6 Tips for Dry Camping
Vacationing and traveling in an RV can be very enjoyable. Campgrounds and full-hookups resorts often make for great family fun and are popular among full-time RVers and weekend warriors alike. That being said, campgrounds can often be quite pricey, and RVers may want to occasionally stay somewhere overnight. These places can include Walmart parking lots, rest stops, Harvest Host locations, dispersed camping areas, national/state parks, and much more. However, each of these places has one thing in common: they require dry camping. This means that campers will not have access to electricity, fresh water hookups, or sewer hookups for the duration of their stay.
If you are not used to RVing without hookups, dry camping may seem like quite a daunting task. However, with a few considerations and some planning ahead, you can become a dry camping pro in no time. Follow these basic steps for a successful and seamless experience.
1. Conserve water.
This may seem like a basic concept, but it’s one of the most important considerations for dry camping. Without immediate access to fresh water to refill, you will need to self-manage your tanks to ensure you do not run out of water. Start by determining your tank capacity. This may be written on your tank, or it can be found in your specs list, outlined in your RV user manual. Once you know your tank capacity, you will have a better idea of how much water you have to work with.
Be sure to arrive at a dry camping destination with a full fresh water tank. Plan ahead and never assume that your camping location or Harvest Hosts location has somewhere for you to fill your water.
Next, you will need to conserve water for the duration of your dry camping stint. You may need to be more or less conservative, depending on the size of your fresh water tank and the length of time you plan to spend dry camping. Keep showers short and consider turning off the water in between steps to save water. Wash and rinse dishes in a trickle of water, and do not leave the water running while brushing your teeth. These basic tips will help make you tank last longer.
In addition, keep an eye on your tank meters. These will tell you when your tank is three-fourths full, half full, one-fourth full, and empty. Adjust your water usage based on how much water you have used and how much more time you plan to camp before refilling water.
2. Conserve grey tank capacity.
Grey water is waste water from your sinks and shower. The more water you use for showers, brushing teeth, hand washing, and dishes, the faster your gray water tank will fill. Conserving your gray tank capacity is just as important as fresh water conservation. You can find your grey tank capacity information in your RV manual as well. Keep in mind that your grey water tank is typically smaller than your fresh water tank.
Be sure to arrive at a dry camping destination with your grey tank empty. You can empty it at many gas stations and travel centers, state parks, national parks, or private campgrounds (for a small fee). The Sanidumps app will help you find places to dump your tanks before camping. Likewise, you’ll have to find somewhere to dump your tanks before returning home or to your next destination.
Watch your tank meters to monitor your grey tank fill levels. It is never okay to dump grey water, so be sure not to overfill your tanks while dry camping. If the tanks are filling quicker than you expected, cut back on water usage to ensure you have plenty of tank capacity left for the duration of your stay.
3. Manage black tank capacity.
Managing your black tank is similar to managing your grey tank. This tank is filled solely from toilet usage and is typically the smallest of the RV tanks. You can use the same dump stations for both black and grey tanks. Be sure to arrive at a dry camping destination with an empty black tank, and keep an eye on tank capacity throughout your stay. Don’t forget to dump your tanks before returning home or storing your RV.
4. Generate power/electricity.
Power is the trickiest utility to manage while dry camping. Your house batteries store power for your RV, and they can be charged through a variety of methods. Plugging into shore power and driving both charge your house batteries. If you are only planning to dry camp for one night, you may have enough power stored to last until you move onto your next destination. If you need to recharge your batteries while dry camping, there are a variety of methods.
Many motorhomes and toy haulers come equipped with an on-board, gasoline-powered generator. Running this will allow you to charge your devices and batteries. If your RV does not come with a generator, you can purchase one and hook it up to your batteries. Remember to be considerate with generator usage, since they are typically very loud while running. Ask permission from your host, and only run your generator during reasonable hours to avoid disturbing your neighbors.
If you plan to do lots of dry camping, it may be wise to invest in a solar power kit. These can be installed by professionals or self-installed if you have electrical experience. There is typically a large up-front investment, but you will save money over time if you dry camp often.
5. Manage trash disposal.
The last utility to keep in mind is garbage. Since you will not have access to a campground dumpster while dry camping, you will need to find another way to dispose of your waste. Many gas stations allow customers to throw away their garbage if they are filling up. Likewise, some grocery stores do not mind if you throw away a bag of trash when you are buying groceries. Be sure to practice consideration and ask permission when disposing of your trash.
6. Practice with shorter trips, extend gradually.
Dry camping has a bit of a learning curve. If you are new to this, it is best to start by practicing with short trips. A one-night stay at a Walmart or a Harvest Host location may be the best way to start out. You can gradually extend your trips to two or three nights, all whilst practicing conservation of water, grey/black tank capacity, and power. The more you practice, the easier it will become. Many “professional” dry campers are able to last 10-14 days without refilling water or needing to dump their tanks. This may be longer than you ever plan to dry camp, but with practice, most could easily last three or four nights.
