RVers Share What They Wish They Knew Before Boondocking

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An RV boondocking in the desert

Sometimes experience is the best way to learn a lesson, especially when RVing. We recently saw a post on social media encouraging RVers to share things they wish they knew before boondocking.

Scrolling through the comments allowed us to reflect on when we first embraced boondocking. We made a lot of mistakes and learned something from each of them. However, you can save yourself the hassle and learn from the mistakes of others.

Today, we’re sharing advice RVers wish they knew before they started boondocking. Let’s get started!

What Is Boondocking?

Boondocking is a camping style that involves setting up a recreational vehicle on public lands. These are typically lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

This type of camping requires campers to be entirely self-sufficient. They must bring water, generate power, and dispose of waste. Boondocking campsites have nothing more than a spot to park and set up camp. 

However, they typically provide increased privacy and space, especially compared to a cramped traditional campground.

Is Boondocking Hard?

Because boondocking requires you to be entirely self-sufficient, it can be challenging. You’ll need to arrive with a water supply or a plan to get water into your freshwater tank. Finding a place to get potable water can pose a challenge in some locations.

Additionally, generating power will take some forethought. Typically, users will bring portable generators or use solar panels to power electronics and charge their batteries. 

While generators can be great options, they’re very noisy. In addition, upgrading to solar and beefier batteries can be very expensive.

One of the other most challenging aspects of boondocking is managing water. Showering, using the restroom, and doing dishes all require you to use water. You could be empty before you know it if you don’t mind your usage.

Fortunately, like many things, boondocking gets easier the more you do it. You find tools and gain confidence in your abilities. 

You didn’t learn to ride a bike the first time you tried, did you? Just because your first trip or two was rough doesn’t mean it’s not for you. Keep trying to learn from each experience. You’ll be a pro before you know it! 

10 Boondocking Tips RVers Wish They Knew Sooner

One of the best ways to learn is by listening to others. Here are 10 of the best boondocking tips RVers wish they knew sooner. Let’s dive in!

Check Out New Spots in Advance

One mistake many new boondockers make is not checking out new spots ahead of time. If you make this mistake, you could get yourself and your rig into a sticky situation. A free camping spot can get expensive if it causes you to damage your rig or if you need a tow to get out.

We carried electric bikes with us when we were in our fifth wheel. If we weren’t sure whether the area had availability or the conditions were safe, we would hop on our e-bikes. This made it easy to check the area and avoid a potential disaster.

We recommend exploring the area ahead of time. It only takes one frustrating situation before you’ll learn this lesson.

Stay Aware of the Weather

Mother Nature can be moody and change her mind quickly and frequently.

When boondocking, you must stay aware of the weather. While RVs can handle most storms and weather events, they’re not the safest place to be during emergencies.

Staying aware of the weather can allow you to secure your rig and belongings before conditions change.

Turn on weather alerts and notifications on your phone. However, you may not have a cell signal everywhere you camp. A battery-powered weather radio comes in handy in these situations.

If severe weather is in the forecast, pack up camp and find a safe place to wait out the storm. High winds and hail can do severe damage to an RV.

A man starting a fire outside of his RV while boondocking

Don’t Be in a Hurry

Being in a hurry is one mistake many RVers make no matter where they camp. You’re more likely to make big and small mistakes when you feel rushed. Unfortunately, even a tiny mistake can be costly and dangerous when RVing.

Whether hauling your rig on the highway, hitching up your RV, or setting up camp, resist the urge to hurry. We’ve seen some owners make big mistakes because they didn’t take their time. We quickly learned that we needed to use checklists to help us avoid skipping a step or getting distracted. 

Lithium Batteries Are Game Changers

If you don’t know, the battery that came with your camper is most likely next to worthless.

If you intend to spend any meaningful amount of time boondocking, you’ll likely need to upgrade to a lithium battery. These deliver twice the amount of power, charge faster, and are half the weight.

Are they expensive? Absolutely. However, prices are dropping across the industry as technologies grow. We love the ability to power our electronics and charge our devices.

On a sunny day, our solar panels didn’t take long to replenish our battery bank.

Mistakes Will Happen

There’s no such thing as a perfect boondocker. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. When you first start, it may feel like all you’re doing is making mistakes. However, look at each one as learning opportunities. If you apply the lessons learned, you’ll start to make fewer mistakes.

