RV Boondocking – Prepare Your RV for Off Grid Camping

RV boondocking takes off grid camping in a camper to a whole new level! Camping off grid in your RV starts with properly preparing your RV to survive the elements, terrain and usage followed by knowing how to conserve water, electricity and food. Once you master off grid boondocking, you’ll find yourself and your family wanting to head out into the wild more! These RV boondocking tips will get there and beyond!

Off Grid RV Boondocking Preparation - Always On Liberty

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RV Boondocking: How to Prepare Your RV for Off Grid Camping Adventure!

What Is RV Boondocking?

Boondocking is camping off grid without being hooked up to electricity, water or sewer. It’s a way of taking your RV to public lands or off grid places that are free to camp in.

But, to be a successful boondocker, one must know how to boondock. This type of camping requires a string of tasks that prepare your RV for boondocking (and you!) that enables you to stay out in the wild; whether it’s in the woods, in the desert, or high in the mountains.

To be proficient at RV boondocking, you must know how to monitor and conserve water, electricity and food all while still enjoying the essence of camping off grid.

Most of all, one must have a plan in place as well as know how to take care of your RV before, during and after.

Research Your RV Boondocking Location

Always On Liberty RV Boondocking at Lone Rock Lake Powell
Photo by Always On Liberty©

First the most important step to prepare your RV for boondocking is research the location where you’re planning to boondock. We use RV Life’s RV Trip Wizard for trip planning and finding necessary resources.

Our other go-to resources are AllStays Camp & RV as well as Free Campsites. And of course, networking with like-minded and experienced RVers is one of the best ways to find great boondocking sites.

It’s important to research where you want to boondock with your RV. Not only for the scenic beauty but more importantly, to know if your motorhome or camper will be able to arrive safely and leave the same.

Other things to consider when choosing boondocking locations:

      • Is the route getting there and the campsite itself prone to flooding?
      • Is the location a wildlife-protected area?
      • Will the ground surface be able to withstand your RV’s size and weight?
      • Is it safe from crime and other dangers?
      • Does the boondocking location have communication reception (i.e. cell towers, clear sky for satellite?)
      • Is it near services such as medical facilities, campgrounds, potable water, dump stations, etc.?

After you’ve decided where you’re going to boondock and how to get there, let’s get moving on your RV boondocking preparation checklist.

Head to a campground

Speaking from our experience of boondocking for several years, my first suggestion is head to a campground that has full hookups. Think of the campground as your base of operations to better prepare your RV for boondocking.

By staying overnight in a campground with full hookups, it will allow you full access to water and sewer to effectively flush and clean your black and gray tanks. It will also allow you to flush and sanitize your water tank and fill it to the gills.

This is also the time to take advantage of those long hot showers, wash your fruits and veggies, scrub down your gear and fill your water bladder and portable water jugs.

Because, the first rule of thumb at successful boondocking in your RV is knowing how to manage your water off grid.

Staying overnight at a campground also provides  you electricity to charge up your RV batteries completely.

As well, use this time to test and recharge all of your cellphones, laptops and digital devices, solar power charging stations and other rechargeable camping accessories.

Also taking full advantage of electricity, consider batch cooking which we’ll talk about further into this article.

And lastly but most importantly, use this time to communicate with your loved ones back home or point of contact who will not be boondocking with you.

Make certain let them know the exact location of where you’ll be boondocking (GPS coordinates), your ETA, route getting there as well as when you will be leaving the area.

All of these we’ll talk about more extensively the further we get down into this article.

Empty Your Gray and Black Tanks before you go boondocking

You always should always empty gray and black tanks prior to heading to your boondocking location. NEVER even think about going with even a quarter of your black tank filled with poop or gray tank with even a drop of water. Trust me on this; been there done that!

Don’t forget to add in your black tank chemicals to help eliminate icky odors. But also, it will help with your black tanks digestion process.

If you wish to be more environmentally friendly, you could opt for the we discuss in our RV tank maintenance video.

Now, if you plan on RV boondocking for extensive periods of time and don’t particularly want to hook up to go empty your tanks, you could do what we did when we’d boondock in the desert with our fifth wheel.

