As full-time RVers, we invested in 1700 watts of solar panels, an array of solar components, and a generator in order to take our adventures off-grid and out into some epic places. Boondocking has such a sense of freedom and not to mention can leave you with some pretty amazing views right outside your door…often for free! After years of boondocking, we have compiled a list of our best boondocking tips to help you have the best experiences camping off-grid (whether you have solar or not)!
What Is Boondocking?
Boondocking refers to camping without electric, water, or sewer hook-ups (off-grid) and is also often referred to as dry camping or dispersed camping. Typically, this means your RV is self-contained and you can keep your batteries charged on your own accord and have a place to use the bathroom. If you are not self-contained, you must follow leave-no-trace principles and carry out everything you carried into your campsite and properly dispose of waste and trash.
You can boondock in a wide variety of places, ranging from truck stops and Cracker Barrel parking lots to FREE BLM Land, National Forest roads, or dry camping in National Park campgrounds.
What Are The Benefits of Boondocking?
- Great views
- Cost-effective travel
- Room to roam
- Mindful Living
You drive down a gravel road, dust flying in your rearview. A ring of stone marks the spot and you pull in. Your closest neighbor is out of earshot, and outside your windows is the dramatic landscape of rocky snow-capped mountains, green trees swaying in the breeze, and wildflowers in bloom. No check-in or check-out time, no fees, just freedom. This the what makes boondocking so worthwhile.
Part of the allure of experimenting with the RV lifestyle for us was the opportunity to live off the grid. We dreamed about being surrounded by nature and beautiful landscapes and having a more minimal footprint.
One of the biggest benefits of boondocking is freedom. For most boondocking spots, you do not need advanced reservations and there is no check-in or check-out time. You have more space than in an RV park and fewer rules. We often let our dog Azalea roam off leash when boondocking off-grid and never feel that our neighbors are too close or cramped. In addition, boondocking has afforded us some of the quietest and most peaceful spots to call home with incredible views… for free or much cheaper than a campground with hookups.
Learn more about the ins and outs of boondocking in our RV Boondocking Guide For Beginners
51 Best Boondocking Tips
Learn from our experiences…and mistakes! These are our best boondocking tips for amazing off-grid camping and RVing.
1. Use free apps to find public lands that offer dispersed camping
Our favorite apps for finding free camping and boondocking spots are Campendium and iOverlander. With these apps, you can also search for local water filling and dump stations, as well as read reviews about directions and conditions.
You can also search for great boondocking locations on Google by searching for the location + free camping or boondocking. That will bring up various sites and potentially blogs (like this one) that can give you in-depth reviews and insider scoops!
- We also use RV Life to navigate safely using the RV safe GPS and also use their campground reviews feature, which includes some boondocking spots
2. Invest in a generator, even if you have a solar system. You can’t control the weather!
This was one of the first big lessons we learned while boondocking. It is important to have a back-up power source for a couple of reasons.
First, your solar panels rely on the sun and if it becomes cloudy or rainy for an extended time your batteries will have no way to charge up if you are boondocking off-grid. You will bring in some solar, but it most likely will not be enough to sustain your batteries if those conditions continue.
With this, your solar system may not perform as well as you anticipate. We thought we had plenty of solar, but did not account for the decreased solar output in the winter when the sun is lower and the days are shorter.
A generator can also come in handy if you want the option to run your air conditioner off-grid. You will need a big solar system to run your AC while boondocking for an extended period and this comes with a high upfront cost that you will most likely not recoup, so it may not make financial sense.
We love our Generac 3300i portable inverter generator as it is lightweight and fairly quiet.
3. Monitor your water usage by taking “military showers” (also known as “combat” or “Navy” showers)
Turn the water on and get wet. Turn the water off. Soap up. Rinse. Repeat. Boondocking is great for freedom, privacy, and views…but is not about luxuries like long showers. Many RVs will come with shower heads that have a feature where you can shut the water flow and maintain the temperature, which comes in handy.
This can be a bit of an adjustment but makes you that much more grateful when you are back on full hookups.
You can also save water by showering less frequently and using things like shower wipes to stay clean between showers!
