What is Boondocking? Take RVing to the Next Level

Boondocking in FL


Boondocking Orientation

We frequently get this question, “What is boondocking?” from family, friends, and other RV’ers.

Have you ever heard of “off the grid” camping? Well, they’re pretty much the same thing as boondocking. If you’re a seasoned tent camper, try not to laugh, but it’s like primitive camping in an RV.

Boondocking is when you set up your RV without shore power, water, or sewer connections. Why would you want to do this, you might ask?  We’ll cover the various reasons, but knowing how to boondock is a great skill to have if you’re going to take your RVing adventures to the next level.

RVs typically have holding tanks for fresh water, gray water (kitchen/bathroom sink & shower), and black water (sewage). Using a converter, many RVs come wired to run some electrical components on both 120v and 12v power sources. This configuration gives you the ability to sustain yourself for short periods without being in a traditional RV park.

To put it simply, an RV with a full tank of fresh water, empty collection tanks, and a fully charged battery is technically ready to start boondocking.

Being ready to boondock is the easy part. Where it gets challenging is pulling it off. If I could describe Boondocking, “it’s an art” of resource management for your RV. Several variables need to be taken into consideration when boondocking. It’s almost a trial and error exercise in the beginning.

Managing Resources

No two RVs are alike, no two families use the same amount of water per day, and no two people have the exact power requirements over 24 hours. Boondocking is about knowing your RV systems, usage requirements and managing them with the resources you have.

Here is an example of how we manage our water usage and the effect it has on power while boondocking:

Our RV has a 60-gallon freshwater tank. A family of three could easily use that in one day if we were careless. To run all that water we also need power for the pump. If we’re going to boondock in one spot for 3-5 days, we would need to stretch all these resources to ensure access to our water. Here is how we would adjust:


No long showers

I don’t know about you all, but I have some world record, long shower takers in my rig most of the time. Not when we’re boondocking.  We make it a point to get in, rinse, turn the water off, soap up, wash off, then out! Aka, a Navy Shower!

Flushing Discipline

RV toilets don’t flush like those in a home. They run water as long as you hold the pedal down. So you can use a lot of water to flush the toilet if not careful. You can also end up filling up your black tank sewage system with your precious freshwater.  That’s no bueno!  You won’t have a readily available spot to empty those tanks, and that can end a boondocking trip fast!  Only use what you need to flush.

Dishes in the Bucket

Washing dishes can also use a lot of water. We always try, but especially when boondocking, wipe all words first with a paper towel into the trash. Then, we’ll let the dishes build up a little before washing, rather than after each meal. 

We’ll use a secondary bin in our sink when boondocking to minimize our water usage.  We’ll fill the container in the sink with hot soapy water, scrub and set dishes aside, then dispose of that water outside if allowed. Fill again while rinsing and then dump. Even if you’re not able to dump this water out, you can control which tank you want to dump the water into and better manage your tank levels.  Lowing the water requirements saves the freshwater we have, puts only the water we use in the holding tanks, and lets us use our battery for other things.

These are just a few to start. There are dozens of tips and tricks you can learn to extend your boondocking time. One of my favorite tips is from You, Me, and the RV. They capture the cold water from the shower (before the heated water arrives at the fixture) and use that for dishes later in the day. It saves the holding tank’s space while using the water that would have just typically run down the drain. Brilliant!

Power Management

One single 12v battery doesn’t last that long in an RV, and draining a led acid battery below 50% can destroy it. With one single battery, you won’t be running your AC or watching TV, but your water pump, slides, lights, exhaust fans, and maybe some USB ports are going to have power available to them by that single battery.  So you’ll need a way to keep the battery charged.

When boondocking, we recharge our battery every day with either an inverter generator or have the option to run solar panels. On battery power, we can keep those USB ports on for our wireless router, phone chargers, and 12v fans!  Oh, of course, to make sure the pump and slides work too!! 🙂

Unless you have a generator or an enormous onboard battery system, you’ll have to be very frugal with your power needs. It might even be impractical if you don’t have a way to recharge your battery at some point in your boondocking trip.

Some who boondock a lot upgrade their RV to have solar systems with lithium battery banks. With a system like that, you could have your power needs met almost indefinitely.

View our Off-Grid RV Gear list on Kit.co

Boondocking Gear


Now, WHY would you want to put you and your RV through this?

Check out the hashtag “#rvboondocking” on Instagram to see what I mean. With boondocking, you’ll find the freedom to visit and camp at places like no other. You can stay on designated federal and state properties such as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas or Army COE sites.

We have also boondocked at wineries, breweries, farms, and golf courses, using our Harvest Hosts membership (a great place to learn how to boondock). Some of our most memorable RVing stops have been while we were boondocking from one place to another on a long trip.

It’s not all remote opportunities either. In large cities, you can also stay at some local venues (RV shows, infield racing events, and multi-day sporting events). Knowing how to boondock opens up a lot of additional opportunities for your RV experience.

Boondocking at the Tampa RV Show
Boondocking at the Tampa RV Show

An Even Better “Why?”

Boondocking is also very much about building confidence in your RV knowledge. Suppose you plan to (or unexpectedly) park in a Walmart parking lot or truck stop for the night. Knowing you and your family will be somewhat comfortable and that your RV can provide for you is important.


Every RV’er should know their equipment well. Understanding how systems interact with one another or how you can best manage your RV resources can help you troubleshoot problems or issues that pop up unexpectedly. That same knowledge can help get you off the grid for some epic camping adventures you’ll tell tales of to all your friends.

Happy boondocking! We’ll see you off the grid!

About the author


We are a full-time RV family who said “a hui hou” to our beloved Oahu home to travel the mainland USA to see all the National Parks.

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