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How to RV > Boondocking & Dry Camping
Dry camping - extending your stay

One great thing about RVs is the freedom to spend time in special places while still enjoying our creature comforts. Frequently however, national forest camps, national, state and local parks and other areas may provide limited hookups or none at all. Dry camping (camping without hookups) allows us to enjoy these places in style. The downside is that our stay can be limited by our onboard resources. In this article we’ll cover tips and techniques for extending your dry camping by managing fresh water usage and waste water storage and disposal.


We’ll start with conservation. When you dry camp, you need to mentally “shift gears;” start by thinking about your fresh water and your gray and black tanks as limited resources. Eliminate waste. Water should never go down the drain unused. Collect water from sink or shower when waiting for it to get hot. Catch it in a pitcher, then use it to brush your teeth, make coffee, cook or even to flush the commode.


Adopt “Navy showers:” get wet, turn off the water while soaping, rinse, turn off again to shampoo, rinse again. Use only as much water as you need. If your shower doesn’t have a quick shutoff, you can find one at your home improvement store.


Filling water barrel
Capture the rinse from dish washing in a plastic tub. Dishwater should not be dumped on the ground, but rinse water is fine. Many campgrounds provide sumps for disposing of dish water; if there is one nearby, use it.


Replenishing fresh water

If you stay long enough, eventually you will need to refill your water tank. One option is to break camp and take your RV to where water is available. However, if you RV with a tow vehicle or a “toad”, you can bring water to your RV. Options here include

  • water bladders that can be carried in a truck bed, cargo bay or trunk
  • one or more 5 gallon poly containers
  • 50 gallon poly barrels for potable water available from some water bottling plants

You’ll need a funnel or a hose to transfer the water into your fresh water tank. A small pump for use with a cordless drill may also come in handy if you’re not able to use gravity to siphon the water.


Draining waste to tote
Hauling waste water

Again, with the right toad or tow vehicle, you may be able to use a portable sewage “tote” to carry black or gray water to a dump site. Wheeled totes can be towed at slow speed to a dump point within a campground, but for hauling longer distances, you really need a pickup. In that case remember that water is heavy. Only drain as much into the tote as you can load into your truck without strain. Some RVers use macerator pumps to move waste water directly to a tote in their truck bed. Try searching online for more information on this approach.

next > Extending your stay - battery conservation tips

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