READ MORE: GUIDE TO RV SHOWERS & WATER SYSTEMS
4. Use a wet rag or paper towel to wipe dirty dishes prior to cleaning to remove food that is likely to get stuck on
Food particles can get stuck on quickly and then make it more water intensive to clean later on. Wipe off your plates and dishes ASAP to save on water.
5. Save your gray tank by using a dishwashing bin
Depending on the size of your gray tank, you might find that between showering and washing dishes you produce more gray water than your tank can handle. Using a dishwashing bin you can catch that extra water and reuse it. If you use biodegradable environmentally friendly soap you may also be able to toss it outside – as long as there are no food particles.
We do have a dishwasher in our unit and were unsure about using it off-grid at first. When using it in eco mode, we have found that it uses less water than hand washing at times!
This collapsible dishwashing bin works perfectly for us!
6. Try to limit washing dishes to 1 time per day at the most
Wipe dishes as soon as you use them, but leave the washing to 1 time per day to make the most of your water. For us, this is typically done after dinner.
7. Use dishwater for toilet water to conserve water and gray tank space
This might sound gross or over the top, but can be a great way to conserve and re-use water if you need to.
Here’s how it works:
- Wash your dishes in the dishwashing bin, and pour the leftover water into your toilet.
- You can also collect your shower water (or the cold water until the hot water comes out), and pour that in your toilet, or use it to wash your dishes.
8. Adopt the island motto “On the island of fun and sun, we do not flush for number 1”
Let the yellow mellow if you can stand it, to save on water used to flush the toilet.
9. Consider a composting toilet to extend your time off grid
If you plan to boondock a lot, a composting toilet may be a great option for you if you don’t mind the price. Especially if the black tank in your RV is small, this could greatly increase the amount of time you are able to remain off-grid.
A compositing toilet works by separating liquid and solid waste, and using compositing material like coconut core to break down the solid waste and prevent any smells.
With a composting toilet you avoid having to deal with sewage and your black tank, but instead take on the responsibility of throwing composted waste away and dumping your pee often. In addition, you will have to throw your toilet paper away, rather than in the toilet.
We were interested in the Nature’s Head Composting Toilet when we were researching this option, but weren’t ready to pull the trigger with that price tag.
10. Use your shades, awnings, and fans to keep things cool during hotter days and direct sun
Block out the sun to keep things cooler and save on energy.
We like to open the windows on the shaded side of our RV and suck air in using our fantastic fans and put our awnings out to create more shade. We also have day shades for allowing some sunlight in while cutting glare, and keep our night shades down in the RV where we don’t need the light.
11. Purchase an additional water bladder to fill your freshwater tank if you want to boondock longer
Depending on the size of your freshwater tank, you may find that your freshwater limits how long you are able to stay in one spot while boondocking.
In addition, you may not have the ability to fill up your tank (whether due to tight spots at fill stations or no available fill stations) and it could be easier to take your tow vehicle or toad to fill water and bring it to your RV, rather than bring your RV to the water.
It is also not necessarily recommended to drive long distances with a full fresh water tank in all RVs, depending on how they are supported in your specific rig.
Combined with a portable waste tank, this also gives you the ability to live more like you are on grid, even while you are off grid if you choose.
This is the 60-gallon water bladder we use!
12. Use a spare water pump to force water into your fresh tank faster when filling from a bladder
While the gravity-fed method can work just fine, depending on the size of your tank it can be a long process.
We have had great success with wiring up a spare water pump to pump water from our water bladder into our tank. This works great because we now also have a spare water pump that we could install in our RV if ours ever breaks.
This is the Remco 12V water pump our fifth wheel uses
13. Always treat your black tank to prevent build-up and smells (especially if it will be warm)
Boondocking doesn’t have to be a smelly adventure. It is normal and expected to experience smells from your black tank, especially when things heat up. With no access to shore power or consistent AC, proactively treating your tank can help limit smells and prevent build-up that can happen from using your black tank space longer between dumping than you might while on hookups.
This is generally a good practice anyway (whether you are boondocking or not), to keep your tank free from build-up. Our favorite product is Happy Campers Holding Tank Treatment!
Read more about keeping RV tank sensors clean and clear
14. Clean your panels frequently to optimize your solar power
Solar panels get dirty fast…especially in boondocking areas where the roads are typically dirt and the surroundings are dusty. You can also collect sap or other particles from being under trees at previous campsites.
