As a full-time RVer I’m sure you’re looking for a few solid RV Boondocking tips to make your trips a bit easier and more enjoyable, right? After all, most of do this as a way to relax! Let’s remove some of the stress of boondocking.
RV boondocking: What Is It?
While boondocking is often done on public lands in undeveloped camping areas, many National and State Park campgrounds do not provide water, electricity, or sewer hookups. Thus, it is important to know how to boondock, or camp without hookups, no matter where you go camping. Don’t fill your holding tanks too quickly, conserve fresh water, and conserve power when boondocking. In the absence of a water hookup, you will have to use your RV’s fresh water tank. Your grey and black water tanks will also need to be monitored. The last thing you need is a way to keep your RV batteries charged, allowing you to fire up your generator as little as possible.
RV Boondocking Tips: Before You Hit The Road
Several of the things you can do to enhance your boondocking experience happen before you even go leave home.
Invest in an RV that facilitates boondocking
Not all RVs are created equal. While it is possible to boondock with most RVs, some are better suited to it than others. While you might think that you need to buy an RV that already has a robust solar system in place, remember that adding solar to an RV is a relatively simple process, but things like swapping out your smaller holding tanks for larger ones can be much more challenging. It is important to look for RVs with larger fresh and waste water tanks. For example, many fifth wheel RVs have fresh water tanks that can hold 100-gallons, along with gray and black water tanks that can hold 75 gallons (that’s a lot of poop!). Depending on how many people are camping with you and how careful you are with your water usage, that could last up to two weeks!
Practice Conserving Water in Preparation for Boondocking with Your RV
Before your first boondocking trip, start to practice the fine are of water conservation. While at an RV part, try keeping your black and gray tank tanks closed and using your fresh water tanks before your first actual boondocking experience. See how long you can make it last! Make a game of it. Practicing helps you estimate how much water and tank space you go through and how quickly. This will help you prepare a boondocking trip of appropriate length if you run out of either. Speaking of water, make sure your freshwater tank is full before you arrive at your boondocking destination. Due to RV weight concerns, driving around with a full tank all the time probably isn’t a great idea (especially with the cost of gas, every little bit helps!), but you should find a gas station or some other location near your boondocking destination and fill up before arriving. Also, it’s a good idea to make sure you have portable water jugs or bags so you can refill your RV without moving it. 5-gallon jugs can work well and collapsible jugs or water bags are simple ways to refill your water tank without moving your RV. If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, consider something larger. Remember, though – water’s heavy! Make sure to get a cart of something with wheels to make transportation easier. When not in use, these options are easy to store. To quickly and easily transfer water from jugs to your RV tank without lifting, consider using a cheap, simple drill pump.
Tips for Filling Your Freshwater Tank While Boondocking
Use a few dedicated, refillable jugs for your drinking water to avoid depleting your freshwater tank. By separating your drinking water from your fresh water tank, you can extend the life of your fresh water tank while boondocking. Try to avoid bottled water, as the packing is terrible for the environment. Instead opt for a refillable, foodsafe storage containers.
Start with empty grey and black water tanks
You’ll want to find an RV dump station to empty your RV grey water and black water tanks before you start boondocking. It’s especially important because level readers are notoriously unreliable for grey and black water. Unexpectedly filling these tanks will not only smell bad but will likely ruin your day plans if you have to leave to dump them. Pro Tip: Get a portable waste water disposal tank so you can dump grey and black water without moving your RV Having a portable waste tank with you can help you avoid having to leave camp when your tanks run out. When you are in a campground with a dump station, you can hook these to your vehicle bumper trailer hitch and easily pull it to the dump station without moving the RV. A few more tips – somre more obvious than others:
- When boondocking, wash out/rinse between each use.
- Don’t dump waste water on the ground! Gross!
Before boondocking, take out the trash!
While most campgrounds have easily accessible garbage disposal facilities, many boondocking spots require you to bring everything you bring in, including garbage, out when you boondock. Pack-in, pack-out, as they say! Make sure you leave enough room for garbage that accumulates while you’re boondocking by unloading all existing garbage before you arrive at your campsite.
