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Dry camping can be an exciting new venture for campers yet to try a more natural, off-the-grid approach. For those who want to be completely immersed in nature or prefer camping without paying a traditional campsite fee, dry camping offers some attractive benefits.
Learn about dry camping, its pros and cons, legality and safety, and take away our top tips to make your first dry camping experience a great one.
What’s the Difference Between Dry Camping and Boondocking?
Dry camping and boondocking are often used interchangeably, and while both refer to camping in an RV without hookups for water, electricity, and sewage, they aren’t the same. Dry camping is an overarching term, and boondocking is a type of dry camping that typically occurs in natural, remote areas that don’t have other infrastructure. This specific kind of dry camping is also called wild camping or stealth camping, and you can easily see why.
Dry camping, in a larger sense, refers to camping in a range of locations, which may include state park campgrounds, parking lots, recreation areas, and even a friend’s driveway or backyard. Another term commonly used is “mooch docking.”
The Pros and Cons of Dry Camping
Dry camping presents its own pros and cons to be considered before heading out on your first camping trip.
Dry camping offers fresh opportunities, fewer restrictions on what you do and where you go, and can often save you money on a campsite.
- Free: If you pick the right place, you won’t need to pay for your dry camping spot.
- Greater Access to Nature: With less access to modern amenities, you’ll feel closer to nature than ever.
- Less Restrictive: Formal campgrounds often have restrictions on where you can set up camp, but when you choose your own informal campsite, you’re free to do what you’d like and find the best spot as long as you’re following any relevant rules or laws.
- Privacy: If you’re looking to get away from it all, there’s no better option to get off the grid than with dry camping.
On the other hand, dry camping is a bit more difficult because you don’t have access to any hookups for electricity, water, etc. There’s also some gray area as to where you’re allowed to set up camp, so you’ll need to be aware of laws and local regulations.
- More Work: You’ll need to do more work before the trip to determine where you can camp and what laws are in place so you don’t do anything illegal or frowned upon.
- More Stuff: Without access to clean water or electricity hookups, you’ll need to manage these independently with more water and an off-grid power solution like a solar generator.
Is Dry Camping Safe and Legal?
Dry camping is safe as long as you know of any potential risks in the area where you’re setting up your campsite and take necessary precautions. It’s also important to know the laws and regulations in the place you plan to camp in. Some areas may have restrictions on who can camp or where, so it’s always a good idea to do your research beforehand.
To protect your wellness, pack enough water and food, bring a first aid kit, and consider the weather. You may want a heater if you’re camping in the winter or spring and a portable AC unit if it’s the summer.
You should also protect your personal safety by remaining aware of your surroundings, especially if you choose a boondocking-style dry camping strategy in areas further out from a city and deeper into nature or the backcountry. Setting up camp in the woods where bears are commonly seen means you’ll need to know what to avoid to keep bears away from your campsite and how to respond if you encounter a bear.
Make sure to protect your RV and campsite against others, especially if you’ve set yourself up in more populated areas, like retail parking lots or on the street.
Be aware of and prepared for any threats you might encounter to make sure you stay safe.
Dry Camping Legality
Dry camping is generally legal as long as you have permission from the land owner or manager to camp there. If you’re staying on public or national park land, getting approval from the state or national park service is usually all you need to get settled legally. If you’re dry camping at a friend’s house, as long as you have their permission and set up camp on their property, you’re in the clear.
The gray area of dry camping comes when picking spots like retail parking lots, etc. Many large retailers familiar with people staying in their parking lots have official statements about their stance.
For example, Walmart knows their RV-traveling customers often park overnight in their lots. Because of that, they officially allow RV parking when possible, but they leave it up to the individual store managers to decide on behalf of their location based on local laws and parking availability.
Tips to Enhance Your Dry Camping Experience
After learning all the basics about dry camping, are you ready to venture out on your first trip? Preparation is critical to ensuring a good time and avoiding common mistakes that first-timers often make. Here are a few tips to enhance your dry camping experience and make it more efficient.
Use a Portable Solar Generator
One of the biggest concerns when dry camping is how you’ll get power without access to traditional hookups. A portable solar generator like the RIVER 2 Series Solar Generators, including the RIVER 2 Pro + 220W Solar Panel, is an excellent solution for powering everything from lights and appliances to charging your phone in an off-grid setting. It’s portable, lightweight, and easy to use, making it the perfect energy solution for all your outdoor adventures.