Even a thin layer of dirt or dust that might look harmless can seriously impact the performance of your panels and have your batteries charging up at a much slower rate. This is especially important if you want to run a large appliance like your RV AC on solar.
Clean your panels with Windex or even just water frequently.
15. If you have solar on your roof (especially flat-mounted panels), position your RV to optimize solar output
Before setting up in a spot, try to note where the sun will move across the sky and how it will cast shadows on your panels (such as from the AC unit) so that you can get the most output!
16. Install a soft start if you want to run your air conditioner while boondocking (either off solar or a smaller generator)
Soft starts allow your air conditioner to start up in a more phased approach, eliminating the start-up peak wattage.
For example, our Dometic air conditioner has a peak wattage startup of 5-6k watts, but only uses 1700 watts once the compressor is running. The soft start eliminates the peak wattage, when our AC turns on so that it never goes over 1700 watts, which doesn’t put additional strain on our generator or inverter
Read more on RV inverters in our Complete RV Power Guide
Note: If your generator can handle a startup wattage of 6,000 or more watts, you might be fine without soft starts.
17. Walk, use a drone, bike, or additional vehicles to scout the perfect boondocking site before towing your RV in
Boondocking sites are often more private and spacious. What this means is you can not always easily see all of the spots in a boondocking location.
We highly recommend scouting spots without your RV whenever possible to avoid running into dead ends, poor road conditions, or getting yourself stuck in a situation that is hard to get out of.
Don’t blindly follow your GPS and always double-check where it is navigating you too. We’ve pulled onto roads that we had no business being on, had to do 7-point turns on a busy highway, and had to use 4WD when things got a bit mucky. We’ve been there and we don’t want you to experience that stress.
This is the drone we use to scout, but your legs, bikes, or additional vehicles if you have one will work great too.
Take your time and don’t feel pressured by others.
18. Always check for burn bans when camping on BLM land or in National Forests.
With the destruction that can happen from wildfires, it is important to stay appraised of different regulations in place at each spot you might camp.
Just because you are boondocking, doesn’t mean there are no rules. And while these areas are not patrolled often, you are likely to see an increase if there is a burn ban.
For another option, investing in a propane fire pit allows you to have safe fires all year long! They are also great because they can also be used inside a screen tent to keep you away from bugs and do not leave you smelling like a campfire (even though that can sometimes be just the best).
Check out this resource for monitoring burn bans and regulations by state: BLM Fire Restrictions by State
19. Use Google Maps Satellite view to check driving directions before leaving for a boondocking site
Even with great RV GPS options and lots of new technology, it can still be a good idea to double-check the roads you plan to drive to make sure they look large enough and comfortable for your size RV.
This is especially helpful for larger RVs and once you arrive at the boondocking location to see a layout of the roads in and out of sites and where you might like to head to set up camp.
Think of this as part of the scouting process! Below you can see an example of the satellite view of the roads leading into the Badlands Boondocking Area:
20. Plan 2 steps ahead. Think about where your journey might take you and where you might be able to dump and/or fill water
We prefer to limit the distances we have to drive with full tanks and planning ahead can help. Ideally, you are dumping close to the boondocking area you leave and filling water within a short distance of arriving to your new site, without having to drive past it.
This may be less of an issue for smaller RVs with smaller tanks, but as a larger fifth wheel with 100 gallons of fresh water, we prefer not to tow around with the extra 800 pounds longer than we have to. This is also where a water bladder can come in handy if there is no convenient place to bring our large rig to fill.
21. Use websites like rvdumps and sanidumps to find local dump stations and potable water
Boondocking spots have zero amenities unless you are dry camping at an established campground such as in a National Park or State Park.
Rvdumps & Sanidumps allow you to search around your location to find where to dump and fill water so that you can be set up for success while boondocking and have a way to empty your tanks so that you do not have to tow around the extra weight.
22. Purchase a portable waste tank to extend your time boondocking
A portable waste tank serves as a holding tank for black or gray water so that you can dump your tanks and create more space, without having to move your RV.
This can give you peace of mind if your water conservation skills need a bit more practice and you end up filling your tanks more quickly than you planned.
This can also be nice if you prefer to take longer showers or do laundry while off-grid.
Most “blue boys: can be towed by any vehicle with a ball so that you do not have to pull it around yourself (it can be heavier than you think).
