bing tracking image

Truck Pulling Travel Trailer
Image credit: Keep Your Daydream

What is Boondocking?

Boondocking refers to camping in an RV without hookups for water, sewer, or electricity. (This is also sometimes called dry camping.) Why do RVers boondock? Well, lots of reasons. Sometimes it's by necessity, such as an overnight stay at a Walmart or in a friend's driveway. Other times it's to enjoy a remote location, save money at a campground, or simply enjoy the freedom that comes with living off the grid.Boondocking can be very enjoyable and rewarding, but it does take some preparation, and first-timers generally have a hundred questions. Is boondocking legal? Is boondocking safe? Where can you park? What must-have items do you need to boondock? We'll answer these common questions and more below. Read on to learn the basics of boondocking and discover whether it sounds like the right camping experience for you.

Is Boondocking Legal?

If you Google what is boondocking, one of the first additional questions that pops up is is boondocking legal? That's kind of like asking if parking a car is legal. It's perfectly legal—provided you park in a legally designated spot. Many locations allow and even encourage boondockers to set up camp. There are different camping locations and different rules depending where you go. It's always best to research beforehand, call ahead, and ask permission when necessary.
Truck Towing Trailer

Dispersed Camping on Public Land

Another option is "dispersed camping," which is essentially camping on public land outside of a campground. This includes state parks, national parks, national forests, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands, and even beaches. Just make sure to check ahead of time to see what, if any, restrictions exist for campers. Camping stays are often limited to 2-3 weeks, and some locations require you to pay a fee or get a permit. You may also want to plan your trips around the camping season. Some camping locations are free during the off-season and only require a fee during peak season.
Chicken Farm

Privately Owned, Unique Boondocking Sites

Boondocking opens up an entirely new brand of adventure. There are some truly unique locations that welcome RVers—often for free. An easy way to enjoy these locations is to sign up for an online membership like Harvest Hosts, which grants you access to a huge network of RV-friendly wineries, farms, breweries, vineyards, and other locations for a yearly fee.These gracious hosts allow you to park for free and see how things are run on the farm or business. Plus, you'll have the chance to snag some unique wine, gifts, or other goodies as well as support a local small business.
Truck Towing Trailer

Parking Lot Boondocking and "Moochdocking"

Sometimes you'll boondock not because of the great views or off-grid privacy, but because—well, you need to sleep. Many RVers find themselves parked overnight at a Walmart at some point in their RV journey.There are quite a few businesses known for being friendly to RVers. It's always best to call ahead or check in with the store to make sure setting up camp in the parking lot is allowed, but in general, the following businesses are known for allowing overnight camping:
  • Walmart
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Costco
  • Camping World
  • Highway rest stops
You might even be able to crash for a night in a friend or relative's driveway. This is commonly referred to as "moochdocking." Just make sure you're legally parked and not violating any HOA regulations (unless your friend invited you there specifically to tick off their HOA).
A Note on Boondocking EtiquetteThe most important thing to keep in mind when boondocking is to be respectful and courteous to your hosts, your environment, and your neighbors.Obey any rules or restrictions for RVers, and camp only in designated locations. Don't draw attention to yourself. Properly dispose of any trash and animal waste, and always empty your holding tanks at a dumping site. Don't play loud music on your RV's fancy stereo system or run your generator in the middle of the night. If you park in front of a local business, try to purchase something, even something small, to support them.These courteous behaviors help ensure that these locations will stay open and welcoming to RVers in the future. Don't be the reason a store or camping location decides to close their doors to campers!

Is Boondocking Safe?

Many campers worry about safety when it comes to boondocking, but with some precautions and basic common sense, boondocking is actually quite safe! Most campers go their entire lives without ever running into a safety problem.Use the same discretion when boondocking as you would any other time. You wouldn't pick up a hitchhiker in your car or invite a stranger into your house, so the same rules apply to your RV. If you don't currently have an RV and are shopping for one, consider a motorhome over a conventional travel trailer or fifth-wheel camper. With a motorhome, you never need to leave the camper to drive off—just pop in the front seat and go.Also, if you live in your camper full time, try not to advertise this. This just implies to the outside world that you've probably got some kind of valuables stowed inside.For more tips on staying safe, check out our Safety Tips for Solo Campers, which also apply to couples, families, and large groups. And as always, trust your gut, and if something feels unsafe, leave.

How Long Can You Boondock in an RV?

