I’ve met many RVers who are boondocking full time, only occasionally going into an RV park. While RVs are designed with campgrounds in mind, with hook ups for electricity, water and sewer, they can function nearly as well when parked out ‘in the boonies’. If your dream is to boondock out in the beauty of nature, you’ll want to keep the following seven tips in mind.
#1) Check the Road Before You Take Your Rig In: While RVs are designed to be “self contained”, they are not built for serious off road use. (If your goal is to go deep off the grid, then your choice should be a 4×4 truck camper, or a small, lightweight trailer, with good ground clearance, pulled by a 4×4). You can check into an RV park in the boondocking area you are interested in, and take your car or truck to check out potential boondocking spots, or, walk in to take a look. The roads should be solid, not sandy or muddy, and free of deep tire ruts. And you should be able to turn your rig out of any boondocking spots you find. If you are dependent on solar, there should be sun.
#2) Don’t Invade Anyone’s Space: Other RVers you see out in a boondocking area are there for the same reason you are; they want to get into nature, and away from people. This isn’t an RV park, so don’t pull in next to another camper, and expect a warm welcome, because you are not likely to receive one. Other boondockers aren’t hostile, they just don’t want you invading their territory. Park a comfortable distance away, and let them have the same privacy you came out here for. Also, don’t invade anyone’s space with loud music, or running a generator all day and night. Boondockers like their quiet.
#3) Take Quick Showers and Use Paper Plates: Water is precious when you are boondocking, and while we all love to just stand in a nice, hot shower to relax, that isn’t a luxury you will have while boondocking. Get in the shower, soap up, rinse off, and get out as quickly as you can. Also, you probably don’t need to shower every day, so get used to being a little grubby!
Washing uses a lot more water than you think; rather than using your dinnerware, use paper plates which can be thrown into the campfire, rather than washing them in the sink. Also, you can save what dish water you do have for flushing the toilet, and you can tap off some gray water into a bucket for drowning the campfire.
#4) Utilize Natural Air Conditioning: Boondocking means you need to be as efficient as possible. You can turn to your RV air conditioner on when you really need it, but try to use nature’s air conditioning, cool night air, to bring the rig down to a comfortable temperature. Leave a window and your ceiling vents open to catch the breeze.
You can also heat shield your RV windows with Reflectix; Reflectix is a type of silver bubble wrap, which reflects the heat of the sun away, and insulates the windows. It can reduce the temperature by 5 degrees. Also, if you are running on solar, and are boondocking in a dry climate with low humidity, a portable evaporative cooler takes very few watts to run, unlike the roof air conditioner, and can easily operate on solar.
#5) Pack It In, Pack It Out: You probably won’t have a dumpster like you would when staying at an RV park or state park campground. Instead, need to store all of your own waste, so it can be properly disposed of after you leave.
Keep trash inside to prevent wild animals from getting into it, and never leave it behind when you head out. You can keep the trash in the back of the tow car, or in a solid, sealed container in the back of the truck, or a compartment on the outside of the RV. Just be aware before you leave, you need a secure place to keep your trash.
You can also separate your paper and non-paper trash, and burn the paper trash in the campfire (Always play with fire responsibly, and be aware of any fire restrictions in the area). Buying eggs and milk in paper cartons, and throwing those in the fire can also reduce your trash load.
#6) Make Wise Food Choices: Successful boondocking means planning ahead. There are no easy runs to the grocery store when boondocking. Plan simple, easy meals, with ingredients that can be used several different ways.
Pre-cooked meats can save on water, and something like a package of pre-cooked sausage could be used in a pasta dish, roasted in a campfire, as a side with eggs, on a sandwich. A box of cherry tomatoes could be used in a salad, tossed with pasta, in an omelette, on a sandwich. A pack of grated cheese could be used with pasta, a grilled cheese sandwich, on an omelette… you get the idea. Aim for nutritious, easy to cook, and more importantly, easy to clean up things to eat.
#7) Use the Terrain to Your Advantage: When looking for a place to park your RV, take a look at the terrain; where will the sun rise, and where will it set? How will you angle your solar panels for the best sun? If the weather will be hot, is there a place that will have some afternoon shade? Does this spot have a nice view? Is it easy to drive in and out? Are there hiking trails? Is the ground solid? Is it away from the main road? Is it safe to park here?
There are a few things to keep in mind, but once you get the hang of it, boondocking is not that hard, and can be a very rewarding, and frugal, experience!