If you ask us, there’s only one thing better than RV camping — and that’s free RV camping!
As you probably know, RVing isn’t always as inexpensive as some of us imagine before we take our first trip. Obviously, there’s the cost of the vehicle itself (whether your rent or buy), as well as the registration, insurance, fuel, and cost of maintenance.
Plus, if you’re staying in a developed campground with concrete or gravel pull-thru sites and hookups, you’ll also be facing a per-night accommodation fee on top of it all. And depending on how nice the campground is, that cost might be pretty significant. Some resort-style campgrounds in popular destinations that feature lots of luxurious extras can cost as much as $70 per night, or even more.
Jeesh! I thought the whole point of camping was to travel cheaply, right?
Fortunately, there’s an alternative that saves you tons of cash by taking camping back to its basics. (Plus, it’s more adventurous and fun to boot!)
It’s called boondocking. And if you’ve never done it, prepare to discover RV camping as it was meant to be.
So, what is boondocking?
Also called “dry camping” or “dispersed camping,” boondocking is simply camping without hookups. That means no external source of water or electricity, and no sewer connection.
Basically, it’s what you do if you pull off to grab a quick nap in a Walmart parking lot. But it’s also something you can sustain for longer periods of time in beautiful, wild camping sites… so long as you know what you’re doing.
Boondocking means more than giving up power (which you don’t even necessarily have to do, if you have solar panels or a generator on board).
The most critical limitation you’ll face is your water supply. You only have what’s in your tank — and the extra potable water you should definitely carry on board. That means you have to pay attention to how much you use. Every single time you flush the toilet or turn on the tap, it counts!
You’ll also be limited by your wastewater tanks, of course. At some point, you’ll have to pick up camp to take your rig to a dump site.
But if you can learn to be diligent in your water conservation efforts — and if you choose a temperate spot that won’t make you miss your air conditioning and run your generator at all hours — you can comfortably boondock for as long as a week, or maybe even longer!
Oh, and did we mention that most boondocking sites are free, or extremely cheap, to stay in?
Boondocking Across America
Not only will boondocking get you off the grid and far away from your nearest neighbors (and a whole lot closer to Mother Nature, too) — but it’ll also save you a heap of money.
That’s because RV boondocking locations on public land are often free to camp in, so long as you follow posted camping rules. In some cases, you may have to pay a nominal fee — say, $25 — but it’ll cover your camping accommodations for up to two weeks.
Keep in mind, however, that even if a piece of unmarked land looks like it’s public, it may be privately owned and therefore off limits. Always check with the BLM, or Bureau of Land Management, to make sure the spot you’re eyeing is actually available for RV camping. You can also use online resources from campers that list some great boondocking sites, either by checking specific apps and websites designed for the purpose or simply googling “primitive camping near me.
So, now that you’ve got the 101 on boondocking, let’s talk about a very important issue: food!
RV meal planning and motorhome cooking is already a bit more challenging than it is at home. After all, your kitchen space is likely much smaller and more limited than you’re used to, and you might not have space to bring every piece of kitchen equipment you’d like.
But cooking while boondocking incorporates an additional challenge: You want to use as little water as possible. That means every dirty dish counts!
You also may not be able to use your microwave, which draws a lot of amperage, and you’ll want to conserve your fuel if your RV’s stove utilizes LP gas.
But fortunately, there are some quick tips and tricks that will help you create delicious, healthy meals that won’t jeopardize the length of your boondocking trip.
Cooking in an RV
Here are some easy-to-follow hacks that’ll keep you well-fed while you’re off the grid.
1. Don’t be afraid to use your campfire.
Your campfire can cook so much more than s’mores. (Not that you shouldn’t make those, too!)
From hot dogs to full-on stews, there are a ton of incredible RV campfire recipes out there — it’s crazy what you can do with a little tin foil! Plus, cooking over the fire will keep you from needing electricty to power your kitchen appliances.
Not making a campfire? You could also consider using a portable camping grill, which can be lit with charcoal or its own dedicated propane canister.
2. Choose recipes that only call for one cooking pot.
This one’s pretty obvious. By dirtying up as few dishes as possible, you’ll save water when it comes time to do the washing. Fortunately, most RV camping meal and food ideas and recipes for camping trips keep this consideration in mind. Here are a few easy, low-mess recipes we put together for RVing, many of which are great for boondocking.
3. Does your pot or pan come with a lid? Use it!
The lid isn’t just for decoration: It’ll help your food heat up and cook faster, saving you both power and time!
4. Consider using paper and plastic.
No, paper plates aren’t the best thing in the world for the environment… but when it comes to cutting down on the number of dishes you have to do, there’s no easier shortcut.
For best results, find biodegradable, recyclable, or otherwise green alternatives to regular old plastic and styrofoam. Combined with your water conservation efforts, it’ll help to minimize the ecological impact.
Enjoy your time away from it all. It’s bound to be delicious for both your body and soul!