10 Tips for Dry Camping in Your RV

Being able to dry camp in your rig gives you a lot more options of places to stay while traveling. Having hookups at an RV park or campground is convenient, but you can be just as comfortable dry camping.

What Is the Difference Between Dry Camping and Boondocking? 

The terms “dry camping” and “boondocking” are often used interchangeably. They both refer to RV camping without access to electrical, water, and sewer hookups. 

Boondocking is a specific type of dry camping, typically done in remote natural places without any sort of infrastructure. It’s sometimes called “wild camping.” Dry camping includes a wider variety of locations, like state park campgrounds, casino parking lots, retail parking lots, rest areas, or even someone’s driveway—often referred to as moochdocking.

Why Should You Dry Camp at a Campground?

Boondocking is alluring, but it can be intimidating to try since it requires more preparation, scouting, and the fact that you’re miles away from services and amenities. 

Campsite with shelter, fire ring, and picnic table
Some dry campsites at an established campground will still have amenities like a picnic table and fire ring. | Photo by: Campendium

There are plenty of dry camping campgrounds in national forests, national parks, and state parks that are surrounded by the same beautiful landscapes as the boondocking options. Despite not having hookups, it’s not uncommon for these campgrounds to have water spigots, bathrooms, or even an on-site dump station. Dry camping in these spots is a great introduction to boondocking without the full commitment.

Benefits of Dry Camping

Dry camping isn’t always free, but it’s typically cheaper than camping at sites with full hookups. Not being reliant on hookups opens a plethora of places you can camp. Unique opportunities like staying at breweries, farms, or golf courses are available through Harvest Hosts, or camping at an established national forest campground tucked in the woods by a lake.

Dry camping campgrounds can also be found close to popular cities like Chicago or New York City, offering a place to stay without spending a fortune. Moochdocking in a friend or family member’s driveaway is a great way to spend quality time with them while still being able to sleep in your own bed.

And then there’s the need for a quick overnight stay in a parking lot or rest area after a long day’s drive en route to your destination. While this option isn’t necessarily fun, it’s convenient—no detour or campsite reservation necessary.

The key to dry camping is being self-sufficient. This sounds harder than it actually is, and you most likely already have everything you need. 

Person rolling black tank caddy through campground
An RVer rolling a portable RV black tank caddy to empty at a dump station while dry camping. | Photo by: SKH Photo

Tips When Dry Camping 

1. Arrive with full fresh water tanks and empty gray and black water tanks 

There’s nothing worse than running out of water mid-stay or having gray water overflow into your shower. Prevent either of those from happening by starting off your trip with a fresh slate.

An RV black tank caddy can save the day if you accidentally overfill your black tanks.

2. Use a portable water storage container

Campgrounds without hookups may still have water spigots available. A water bladder lets you bring water back to your rig instead of moving it. Be aware that sometimes the water source is from a hand-pump spigot—making a 5-gallon water container the better choice.

Solar panels set up at a campsite with power bank
Solar panels and a portable power station are useful items to have when dry camping. | Photo by: ANGEE

3. Rely on solar power

Solar power is a great alternative to using a generator or propane tank. It’s silent and environmentally friendly. Invest in either rooftop solar panels, a solar panel suitcase, or a portable power station.

If you have an inverter installed in your rig, be sure to unplug all unused gadgets that draw a phantom load. For example, a plugged-in laptop power brick continues to draw electricity even when it’s not connected to your computer.

4. Fill up your propane tank

Without an electrical hookup, you’re powering most of your appliances—like the fridge, hot water heater, cooktop/oven, and furnace—with propane. Make sure you have enough for the duration of your stay, especially if there’s cold weather in the forecast.

5. Research if generators are allowed

Campgrounds frequently have strict rules about generator usage and limit the hours they’re allowed to run. It’s common courtesy to not use them while overnighting in business parking lots and moochdocking in someone’s driveway. It’s also an unspoken rule to limit generator usage while boondocking.

6. Check if reservations are needed

Sites at established campgrounds on public lands are frequently offered on a first-come, first-served basis, but some may require reservations or are popular enough that reserving a spot is beneficial. These campgrounds are often small and can only fit shorter rigs, so double-check that sites are large enough to accommodate your RV.