Because mistakes will happen, extend grace to yourself and anyone traveling with you. Getting upset or angry won’t fix the situation. Remain as calm as possible and assess the situation. 

One of the worst things you can do is to let frustrations from one mistake cause you to make additional ones.

Pro Tip: Everyone makes mistakes, but knowing about these 7 beginner RV mistakes will help you to avoid them!

Arrive Before Dark

One rule we tried to follow was to arrive before dark. Navigating an RV is hard enough, but doing it in the dark can be incredibly dangerous. If you’re not confident, you can arrive before dark or find a safe place to park for the night. This could be a rest stop, parking lot, or truck stop.

Arriving after dark can cause severe and expensive damage that could derail your adventures. We don’t know your insurance deductible, but it’s likely more than the cost of a campground.

Save yourself from a costly insurance claim and do all you can to pull in and set up camp before nightfall.

A man sitting outside of his RV while boondocking

Campendium Can Be Your Best Friend

If you’ve yet to meet Campendium, let us introduce you to your new best friend. It is a powerful resource with access to thousands of camping locations across the country. 

You can search based on your location or research a potential camping area. In addition, you can use filters to narrow down so you only see sites that meet your needs.

Campendium is a fantastic resource for researching boondocking sites, finding campgrounds, and locating essential resources frequently used by RVers, such as dump stations.

The app has premium and free options. We recommend upgrading to the premium plan if you use it regularly. It’s worth every penny.

Level Your Rig

Having a level RV is crucial for your comfort and your appliances. If you’re not level, some appliances will not function efficiently. 

We’ve heard many stories of boondockers struggling to keep their refrigerator cool because they were unlevel. Unless you want to toss a fridge full of food, ensure you get your rig as level as possible.

Andersen Levelers and LevelMate Pro are some of the best tools for the job. This is another skill that gets easier with experience. Unfortunately, some sites are more challenging than others, and even the most experienced RVers will need help occasionally.

Pro Tip: Level your RV like a professional with this helpful RV Leveling Guide!

ANDERSEN HITCHES | 3604-2 2-Pack Camper Leveler System Must Have RV | Camping Travel Easy Storage Jack Stabilizer Block | Levelers Blocks for Campers and Fifth Wheels
  • 🛻[MUST HAVE FOR CAMPERS OR FIFTH WHEEL]: Works great on trailers up to 30,000 lbs and with tires up to 32" diameter....
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LevelMatePRO LogicBlue Technology - Wireless RV Leveling System, Bluetooth Leveler for Campers, Must-have Accessory for Travel Trailers, Effortless Setup for Phones with App
  • FUSS-FREE LEVELING: LevelMatePRO is an essential RV accessory that saves you time for leveling. It provides real-time...
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Close up of a leveled RV

Navy Showers Help Save Water

One of the most common ways boondockers wastewater is when showering. Sure, a long hot shower is refreshing and can help you relax. However, you will blow through your water supply and fill your waste tanks.

If you’re not familiar with a Navy shower, it’s when you only run the water when rinsing off. The individual gets into the shower, sprays themselves down with water, and turns it off. 

They then lather up their hair and body. Once they’ve scrubbed, they turn the water back on and rinse off the soap. This can result in using as little as one or two gallons of water in each shower.

Embrace Adventure

One of the things about boondocking is the sense of adventure it can provide. While it can be nerve-wracking at first, learn to embrace adventure. Challenge yourself to grow your skills and acquire the right equipment so you can spend as much time as possible boondocking.

Don’t let fear hold you back from embracing adventure and enjoying boondocking to the fullest. If you do, you may miss out on many unique experiences. 

Is Boondocking Worth It?

Boondocking has become our favorite style of camping. We can set up camp in areas with a tremendous amount of privacy.

Some of our favorite boondocking spots are near popular national parks and other tourist hotspots. So we can save money on accommodations and still see the many incredible spots around the country.

While the start of boondocking adventures may come with many challenges and learning curves, the opportunities may be worth it. Not everyone will like this rustic camping style.

But you can find beautiful serene campsites, explore, and have epic adventures while boondocking. 

Is it worth it for you?

Last update on 2024-02-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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