What to Pack Series: Boondocking Road Trip

Last updated on October 19th, 2021 at 01:23 pm. Originally published on August 10th, 2021

We love that RV camping allows us to wander anywhere. We can be in the middle of a forest, out in the desert, or even on the beach and still sleep and live in comfort. That said, many of the best RVing locations require a boondocking trip, something that many RVers are hesitant to try. 

We can understand why boondocking might seem a bit overwhelming at first. After all, camping without the conveniences of plenty of fresh water, a way to get rid of dirty water, and electric hookups does require a bit of planning. That said, as long as you do that planning and use a good boondocking packing list, you should be able to camp off-grid without sacrificing comfort. 

So what kind of off-grid camping items do you need? Below we’ve given you our top tips for packing for boondocking, as well as a handy boondocking packing list. Check items off the list as you pack them and you should be good to go. 

Boondocking near mountain

Packing for a Boondocking Trip: Electricity and Water

The most challenging part of boondocking is finding a way to stay comfortable while still making your electricity and water last. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to go about this. These tips address this problem, helping you figure out what boondocking packing list items you need. 

Invest in Good Batteries

Batteries are incredibly important when dry camping. After all, your batteries are the thing that hold all of the electricity you’ll be using throughout the trip. Invest in a good battery—or even a whole bank of batteries!—so you can get through your getaway without running out of power. 

Have a Way to Recharge

You will almost certainly need to recharge your batteries at some point during your trip. Have a way to do this.

Some people prefer a generator, and many RVs come equipped with onboard generators, making this easy. Solar panels are another option, and they are nice because they don’t require any fuel. However, most people who use solar panels do still keep a generator around as a backup in case sunlight is in short supply. 

Change Your Lightbulbs

Oddly enough, the lights in RVs can be huge energy hogs, draining your batteries very quickly if you aren’t careful. To help solve this problem, you might consider switching to LED light bulbs in your RV. These bulbs are more expensive, but they last much longer, use less power, and don’t get as hot. 

Light Your Site

Speaking of lights, because you’ll probably be boondocking in the middle of nowhere, you will want to have some way to light your site at night. You could of course use the exterior light on your RV, but this will use some of your precious electricity. Instead, we recommend solar lights to keep your campsite illuminated without draining your battery. 

Install 12-Volt Fans

Fans and vents are important for keeping your RV cool and comfortable. Most RVs come equipped with at least one 12-volt fan, but they tend to be pretty weak. We recommend replacing the factory fan with a FanTastic Fan or MaxxAir Fan, adding a second fan if possible, and adding vent covers that allow air through without letting sunlight and rain in. 

Bring a Way to Dump Your Tanks

Black and gray tanks fill more quickly than most people realize. For this reason, it is incredibly important to use water wisely and put only what you have to down the drain.

That said, even when taking these precautions, you will almost certainly need to dump if you are out for more than a few days. For this reason, we recommend a portable dump tank and a macerator pump to get the dirty water from your tanks and into the portable tank in your truck bed. This will allow you to take the water to a dump station without moving your entire rig (which itself could make you lose your nice camping spot, depending on where you’re boondocking).

Keep Refill Jugs Handy

Watching water usage is also important because it’s very easy to run out of fresh water. In order to avoid running out, we highly recommend keeping two 5-gallon jugs on hand. Carry them in your vehicle if you can and fill them up anytime you see a place to do so. You can then transfer the jugs to your fresh tank as needed. 

Get Clean with Less Water

One way to conserve water is by reducing the amount you use when showering. You can do this a couple of ways. The first is to put off showering for a day or two by using something like Venture Wipes to clean up. The second? Changing to a low-flow aerated showerhead such as those made by Oxygenics

Wash Dishes in a Tub

Another great water conservation tip is to wash dishes in a tub. Filling the tub with soapy water to wash with uses less than running water as you wash, allowing you to save the water so you can flush with it later, getting more than one use out of it and saving space in your gray tank!

Skip the RV Furnace

RV furnaces are notorious for being inefficient. To save the electricity used to run the fan, and to save fuel as well, consider investing in a propane space heater such as the Mr. Buddy to use instead of the RV furnace. These use no electricity, and because they run more efficiently, they use less propane as well. Just be sure to crack open a window nearby.

More Tips for Off-Grid Camping

Once you figure out how you will conserve water and electricity while on a trip, you’re likely pretty set. That said, there are a few other tips you might want to keep in mind when building your boondocking packing list. 

Carry Extra Fuel

We mentioned propane above. You need propane to keep warm in your RV in winter. You also need it to use your gas stove and oven as well as your gas water heater. Therefore, you will want to make sure you go in with full tanks.

Additionally, you will want to carry a gas can so you can refill your vehicle should you accidentally run out of fuel. 

Be Prepared for Emergencies

You never know what might happen on a boondocking trip, and when you’re off-grid, there may or may not be people around to help. Therefore, you will want to go in prepared to help yourself as much as possible. Carrying a well-stocked first aid kit and tool kit full of the usual tools will allow you to take care of most issues on your own. 

Carry a Road Atlas

Many boondocking locations don’t have cell reception, making it impossible to use a GPS. Make sure you have a paper road atlas so you can find your way around areas that don’t have coverage. Downloading maps of certain areas to your phone or GPS can also be super helpful. 

Where to Stay

You can find nearly 3000 sites with Boondockers Welcome. Members can search through more than 2888+ total locations across the country, with 70% of hosts also offering hookups. After you become a member there is no cost to stay; thank your host by leaving them an excellent review and spreading the love to other RVers. Be sure to use code BWRVSHARE to save 10% off your membership!

Check out these options as well. Just be aware that some government-owned (BLM) lands will require you to pick up a camping pass. Additionally, many boondocking locations have a stay limit.

Boondocking in forest

What to Pack for a Self-Contained RV Trip

Obviously, when packing for a boondocking trip you will need all the usual things you pack for an RV camping getaway. That said, the tips we mentioned above require that you pack several other key items as well. These items are lined up below in a nice boondocking packing list that will help you quickly make sure you have everything you need for a successful day camping escape. 

Electrical Items

  • An RV-ready generator
  • Solar panel(s) — optional
  • RV battery or batteries
  • LED light bulbs
  • Solar-powered outdoor lighting
  • 12-volt fans

Water Related Items

  • Portable dump tank
  • Macerator pump
  • Large jugs for extra fresh water
  • Water saving showerhead
  • Dishwashing tub
  • Drinking water
  • Venture wipes

Other

  • Full propane tanks
  • Propane space heater
  • Full gas can
  • Extra leveling blocks
  • Well-stocked tool kit
  • Well-stocked first aid kit
  • Paper map

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