they are also the best choice for RVs.
  • Modified sine wave inverters produce a square wave AC signal that is not as smooth as pure sine wave. They are less expensive than pure sine wave inverters, but they can damage some appliances, such as sensitive electronics.
  • Hybrid inverters combine the features of pure sine wave and modified sine wave inverters. They are a good option for RVs that use a variety of appliances.

Capacity

The capacity of an inverter is measured in watts. The amount of power you need will depend on the size of your RV and the appliances you plan to use. A good rule of thumb is to choose an inverter that is at least twice the wattage of your largest appliance.

Installation

Inverters can be installed by a qualified electrician or by the RV owner. If you are installing the inverter yourself, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Maintenance

Inverters require little maintenance. However, you should clean the vents on the inverter regularly to prevent dust and dirt from accumulating.

Here are some additional tips for choosing and using an inverter for boondocking:

  • Choose an inverter that is the right size for your needs.
  • Install the inverter in a cool, dry place.
  • Clean the vents on the inverter regularly.
  • Do not overload the inverter.
  • Turn off the inverter when you are not using it.


Solar Panels

Solar panels are a renewable energy source that can be used to generate electricity while boondocking. Solar panels come in a variety of sizes and wattage ratings.

The benefits of using solar energy while boondocking include:

  • It is a clean and renewable energy source.
  • It does not produce noise or emissions.
  • It can save you money on fuel costs.

Installing solar panels on RV roofs is a relatively easy process. However, it is important to choose the right size and type of solar panels for your RV. You should also hire a qualified electrician to install the panels.

Maintaining solar panels is important to ensure that they continue to operate efficiently. You should clean the panels regularly and inspect them for damage.

The best power source for boondocking depends on your individual needs and preferences. If you need a lot of power and you are on a budget, then a generator is a good option. If you are looking for a quiet and environmentally friendly option, then solar panels are a good choice. And if you want to have the flexibility to use both generators and solar panels, then you can consider an inverter system.

No matter which power source you choose, it is important to do your research and choose the right system for your needs.

Water and Waste Management in Boondocking

Water Conservation in Boondocking

When boondocking, or camping without access to water hookups, it is important to conserve water. Here are some tips for water conservation:

  • Take short showers.
  • Use a bucket to catch shower water and use it to flush the toilet or water plants.
  • Use biodegradable soap.
  • Turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Reuse gray water for things like watering plants or flushing the toilet.

Waste Management in Boondocking

Waste management is another important consideration when boondocking. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • There are no public sewer hookups in most boondocking areas, so you will need to manage your own waste.
  • Traditional RV toilets use a lot of water, so they are not ideal for boondocking.
  • Composting toilets are a more water-efficient option. They use bacteria to break down waste into compost, which can be used to fertilize plants.
  • If you are using a traditional RV toilet, you will need to find a dump station to dispose of your waste. Dump stations are typically located at RV parks and campgrounds.

It is important to dispose of waste responsibly when boondocking. This means following the “leave no trace” principle and disposing of waste in a way that does not pollute the environment.

Here are some specific guidelines for disposing of waste responsibly:

  • Do not dump waste in the toilet or on the ground.
  • Do not flush waste down the drain.
  • Find a dump station and dispose of your waste there.
  • If you are using a composting toilet, you can compost your waste in a designated area away from water sources.

By following these tips, you can help to conserve water and manage waste responsibly while boondocking.

Advantages of Boondocking

Boondocking, also known as dispersed camping, offers several unique advantages, including freedom, cost savings, and a connection with nature.

  • Cost savings: Many boondocking locations are free or have nominal fees, which can significantly reduce your camping expenses.
  • Peace and quiet: With fewer crowds and noise, you can truly immerse yourself in nature and enjoy a serene experience.
  • Flexibility: Boondocking allows you to choose your location and explore remote areas that aren’t always accessible with traditional camping.
  • Sustainability: By using solar power, conserving water, and minimizing waste, you can lessen your environmental impact.
  • Adventure: Boondocking can be an adventure in itself. You’ll need to be prepared for anything, which can add to the excitement.
  • Self-sufficiency: Boondocking forces you to be more self-sufficient. You’ll need to bring your own water, food, and other supplies. This can be a great way to learn new skills and appreciate the things you have.