We use this 32 gallon portable waste tank
23. Limit your power usage by avoiding the use of larger appliances
When it comes to boondocking less is more! Pretend like you have no power and only use what you really need.
This might change depending on if you have access to a larger solar system, but a general rule of thumb is to be conservative. You’ll find that over time you are comfortable with a lot less than you initally think you need.
- Put your Starlink in sleep mode when not in use
- Turn off unneeded lights or devices
24. If you are using solar, plug in your electronics during the high sun of the day
Take advantage of energy when you have it. Once you are charged up unplug, but don’t let spare energy go to waste if you could be charging things during the day instead of at night!
25. Consider making the switch to lithium batteries
Lithium batteries are a game changer for boondocking because they can be drawn down to 20% instead of the typical 50% of lead acid batteries and they have a much more consistent discharge over their draw down period (which means you can run your appliances just the same when your batteries are at 100% as you can when they are at 35.
They also tend to charge up faster and are maintenance free with no gassing (they can go right in your RV if you are tight on space or want easy access). They are much lighter and last a lot longer than standard lead-acid batteries.
The caveat: they are more expensive up front, but you may end up winning in the long run if you keep them long enough.
26. Practice dry camping before you set out on your first boondocking trip
Whether your RV is parked at home or at an RV park with shore power and hook-ups nearby, that is a great opportunity to pretend as though you are off-grid, with the safety net of having anything you need right there.
See how much water you use when trying to be conservative, see how fast your gray tank and black tanks fill, and take note of your energy consumption and how long your batteries take to charge up (whether on solar or off the generator).
You can do all the math you want on paper, but a real trial run will give you the feedback, and hopefully confidence, you need before venturing out into the wild.
27. Make sure you have a long enough hose to fill your fresh water tank in peculiar places
You can find free potable water in some unique places and they are not always easy to get your RV close to. BLM offices gas stations and parks are some places you might find water spigots that you can use, but were not built with RVers in mind.
28. Meal prep while on shore power to limit electric usage and clean up
Cooking and cleaning can be a larger draw on resources while boondocking – especially if you like to cook meals that require electrical elements like a toaster, air fryer, convection oven, or instant pot.
To be able to have the meals you enjoy while off grid, prepping ahead of time can help. This also saves you from having a lot of dishes to wash as you won’t have the added cooking elements.
29. Cook with propane and use your furnace for heat if needed to cut down on electrical draws
Electrical heating elements are some of the largest draws you can have on your batteries. Use propane to save your batteries. This can also allow you to be more conservative when it comes to your generator usage or the size of your solar system.
We love using our blackstone griddle which makes it easy to cook large meals on one surface that is easy to keep clean.
30. Stock up on bottled water or water jugs if you are worried about your fresh tank capacity
Another way to increase your fresh water capacity is to use separate drinking water, saving the water in your tank for showering, hand washing, and washing dishes.
31. If you travel with pets use a temperature and humidity tracking device to keep an eye on things
The temperature inside an RV can soar while you are off-grid boondocking and away from the conveniences of climate control…especially if you are a smaller RVer.
These devices can give you peace of mind and alert you to any large shifts that need to be addressed when you are away from your RV or camper.
If you have a large enough solar system and/or soft starts you might also choose to have your AC set at a certain threshold as a “just in case” backup.
We use the TempStick to keep an eye on things in our RV “Rio.”
32. Save time and your budget by using grocery pickup options rather than trying to find your way through new grocery stores
We love the convenience and added budget clarity of using options like Walmart pick-ups for our groceries. This allows us to plan what we need, order online, track how much we are spending, and choose a pick-up time that works for our schedule.
It is quick, easy and free! Wandering around new grocery stores and trying to find what you are looking for can be tough, time-consuming, and frustrating.
We have picked up groceries while towing on a travel day before arriving at a destination (super convenient if you can plan ahead) and have used this service in both the US and Canada.
*Note: You will need to use the Canadian version of the app or the Canadian website for Walmart
33. Seek cooler weather and higher elevation
Boondocking for us is very much a fair-weather venture. When warmer weather strikes while you are off grid, nights can get hot and sticky. In general, cooler is better for sleep..and happiness!
It is frowned upon to run your generator all night long and there is no solar to help you out in the dark of night.
