Exploring the country and driving around the natural sights and wonders can give you an appreciation for nature that few other experiences can offer. One of the best ways to experience camping around the country is with an RV or travel trailer, giving you the chance to drive wherever you need — with shelter ready to go.
There are many different kinds of campgrounds and areas where you can set up shop for the night, but if you have never considered doing a portion of your trip as dry camping, it might be worth a shot.
Here is the ultimate beginner's guide to dry camping, giving you all the tools you need for a successful trip.
What Is Dry Camping?
For many people, the term “dry camping” is probably new vocabulary; others might recognize it by its other name, “boondocking.” Dry camping has nothing to do with the landscape in which you camp but rather with the amenities a campsite offers. When you are dry camping, you are camping in your RV or travel trailer without hookups for electricity, water, or sewage.
This certainly comes with some considerations. However, dry camping also comes with major benefits like cutting down on your camping costs and connecting you closer with nature.
There are many different sites where dry camping is allowed, including many national parks, properties owned by the Bureau of Land Management. Even many parking lots and rest stops can serve as ideal spots for dry camping setup.
How To Find a Dry Campsite
The first step to your dry camping trip is finding a good spot to set up your trailer or RV. Not all campsites allow for dry camping, but there are plenty of sites where it is perfectly safe, legal, and fun to camp.
Here is a brief list of some resources you can use to find your perfect dry camping site:
- Bureau of Land Management Website: The BLM website has information on all the public lands in the United States that can offer you location ideas for your dry campsite.
- USFS Website: The United States Forest Service contains lots of information about the dry campsites throughout the National Parks System. Keep in mind not all of these areas are free. So, if you are looking for a free spot, double-check there’s no fee for dry camping.
- Harvest Hosts: Harvest Hosts is a website service that connects dry campers with private landowners who offer their property for dry camping. While there are usually fees associated with this, it can be a good option to find an area outside of public lands to set up camp.
Keep in mind there are also dozens of other resources you can use to find dry campsites, including campsite review websites which can help you find your best options.
Essential Dry Camping Tips
Now that you know where to find dry campsites that you can use, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of dry camping.
Review these tips that’ll help you camp like a pro your first time at a dry campsite:
Conserve Your Electricity
The first important tip you must follow when dry camping is to conserve electricity. Without an electrical hookup, you will only have the electrical power that your RV or travel trailer can provide you. If you use it all up, you could be stuck without power leaving you stranded.
You should use energy-efficient lighting in your trailer or RV to reduce the usage and do your best to unplug electronic devices when they aren’t in use to prevent phantom loads. It is also wise to bring a backup generator so that you can create power should you need it to get yourself going again.
Bring a Cooler
Bring a nice camping cooler with you while dry camping, regardless of whether or not your RV or travel trailer has a refrigerator. Your refrigerator will suck a lot of electricity. If you can turn it off and put your cold-stored food in a cooler while dry camping, that’s probably for the best.
In order for this to work, you need a cooler with top-notch insulation. Patriot Coolers Rotomolded Coolers are the perfect solution for your dry camping needs. Our hard-sided coolers are made of durable rotomolded plastic, which is injected with state-of-the-art insulation, letting you keep ice frozen for as long as ten days straight.
With sizes from 20 quarts to 50 quarts, our hard-sided coolers give you all the storage space you might need and more. Check out our full collection of hard and soft-sided coolers here.
Your water will also be a limited resource when camping without hookups, so you should conserve it as best you can. Using low-flow faucets and keeping showers short, or using wet wipes to clean yourself are nice options to keep your water for the necessities.
Some like to have a backup water tank that they can fill just before setting up camp to have a bit of water in reserve should an emergency arise.
Handle Wastewater Appropriately
Without sewage hookups for your RV or travel trailer, be careful about your wastewater. Empty your black water tank before you set your dry campsite to guarantee you have enough space when you arrive.
Try using the campsite bathrooms as much as you can to avoid building up wastewater. When it comes time to empty your tank, you have to dump it in a designated area or face punishments and fines.
The website Sanidumps is a great resource to help you find dump sites when camping. Not all wastewater dump areas are free to use, so it can be beneficial to keep some extra cash on you in case.
Start Small and Work Your Way Up
While you may want to dive in headfirst for a whole week or more of dry camping when you’re just starting out, it’s best to take it slow at first. If you’ve never used your current RV or travel trailer for a dry camping trip, then you won’t know its limits.
Every RV handles different amounts of time without hookups, depending on your batteries, water supply, and what backups you can access. Practicing in your own driveway can help you figure out how long your setup can handle a dry camping set up before driving into the wilderness.
Dry Camping Takeaways
Dry camping is not camping in the desert, but rather camping in an RV or trailer without hookups for electricity, water, or sewage. Plenty of great campsites across the country allow for dry camping, and many are free, making this a relatively user-friendly hobby.
Just be sure that you are preparing yourself the right way. You will need to conserve your resources as smartly as possible to make dry camping a reality for you. Having backups like a generator, an extra water tank, and a cooler is essential.
Patriot Coolers offers tons of high-quality coolers and insulated drinkware, which are built tough to withstand whatever nature throws its way. With a little prep, you’ll be ready to head out to the open road for a journey you’ll never forget.