UnPlugged: Overcoming the Intimidation of Boondocking
For many RV owners, just the thought of boondocking or dry camping can be very intimidating. They have many concerns like how will we survive without having an endless supply of electricity or where would we dump our tanks once they get full. This intimidation leads them to spend big bucks at crowded glorified parking lots called "Campgrounds" just for the security of an electrical box and a sewer connection.
I remember the first time we camped without any hookups and it was very nerve wracking. We had so many questions like "would we not be able to sleep without air conditioning?", "where will we empty our tanks?" and "will it be safe?" Our first experience was at a Walmart in Batavia, Illinois and it was a success. Quickly we realized that boondocking was not nearly as scary as we had made it out to be in our minds and it totally changed the way we traveled and camped. Boondocking or dry camping has become our preferred style of camping for the following reasons:
Cost Savings: You can boondock for little or no money. If staying in a campground, sites without hookups are always less expensive than sites with partial or full hookups. We have saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the past two years by camping without hookups. And many times, we camp for free using Cracker Barrel and WalMart for travel days and staying at Harvest Hosts, national forestry or BLM land. During the summer of 2019, we went 11 consecutive nights without hookups!
Freedom: Booking campsites ahead of time limits your ability to roam at your own pace and gives you less freedom with your time to explore. We love the freedom to take our time and we stop for the night when we are ready. There is no issue "checking in" late at a WalMart or Cracker Barrel.
3. Space: Boondocking sites typically give you much more space than a traditional campsites. People can spread out and now feel like they are on top of each other.
4. Atmosphere: No, a Cracker Barrel parking lot won't give you a great view but a stay on national forestry land most likely will. Three words to make this point: Lower Teton View! For those of you who followed our channel last summer during our Summer of Someday Tour will remember our "campsite" at the Lower Teton View area on the national forestry land across from Grand Teton National Park. We would wake up each morning to a gorgeous view of the Grand Tetons for the very low price of FREE!
So how do you get over the intimidation of boondocking? You just have to start with a positive attitude that you CAN do it and you need to start small. Here is a game plan for getting started to see if you like it:
1. Start Local: You could try overnighting in your driveway or if you want to be a bit more adventurous, find a local state park that has no hookup sites (don't book hookups because it will be too easy to give into the temptation to plug in) or try it out at a local Cracker Barrel for the evening.
2 . Research: Use the AllStays website or App to find a place to empty your tanks ahead of time. This might be a local truck stop like Flying J or Loves, a rest area (yes...some state's rest areas have free dump stations) or a campground.
3. Pick a Moderate Weather Night: Don't go when it is extremely hot or extremely cold and definitely don't go if they are calling for severe weather. This will only add stress to your first time boondocking.
4. Energy Consumption: If you are worried about your battery running out or below an acceptable level, plan to conserve energy. Most trailers today have low energy LED bulbs but if not, you can always use a battery operated lantern or we like to use LED puck lights that are battery operated. Set your refrigerator to run on propane vs 12v if that is an option for you. Your water heater will run on propane as well. When you think about it, the only things you will be powering with your battery will be your lights, TV, Radio, fans and water pump. See...you can do this!
5. Water Consumption: Fill up your fresh water tank ahead of time unless you know the place you are overnighting has a water fill up station. To save water, take short showers, turning the water on and off only as you need it. Only do dishes once or twice a day or use paper and plastic.
Hopefully once you get through your first night, you will gain much needed confidence to try it again. Boondocking or dry camping for multiple nights may not be for you but if you can learn to do it effectively for a night or two, not only will you save money potentially but you may also get to try new experiences in the future!