RV in the woods

Expert Advice

Are You Ready for Boondocking?

Many of today’s RV’s are very well suited for this type of camping but taking your RV off-grid requires a bit more preparation and planning than a typical trip to a campground.

8 Tips for Off-Grid RV Adventures 

When you forego the convenience of a traditional campground and set up your rig on public land without defined sites or hookups of any kind--then you are boondocking or camping off-grid. Many of today’s RV’s are very well suited for this type of camping. But just because your RV is ready for this kind of adventure does not necessarily mean that you are. Taking your RV off-grid requires a bit more preparation and planning than a typical trip to a campground. Here are 8 tips to help you start planning your first off-grid adventure!

Find Good Sites and Keep it Legal

The quality and quantity of off-grid camping sites vary widely in different parts of the country. Public lands for boondocking are more widely available in the western part of the country than in the east. But creative thinkers can probably find an off-grid camping spot just about anywhere. Start your search at The U.S. Forest Service website and take it from there. Google Maps is also your friend. Just make sure you pick a spot where overnight camping is safe and legal. If you are camping on private property make sure you have the owner’s permission.

Take a Short Trip First 

If you are taking your first boondocking trip, plan on keeping it short--like 1-2 nights maximum. Your first trip really should be a learning experience. Practice conserving water and energy and being more self-reliant than you would be on a typical camping trip. As you get better at boondocking and learn your RV’s capabilities, you can extend your trips. Many veteran boondockers stay off the grid for weeks at a time. But those people know their RV’s incredibly well and have built up the skill and confidence to camp in the wild.

Bring Enough Water and Use it Wisely

If you don’t know how big your freshwater tank is, then now is the time to find out. Using water wisely and mindfully is absolutely key to having a successful

(Photo compliments of Go Power)

Consider a Solar Kit

Adding solar to your RV is a game changer when it comes to camping off grid. Harnessing the power of the sun will help keep your batteries charged for days at a time, and if you add an inverter you will be able to use your 110 outlets for making coffee and charging devices. People often ask if you can run your AC if you have solar. While it is possible with a gigantic solar set up, it will be cost prohibitive (and too heavy) for most RV owners. But adding solar can still help when camping in warmer weather because you can run your vent fans much longer. They can suck hot air out upon arrival, and suck cool air into the rig at night while you are sleeping.

Monitor Propane Use During Your Trip

Water and battery life are not the only things that need to be conserved on a boondocking trip. You also need to be mindful about how much propane you plan on using. If you are camping in cold weather, and plan on using your furnace at night, then your propane tanks can empty out pretty quickly. This is another reason why your first boondocking trip should be a short one, particularly if temperatures are chilly.  Consider bringing an extra propane tank or two on your trip to backup your onboard tanks for heating purposes. Also consider bringing extra propane that is designated specifically for cooking, if you intend on cooking on a propane powered device. Pulling your propane tanks off the RV and using them to cook dinner on your camp stove could be a bad idea if you have a cold night ahead of you. Waking up in the middle of night with no source of heat is not fun. Ask me how I know!

 

(photo by Kerri Cox)

Watch the Weather and Avoid Extreme Temperature

When you first start boondocking it will be wise to watch the weather and pick a night or two with moderate temperatures and conditions. If the weather is good you won’t have to worry about discomfort created by heat or cold.  Many seasoned RV owners love to boondock in the snow, and plenty of people boondock in the heat of the summer--but both of those situations require more meticulous planning and an intimate knowledge of your RV’s tank capacities and power limitations.

Keep Your Devices Charged and Share Your Location

Even though you are camping off grid because you want to actually get off grid, it is still wise to keep your devices fully charged. Bring a backup charging brick or two and make sure they are also fully topped off for your trip. If you are heading somewhere without cell service you should consider sharing your itinerary with someone you trust. Let them know where you are going and how long you intend on staying. Plan to check in with them at a set time upon your return. This might also be wise even if you are not camping without reception. 

Bring a First Aid Kit and Have a Plan to Get Help

All RV owners should keep a high quality first aid kit in their rigs and know where the nearest emergency services are located. This is even more important if you are camping off grid. At a typical campground, help is just a campsite away. But if you are in the desert or camping on BLM land then you should know what your options are if you get hurt.

Most outdoor adventures require preparation and planning. Camping off grid is no different. If you do the necessary work in advance, and build up your “off grid” skill set, then you will find it much easier to truly kick back and relax under the stars. Your RV can take you just about anywhere, and time spent in nature, away from the crowd, refreshes the mind, body, and soul. So go forth and enjoy your first (or next) off-grid adventure, but make sure to take some extra time beforehand to make sure you are prepared!

 

family camping

The RV Atlas

Jeremy & Stephanie Puglisi

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co-hosts of the weekly RV Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts and the RV Atlas blog. They are also the authors of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors, and Where Should We Camp Next: A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and other Unique Outdoor Accommodations, and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop-up camper more than 10 years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) over at RV Atlas.