Dry camping may seem overwhelming and difficult if you have never tried it before. However, most find it very rewarding to forgo hookups for the opportunity to spend the night at beautiful Harvest Host locations, gorgeous dispersed camping areas, and the occasional, convenient Walmart lot. Practice makes perfect, and if you have never tried dry camping, these tips are sure to help you prepare for your first experience. Money saved, experiences shared, and memories made will have you planning your next dry camping trip sooner rather than later.
Have you ever dry camped in your RV before? How did you like it? Be sure to share tips and experiences below! If you aren’t taking the RV but still want to enjoy camping, make sure to read this guide for 45+ tips for camping for the first time.
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Hello I am interested in buying my first rv for living in, would you recommend dry camping or just buying a lot? It’s me my wife and my 3 year old daughter. We are doing it to save money faster to buy a home.
So, we’re newbies to rving. We bought a brand new Salem Hemisphere 34rl 5th wheel and truck to travel. So our 1st trip was really enjoyable although we did have some hiccups. The first being out emergency brake broke which, thankfully we were only a mile from where we purchased it. Next we get to the campground only to find 1 slide out wasn’t working, a leak in the kitchen sink and, our refrigerator door opened up during travel and completely cracked. We called for service which, they were able to open the slide and told us to drop off for repair, fixed sink but it still leaked. As for the fridge, we’re still waiting 6 weeks later for an answer. So now we’re on our 2nd trip going to Fla. and once again, slide out is not working. Ugh. What is frustrating to us is we were told the menu on the fridge was the lock which, it’s not. It’s actually to look the temperature. We have locks on the closet doors but not a fridge? The whole point of rving is to travel and, you will be during on bumping roads so why, doesn’t the fridge have a lock. The other thing the sales people don’t tell you is that unless your plugged in, you have not electricity which means no a/c or heat depending on the time of year and state your traveling to.
Hey Jenn! So sorry to hear that your initial RVing experiences have been tricky. I hope that you are able to get the hang of things and get everything fixed so that you can continue to enjoy your RV for years to come. Happy trails to you!
I am thinking of living on the road with New Truck and new travel trailer. I can pay for new travel trailer in full and most of the new truck. I get $1,800 a month. Is this a feasible idea???
New isn’t always better. I have a 2001 Class A. I don’t have a payment. If you get a new trailer what would be the difference in paying rent in a home. You will have RV park expenses, unless you boondock. Propane and regular gas isn’t cheap.
I feel the same way about my 2007 RV. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to purchasing both new and used RVs.
Your budget for living full-time on the road is very subjective to you lifestyle and travel style. However, this budget is certainly possible with the correct budget and spending limits in place.
We are still fairly new RVers, but have recently been doing a lot of dry camping on weekends at a specific campground on the Colorado River about 30 min out of town. Definitely learning as we go! Our tips: 1) Make sure you have a spare tire/jack with a socket that matches the rim (the tire iron that came with our RV did not fit). An air gun is a big plus 2) Check the water pump pressure prior to leaving as well as change the water filter (we had to upgrade) 3) Sanitize fresh water tank with a little bleach/water mixture and flush a few times (found out quickly we need to do this regularly to avoid bacteria and odor buildup), 4) Invest in a good sewer kit and a sprayer/hose to clean black tank via backflow 5) Invest in a name brand generator and check to ensure it has enough power to run the AC for your RV. 6) A pair of Scissor jacks helps a lot to stablize a rig on uneven ground. Our stays so far have been short (2-3 nights). We have utilized outdoor showers at the campsite to conserve fresh/grey tanks, though we have a dump site and potable water refill at our specific campground. We use a bucket in the sink to wash dishes, and take several gallons of fresh drinking water just in case. We also take a huge ice chest full of ice to conserve on fridge space and for items that need to be kept very cold when our generator is not running and adequately powering the fridge. We are LOVING our weekends off the grid, and hope to dry camp for a longer duration once we are used to it.
Hey Lori! Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying boondocking life. Thanks for all the great tips, and happy trails to you!
We have a beautiful shuttle bus conversion E350 we are totally self contained except we were only able to have a very small grey tank and therefore use a small rhino tank that we take with us is that ok?
That should be fine! As long as you have your own bathroom and grey water is contained, you should be able to camp with Harvest Hosts. 🙂
We dry camp a lot! We are leaving for a trip to CO & SD from PA and we will be camping 13 nights and only have hookups 3 nights and that is water & electric. We are staying in National Parks and Harvest Hosts locations 10 nights. Fortunately, our 21 foot travel trailer has BIG tanks which was a big consideration when purchasing it. We do have a generator but don’t use it a lot. It always makes me laugh when people can’t imagine camping without hookups. It’s really not that hard!
Hey Melody! That’s awesome that you were able to plan out your entire trip with few hookups sites. Hope it was a blast!
To help save gray tank space, we place a wash bucket in our sink and water the plants outside with it..we also put our coffee grinds around plants
Great ideas! Anything helps with the gray tank space. Thanks for sharing!