It’s no secret that boondocking is our favorite way to camp. There’s nothing like finding a remote spot (or even a not-so-remote spot) that not only offers the best of the natural world as your living room but is also free! But many people find the idea of boondocking intimidating, and we can understand that. After nearly two decades as full-time RVers (with a majority of that time spent boondocking), we’ve got some experience under our belts, so today we’re offering 27 boondocking tips that we hope will entice some of our fellow RVers to get out there and give boondocking a try.
- 1) What Is Boondocking?
- 2) 27 Boondocking Tips to Extend Your Stay
- 3) Food Boondocking Tips
Water Boondocking Tips
- 4.1) Fill Your Fresh Water Tank
- 4.2) Empty Your Gray and Black Water Tanks
- 4.3) Conserve Water By Not Letting Faucets Run Unnecessarily
- 4.4) Use a Basin When Washing Dishes and Toss the Water Outside or Use It to Flush the Toilet
- 4.5) Use Paper Towels to Wipe Food From Pots/Pans Before Washing
- 4.6) Use Paper Plates & Cups
- 4.7) Catch Shower Water To Bring It Up To Temperature, Then Use It Later
- 4.8) Use a Composting Toilet or Dry Toilet
- 4.9) Use a Blue Boy to Dump Gray & Black Tanks
- 4.10) Use a Water Bladder to Bring Extra Water
- 4.11) Take Navy Showers and Outdoor Showers
- 4.12) Use a Water Conserving Showerhead with a Shut-Off Valve
- 4.13) Bring Extra Drinking Water
- 4.14) Flush Less
- 5) Power Boondocking Tips
- 6) Garbage Boondocking Tips
- 7) Do You Have Additional Boondocking Tips to Share?
What Is Boondocking?
Boondocking is a term used to describe camping without hookups. This means no connection to shore power, sewer, or city water.
Boondocking is camping off the grid. Whatever you’re carrying with you in terms of portable power, water, and sewer is what you have to work with. That generally means conserving in all of those categories, but it’s not as challenging as you may think. And we can’t think of anything more worth the effort.
And if we can do it in the 43-foot diesel pusher where we live and work full-time, then we think you can do it, too.
Trust us – the peace, tranquility, and (often) incredibly star-filled night skies are well worth the effort to get out and enjoy them.
So, in an effort to encourage you to try boondocking, we offer the following 27 boondocking tips to help you to extend your stay off the grid, or, better yet – on nature’s “grid”.
27 Boondocking Tips to Extend Your Stay
We’ve placed the following tips into the categories of Food, Water, Power, and Garbage (yes, garbage), in an effort to keep them organized for you.
We welcome any of our readers with boondocking experience to add more tips in the comments section. We’d love to know what works well for you.
Without further ado, here are our 27 boondocking tips to help you to spend more time living in nature.
Food Boondocking Tips
Prepare Food/Meals In Advance
Prior to a boondocking trip, do as much meal planning and preparation as possible in advance. This helps from a number of perspectives.
First, it allows you to make your grocery shopping list so that you’ll have everything on hand for the duration of your trip. If you pre-plan your meals and create your grocery list in accordance with those plans, you’ll have everything you need onboard, and not find yourself lacking something you need.
Second, it helps you to save time and resources such as water when your meals are pre-planned and prepared in advance.
Pre-wash Vegetables and Fruits
In conjunction with the advanced meal prep, pre-washing your vegetables and fruits ahead of your boondocking trip (i.e. when you return from the grocery store and are either at home or hooked up at a campground or RV park) makes a whole lot of sense.
This tip represents a tremendous water conservation technique that ultimately allows you to save the water in your freshwater tank for things like showers (see below!), cooking, and drinking… and keeps all of that water out of your gray tank!
Fill Your Propane Tank
Make sure to top off your propane tank(s) before you head out on your boondocking trip. Depending on your setup, propane is likely consumed whenever you use your furnace, water heater, or when you cook in your RV. Speaking of which…
Cook On a Grill
If you pre-plan to cook meals on a grill, you’ll save water because it reduces the number of pots and pans you’ll use and thus need to wash.