Aside from local camping restrictions, the main restrictions to the boondocking lifestyle are your holding tanks and electricity. That is, you'll need enough potable water in your fresh water tank, enough capacity in your gray and black tanks, and enough power to get you through your trip—however long that may be. So how long can you go? Well, it depends on a few factors:
  • How big are your holding tanks?
  • What size battery bank do you have?
  • How much water and electricity do you use per day?
  • Are you willing to make concessions to conserve water and power?
  • How many people are camping with you?
  • What kind of climate are you camping in? (i.e., will you be running the furnace to stay warm or drinking extra water to stay hydrated?)
On average, most boondockers find they can camp anywhere from a few days to about two weeks. Depending on your personal habits, you'll probably find that one of the above limitations becomes more of a problem than the others. For instance, you may find you always need to dump your gray tank first, or possibly you run out of fresh water before anything else.For a more in-depth breakdown of how long you can last boondocking and tips to prolong your trip, check out our article, How Long Can You Boondock in an RV?
Keep Your Daydream - Truck Towing Trailer
Image Credit: Keep Your Daydream

Must-Have Boondocking Essentials

Boondocking requires some special considerations in order to preserve your precious resources—namely, power and water—as long as possible. Reliable power sources, low-power appliances, and water-conserving devices are your best friends. Below, we've listed our top 10 product choices we'd take boondocking.
Battery Bank

1. Batteries

The larger your battery bank, the further your batteries will take you. A larger bank will let you run your rig for longer periods of time between charging. And before you think, “I’ll just pick up some solar panels instead!” you should know that solar panels need batteries too. Solar panels are basically sun-fueled chargers that keep your batteries topped off so that the batteries themselves can power your appliances. The battery is the very crucial middleman in this setup. Of course, you're limited by space in an RV, but we recommend adding to your battery bank if possible to get the most out of your dry camping trips.
Battery Health Monitor

2. Battery Monitor

Nope, we’re not done talking about batteries yet. How much power have you used so far? Are you using power faster than you can replenish it? Are you unwittingly leading your battery to an early death?These are the questions a battery monitor will answer for you (usually via a screen or even a phone app), so you're always in the know when it comes to your power situation. Battery health is super important—keeping your batteries optimally charged will prolong their lifespan (and as you know, they're expensive, so your bank account will thank you for this). Plus, no one wants to guess how much longer their power’s going to last when they’re on the side of a mountain in Nebraska ten miles from civilization. Do yourself a favor and snag a battery monitor.
Solar Panel

3. Generator and/or Solar Panels

When it comes to your power source, your choices when boondocking pretty much come down to a generator or solar power. You don't have to limit yourself to just one. Many boondockers use solar power when the weather is ideal (mild and sunny) and run their generator on hot or cloudy days.There's a lot to consider before purchasing a solar panel setup—will solar panels be a worthwhile investment for you? Is your climate ideal for solar power? How big a setup do you need? For additional help on the nitty gritty aspects of a solar panel setup, check out our help articles on the topic here. You may also want to consider a battery charger like Redarc's BCDC, which can use your tow vehicle's battery as well as solar power to keep your rig charged.
etrailer Inverters

4. Inverter and/or Chargers

It's important to know that half of your RV runs on 12V DC power from your batteries. Your furnace, most lights, water pump, etc. all run on DC power. If you want to run 120V AC appliances like your microwave, air conditioner, and household electronics (laptops, tablets, etc) when boondocking, you'll need an inverter. An inverter changes your rig's 12v DC power into 120V AC power. Some RVs come with built-in inverters, but you'll have to purchase one separately for most older model RVs.As an alternative, also consider an inverter generator, which provides both 12V DC and 120V AC power, so you have everything you need in one.If you don't want to splurge on an inverter but just want to power a few sensitive electronic devices, you can also purchase individual chargers. You know how your phone can be charged via an outlet in your house (120V AC power) as well as in your car's cigarette lighter (12V DC power)? You can find other types of chargers that do the same. A variety of portable chargers are available to charge various electronic devices.
Low-Flow Shower Head

5. Low-Flow Shower Head

Your freshwater tank only takes you so far, and you don’t want to run out halfway through your nightly shampoo routine. To help make your water last, consider a low-flow shower head with a shutoff capability that lets you pause water flow in between rinses. ("Navy showers," as they're often called, are a staple of boondocking.)
Portable Wastewater Tank

