What is Dry Camping & Should You Try It?

Ever heard of the term "dry camping" but don't know what it is? Let's take a closer look at what the heck dry camping is and what it involves.

small yellow rv in desert area

Dry camping involves camping without hookups to water or electricity. While some campers end up dry camping out of necessity, dry camping is excellent for people who want to get away from populated areas.

In the following guide, you’ll learn all about what dry camping is and how to prepare. We’ll list the advantages and disadvantages of dry camping, the supplies you’ll need, and some tips to help you get started.

What is dry camping?

Dry camping is sometimes called “boondocking” or “dispersed camping” (although the latter is typically only used in national parks and forests). However, boondocking often refers to camping far from civilization, while many dry campers set up in populated areas.

This type of camping involves camping in a vehicle without any hookups. Dry campers do not use electricity or water hookups since they often park on public lands and private property.

Campers often park on public lands or private property since this gives them access to free parking. Many dry campers set up in the parking lots of big stores like Walmart. Others get permission from property owners to park overnight.

Although dry camping can become a necessity when campgrounds are full, many campers choose this camping style because it allows them to venture further from civilization.

Pros of dry camping

  • Cost: Campgrounds charge $25 to $80 or more per night with standard hookups. The fact dry camping is free is one of the biggest benefits.
  • Freedom: Since you don’t have to stick with official campsites, you can park wherever you want. You always have a campsite (although it’s important to get permission before parking on private property).
  • Privacy: Dry camping allows you to camp further from civilization and other people. If you want to get away from other people, this is the best option.

Cons of dry camping

  • Legality: There are laws about where you can and cannot park. It’s important to learn where you can legally park so you don’t land in hot water.
  • Work: You won’t have running water or electricity. That means you’ll need to depend on propane generators, campfires, solar power, and other portable systems to meet your basic needs.
  • Cargo: Since you won’t be able to hook up to a water supply, you’ll need to pack more water. The necessary preparation means you’ll have to carry more things with you when you camp.

Supplies needed for dry camping

If you want to try dry camping for the first time, you need to have certain supplies in order. The following are five things you should have before dry camping.

  • A working RV, camper, or van: It’s important that your vehicle is thoroughly prepared before dry camping. It will be both your shelter and your transportation, so it should be up-to-date on repairs
  • Food: Make sure you have plenty of food. Hard coolers can keep your food cold for up to ten days when packed correctly. You should also have plenty of compact dry goods on hand for emergencies.
  • Water: If you’re dry camping, you’ll need to pack more water since you won’t be hooking up to a water supply. You should have fresh jugs of water for drinking. Most dry campers also have a water filtration straw, water filtration pump, or water purification tablets. These tools allow them to purify water from natural bodies of water.
  • Power: Although many dry campers try to live off the grid entirely, solar-powered phone chargers, radios, and onboard generators can help you get power to your RV.
  • Basic emergency supplies: You should have emergency supplies like a durable flashlight, batteries, fire-starter, matches, an emergency radio, and a well-stocked first aid kit. When you’re properly prepared for emergencies, you’re better equipped to deal with them when they occur.

Dry campers use a number of other supplies. However, the five supplies above are essential to a successful dry camping trip.

4 tips for new dry campers

Since you now know what dry camping is, you’re ready for some tips to get started. While you’ll learn most things through trial and error, the following tips will give you a head start toward successful dry camping.

1. Do a trial run at home before dry camping away from power and water

Before you try dry camping away from civilization, it’s important to do a trial run near power and water. You can do this by dry camping in your driveway overnight. Since power and water will be nearby, you can use them in an emergency.

This will help you determine whether your setup is ready for dry camping. It will give you some practical insight into your preparedness.

2. Make sure you conserve water

You won’t have access to water hookups, so you need to make sure you won’t run out of water. You should find out your water tank capacity so you have a better idea of how much water you can use each day before needing to refill your tank.

To conserve water, use only a trickle to rinse dishes and turn off the water while you brush your teeth. Make sure you always arrive at your campsite with a full tank of water.

3. Watch your black tank capacity

Your black tank is filled from your RV’s toilet use. This tank should always be emptied in designated dump locations since it contains bodily waste. You should always start your dry camping journey with a completely empty black tank, since you must use a designated dump spot to discard your waste.

If you don’t know how to empty your black tank, read this article: How to Easily Empty Your RV’s Black Water Tank

4. Create a plan for dealing with your trash

You won’t have access to a campground dumpster when you’re dry camping, so it’s important to figure out how you’ll dispose your trash while dry camping. You can discard small amounts of trash when fueling your vehicle at gas stations. Many grocery stores also have trash cans, so you can discard trash when you run into a store for supplies.

Want even more tips on dry camping? Here’s a cool video:

Final thoughts

Dry camping is a great option if you want to move further from civilization and closer to nature. Since you won’t hookups for running water or electricity, dry camping requires a little extra preparation. However, dry camping is a fun and fulfilling way to explore the world around you.