Boondocking, Off the grid, Off the cord, Dry Camping or Wild Camping (if you’re European) are all names for camping or RV’ing without any hook ups (water, electric or sewer). Boondocking is probably the most popular term but our personal favorite is Wild Camping, not just because it sounds cool but because it embodies what it is all about…out in the wild, camping.
This is the ultimate way to shrink your footprint, disconnect and truly surround yourself with nature. For us Wild Camping is the ultimate reason to own an RV.
Now, I already know what you’re thinking: Is it legal? safe? or sanitary? How do you live? How do you find boondocking sites? How can it be free? …Whoaaaa Nelly! You’re brain is on question overload! Take a deep breath, in the next several paragraphs I’m going to try and answer all of your questions and give you some pearls (as my grandmother would say).
If you are new to Boondocking, or wanting to do a lot more of it here is almost everything you’ll need to know.
First let’s dispel a few doubts and misunderstandings about our beloved Wild Camping.
Is it safe?
Yes, the chance of a creeper driving all the way out to the middle of nowhere looking for unsuspecting campers isn’t likely. They have way bigger fish to fry in the cities.
How do you find it and is it legal?
Yes, its legal, as long as you stay in designated dispersed camping areas and believe it or not its even encouraged! We’ve explained it all here in, How to Find Free Camping (but don’t get sidetracked: you can come back and click the link once you’re done here). It’s all about National Forest lands, Bureau of Land Management and several other free and low cost camping resources.
Is it sanitary?
Of course it is! Do I seem like the kinda girl who would ever go unwashed, or gasp, stinky? I wouldn’t go in a jungle without lipstick on much less go around smelling like anything short of roses. When properly prepared, Wild Camping can be just as luxurious as any vacation.
Ok, now let’s get down to the nitty gritty…the how to’s of it all.
We have a lot of gadgets and our RV is not just our home, it’s our mobile office and work studio (yes we work from the road)! Power is a must. This is where solar power can really make a huge difference. We have a great solar set up and as long as we have sun, we live like kings! Now, maybe you are not ready to go all in and invest in a full solar set up yet like ours, but a portable solar panel is a super affordable way to start. Obviously if you have a generator on board you’ll be fine too…but who wants to be camping in the middle of the wilderness with that annoying hum/buzz of the gene, or have to worry about the hot noxious fumes igniting the dry grass you’re parked in?
You’ll want to make sure that you pick an area that isn’t extremely hot or cold. You don’t want to worry about running a heater (propane or electric) or an air conditioner. With a decent amount of solar you can easily run a fan or (very) small space heater to help keep things more comfortable. Typically we won’t boondock if the low is below 35 degrees (Fahrenheit), or the high temperature is much above 90 degrees (unless we’re surrounded by trees that keep it cooler inside).
Switching our lights from traditional bulbs to LED’s was a huge help in saving power. With the efficiency of LED’s, we could (in theory) leave our lights on day and night and never run down our batteries. When we had all of our traditional halogen lights on we would pull 26AMPs, now with all our LED’s we only pull 2-3AMPs (and they don’t create heat like traditional bulbs).
Water conservation is very important while Wild Camping but it doesn’t mean you can’t shower or live normally. With a few very affordable adjustments you can cut your water consumption in half!
Switch to a low flow shower head like an Oxygenics and install a shut off valve so you can turn off the water while lathering up. Combined these 2 simple and inexpensive changes will save a ton of water without losing water pressure, in fact we can take a “regular” style shower and only use 2-3 gallons of water depending on how frugal we’re being.
Most hardware stores sell faucet aerators for only a few bucks. Switching over to low flow aerators (1.5gpm or less) will have you feeling a lot less guilty about washing your hands and your dishes. In our opinion paper plates are a waste, we’d much rather use dishes so this easy switch reduced our water consumption by over 50%.
We have a sweet H20 water distiller that allows us to take water from any source and turn it into clean, safe and yummy tasting drinking water. So, as long as there is a water source of some sort (lake, pond, stream..) having drinking water is never an issue. We also love our battery powered Camelback All Clear that can turn any clear freshwater source (lake or stream) into safe drinking water 1 glass (0.75L) at a time.
**If you are not quite ready for a new water set up, try these water saving tips. Wash your body using a wash cloth and a solar shower. For the super conservative, get a container and save some of the soapy water from bathing or washing dishes to flush your toilet instead of using your fresh water. Invest in a couple of collapsible five-gallon water containers that you can refill on trips to town. You can also get water at many service stations by just asking.
Gray water can fill up before you know it. As long as you are using bio-degradable/all natural bath and cleaning products, you can use a watering can to sprinkle grey water on plants or just around your campsite to help keep the dust down. Do this once a day and it will help keep your grey water levels in check. Never just open up your tank and dump at will leaving behind a giant puddle… that is illegal. If you’re planning to stay for an extended period of time do a search for “Evaporating Ponds”; these are wildly popular at Burning Man and they seemed to work well in warm climates.
We have a composting toilet that completely eliminated our black tank! Read our post on what a composting toilet is and why you need one. Until the day you decide to switch to a composting toilet… sanidumps is a great app and website that lists all the dump stations around the country.
The simplest way to avoid trash is to eat fresh foods. Fruits and vegetables don’t usually come in packaging that has to be thrown away. We always stock up our refrigerator before we head out into the wilderness. If you are Wild Camping for an extended amount of time, keep your full trash bags in a closed basement bin and not just outside waiting for critters to invade. Then as you head into town, it’s easy to find dumpsters in grocery store and mall parking lots to dispose a small bag or two. As for your recyclables, I love the app irecycle. It lists all of the recycling locations near you, what’s accepted and hours of operation.
I think that’s about it! If you have never tried Wild Camping before, what are you waiting for? It’s our favorite way to live and usually has the best scenery! This video was filmed two years ago at a campground called Hope Valley. It’s just outside of South Lake Tahoe and is a fantastic spot if you’re in the area!
Do you have a favorite Wild Camping spot or have some tips you want to share? Post them in the comment box below! As always we’re not saying we’re the ultimate experts about anything as you can read in our disclaimer, we’re just sharing our experience in hopes it’ll help you start your own adventure.