Our method would work flawlessly. The great thing is we didn’t have to roll up our outdoor carpet, pack everything up and pull our fifth wheel to an RV dump station.

✰ RELATED   Where to Find RV Dump Stations and Water on the Road

Top Off Your Water Tank

Camper at RV Water Filling Station Preparing for Boondocking - Always On Liberty
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Your next order of business in preparing your camper for boondocking is to top off your RV water tank.

But first, 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.

Then, fill your water tank and sanitize it to get rid of any germs that could land you a bad case of the trots. It will also flush out any sediments. Your water tank will be clean and fresh ready for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene.

If you do not pull into a campground to do this, 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 which means it’s safe to drink, cook and shower with.

If you plan on staying out there longer without having to hook up your trailer or drive your motorhome to go refill your water, there is a way to procure and transfer water as we do when we boondock.

Now, even if you may think you will have ample water supply in your RV water tank, it might serve you even better to fill portable potable water containers.

Extra water containers will be instrumental in successful boondocking and being able to sustain you and your family for longer periods of time.

Anytime we would go into town to grab a bite to eat, fuel up our truck or pick up a few groceries, we’d always take our empty water containers and fill them up while we’re out.

Considering they are small, you may be able to fill them up in bathrooms or an outdoor faucet. You can even ask a kitchen or business if they would fill them up for you. Just a hint, they’ll be more receptive if you flash a buck or two.

✰ RELATED  How to Conserve Water While Boondocking in Your RV

Fill your propane tanks

RV Propane Tank - Always On Liberty
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Most RVs and campers have an onboard water heater that is heated by propane. As well, unless you have an RV with all-electric appliances, cooktops, stoves and refrigerator are powered by propane.

Also, if you have an onboard generator, unless it is diesel powered, it too will use propane to operate.

So, you’ll need to head to a propane filling station to top off your propane before heading to your boondocking location.

Now we all know, RV tank monitoring systems are notorious for giving false readings. For our propane tank, we found an inexpensive Bluetooth propane tank monitor gives us true readings on our smartphones.

In fact, they are so reliable, we actually calculate down to a minuscule of propane we need.

Speaking of which, you’re most likely taking your propane powered fire pit, gas grill or Blackstone, right?

So, let’s not forget to fill your portable propane tank(s). Or, you can exchange them at participating grocery stores, fueling stations or farm supply stores.

✰ RELATED   Where to Find RV Propane Filling Stations & LP Tank Exchanges

Little Red Campfire Portable Propane Fire Pit for Camping - Always On Liberty
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Fuel up your RV and toad or tow vehicle

It’s extremely important to fuel up your RV, toad and/or your tow vehicle. Make certain you calculate your mileage accordingly.

It’s best to also fill up your fuel tank as close to your off grid camping location as possible. This is incredibly important if you may also run your onboard diesel generator while boondocking.

NEVER do you want to run out of fuel in remote areas or dispersed camping locations. If ever you need to leave quickly due to inclement weather or an emergency, that full tank of fuel could mean the difference between life and death.

But also, you want to at least know you’re going to make it to the fueling station once you leave.

Equally, if your RV (motorhome) has a diesel generator, you’ll want to fill up the diesel fuel tank in your motorhome.

And speaking of fuel, if you’ll be taking your gas-powered generator, first make certain it’s an INVERTER generator or you’re going to have some pretty angry boondocking neighbors.

But just the same, you’ll want to fill up your genny as well as fill an approved fuel can for extended use.

Test and run your RV generator

Since we’re talking about generators, after you fill it up with fuel, it’s a good idea to test you generator.

You should have already been running your generator for at least an hour when doing your monthly generator maintenance.

But even so, it’s a good idea to test generator prior to leaving port. This way, you’ll know it won’t leave you out in the cold when you need it most.

Do up your laundry

Always On Liberty Dan at Laundromat Washing Machines
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Before hitting the dusty trail to your boondocking location, do up all of your laundry, including all of your bedding and towels.

