The ability to completely disconnect and head off grid is one of the best things about RVing. Boondocking is growing in popularity as more RVers head out to dispersed camping sites managed by the National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Department of Fish and Wildlife. While the thought of camping without any water, sewer, or electric hookups might seem anything but luxurious, when you’re in a luxury travel trailer like the Bowlus you’ll find you can still have all the comforts of home.
Here are 10 boondocking tips for making sure your off grid trip in your luxury RV is simply amazing.
1. Find the best boondocking spots
These days there are any number of apps, websites, and online communities that you can peruse in your search for the ultimate boondocking location. Make sure you look at reviews from other RVers to see what they have to say about road conditions and the safety of the location. For example, if you’re in bear country, you’ll need to take some special precautions with your food and trash.
It’s also a great idea to talk to Park Rangers. These folks are intimately familiar with the public lands they manage and are more than happy to share their favorite boondocking sites with you. Be sure to let them know if there’s something special you’re looking for, like seeing wildlife or catching an amazing sunrise.
You’ll want to check cell phone service ahead of time, either by using your carrier’s coverage map or an app that tracks up to date coverage areas. It’s better to know if the mapping app you’re using will work all the way to your site or if you need to go old school and print out directions before you go.
One other great tip is to use Google Earth or the satellite view on Google Maps to better understand the terrain where you’re heading.
2. Know your power needs
Since you’ll be running only on the power you bring with you, you’ll need to manage your power usage. As you’re preparing for your trip, consider the weather and how long you’ll be gone. For example, if it’s going to be cold, many campers save their propane for running the furnace and cook over the campfire or on a portable grill with a portable propane tank.
You can also conserve power by using battery or solar powered lights, radios, and speakers. If you’re in a Bowlus, you can be less concerned about your power consumption than you would have to be in a typical RV. With our battery system, you can spend up to a week off-grid without a generator. During that time, you can run the microwave and the refrigerator. You can even run the highly efficient air conditioner for up to two overnights
3. Bring back up power
No matter how conservative you are with your power usage, it’s always good to have a back up – which usually comes in the form of a generator or solar panels. Generators have their downsides – you need to bring fuel to keep them running and they’re so noisy they drown out the sounds of nature.
At Bowlus, all our luxury travel trailers are prepped for portable solar panels. Our panels can generate 40-60 amp hours per day depending on the weather conditions, which is more than enough to run the lights, all the power outlets in your trailer, power your laptop, and recharge your batteries. It’s also enough solar power to run many of the Bowlus’ highly efficient appliances, including the refrigerator.
4. Park Strategically
When you’re setting up your off grid campsite, you’ll want to position your RV strategically. In the summer, parking in the shade will keep your RV’s interior cooler. Keeping the shades pulled during the day will also help keep temperatures down inside. In cooler weather, do the opposite to take advantage of the sun’s natural heat.
One of the best things about Bowlus’ solar panels is that they’re portable. That means you can park your RV where you need to, but still position your panels to maximize solar energy. If your solar panels are on the roof of your RV, then the required position of your solar panels dictates where you park.
5. Manage your water usage
Managing water consumption is key to any successful boondocking experience. There’s a reason boondockers call it dry camping – you’ll want to bring plenty of water with you. Of course, you’ll need to fill your RV’s fresh water tank, but we also recommend you bring along several large 3 or 5 gallon jugs of drinking water as well. Use the water in your tanks for taking showers, flushing the toilet (Bowlus best-in-class cassette toilet is very water efficient), and doing dishes. Then you can use the bottled water for drinking, making coffee, and cooking.
If you’ve never boondocked before, it’s a good idea to dry camp at a campground for a weekend in your luxury travel trailer so you have a realistic idea of how much water you use (we bet it’ll be more than you think!). Then follow some of these tricks for conserving water off grid.
Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth.
Wash dishes once a day, which is more water efficient than doing them as you go.
Reduce the number of dishes you have by cooking in foil packets over the campfire (toss your protein, veggies, seasonings into the foil and set the packet in the hot coals or a grate over your fire). Consider using paper plates that you can then burn in your campfire.
Finally, if you’re going to be really remote, consider bringing a water purifier or purification tablets. Replenishing your supplies directly from a stream could make you sick.
6. Know your RV tank limits
It’s illegal to dump your black tank and gray tank at your boondocking campsite so you’ll need to know your RV wastewater tank limits before you go. If you’re planning on staying for a while, you may need to break camp so you can empty your holding tanks at the nearest dump station. If you’re in a Bowlus, it’s easy to transport the cassette to the nearest public bathroom.
7. Boondock with a buddy
While sometimes you want to get away from everything and everyone, you may want to take your first trip with someone who’s more experienced off the grid. Not only can they teach you the things they’ve learned along the way, but you can share supplies and spend quality time with friends around the campfire.
At a minimum, you should give your GPS coordinates and expected date of return to a friend or family member so someone knows where you are. While they’ll likely never be needed, it’s a good precaution to take.
8. Have a plan for your clothing
This one is straightforward, but it’s something to think about before you hit the road. You either need to bring enough clothes for the duration of your off grid trip or you need to have a plan for how you’ll do your laundry.
9. Pre-plan and prepare your meals and snacks ahead of time
Preparing food at home is a great way to conserve water while you’re camping (and it’s a great time saver too). Doing the prep work at home means there are fewer pots and pans to scour at your campsite. It also eliminates the last minute trips to the store (which could take hours depending on where you are) for that one missing ingredient. We recommend you make a meal plan before you go (including all the condiments!) to be sure you have everything you’ll need. Then, store it in your RVs fridge in glass containers and you’ll be ready to heat and eat!
One other great tip is to pre-wash your fruits and vegetables so they’re ready to grab and go.
10. Take time to really enjoy nature
Presumably, one of the reasons you want to boondock is to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Make sure you pack camp chairs and plan to spend some time sitting around the campfire and just soaking in the sights and sounds of nature.