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truck camping
Image by Duncan Tran from Pixabay

Preparation Before Boondocking

In this Beginner’s Guide to RV Boondocking, we’ll show you how boondocking is a great way to experience the beauty of nature without the crowds or noise of traditional campgrounds. However, it’s important to be prepared before you go. Here are some tips for preparing for your first boondocking experience:

  • Research Locations. There are many websites and apps that can help you find legal boondocking spots. Once you’ve found a few potential spots, be sure to research the rules and regulations for each location. Some areas may have restrictions on where you can park your RV or how long you can stay.
  • Prepare Your RV. If you’re boondocking in your RV, you’ll need to make sure it’s equipped for off-grid camping. This means having enough water and fuel, as well as a way to generate electricity. You may also want to consider installing solar panels or a generator.
  • Plan for Food and Water. Since boondocking locations may not have nearby stores or water sources, you’ll need to bring enough food and water for your stay. Be sure to pack non-perishable food items that don’t require refrigeration. You should also bring a water filter or purifier so you can safely drink water from natural sources.
  • Conserve Resources. When boondocking, it’s important to conserve resources. This means using water and electricity sparingly. You should also pack out all of your trash and waste.
  • Emergency Preparedness. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for emergencies when boondocking. This means packing a first-aid kit, a toolbox, and extra supplies. You should also let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.

Solar Travel Trailer
By via flickr


Boondocking Tips for Beginners

Embarking on an RV boondocking adventure for beginners requires careful preparation and a deep respect for nature. In this section, we’ll provide some essential Tips for RV Boondocking for Beginners. Here are some essential boondocking tips for first-time RVers to help you prepare for a successful and enjoyable off-grid experience:

  • Find a great dispersed camping area. Use a website like Freecampsites.net: https://freecampsites.net/ to find dispersed camping areas that are free and allow RVs.
  • Tell someone where you are going. Let a friend or family member know where you are going and when you expect to be back.
  • Make sure you can access the camping area with your rig. Check the size and weight restrictions for the camping area before you go.
  • Bring everything you need, especially water. Bring at least 10 gallons of fresh water per person per day, as well as enough food, fuel, and other supplies for your planned stay. You may also want to bring a portable water filter or purifier in case the water at your campsite is not safe to drink.
  • Make a plan for having no hookups. This may include using a generator, solar panels, or conserving energy.
  • Safety first. Be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.
  • Plan ahead. Do your research and plan your trip in advance. This will help you avoid surprises and make the most of your time boondocking.
  • Read reviews. Read reviews of potential camping areas to get an idea of what to expect.
  • Arrive before dark. This will give you time to set up camp and get settled in before it gets dark.
  • Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to move to a different location.
  • Know your GPS coordinates for EMS. In case of an emergency, knowing your GPS coordinates will help first responders find you.
  • Know the closest urgent care or emergency room and local 911 numbers. This information will be important to have in case of an emergency.
  • Park facing the exit. This will make it easier to leave in an emergency.
  • If you’re new to boondocking or just want to try it out for a short period of time, RV parks are a great option. RV parks offer hookups and amenities that can make boondocking easier for beginners.
  • The best RV for boondocking is a small to medium-sized trailer. Smaller RVs are easier to maneuver and use less fuel.
  • Depending upon what you power and how much, you can generally boondock for 2-7 days. Most full-time boondockers have at least a small 2,000 watt generator.
  • Boondocking is camping without any hookups outside developed campgrounds. Dry camping is simply camping without any hookups. The distinction is dry camping can take place at a developed campground.

If you’re new to boondocking or just want to try it out for a short period, RV parks are a great option. They offer a chance to experience the RV lifestyle with a few more comforts and amenities.

beach camping
Image by Harald Funken from Pixabay 

Rules of Boondocking

Lets delve into the rules of boondocking, providing you with a clear understanding of boondocking etiquette and the regulations you need to follow

  1. Always Obtain Permission if You’re Boondocking on Private Property: It’s crucial to remember that boondocking is only legal on public lands or private lands where you have received explicit permission from the owner. Trespassing on private property without permission can lead to legal issues and is a violation of the basic principles of boondocking etiquette. Always make sure to ask for permission before setting up camp on private land. It’s also a good idea to research the area beforehand to ensure you are in a legal and safe place to camp.
  2. Follow Posted Regulations and Guidelines, Including Maximum Stay Limits and Fire Restrictions: Different public lands have different rules and regulations. For example, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land typically allows for a 14-day stay within a 28-day period. After that, you’re expected to move at least 25 miles away. National Forests also usually have a 14-day limit, but the required move distance may vary. Fire restrictions are often in place, especially during dry seasons, to prevent wildfires. It’s essential to know and respect these regulations to maintain access to these areas for future campers.
  3. Be Respectful of Other Boondockers and Maintain a Reasonable Distance from Their Campsites: One of the joys of boondocking is the solitude and space it provides. To respect this, ensure that you park a reasonable distance away from other campers unless invited to do otherwise. This helps everyone to enjoy their own piece of the wilderness without feeling crowded. This is also an essential rule to follow during quiet hours.
  4. Keep Noise Levels Low and Respect Quiet Hours: Part of the appeal of boondocking is the peace and quiet it offers. To maintain this serene atmosphere, keep noise levels to a minimum, especially during designated quiet hours (typically between 10 PM and 6 AM). This includes keeping music, generator use, and other loud activities to a minimum during these hours. It’s all about respecting the tranquility of the area and the enjoyment of others.
  5. Do Not Leave Trash or Litter Behind – Pack Out What You Pack In: One of the fundamental principles of boondocking is to leave no trace. This means you should leave your campsite as you found it, or even better. All trash and litter should be packed out with you when you leave. This includes things like food waste, which should not be left behind as it can attract wildlife. Additionally, if you see trash left by others, consider picking it up. This helps maintain the beauty of these natural areas for future visitors and protects local wildlife.