Cooking outside on a grill can also keep your RV’s interior cooler, reducing the need to run vent fans and/or the air conditioner, both of which consume power.
Water Boondocking Tips
Fill Your Fresh Water Tank
Be absolutely sure to fill your fresh water tank as close to your arrival at your boondocking spot as possible. This ensures that you’ll be carrying the maximum amount of water you can, thus extending the time you’ll be able to stay out without needing to break camp to find more water.
Empty Your Gray and Black Water Tanks
Empty your gray water tank and black water tank before you head out to your boondocking spot, leaving the maximum amount of room possible in those tanks.
Conserve Water By Not Letting Faucets Run Unnecessarily
We should all be doing this anyway, but old habits are hard to break. Once you establish this habit as a boondocker attempting to conserve water, you’ll find that even when you have an endless supply of water available, you’ll (hopefully) opt to not run your faucets unnecessarily.
Some examples of this would be while washing dishes, brushing your teeth, or even washing your hands. Every drop that runs down your drain represents less water in your fresh water tank and more water filling your gray water tank!
Use a Basin When Washing Dishes and Toss the Water Outside or Use It to Flush the Toilet
We almost didn’t include this one (because you can’t use it all the time), but in some instances it makes sense. Because dishwater contains food particles, it’s best not to toss it outside, because it can attract animals. And, in fact, there are places that restrict this practice due to the fact that even the slightest smell of food can attract animals to your campsite.
But, if you’re in a spot where this isn’t an issue, go ahead and use your collected dishwater to water a plant or tree… spreading the water out as much as is practical to help it absorb quickly (also, remember to only use environmentally safe, biodegradable soaps).
- MADE WITH ORGANIC OILS & CERTIFIED FAIR TRADE INGREDIENTS: Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Liquid Soaps are made with over 90% organic ingredients. Over...
- ORGANIC & FAIR TRADE PALM KERNEL OIL: Grown by fairly-paid smallholder farmers in Ecuador to ensure sustainable harvesting techniques that won't...
However, our next tip helps to remove the food particles and really minimize any food smells, so pay close attention to this one.
Use Paper Towels to Wipe Food From Pots/Pans Before Washing
If you use a paper towel or napkin to wipe the food out of pots and pans (or plates, etc.) prior to washing them, not only will you use less water, but you’ll be removing the food as noted in the previous tip, so that if you want to toss the dishwater outside, you can (provided you’re boondocking in an area that allows it).
Use Paper Plates & Cups
While we generally try to avoid disposable single-use items like paper plates, we do trade some paper usage for water savings when we’re on extended boondocking trips. Using paper plates and cups when you’re boondocking means less dishwashing and more water conservation.
If you buy plates and cups that are actually all paper (no plastic), it also means less garbage because you can use them to start your campfire.
Catch Shower Water To Bring It Up To Temperature, Then Use It Later
When you start your shower and run the water up to bring it to your desired temperature, all that water runs down the drain. As noted above, every drop that runs down the drain goes into your gray water tank.
We keep a plastic 1-gallon pitcher in our bathroom to collect that “bring to temp” water, and we use it later to flush the toilet. You could also use the water to wash dishes, but only use as much as you need for either job. Remember – water down the toilet fills your black tank and water down the drain fills your gray tank. (Have we drilled that tip sufficiently yet?)
Use a Composting Toilet or Dry Toilet
Speaking of toilets, we have friends who installed a composting toilet in their rig and they love it. That’s an option for some people, especially those who do a lot of boondocking. A composting toilet uses no water at all, thus saving your water supply and extending the duration of time you can stay out.
Another option is to use a “dry toilet” which catches (whatever would go into the toilet) in a plastic bag instead. This method is often used by boondockers in smaller vans that don’t have toilets, but you can also do this using the toilet that’s built into your RV. You’d simply drain the toilet, place the bag in the toilet, and close the toilet seat, thus holding the bag to the rim of the toilet.