This means once the sun goes down you will want to limit your electric draws and the window for using your AC is limited.
Higher elevations and cooler temperatures overall can be a better experience for boondocking and less stressful when it comes to keeping your batteries charged up.
34. Check road conditions if the weather conditions have been poor
Many boondocking areas are dirt and can quickly go from a beautiful oasis to a mud pit rather quickly.
4WD can be helpful, but even so big ruts can form and things can get a bit dicey.
Check before you wreck! If you can be flexible, wait it out. Stay an extra day rather than take a risk trying to get out or wait a day or two before arriving if you believe your next spot might be affected. Keep your plans carved in jello!
35. Protect your space from wild animals and never leave food items outside
Something we love most about RVing and boondocking is getting closer to nature. This being said, we don’t necessarily want wild animals sharing our space with us…and that wouldn’t be safe or ideal for them either!
Take all food items inside and clean outdoor cooking surfaces.
Ensure all pet food is secure and airtight, as we have found that even the scent (in your storage bays, for example) can attract furry friends.
36. For a more peaceful experience, harness solar energy through a complete solar setup or a solar-powered battery bank to meet your needs
While you can absolutely boondock using only a generator and inverter, we have found we enjoy our camping experiences that much more when we can enjoy the peace and quiet and celebrate running our RV off 100% renewal energy.
This is our complete solar setup:
- Inverter: (1) Victron Multiplus-II 3000 Watt Inverter
- 1,000 watt Magnum Inverter that just our fridge runs off of from our original system before solar and the Victron inverter
- 8 Hightec Solar Panels (1,700 Watts total)
- (3) 200 Amp hour LifeBlue Lithium Batteries (600 Amp Hours Total)
- (1) Victron SmartSolar MPPT 150/85 Charge Controller
- (1) Victron Orion-Tr 12v (30 amp) DC-DC Charger (for charging off trucks alternator on travel days)
37. Always carry a first aid kit. Boondocking spots can be remote and accidents happen
I’ll save you the gory details, but during the challenges of our first boondocking trip, Zach got a pretty gnarly cut while trying to troubleshoot our solar system (we should’ve done more of a dry run…learn from our mistakes).
There was a lot of blood and we didn’t have any bandaids. We resorted to gauze and makeshift butterfly closures…fastened out of duct tape.
Not the scene you are going for. Always have a first-aid kit handy!
38. Only camp in designated areas or where you see evidence of others having camped before (such as rock fire rings)
Another way to ensure our public lands stay open for free camping is to honor camping only where it is evident others have camped before.
Don’t destroy vegetation or cut down trees to make your own awesome spot. Choose one that already exists.
39. Follow boondocking etiquette
Be a respectful neighbor! Boondocking etiquette includes:
- Do not walk through other people’s sites
- If there is room, don’t park too close. Ask if you are unsure.
- Be respectful with late-night partying or music if you have neighbors.
- Try your best to run your generator during the day vs. when people are sleeping
- Pack it in, pack it out. Don’t leave trash at your site, this ruins these beautiful areas for everyone and puts them at risk of being shut down.
40. Pay close attention to signs that tell you how long you can stay
To keep our public lands open and free to use, abide by posted regulations. Many boondocking areas will have a 14-day stay limit, but it does vary by site. Try not to overstay your welcome!
41. Plan to carry out any trash with you & check with local businesses before dumping
Boondocking areas do not have trash bins typically. Carrying trash out and disposing of it properly can be tricky after spending time off grid, as many places of business will have explicit signage of “no dumping.”
We have found the best luck with disposing of trash in public places (rest stops, truck stops, and even National Parks). In general, it is always a good idea to check with a business before placing trash in a dumpster.
42. Get Starlink if you want to stay connected outside the limits of cellular service
Starlink is satellite internet that has allowed us to work and stream from remote boondocking spots with no cell service.
It requires an open view of the sky, but has been a total game changer. Talk about freedom!
Check out our complete Starlink Guide & Review for more information
43. If you need internet, plan ahead so you don’t have to move spots later
Using Google Satellite or when scouting, keep in mind what you need for internet connectivity. Check reviews and apps for information on cell service available in the area (and consider checking this again when you arrive before getting too settled).