6. Portable Wastewater Tank

A portable wastewater tank allows you to extend your trip by providing extra storage space for your black and gray waste.Many boondockers find their biggest limitation is filling up their tanks (particularly the gray) too quickly and needing to find a dump station. A portable tank gives you a little extra room to ensure you don't have to cut your trip short to go dump your tanks. You can store your portable tank in your truck bed, RV ladder, or rear bumper. Some campers even transport the tank in their RV's shower when traveling.
LED pendant light

7. LED Lights

You'd be surprised how much energy you can save just by switching to LED bulbs. LEDs are about 80% to 90% more efficient than the incandescent bulbs that typically come standard in RVs. Using less energy to keep the lights on means you can maximize your stay at your campsite.For more information on making the switch, check out our help article 5 Reasons to Convert Your RV Lights to LEDS Today.
Camco Olympian Catalytic Heater

9. Fan and/or Heater

Running the furnace or air conditioner draws a lot of energy. But boondocking doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your comfort.A great way to provide some relief from the heat or cold without draining your batteries is by using a low-draw 12V fan or a propane-powered heater.LP-powered catalytic heaters require no battery connection, so you don't have to worry about electricity drain. These heaters don't have an open flame, so they also draw minimal propane. Just ALWAYS make sure to keep a window open for ventilation if you use these inside your camper!
Wi-Fi Router

10. Wifi Router/Booster

Okay, this one might not help extend your stay, but as far as we're concerned, it's still a must-have boondocking item. We love nature as much as anyone, but we also love WiFi. If you want to enjoy your remote nature adventure and still maintain a connection to civilization, a WiFi router/booster will give you the best of both worlds without requiring you to find a nearby Starbucks every time you want to get online. Whether you're working remotely or settling in for a nightly Netflix binge, you'll appreciate not having to leave your RV. Furrion's available pay-as-you-go data plans are available for the US nationwide. Just sign up, pick your plan, and enjoy a 4G LTE signal on the go. You can check out their line of Wifi-boosting products here.
Still have questions?Give our experts a call at 800-298-8924, or contact us online. We're happy to assist any way we can!
Amber S.
About Amber S.As a content writer for etrailer, I might spend my morning loading and unloading a bike on five different bike racks to figure out which is easiest to use. I might be in the parking lot, taking pictures of an impressive RV battery setup our techs came across in the shop and discussing the benefits of the setup with the owner. I might spend an afternoon in a manufacturer training classes for some hands-on experience with new products, and then sit down to assemble all this information into a coherent article.At etrailer, one of our core values is that we are always learning, and I learn something new every day. I start each morning with the goal in mind of taking all of this information and figuring out the best way to answer the questions people ask us (and the ones they don’t know to ask yet), and helping people get the solutions they need to make their lives easier, safer, and more fun. I’m a DIYer at heart, so it brings me great joy to help a fellow DIYer find what they’re looking for, whether that’s a product, an answer, or a community.
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated on: 6/14/22

David F.


Buy a F-150 Powerboost, Top Boone Docking pick. 7kw generator will power Everything on your RV

Thomas C.


Getting ready to retire enjoyed all your information very helpful and all comment from your readers

Etrailer Expert

Jon G.


Happy to hear we've been able to help out! Enjoy retirement!

Ed H.


Though there are plenty of good folks, there's a much darker side to this in many cases. Trespass, stealth streetside or parking lot use, trash, waste dump, safety.

Etrailer Expert

Jon G.


Safety and etiquette are definitely must-haves in any kind of camping environment!

Dwight R.


To add some history and color, add the information of the etymology of the word boondock. ( originally buntok )



@DwightR Nobody cares. ??

Santosha L.


thank you



Sports and Recreation

Trailer Parts


What our customers are saying:

"You folks are fast. Thank you very much."

Ashland, VA

Popular Vehicles

About Us
photos and videos
Original Photos & Videos

Produced to make sure you know what you are getting and you get exactly what you need.

Installations Completed

To make sure products work and fit the way they are supposed to.

etrailer call center
Phone Calls & Emails Answered

1,125,924 phone calls and 1,350,587 emails to help find the right solution.

etrailer training
Average Hours of Product Training

We get to know our products firsthand so experts can better help you.

etrailer service
Years of Quality Customer Service

Assisting our neighbors and customers, face to face at the counter.

etrailer experts
Pages of Expert Information

Created to make sure you have all the answers to your questions, from real experts.