The bag requires something like pine pellets (a large bag is very inexpensive at Walmart and other big box stores and the pellets are reportedly extremely absorbent of both liquids and smells), or kitty litter or coco coir, etc. Just remember that you’ll want to be prepared to store the used bags until you get to a proper place to dump them.
Here’s Walmart’s link to a product called Feline Pine. Don’t buy it from Amazon! WAAAAY too expensive from Mr. Bezos!
This tip isn’t for everyone (heck, it’s not even for us!), but many people do this and it certainly does conserve water, so we’d be remiss not to mention it.
Pro tip: (Not from us but we read it online) – Trash compactor bags are apparently great for holding your used “toilet bags” because they’re very thick and unlikely to smell.
Additional tip: installing a composting toilet means your black tank is no longer being used. If your black & gray tanks empty through the same outlet (common on motorhomes, but some towables have them separated), you can add a twist-on blade valve to the outlet. This allows you to open the black and gray valves, draining water from the gray tank into the black.
Phew! It took a long time to explain that one. Moving right along…
Use a Blue Boy to Dump Gray & Black Tanks
A “blueboy” is a portable tank that some people carry to dump their gray and black tanks into, making room in their onboard gray and black tanks.
You can read the details about this product in our post entitled “3 Best Portable RV Dump Tanks (or Blue Boys)”.
Use a Water Bladder to Bring Extra Water
A water bladder is a storage container for extra water. They come in all sizes and shapes.
They can be as small as this:
- FOOD-GRADE ODORLESS GREAT TASTE: PE plastic made with highest quality USA raw material. Environmentally friendly non-toxic, No BPA PVC or DEHP, No...
- LIGHT, COMPACT, PORTABLE AND REUSABLE Foldable space saving design store away easily. Remains soft and flexible even when cold yet retains shape and...
Or as large as this:
- THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD FOR THE RV OWNER" Sick and tired of stretching hoses while you're out boondocking? Don't go dry camping without...
- DECEPTIVELY TOUGH!" Our AQUATANK-2 systems have state-of-the-art material that is thinner and lighter than any rubber bladder but much stronger than...
This one is a 15-gallon bladder, but you can buy water bladders as large as 300 gallons if you can carry them. They generally need to be carried (and filled) in the bed of a truck. Just remember that one gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds. So 300 gallons is over 2,500 pounds! Another cool thing is that you can leave camp in the truck, refill the water bladder, and return to camp.
You can use an extra water pump or an inexpensive drill pump like this to move the water from the water bladder to your fresh water tank using your water hose:
- Drill Pump will not turn by hand, it must be chucked to the drill
- Drill Pump must be mounted for proper usage, do not hold in hand
You can read more about water bladders in our post entitled “What Is an RV Water Bladder?”
A Navy shower is a water-saving technique used by – you guessed it – sailors — to conserve fresh water aboard ships.
Essentially, you get yourself wet, turn off the water and soap up, then turn the water back on to rinse yourself off.
If you’re using the shower inside your RV, remember that water down the drain is water in your gray tank. To prevent adding water to your gray tank, you can use your outdoor shower. Just be sure to use environmentally friendly biodegradable soap.
Learn more about outdoor showers in our two recent posts, “Is an RV Outdoor Shower Worth Having?, and “Components of a DIY RV Outdoor Shower Kit”.
Use a Water Conserving Showerhead with a Shut-Off Valve
You can also conserve water by using a water-conserving showerhead with a shut-off valve that enables you to turn the water off when you’re soaping up or washing your hair as noted in the “Navy shower” tip.
The Oxygenics showerheads are well-known throughout the RV community as showerheads that offer the feeling of a stronger stream while still conserving water. Oxygenics offers a number of different showerheads. This is one that includes a built-in shutoff:
- Powerful Oxygenic setting amplifies existing water pressure and widens coverage
- Easily control the flow of water with the push of a button. This results in more pressure, less water use, and more savings.