>Fill up on Fuel (propane, gas, etc)
When camping without electricity hookups, propane is a great way (and sometimes the only way) to cook, cool your RV fridge, heat water for showers, and keep your RV warm. Running out of propane while RV boondocking can severely limit appliance functionality. If you plan to use a generator, fill a few gasoline jugs, too. In cases when solar panels aren’t enough to charge up your RV batteries, generators are the backup…but only if you have gasoline to run the generator.
Start small! Plan a Few short boondocking trips, first
Even if you practiced at a campground with your tanks closed, you might still want to start with shorter boondocking trips. Your boondocking trips will get longer and longer as you become more comfortable and confident.
RV Boondocking Tips – In the Kitchen
Pre-wash fruits and vegetables
While boondocking, you can conserve water by pre-washing vegetables and fruits. You also prevent that water from entering your grey water tank.
Prepare and freeze meals
You will be able to reduce the amount of water you need to use to clean up after meals by preparing meals that can be easily reheated while boondocking.
Make one-pot meals to reduce dishwashing
Invest in ingredients for one-pot meals. Again, fewer dirty dishes mean less water wasted on cleaning and less water going into your greywater system.
Off-Grid RV Boondocking Tips For Conserving Water
You can conserve water in your kitchen and shower when you are boondocking off-grid. Here are our RV boondocking tips:
Use water-efficient RV kitchen faucets
Turn the water on only when you are rinsing the dishes. Turn it off when you are scrubbing or laying dishes on a drying rack. Do not let the faucet run constantly.
Upgrading your RV kitchen faucet to one with an efficient spray flow can help.
In RV kitchens, we also recommend touch faucets. The “touch” switch makes setting the desired stream power and temperature super easy. The quick on/off response of the touch technology makes it so we save more water by not having to find the right flow and temperature every time we turn it back on.
Dishwashing in an RV
Use a smaller basin to collect sink water for washing
Try using a smaller basin or bowl instead of your sink to wash dishes. You’ll get the same results with less water.
Don’t flush captured sink water down the drain, instead toss it out
The RV grey water tank is often the most restrictive of the three tanks, so if you toss the water outside instead of into it, you can extend your stay. Sink water remains in the fresh water tank, but it does not necessarily need to go into the grey tank. You shouldn’t dump grey tank water on the ground, but small amounts of dishwater captured before the tank shouldn’t harm anything, as long as you’re using biodegradable soaps. Keep in mind though, it’s best to dump the dishwater away from your campsite, as the dishwater may contain small pieces of food particles that’ll attract wildlife.
Wipe down dishes quickly rather than letting food dry on them.
Trying to clean dishes with dried food on them is difficult. If you can clean or wipe the dishes down while they are still “fresh,” it will be much easier. Once food has dried on them, dishes may require more water to clean.
Showering in an RV – Water Saving Tips
Utilize shower water for flushing the toilet and soaking dishes
Occasionally, when you first turn on the RV shower, it will take a few seconds for the water to get hot. All of the cool water will go to waste unless you catch it. As long as you keep in mind that dumping extra water into your black tank will result in it filling faster, you can either let this water run outside or you can use it for other purposes. Common uses include soaking stubborn dirty dishes and flushing the toilet.
Make sure your showerhead is water-efficient
Ideally, RV showerheads should have good pressure without using a lot of water. Oxygenics is a popular model among water-conscious RVers because it produces low GPMs. Air is added to the flow of water in these showerheads to increase water pressure.
When showering, use the showerhead shut-off valves
When not actively rinsing, use the showerhead shut-off valves to stop water flow completely in the shower. This saves a tremendous amount of water compared to leaving the shower running all the time. Remember: Boondocking isn’t the time to take long, luxurious hot showers.
Taking a shower somewhere else
Gyms, truck stops, or state parks are often good places to pay for a shower. You could even use a simple pop-up outdoor shower tent and a small solar shower bag.
Shower and do dishes at the same time
When you shower and do dishes at the same time each day, you’ll only need to heat up your RV water heater once per day, which saves water with your dishes and propane with your water heater.