You certainly don’t want to head to your off grid staging area with a hamper full of dirty clothes.

And you really don’t want to waste your water by running your RV washing machine or scrubbing clothes in a slosh bucket.

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Shop for food and supplies

Always On Liberty Lisa Holding Grocery Shopping Bags
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Another important step to RV boondocking preparation is shopping for groceries and necessary supplies. We, as former sailors (Coasties) heading out to sea for months call it ‘loading stores’.

Taking into account of how much refrigerator and freezer space will dictate how long you can stay off grid. You may want to take a large cooler if you have a big family or you want to extend your time of boondocking.

Now, we always meal-plan longer than we anticipate being out there just in case. Because like us, you may make last minute decisions to stay out longer. By having those extra provisions will allow you to do so.

Also, be aware that some boondocking destinations may not be within easy reach of a grocery store.

You may want to stock up on some dry nonperishables should you end up out there longer than intended in events like weather or just because.

So, grab a few more cans and bottles of this and packets of that.

Also, equally if not more importantly, make certain you plan your prescription medicines accordingly. Do not go boondocking or camping if you’re running low on your heart medicine or forget to pick up your epipens!

Don’t forget to inspect your first aid kit to ensure you have all the right stuff to triage minor injuries too.

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Batch cook and meal prep

Batch cooking and meal prepping is a common task most long-term boondockers commit to before heading down the highway.

Batch cooking our food and food prepping in advance leaves us more time to enjoy hiking and the outdoors than standing in the kitchen.

Also, by precooking meals ahead of time, it helps conserve our water, propane and electricity instead of running those energy-sucking appliances off of our batteries or generator.

While Dan is busy doing all the tank maintenance and preparing our RV on the outside, I’m busy doing all the meal prep and batch cooking inside.

I’ll wash all of our produce and bag them up for refrigerator storage. This helps minimize our water usage because when we’re boondocking, every ounce counts!

As to batch cooking, I’ll typically buy a family-pack of chicken breasts, pork chops and hamburger.

I bake the chicken breasts in our onboard convection oven, pan cook the pork chops on the stove and sauté the ground meat in my Instant Pot.

Then, once cooled enough, I’ll package them neatly in plastic zipper bag meal packs. For us, I’ll bag them 2 per bag.

Another fun thing to cook up in advance is pulled pork. I’ll buy a good size Boston butt, how it in my  Instant Pot. and cook it until it’s time to shred it.

Then, I’ll bag them into meal pouches big enough for Dan and I. Usually, I can get up to 7 or 8 meals in which we can make pulled pork sandwiches, shredded pork tacos, pork topping for salads, etc. I also may do the same with chicken.

Once it’s time to plan my meal for the day, I just pull out a meal pouch, allow it to thaw and reheat.

BOONDOCKING BATCH COOKING TIP When packaging your freezer meals, try to flatten each package so they stack neatly on top of each other in the freezer. This allows you to fit more and easy identification so you don’t leave your freezer open any longer than you have to when trying to find them.

Recharge and test your RV batteries

Always On Liberty Dan Pointing to RV Lithium Batteries - Battle Born Batteries
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Your RV batteries are one of the most essential part that will get you through boondocking off the grid.

If you have lead acid batteries, you should already be doing your monthly maintenance as per your battery manufacturer.

This includes opening up your RV’s battery compartment and checking the connections for corrosion. Also, you should be adding distilled water as needed.

If you have lithium batteries like we do, you still should open up the battery compartment to inspect them. Make sure connections are secure and your controllers are working as they should.

Check your battery monitor to ensure proper electric flow and usage.

It’s also a good idea to go up on your roof to do some solar panel maintenance. Definitely inspect your solar panels and give them a good cleaning. 

✰ BOONDOCKING PREPARATION PRO TIPTo avoid parasitic draw on your RV batteries, unplug any unnecessary appliances and electronic devices from your RV’s power sources to conserve energy.

Do necessary RV maintenance 

I hate to sound like a broken record but your RV is only as good as how you maintain it. RV maintenance should not be reserved to times when you’re preparing to boondock. 

