If you’re wanting to take your motorhome, fifth wheel or other camper boondocking or dispersed camping, it’s important to strategically plan everything for your RV boondocking adventure. From gray and black tank management, water conservation to even grocery shopping and menu planning, we will show you how we prepare your RV for boondocking. This will take your off-the-grid camping experience to a whole new level.
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How to Prepare Your RV for Boondocking or Off Grid Camping
Research Your RV Boondocking or Dispersed Camping Location
First the most important step to prepare your RV for boondocking is research the location where you’re planning to boondock. Our go-to resources are Campendium, Free Campsites and of course, networking with like-minded experienced RV boondockers.
It’s important to research not only for the scenic beauty but see if your motorhome or camper will be able to arrive safely and leave the same. Other things to consider is:
- Prone to flooding?
- Wildlife-protected area?
- Stable ground?
- Safe from crime?
- Communication friendly?
After evaluating your boondocking location, now let’s get moving on your RV boondocking preparation checklist.
Empty Your Black and Gray Tanks
I highly recommend emptying your gray and black tanks and flushing thoroughly before hitting the dusty trail. Don’t forget to add in your tank chemicals. We prefer the bio method for reasons described in our video below.
If you’re new to RVing or just need a refresher course, you may want to check out our video on how we clean and maintain our holding tanks.
If you plan on RV boondocking for extensive periods and don’t particularly want to hook up to go empty your tanks, you could do what we did when boondocking in the desert! Our method worked flawlessly and the good thing is we didn’t have to roll up our outdoor carpet, pack everything up and move our fifth wheel!
Top Off Your Water Tank
Your next order of business in RV boondocking preparation is to topping off your water tank. However, I highly suggest draining the existing water from your RV water tank first; especially if the water has sat in your water tank for any period of time.
Anytime we head for the hills to dispersed camping, we’d properly clean our RV fresh water tank. This way any sediments will flush out and your water will be fresh and clean.
Speaking of which, make certain the water you procure is potable. Do not use water that’s next to the dump station. Find a separate water fill station that is labeled potable water (drinkable).
Oh, and if you want to stay out there longer without having to hook up your trailer or drive your motorhome just to go refill your water, check out how we procure and transfer water when we boondock.
Even though we have ample water storage for what we need, we also fill portable potable water containers that we can fill separately should we run out for a bite to eat or fuel up in town. We use these collapsible water containers that collapse and are stored in our Jeep.
And lastly, before hooking up and hauling out to the desert, mountains, woods or down on the farm, check out how we mastered our water conservation while boondocking.
Fill Your Propane
If you have a propane-powered generator or onboard water heater is heated by propane or you cook indoors using your propane cooktop, it’s time to fill up your propane tanks before heading out.
Since RV tank monitoring systems are notorious for giving false readings, we found an inexpensive Bluetooth propane tank monitor that gives us true readings on our phones.
If you have a diesel generator, you’ll want to fill up the diesel fuel tank in your motorhome. Also, it’s extremely important to fuel up your tow vehicle or toad. Never do you want to run out of fuel out in remote areas or dispersed camping locations. If ever you have to leave the premises quickly, having a full or near full tank of fuel could mean the difference between life and death.
Test Your RV Generator
Adding to fueling up your RV generator(s), it’s imperative that you run them monthly for an hour and change your oil as recommended by manufacturers. By testing your generator prior to leaving port, you’re insuring it won’t leave you out in the cold.
You certainly don’t want to head to your boondocking staging area with a hamper full of dirty clothes. So, do up all your laundry including all of your linens and towels.
But one thing please! Don’t launder your pet beds in the campground washers and dryers. It only makes the next user frustrated when they have to clean off remnants of your dog or cat from their clean clothes. Look for washers that have a sign on them labeled ‘pet bed washers’ or wash them at your own home.
Shopping for Food and Supplies
Another important step to RV boondocking preparation is shopping for groceries. We always meal-plan longer than we anticipate being out there just in case. Take if from me, we’ve made last minute decisions to stay out longer so, having those extra provisions is essential. Be aware that some boondocking destinations may not be within easy reach of a grocery store. So, grab a few more cans of this and bottles of that.
Batch Cook and Meal Prep
This is a common chore most long-term boondockers commit to before heading down the highway. I typically will buy family-packs of chicken breasts, pork chops and hamburger to cook up in advance. I then will throw them in zipper bag meal packs. One of our favorites is to cook up pulled pork or chicken, soups and stews in my Instant Pot.
By batch-cooking in advance, it leaves us more time to enjoy hiking and enjoying the outdoors than standing at the stove. Also, by precooking meals ahead of time, it helps conserve our water, propane as well as electricity to run those energy-sucking appliances.
And lastly, we wash all of our produce and bag them up for storage. Again, this helps with water conservation while boondocking because every ounce counts!
Test Your RV Batteries
RV Batteries are the most essential part that will get you through boondocking off the grid. If you have lead acid batteries, I would hope you’ve been doing your monthly maintenance as per manufacturers’ recommendations.
Open up that battery compartment and check the connections for corrosion and add distilled water as needed.
If you have lithium batteries like we do, still open up the battery compartment to inspect them. Make sure connections are secure and your controllers are working as they should.
As we’ve noted in our RV boondocking preparations already, you’ve got to commit to doing your RV’s preventative maintenance regularly. Check all roof, windows and door seals for leaks.
And, make sure everything that has a gear or motor is lubricated and working properly. Inspect all hoses, connections, visible pipes, etc. And don’t forget to kick the tires. Make sure your tires are in good shape.
And then, there’s your tow or toad vehicles! You certainly don’t want to end up stranded with your truck, Jeep or 4×4. Make certain all fluids are topped off, tires are in good condition and all motorized components are in good working order.
Also, look to see if your roadside emergency and safety gear ready to go. Again, you don’t want to end up a liability out there in the wild.
Leave an RV Boondocking Plan
Being former Coast Guard first responders, we can’t stress this most important lifesaving rule of RV boondocking; leaving a boondocking plan.
Similar to boaters heading out on the open water, it’s important to tell family and friends where you’re headed, for how long and ETA. Send at least one or two of them the coordinates or exact location of where you’ll be camping. Let them know how many are in your party along with names and ages.
Check the Weather
Lastly, before stowing your RV’s electric cord, water and sewer hose, check the weather forecast for the location you currently are, your boondocking destination and all the miles between. If the meteorologists are calling for heavy rain or monsoons in the desert, be particularly vigilant of flooding potential. Stay out of washes and flood zones!
Should the weather forecasters predict extreme heat, know your electric capability to run air conditioning.
Wrapping up your boondocking preparations
So, as you see, it takes considerable planning and preparation to boondock in your RV whether it’s out there on BLM or public lands or even a friend’s property. The last thing you want is to be stranded or your RV or vehicle(s) become incapacitated. We hope this RV boondocking preparation checklist will help keep you organized and have a much more enjoyable camping experience.
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