How Long Can You Dry Camp in an RV?


Camping without hookups may seem a little difficult if you’ve never done it before. Technically, anytime you are camping without any hookups is called dry camping, whether that’s in the backcountry or a parking lot. But how long can you dry camp in an RV?

Here’s what I know from doing it in mine:

14 days is typically the maximum amount of time most RVers can dry camp before needing to dump their tanks, charge their batteries, or add gas or oil to their generator.

But if you’re brand new to RV life, you probably don’t want to go more than a few days at first until you get more familiar with camping and your RV. After all, you don’t want to find yourself stuck, or with an overflowing black water tank.

There’s more to learn about this camping style, and we’re going to go over it in this article. Let’s dive into it.

What does it mean to dry camp?

Dry camping is camping without any hookups; electrical, water, or sewer. This could be in a Walmart parking lot, or deep in a National Forest, and in all cases, outside of a designated campground.

Dry camping is another alternative to saying boondocking.

However, these two things aren’t identical and have one thing that is different about them. I’ll talk about that later in this article. For now, let’s focus on just dry camping.

Dry camping can be done with a tent or in an RV, and this is because it means you can’t have any water or electric hookups.

Most opt for an RV’s comfort and safety nowadays, but that doesn’t discredit dry camping in a tent. But all RVs aren’t known for outstandingly comfortable beds.

I have a recent article that goes over the comforts of RVs, and how to make the beds a LOT more comfortable. Just click on the link to read it on my site.

As I mentioned, dry camping can be done in both a campground or out in the wild.

The most important thing to remember is to start with empty black and gray water tanks and a full fresh water tank and a full gas tank for generators. If you don’t have a generator, just make sure your house battery(ies) is fully charged.

And if your RV has propane, make sure to fill up that tank too.

What is the difference between dry camping and boondocking?

Dry camping is camping without any hookups which may or not be done in a campground. It could be a parking lot, or somewhere off the grid. Boondocking is dry camping without hookups but specifically on public lands such as a National Forest, outside of a designated campground.

As I mentioned before, there is a difference between dry camping and boondocking, even though they’re very similar in meaning.

The main difference is the location of each of these actions. 

For the most part, the camping and RV community uses both these words interchangeably even when they’re not exactly camping.

A lot of the RV community will stop in Walmart parking lots for a night stop before driving again.

And even though boondocking is technically supposed to be on public lands, most people do use the term Wallydocking to describe “camping” in a Walmart parking lot.

Most RV’s are self-sufficient, so you don’t need hookups for short-term stays. Most will still consider this dry camping even though it’s not actually camping.

Even the most self-sufficient RV needs a source of power, so if you don’t have hookups, how will your RV get power for a reasonable length of time?

How long will the battery last dry camping?

Fully charged, a 12v battery will last about 2 to 3 days depending on what appliances are being run off of it. They can last significantly longer with multiple batteries and/or a generator. Some RVs can charge the house batteries from the engine battery.

Self-sufficient RV’s has several ways to power your little home on wheels. You can use batteries, solar panels, generators, or a combination of all three.

Let’s talk, solar! Solar panels are rising in popularity among campers.

It won’t fully replace your batteries, but it’s a great way to recharge and get extra power when needed. A solar panel could mean the difference between staying out another day or not.

Solar panels are great for charging phones, lights, and heating elements.

These won’t replace your batteries as getting a solar panel that holds energy is more expensive. When it comes to rainy days, covered forests, cloudy weekends, solar panels are not your friend.

Let’s talk about a few battery options you’ve got.

The type of battery you get will depend on your budget and your goal for the battery. A familiar type of battery is going to be the lithium battery.

While this one is the most expensive, it’s spill-proof, maintenance-free, and requires no ventilation. The best feature would be that these charge faster and weigh less.

The second best battery is going to be an absorbed glass mat battery.

Sounds weird? You might recognize it better as AGM batteries. Like lithium batteries, they are maintenance-free and spill-proof. This is an excellent medium budget buy as it can stand colder temperatures, but if you overcharge it or undercharge it, it can negatively impact the battery.

The cheapest option comes with more maintenance and no guarantee that it won’t spill.

This would be the lead-acid battery. While sticking to a budget, remember that this battery doesn’t do well under cold weather.

These types of batteries are meant to discharge and recharge power. It’s essential to keep these on hand, and if you prefer quieter power, this is a great option to have.