Bring Extra Drinking Water
This tip is similar to the water bladder tip but refers specifically to drinking water. If you want to save the water in your fresh water tank for showering and cleaning dishes and hands, etc., you can bring containers of dedicated drinking water. You can also carry extra drinking water just in case your fresh water tank runs dry!
Using BPA-free water containers is better for the environment than buying bottled water.
Here we can’t help but quote the late great poet Don T. Flush, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”
We can’t improve on Don’s poetic license, so we’ll leave it at that.
Power Boondocking Tips
Upgrade to LED Lights
Upgrading to LED lights was one of our first boondocking tips. It will save LOTS of power. Lots and lots. This is an effort and an investment well worth your while.
To learn more about just how helpful making this transition in your RV can be, feel free to check out our posts ”Why Replace Your Factory-Installed RV LED Lights?” and “RV LED Lights Technology: Everything You Need to Know”.
And you can see all of our posts and videos about upgrading to LED lights for more information and guidance.
Use Your Smartphone or Tablet Instead of a Laptop/Desktop Computer
A desktop/laptop computer uses and requires significantly more energy to recharge than a smartphone or a tablet. Use your smartphone or tablet as often as possible instead of your laptop to save power.
Upgrade to Lithium Batteries
If you can swing it, an upgrade to lithium batteries is worth the investment. Lithium batteries can be fully discharged without damage, unlike lead-acid batteries. This means that their rated capacity is fully usable. A lithium battery provides nearly twice the usable amp-hours as a lead-acid battery rated at the same capacity.
Find all the details and then some in our post, “Are RV Lithium Batteries Worth It?”
Use a Portable Solar Generator
Portable solar generators are a great way to harness the power of the sun to keep your devices charged. They’re available in a wide range of capacities (and prices), but in essence, they’re an entire solar system in a box (plus a solar panel).
A portable solar generator contains a battery, a solar charge controller, an inverter, and a variety of ports including USB-A, USB-C, and 120V. A portable solar panel can be purchased to charge the battery (as long as there’s sun!), and you can continually use the solar generator to charge your devices.
If you’re interested in solar generators, read more about five of the best RV solar generators and five of the best portable solar panels.
Fill Gas Container(s) for Your Portable Generator
If you carry a gas-powered portable generator, be sure to bring a container or two of gas to keep your portable generator running when you need it.
- Thumb button control for precise pouring
- 7/8-inch funnel spout fills even the smallest equipment
Garbage Boondocking Tips
Dump Your Garbage Prior to Boondocking
Clean your RV and dump all of your garbage prior to setting out to your boondocking location. The last thing you need is to be carrying more garbage than is necessary. Not only does it take up room you may need for other supplies, but odors may attract unwanted (or dangerous) guests to your secluded campsite.
Burn Paper Plates & Cups as Kindling
This boondocking tip is perfect for those who love campfires. Noted in tip #10 as a way to conserve water, paper plates and cups can be used as kindling to get your campfires going, and also take care of some of your garbage. Try to burn only paper – no plastic or anything that might contain oils. Paper cups, paper plates, paper napkins.
Use a Trasharoo or Similar Container for Garbage
Remember to bring along something in which to carry the garbage you accumulate while boondocking. We like to use a couple of thick plastic bins with tightly fitting lids. These are widely available everywhere.
Those of you with a spare tire or a ladder attached to the rear of your rig may be interested in a rear-carry bag like the Trasharoo. These will carry up to 50 pounds of trash and can be lined with a garbage bag or trash compactor bag for easy disposal when you get back to town. They’re weather-resistant and have drainage holes. We have friends who use this product (and love it) for everything from wet fishing gear, wet swimsuits or shoes, to trash.
- TREAD LIGHTLY - You can haul away all the trash you accumulate in a weekend and maybe even make the trails a littler cleaner as you go.