In fact, you should already have an RV preventative maintenance schedule you hold tight to.But I digress.

If you’re not already committing to regular RV maintenance, at least check these things BEFORE heading out to remote areas.

First, check all roof, windows and door for leaks or even potential leaks. Make certain all caulk is in good condition. You do not want spidering, cracks or caulks and seals pulling away from surfaces.

Make sure everything that has a gear or motor is lubricated and working properly.

Inspect all hoses, connections, visible pipes, etc. for cracking, dislodged clamps and seals.

Don’t forget to kick the tires; making sure your tires are in good shape. Check for excessive wear and damage to the treads and sidewalls. The last thing you want is a flat or blowout enroute to your boondocking staging area.

If you don’t already have one, I highly recommend getting a TPMS (tire pressure monitor system). Trust me, it will save you money, time and even your life on the road ten times over!

Also, it’s a good idea to pair it with getting an appropriately sized air compressor for your RV tires as well as your toad or tow vehicle’s.

Speaking of which, don’t forget to check your other vehicles’ tires as well. You certainly don’t want to end up stranded with your truck, Jeep or 4×4 on some far off remote area while you’re out exploring or four wheeling.

Make certain your toad’s or tow vehicle’s fluids are all topped off, tires in good condition and all motorized components are in good working order.

And lastly, make sure all of your roadside emergency safety gear is accessible and ready to go.

Don’t forget to stock or restock your supplies in your RV Emergency Repair Kit and proper tools needed for repairs on the road or out there.

Again, you don’t want to end up a liability out there in the wild.

✰ RELATED ✰  When to Replace RV Roof Caulk & Sealant

Leave an RV Boondocking Plan

Being former Coast Guard first responders, we can’t stress this most important lifesaving rule of RV boondocking. That is to ALWAYS leaving a boondocking plan.

What is a boondocking plan?

Similar to boaters heading out on the open water, it’s of utmost importance to tell family and friends your plan.

    • What time you’re leaving
    • Route you’re taking
    • GPS coordinates of your boondocking location
    • Nearest town and how far from you’re boondocking location
    • Estimated Time of Arrival to your boondocking location
    • How long you’ll be there
    • How much food you have onboard
    • Estimated Time of Arrival back to civilization
    • How many are in your party; including names, genders and ages
    • Detailed description of your RV and accompanying vehicles (color, year, make and model of each)
    • Medical concerns (diabetic, heart condition, etc.)

Check the weather before you go boondocking

weather phone app - Always On Liberty

Lastly, before disconnecting and stowing your RV’s electric cord, water and sewer hose, ALWAYS check the weather forecast!

Not only for the location you currently are, but also the route you’re taking to get there and your boondocking destination.

If the meteorologists are calling for heavy rain or it’s monsoon season, avoid low-lying areas, washes and flood zones at all costs! Be particularly vigilant of any flooding potential and DON’T STICK AROUND! DON’T WAIT IT OUT!

You don’t want to be stranded in mud. There is no Coach-Net or Good Sam roadside out in the desert or deep in the mountains. Psssst, our experience is they don’t do dirt roads leading to nowhere!

Should the weather forecasters predict extreme heat, know your RV’s electric capability to run air conditioning. And pay attention to how much water you have onboard for each member of the family; pets included.

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Wrapping up our RV boondocking preparation tips

As you see, it takes considerable time, planning and boondocking preparation. Whether it’s somewhere 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.

This RV boondocking preparation checklist should help you plan your strategy, keep you organized and enable you to have a much more enjoyable off grid camping experience.

And with that I close with reviewing the rules of boondocking with all who will be camping off grid with you.

Always follow the leave no trace principles so everyone can enjoy our public lands, incredible sunsets, hikes in the woods and the peace and quiet we all deserve!

More from our Boondocking Library:

Must-Have Boondocking Gear for Off Grid RV Camping

5 Reasons Why We Enjoy RV Boondocking

How to SUCCEED at RV Boondocking

Dispersed Camping and Boondocking Etiquette

How to Get Water Without Moving Your RV 

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