RV Basics: What is Boondocking

When you first start RVing, whether it is renting or owning, people talk about the freedom of boondocking. The idea sounds cool, but what exactly does it mean? Easy. Boondocking means RVing without being connected to water and electricity. Instead, you are relying on the reserves in your RV for everything!

RV Boondocking in the desert

The idea of going “off the grid” has never been more appealing. Boondocking allows you to get away from it all and enjoy nature, but there are some things that need careful consideration before setting out on your journey- namely, where will you stay? What kind of vehicle do you want for this excursion? Does it make sense for RV renters? And most importantly – how am I supposed to power the RV without electricity?!

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When you go boondocking in your RV, it's important to be aware of the risks. It does take a bit of research and planning. Now all you need are some tips on how to practice safe camping while out there by yourself…

What is RV Boondocking?

Let’s start with the basics. Boondocking is another term for dry camping. Essentially you drive your RV off the beaten path and camp in an undeveloped area with no amenities like electricity, water, or sewer hookups.

RV Boondocking in the desert

While this may sound rugged and primitive, but imagine waking up in the morning to a breathtaking view. You get out of bed, and make a cup of coffee before going foraging around camp looking at all the beautiful flowers growing around you!

Boondocking is actually quite comfortable and relaxing in a properly equipped RV. It is generally free, so it is easy on the budget. You can camp miles away from your nearest neighbor or set up an impromptu “neighborhood” with your friends. People boondock because of the spectacular scenery and views, unmarred by dozens of other campers.

Where Can You RV Boondock?

You can camp on any land that isn't private property – this includes national forests and BLM lots as well as other public lands. Some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sites may require a permit. Many boondocking areas have stay limits. Most limits are 14 or 21 days.

RV van in forest

There are apps and websites that can help you find free boondocking sites, see the list below.

Resources for Finding RV Boondocking sites:

How Do You RV Boondock in a Rental RV?

Well, it depends. Not every type of RV rental is ideal for boondocking. Some rental RVs, for example, the very popular Cruise America, are not designed for extended dry camping, but you could be off the grid for a few days. These types of RVs don’t have solar panels for renewable energy or composting toilets. They need to be hooked up at RV sites or you need to have an RV generator (which by the way is essential if you own your RV!).

Also, the black tank (the holding area that stores the toilet waste) needs to be dumped fairly frequently at a dump station. If you are boondocking for a few days, it’s totally feasible.

RV van in forest

If you want to boondock for longer than a few days, you might be better off renting an off-grid capable rig from a site like Outdoorsy. They have peer-to-peer rentals. SO the owner may be totally fine with you taking their RV off-road. There are tons of van conversions and RVs with solar, composting toilets, and large enough water storage to allow for boondocking for a week or longer.

When renting, make sure the RV is properly equipped for dry camping. The rest of the prep is up to you. Then all you have to do is find your perfect (legal) boondocking site, get the necessary permits (if applicable), and head on out there!

Tips For RV Boondocking

Here are some helpful tips to make your boondocking experience successful!

Be Eco-Conscious and Practice Minimalism

Limit your water usage, power consumption, as well as how much trash you produce. If you run out of water, you will have to pack up your RV and drive into town to get more.
Water conservation techniques can stretch your water supply significantly.

Turn off the water while you wash your hands and lather yourself before you turn on the shower. Pre-clean your dishes with a paper towel to minimize washing time. Try to use reusable bamboo paper towels or “unpaper” towels.

Rv with door open

Power is also precious. Don’t expect to run the A/C your entire trip. Only open the refrigerator when absolutely necessary so you don’t lose cold air. Be mindful of which appliances you plan to use. This is where the generator makes a HUGE difference.

No one wants a pile of trash in their RV, so try to get rid of excessive packaging before you head out on your trip and avoid single-use items.

Scout Your Location Ahead of Time

Honestly, this is a rule of thumb for all RVing and camping sites that Mr. Misadventures and I employ ALL the time!

Roads are narrow, rocky, pockmarked with holes, hilly, and windy. Worst of all, with no space for turning around! Desert roads to boondocking locations are often riddled with all of the above PLUS sand patches, mud, or tire-puncturing thorns.

RV driving on sand

If at all possible, Check out the site you plan to stay at in advance, either on one of the websites or apps I mentioned above (satellite view of Google Maps if you have the GPS coordinates) or by walking or driving the access road in another vehicle (or bike) first. This can go a long way in helping to avoid getting stuck or damaging the rental RV, which most definitely WILL be expensive!