If you need Startlink, scout spots that have an open sky (typically to the North in the northern hemisphere and South in the Southern Hemisphere).
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Boondocking Internet
44. Share your location with a family member
A good safety measure is to share your location, such as through GPS coordinates or location sharing on your mobile device, in order to let someone know where you will be and for how long.
45. Have an SOS device. option on your cell phone or cell service if you need help
If you plan to boondock outside of cell reception, having a satellite device or SOS device like the Garmin inreach or the satellite SOS feature on your phone can be a lifesaver!
46. Talk to your neighbors to get a sense of the people around you as an added safety precaution
Some of the biggest concerns we hear from new boondockers are worries about safety. We have found it helpful for peace of mind to walk around the boondocking area and try to get a sense of the people in our vicinity.
We have met so many wonderful people and thankfully have never had any scary experiences. Trust your gut.
47. Check with management before staying overnight in parking lots
Many establishments (like Walmart) that once allowed overnight camping are cracking down on RVs staying the night. To avoid being woken up in the middle of the night and asked to leave, check before setting up shop. Nobody wants a 2 a.m. knock on the door!
It can also be a good idea to support the business (buy something) if you are able to stay there.
You can also consider more unique options like the ones below:
48. For quick overnight stays to break up longer travel distances, consider unique alternatives
Memberships like Harvest Hosts and Boodockers Welcome are another great option for overnight stops or quick stays. Outside of the annual fee to join ($99/year for HH, $169 for HH + Boondockers Welcome), stays are free!
It can be a good idea to spend at least $20 if staying at an establishment selling goods (like a brewery, winery, or farm), and honestly that is part of the fun!
We have never had to stay at a Cracker Barrel or Walmart parking lot in our over 25,000 miles of travel. Harvest Hosts has been a great, safe, and fun option when breaking up longer travel distances.
49. Always have a backup plan in case your boondocking location does not work out as expected
Try not to leave yourself high and dry. Have plan A, B, and C to give yourself options.
Sometimes areas will be busy and full, sometimes conditions might be poor.
We have had good luck arriving on Sunday afternoons (we travel around our M-F work schedule), but always have a few back-ups in mind just in case!
Another thing to keep in mind is that you may not have cell service so it can be a good idea to download maps or directions or have GPS coordinates for your backups on hand ahead of time.
50. For big rigs, use a truck stop for easier fueling
Truck stops are bigger, have higher clearance, and fuel a lot faster which is great for larger RVs. In addition, using the TSD “Open Roads” program, you can get great savings that make it potentially a lot cheaper than other fueling options if you require diesel.
We have had some of the best deals at Irvings, Loves, TA, and Petro, sometimes saving upwards of $80 after our discount!
51. Enjoy the perks of camping in remote locations
Boondocking is an opportunity to get away from it all. Hike around, immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of nature, and soak it all in.
Get out to look at the stars, enjoy the peace of chirping birds in the morning, and explore straight from your site.
We love how it feels to be right in the great outdoors, close to hiking, and have even seen the Milky Way clearly from our boondocking sites.
Admire the quiet!
RV Boondocking Equipment List & Resources
All of our best recommendations and resources based on our experience as full-time RVers who spend a lot of our time boondocking off-grid!
- Water Bladder
- Water Filtration System (such as a Berkey or Clearsource)
- Water Pump
- Portable Waste Tank
- Generator (we love our 3300 watt Generac portable inverter generator as it is quiet and lightweight)
- Solar Panels, Inverter, & Lithium Batteries (not required, but can be a nice upgrade…see our RV power guide for a deeper dive into off-grid power and inverters)
- Hitch Lock (we use this ing pin lock for our fifth wheel) and/or SimpliSafe System for added security
- Leveling blocks (site will be unlevel)
- RV Life GPS (see our complete guide to RV LIFE for more information)
- Campendium & iOverlander to find dispersed and dry camping spots
- Harvest Hosts for overnight dry camping
View our entire list of apps we have found most helpful for RV travel and camping.
Other Helpful Guides:
- RV Boondocking Guide: How To Live Well in Wild Places
- RV Inverter & Power Guide
- How Much Solar Do You Need To Run An RV Fridge?
- RV Tips 101: Education Guide For Beginners
- Ultimate RV Maintenance Checklist
- 33+ Best Camper Hacks & Tips