Remember, boondocking is a privilege, not a right. By following these rules, you help ensure these beautiful natural areas remain open and accessible for future boondocking adventures.


class B RV
Image by Melanie Erhard from Pixabay

Staying Connected: Internet and Connectivity in the Wild

n today’s world, it is more important than ever to stay connected, even while in remote areas. There are a few different ways to do this, depending on your needs and the location you are in.

Cellular Data

Cellular data is the most common way to stay connected in the wild. Most cell phone providers offer plans that include data for use in RVs and other mobile devices. However, cell phone coverage can be spotty in remote areas, so it is important to check the coverage map before you go.

Cellular Boosters

Cellular boosters can help to improve signal strength in areas with weak or spotty coverage. They work by amplifying the signal from cell phone towers, making it stronger and more reliable.

Data Plans

When choosing a cellular data plan for extended trips, it is important to consider the amount of data you will need. If you plan on using your phone for things like streaming video or music, you will need a plan with more data.

Satellite Internet

Satellite internet is another option for staying connected in remote areas. It works by sending data signals from a satellite to a receiver on the ground. Satellite internet is not as fast as cellular data, but it is more reliable in areas with no cell phone coverage.

Pros and Cons

The main advantage of satellite internet is that it is available in areas with no cell phone coverage. However, it is also the most expensive option. Satellite internet can also be slow, especially during peak times.

Wi-Fi Extenders

Wi-Fi extenders can help to extend the range of a Wi-Fi network. This can be useful if you are trying to get a signal from a distant Wi-Fi source, such as a coffee shop or hotel.

Best Practices

When using a Wi-Fi extender, it is important to position it in a central location where it can receive a strong signal from the main Wi-Fi source. You should also avoid placing the extender behind walls or other obstructions.

Here are some additional tips for staying connected in the wild:

  • Plan ahead and check the coverage maps for cell phone providers and satellite internet providers.
  • Consider using a cellular booster if you will be in an area with weak or spotty coverage.
  • Choose a data plan that meets your needs and budget.
  • Be aware of the limitations of satellite internet, such as slow speeds and high costs.
  • Use Wi-Fi extenders to extend the range of a Wi-Fi network.

By following these tips, you can stay connected even while in remote areas.

Get Out and Start BoondockingNow that you have a better understanding of what RV boondocking is and the benefits it offers, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge into action. If you’re wondering How to Start RV Boondocking for Beginners, start planning your first boondocking adventure and experience the freedom, tranquility, and cost savings that come with this unique way of exploring the great outdoor. As you gain experience, you’ll become more comfortable and confident in your boondocking skills, opening up a world of new travel opportunities and unforgettable experiences.Remember, the key to a successful boondocking experience is being prepared and respectful of both the environment and fellow travelers. By following the tips and advice shared in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to Understanding RV Boondocking for Beginners and enjoying the ultimate RV boondocking adventure.

By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your boondocking experience is safe and enjoyable for everyone.

Resources

For additional information and resources on boondocking, check out the following:

  • RV forums, like iRV2 and Escapees, where you can connect with other RVers and boondockers.
  • Mobile apps, such as Campendium, AllStays, and Boondockers Welcome, which can help you find and review boondocking sites.
  • Boondocking-related blogs and YouTube channels, where you can find valuable tips and advice from experienced boondockers.
  • The National Park Service website (https://www.nps.gov/index.htm) – The NPS is an authoritative source for information about camping and outdoor recreation, and their website has a wealth of information on camping in national parks, including boondocking.
  • The RV Industry Association website (https://www.rvia.org/) – The RV Industry Association is a trade organization that represents the RV industry, and their website has information on all aspects of RVing, including boondocking.
  • The Bureau of Land Management website (https://www.blm.gov/) – The Bureau of Land Management is a government agency that manages public lands, including many areas where boondocking is allowed. Their website has information on boondocking on public lands.

 

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