Boondocking: How to Camp Without Hookups

You’ve probably heard a lot about boondocking–camping without hookups–and wondered why anyone would want to camp where there were no water, sewage, or electrical connections. All modern RVs have been manufactured to be independent of these appendages that hook them up to land-based resources. All RVs have a holding tank for fresh water, and most of the time two holding tanks for waste, one from the toilet and one from the shower and sinks. They also have a house battery or batteries to supply 12-volt electricity to the RV and a generator to produce electrical power to the 120-volt and 12-volt systems, and to recharge the batteries. Camping without these hookups opens up many more possibilities on the vast natural areas and public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Forest Service (FS) for enjoying your RV lifestyle. First, though, you have to get comfortable with camping without hookups, which limits your amount of drinking water, battery electricity, and waste disposal capacity. Here are seven ways to conserve your natural resources and transition from hookups to boondocking.

  1. Start off by boondocking for just one or two nights at a campground that does not have hookups, and won’t tax your onboard systems. But to go longer than that you need to learn some conservation techniques and alter some wasteful habits.
  2. Conserve your fresh water supply by taking Navy showers-rinse down, turnoff water, soap up, rinse off. Wash your hands the same way. Filling your gray water tank is one of the more limiting factors in how long you can boondock, so prevent as much waste water from entering the tank as you can.
  3. When washing dishes, use a small bowl of soapy water. Rinse dishes in a tub of water, rather than under a running faucet. Wipe food off your dishes before washing. Use a small bowl of soapy water to wash and a plastic tub of water for rinsing. With a little practice you will be surprised at how much water you previously wasted.
  4. Carry extra Jerry jugs or gallon containers of water to dump in your tank when your pump starts sucking air.
  5. To conserve electricity so that your house batteries last as long as possible, turn off lights, TV, radio, porch light, computers and any other electrical appliances or tools when they are not being used. Use rechargeable battery operated book lights for reading.
  6. If you need to use a 120-volt appliance like the microwave, blender, or coffee grinder, or your battery-draining water pump, schedule using these in the same block of time while running the generator, which will power them directly without pulling amps out of your batteries.
  7. To find public land boondocking campsites, stop at ranger stations and visitor centers upon entering public lands and ask about “dispersed camping” areas. Find public lands on state maps that show recreational lands. Most roads to these sites will be dirt but were built solidly for logging and cattle trucks and fire-fighting equipment and most should be suitable for RVs.

For more information as well as RVing tips and destinations visit my Healthy RVLifestyle website or check out my eBook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, a complete manual on boondocking.