Be Respectful

Do I even have to write this? It should be obvious. Research and follow all the rules of your chosen boondocking site like stay limits, permit requirements, fire bans, etc. Leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. Put out fires completely, the fires it may cause are devastating. And dump your tanks at the appropriate stations.

RV trailer

Don’t leave food or trash outside your RV. It might attract critters, putting you and the animals in danger while messing with their food supply/ecosystem.

Be cognizant of any other campers in the area. Give them plenty of space and be quiet at night and in the morning. Don’t run your generator all night long. That’s is an RV no-no!

Be Prepared

To be on the safe side, it’s best to keep your RV locked and secure at all times. You never know who might want something that is inside an unlocked RV! Make sure valuable items like bikes, expensive grills, or devices like iPads, etc. are locked up when not in use too!

Have a plan for emergencies. Most boondocking sites are outside of cell range, so if someone gets hurt or sick you may just have to drive them to the nearest hospital. (So maybe have an idea where that might be!) Always bring a first aid kit including medications like ibuprofen, prescription medications, and emergency food and water supply.

RV trailer Boondocking

Weather conditions can change drastically and the dry lakebed that was hard as a rock suddenly becomes an impassable mud mire trapping you for an extra day or two. Know where flash floods occur, and keep a radio for news on wildfires. Having an emergency plan can take turn a disaster into just an inconvenience.

As with anything, RV boondocking is a process, and the more you do it, the better you get at it and the more comfortable and prepared you will be! It really is the ultimate RV renter's adventure.

There's more than one way to enjoy the great outdoors, and boondocking may not be suitable for everyone but for those who want an authentic off-the-grid experience and in nature with their RV – boondocking is perfect!

How about you? Do you think boondocking is something you want to try? Have you done it before and have more tips? Do tell!

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RV Boondocking in the desertRV Boondocking in the desertRV van in forest

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  1. Amber Myers says:

    I hadn’t heard of this before. It does sound like it would be an adventure!

  2. I honestly had never heard of this until now. I’m so glad I know what it is now though. I would certainly give it a try.

  3. First time I’m hearing of this. Not sure how I feel about no water and electricity to be honest!

  4. Tara Pittman says:

    I am not sure that I would like dry camping. I am more of a hotel person.

  5. Olivia Douglass says:

    I learned something new today! My parents do a lot of camping in their RV, I’ll have to see if they knew this too!

  6. “What is boondocking?” is right. I’ve never knew about this. I am happy to have learned about it today, so thanks you!

  7. I’m intrigued by alternative travel modes like van life and boondocking. I tried it once, but it turned out that I liked the idea more than the experience.

  8. Lavanda Michelle says:

    RV Boondocking is so popular these days. When I was young I really loved the freedom. But now as a wife and mom of three teenage girls, not sure how they will like the freedom, lol.

    1. Richelle Milar says:

      I’ve never heard of this until now! This is so informative and very interesting to know. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  9. What an adventure. Thank you for the tips. I would love to try boondocking. Ive never done it before.

  10. Monica Simpson says:

    Boondocking sounds amazing. I can see myself whining after a few days though.

  11. When you come, leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but memories. This is something my dad always told us.

  12. Ice Cream n Sticky Fingers says:

    I haven’t been camping in a very long time. I’m not so sure that I could boondock, as a single mom, but I would love to go camping sometime soon.

  13. Beautiful Touches says:

    That would be a great way to get to see and spend time in beautiful places!

  14. These are great tips I will keeps these in mind when we rent a Rv for any trip we take thanks for sharing this with us.

  15. Melanie E says:

    Boondocking isn’t a phrase I’ve ever heard of before. I’ve never been in an RV but I’m sure it’s an interesting and fun experience.

  16. I’ve never heard of boondocking before but I’d totally be down to do it one day. I love to go camping!

  17. I think this could be a unique experience, but I am not ready for it yet.

  18. Star Traci says:

    This is such a great article. We heard so much about boondocking before we became RVers but more was involved than we knew.

  19. It’s the first time I’ve heard of the term. We’ve never tried RV-ing but I’d like to one day.

  20. Everything Enchanting says:

    What an informative post! I have never tried RV-ing so definitely learned something new from this post 🙂. Thanks for explaining everything in details.

  21. Natasha Mairs says:

    I love the sound of boondocking. It’s the first time I have heard this term. But it sounds like lots of fun, getting back to basics.