It’s also worth noting that a generator is an excellent option on its own or with both these options.

A generator will give you consistent and reliable power, no matter what weather or terrain. The downside to this power option is the noise unless you invest a little more and get a quieter generator.

A generator is great to have if you need heat or air conditioning.

I have a recent article about how long you can run the AC in your RV. After all, they won’t last indefinitely, but there’s 1 thing you can do to really maximize how much time you get.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How do you dry camp with a travel trailer?

A travel trailer or pop-up camper is best used for dry camping for 2-3 days. Make sure to start with a full fresh water tank, and empty black and gray water tanks. Also, ensure batteries are fully charged, and propane tanks too if it has one.

Any RV can go dry camping, but some travel trailers may be better suited for smaller spaces. You’ll want something compact, so a pop-up, teardrop trailer, or even an A-frame travel trailer are better suited for dry camping.

Let’s go over a few tips that can improve your dry camping in these trailers.

You want to be very conservative when it comes to water and your grey and black tanks.

Freshwater tank:

Conserving water should be an obvious tip as you won’t have immediate access to water. Depending on your water tank’s size, you can be more or less conservative with your water.

Always make sure you arrive at a dry camping site with a full tank of water.

Greywater tank:

This is where your wastewater goes. Such as the waste from your shower or sink. This can fill up fast if you are frequently washing dishes, brushing your teeth, and anything else that may seem like a small task to do. Even washing your hands can fill this thing up. Ensure that you have an empty grey tank when starting your trip, and never dump it at a dry camping site.

Blackwater tank:

This is reserved for strictly toilet water and can be dumped in the same place as the grey tank when you are dumping the tanks. Remember to keep your black tank empty at the start and end of your trip.

Make sure you manage these, along with how much power your generator has. Like I mentioned before, a generator would be best suited for this type of dry camping.

Dry camping can be hard when starting off. It would be best to start with shorter trips that you know you can manage and work your way to longer trips.

As long as you manage your waste, time, and consumption of resources, you’ll be set to dry camp anywhere and with anything.

What are some RV dry camping essentials?

Aside from solar panels and batteries, there are other essentials that you should keep with you if you’re going to be dry camping.

  • Tool Kit: This is important for any repairs needed on the go and just simple maintenance. If you aren’t very handy, there are plenty of YouTube videos to watch and learn from.
  • Propane: This is important for cooking or even your fridge. Suppose you choose a generator for power; some run off of propane. It’s always good to have extra tanks on hand if you know you use them.
  • Leveling blocks: These are important for keeping your RV in place in nature. You can get building leveling blocks that you can put together to make whatever size you need.
  • Food: Food is as important as bringing water. Even if you’re hunting, you’ll still need prepackaged food. Granola bars and canned products are the best to get. Don’t forget a little trail mix.
  • First aid: This one is a little obvious, but it can be overlooked in the excitement/stress of packing for a weekend adventure. If anything were to happen, it’s best to keep on one hand. This applies to life as well. Keep one at home, in your, in your RV, etc.
  • Flashlights/Lanterns: This is great for scary nighttime stories. Lights are needed for cleaning up during the last few minutes before the sun goes down and to check up on the wildness around you.
  • Portable heater: This is great for a colder night that needs a little more than just a fire. You probably won’t need this in the summer, but this is a must if you plan on camping during the colder seasons. You never know how the weather is going to change.

Need some of those? Just CLICK HERE to go right to my Dry Camping Essentials Recommended Gear Page with all the Amazon links to the best options!

These are just a few basic things that you should consider packing when going on an adventure out into the woods. Obviously, every home has its own packing list, but sometimes we forgot the simplest of things.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about dry camping in an RV?

Dry camping can be a fantastic experience, and we don’t want family trips to be more stressful than needed.

Make sure you plan ahead of time to reduce stress from last-minute planning. Planning ahead of time makes sure you have everything you need in place to have an adventure with peace of mind.

Remember to start with short trips of 2 to 4 days, and then you can work up to 10 to 14 days. Make sure your power is ready and that your water tank is full, and your waste bins are empty. You won’t have hookups, but that doesn’t mean dry camping won’t be any fun. In fact, it may mean you have more fun.

Stay safe, and have fun camping!

Cassandra & Jeff Campbell

Cassandra and Jeff Campbell travel on and off with their 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. They write extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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