- HIGH QUALITY - Made from high quality 900 denier canvas with wide buckles and a heavy-duty attachment to your existing external spare tire.
Bear in mind, however, that lots of trash left outside can attract animals. This is why we prefer to use plastic bins which we keep in a storage area of our rig. We also realize that we’ve got more storage in a 43-foot motorhome than lots of people have.
So, carry it however you can, but be absolutely sure to always CARRY YOUR GARBAGE OUT. Leave no trace.
Pro Boondocking Tip!
Try Boondocking While at a Campground But Don’t Hook Up!
That’s right – practice! Go to a campground, but don’t hook up. Check out the video to see what we mean. It’s a great way to get your feet wet… sort of like training wheels for boondocking!
If you’ve got some boondocking experience and some additional tips to share, feel free to do so in the comments section. We’ll go first! Here are “The 11 Best Ways to Find RV Boondocking Spots”!
Geek Out With Us Every Week
Join our newsletter to learn about all things RV-related. Every week we offer free tips, tricks, product reviews, and more to our online community of RVers. So, whether this is your first time on the road or you’re a seasoned expert, we’d love for you to geek out with us!
Sunday 13th of March 2022
RE: Pine Pellets Last summer I experimented with pine pellets in my Bucket Loo; they failed to absorb any of my urine so I don't recommend using them. I then tried clumping kitty litter since I travel with a cat, and that worked okay.
Sunday 13th of March 2022
Thanks for the info!
Friday 21st of January 2022
We just purchased an rv so I’m really dumb about boondocking. What about the frig when generators have quiet hours? Can your food stay cold all night long without running the generator?
Friday 21st of January 2022
Congratulations on your new RV, Beth! Very excited for you... and there's no such thing as being "dumb" about anything related to RVing... it's simply adventures waiting to happen, including the learning part.
RVs typically have one of two types of refrigerators. The first is an ordinary household fridge, just like you'd find in the average home. Those are usually more common in somewhat larger or more high-end rigs, and are referred to as "Residential" refrigerators. They run off 120-volt electricity only, just like in a house, so when used off the grid they require at least a fairly substantial battery bank to power them, which is often fed by a decent-size bank of solar panels. That's the set-up we have.
More common is what's typically called an "RV refrigerator" that can run off either electricity (when hooked up to shore power or when a generator is running) or propane (when you're off the grid boondocking). It may seem counterintuitive that a fridge can COOL by burning propane, but it actually works! And they use very little propane, and only the smallest amount of 12-volt power for the electronics that control it.
There are pros and cons to both, but they both keep food cool all the time, whether hooked up or boondocking. Hope this helps!
Thursday 20th of January 2022
Hi, Never have boon docked before, but it sure sounds like I'd enjoy it a lot more than sharing a campground with a bunch of thoughtless people. Do I need to have a firearm of some sort for protection? Thank you.
Thursday 20th of January 2022
Hi Steve! It’s not uncommon for those who have not spent time out in the middle of nowhere to have the impression that being all alone might be dangerous. Quite the contrary, it’s PEOPLE that create the danger. Since there’s nobody out there, with the possible exception of a few other RVers, we never feel safer than when we’re out in the boonies.
Tuesday 18th of January 2022
There's a terrific product called AloeVesta which comes as a foaming liquid cleanser. It can be bought in any drug store as a personal cleansing product. It requires no rinsing, is not perfumed, leaves no sticky film, and is gentle on your skin. It's not inexpensive, but it's a wonderful alternative to a shower if your water supply is limited. A wet washcloth is a great way to apply and rinse, if you'd like.
Tuesday 18th of January 2022
So its 10:PM, 70 degrees and humid outside which means its 80+ degrees in the bedroom. How do you sleep boon-docking without running a generator for A/C all night?
Tuesday 18th of January 2022
I always carry a couple of battery operated fans that will plug in to a 12 volt receptacle. Open windows and vents, and power up your fans. Try for cross ventilation, and you'll be surprised how comfortable you can be.