Tips for RV boondocking waste management – Managing your Gray and Black tanks
You can also slow the filling of your RV’s black water tank by doing some things. Reduce the number of times your RV toilet flushes – remember, if it’s yellow, let it mellow and if it’s brown, flush it down! You can save water by not flushing every time you urinate and slow the rate at which your black tank fills.
Reduce the length of your RV toilet’s flushes
It is important to know the difference between a short and long flush. If you hold down the toilet flush pedal, water will continue to drain into your black tank.
Replace your gravity-fed RV toilet with a composting toilet (or another dry toilet).
Composting toilets use no water or black tanks, which eliminates the sewage smell and allows you to use your black tank for grey water storage as well.
Make sure garbage is stored in an area that is wildlife-proof
You should use a wildlife-proof spot to store garbage accumulated during your stay to avoid attracting animals. If animals find your garbage bag, they can make a real mess of your campsite.
Off-Grid RV Boondocking – Power / Electricity Tips
In our final category of boondocking tips, we discuss off-grid power sources. Generators and solar power are common power sources when camping without hookups. Battery anxiety is real and can be avoided by managing your power consumption, battery charging, and generator usage strategically. Boondocking isn’t much fun if you’re constantly struggling with power deficits, or if you’re listening to a generator running 24/7. These tips will help you out:
Don’t park near other campers to avoid annoying them with your generator
You should avoid parking too close to others if you are running a generator or not. The goal of going to a remote location is to relax and enjoy nature. And the constant buzz of another generator (or your own!) doesn’t help.
When not in use, turn off lights and unplug electronics.
To make sure your batteries aren’t draining without your knowledge, unplugging things that aren’t being used and turning off lights when their not needed can go a long way. Speaking of lights, consider upgrading your RV to LED lights. This will significantly reduce your lighting power usage.
Cook on a gas range instead of an electric range
To save electricity, use the propane range in your RV instead of an electric appliance. Or better yet, cook outdoors using a propane or charcoal grill! If you have a generator or adequate solar power during the day, use your electric appliances. Once the sun goes down (or doesn’t come up), use your propane appliances.
Keeping Cool, or Warm, in your RV
In cold climates, you can close up the windows early in the morning to retain the warmth of the day. In hot climates, you can leave the windows open overnight to let the cool night air in and close them up early the following morning. You may want to look into double pane RV windows and see if they’re worth the investment for your situation.
Instead of running the furnace, use low-power electric blankets to stay warm
Even though heated blankets are electric, they use far less energy than running your furnace to heat your RV in cold weather.
Consider where you park in relation to the sun
There are usually more windows on one side of your RV than the other. Parking your RV in a certain direction will increase or decrease the amount of sunlight and radiant heat coming into your RV. Aside from where your RV fridge is located and how much sun it gets, you should also consider how much sun it gets on its compartment. If it gets too warm and sunny, your RV fridge might not be able to keep its temperature.
If you have solar panels on your RV, park it to maximize their efficiency
If you have solar panels installed or portable solar panels, you should park somewhere with ample sunlight. If you’re parked in the shade, they won’t work. Aside from simply parking in the sun, you’ll need to take into account the angle of the sun as well. You’ll want to be able to tilt your tilting panels towards the sun if you have tilting panels. Our fifth wheel has solar panels on the front cap, so in the winter, we point our RV toward the south.
Solar panels can be used to supplement a generator
If you rely on a generator for all of your off-grid power, consider adding some portable solar panels. It’s amazing how much power these little systems can generate! Even a small solar suitcase can top off batteries and reduce the amount of time spent running and listening to your generator.
Rotate portable solar panels throughout the day to chase the sun’s rays
The best way to get the most from portable solar panels is to rotate them occasionally to follow the sun’s position throughout the day. Direct sunlight is best for solar power. Even shifting them just 2-3 times a day can drastically increase their power output. This does not have to be done every 15 minutes.
Upgrade your RV batteries from lead-acid to lithium-ion to increase energy storage capacity.
Switching to lithium-ion batteries in your RV is probably the best way to reduce generator run-time and increase power capacity when boondocking.