Unlike a portable power station or RV battery, a portable solar generator can continue generating and storing new energy for you to use throughout your dry camping trip, so you can power up appliances, keep food cold, and so much more.
Another option to take your experience to the next level is a permanent installable Power Kit for your RV that offers modular electricity storage from 2kWh to 15 kWh and many customizable options.
Check if Reservations Are Required
While most dry camping spots are first-come, first-served, some may require reservations. Do your research beforehand and make sure you have all the necessary permits or reservations in place before heading out on your trip.
If not, pick the best spot and claim it! Just make sure you’re following relevant rules and laws.
Use Portable Water Containers
Without access to a clean water source, you’ll need to bring your own water. Portable water containers like water bladders or 5-gallon jugs with a spigot are an easy way to transport and store water while dry camping.
Make sure to plan and pack enough for the duration of your trip, as running out of water can be a big problem. If you don’t have space to carry all the water you’ll need, consider bringing what you need to get safe water, such as a water filtration pump and water purification tablets.
Remember that you’ll need fresh drinking water as well as water to use for the sink, shower, and toilet of your RV if you have those amenities, so bring enough water for all purposes.
Bring Gray and Black Water Storage
Just like with water, it’s essential to properly dispose of your gray and black water (wastewater from sinks, showers, and toilets) when dry camping. Some campsites may have designated dumping stations, but if not, you’ll need to store and transport your gray water for disposal elsewhere properly.
Portable waste tanks or grey water bags are convenient options for this. Come with them empty and prepare to fill them up.
Bring Fuel if Needed
If you plan on using your RV appliances like the stove or you have a small camping stove, make sure to bring a full propane or butane tank. You can also use portable propane tanks for smaller appliances like grills or lanterns. Keep an eye on your usage and have extra tanks if you run out.
Bringing fuel isn’t always necessary, especially if you have electric appliances that you can power up with your solar generator.
Prepare to Adjust Your Lifestyle
Dry camping may require some adjustments to your usual lifestyle. For example, without access to standard hookups, you may need to limit your use of electronics and appliances or switch to more energy-efficient options.
You may also need to be mindful of water usage and conserve it when possible. You won’t have access to the many amenities you’re used to at home, like microwaving your food when it gets cold or running a dishwasher at night. But with some planning and preparation, you can still enjoy all the comforts of RV living while dry camping.
Take this as an opportunity to enjoy the adjustment of your daily habits. Start your day with a cup of coffee outside the RV to enjoy the views, shower only when necessary, and light up the campfire for warmth. It’s all part of the dry camping experience.
Ask For Permission When Necessary
As mentioned, getting permission from the landowner or manager is crucial for dry camping. If you’re unsure about who owns the property, make sure to ask around and obtain permission from whoever holds the authority. Doing so will help ensure a peaceful and enjoyable experience for you and the landowner.
Research Local Laws
Each state may have different laws regarding dry camping, so it’s essential to research and understand them before you embark on your trip. Some cities may also have their own regulations, so check those. Breaking local laws can result in fines or other consequences, so it’s always best to know and follow the rules.
Don’t Fully Set Up in Parking Lots
While it may seem convenient to fully set up camp in a retail parking lot for the night, it’s not recommended. If you’re staying the night in a parking lot, it’s not the place to set up your camp chairs and make yourself at home. Stay for the night, keep your things inside, then pack up and head out in the morning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Dry Camping the Same as Tent Camping?
No, dry camping is different from tent camping in that RVs or motorhomes are typically used for dry camping, while tent camping usually involves setting up a traditional tent. Dry camping also often refers to camping in remote or off-grid locations without access to conventional hookups like water and electricity.
Dry camping can be a fun and rewarding experience for RV enthusiasts who enjoy getting off the beaten path and exploring nature. While it comes with cons, like some gray area around where you’re legally allowed to camp and a need to pack more stuff, it also provides you with privacy, less restriction, more access to nature, and can often save you money on campsites.
With the insight and tips shared above, consider the RIVER 2 Pro + 220W Solar Panel to ensure a smooth and comfortable dry camping trip. Remember to plan, be prepared, and always respect the land and local laws.