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Whether you want the freedom to camp off the beaten path or don’t want to rely on hook-ups on campsites, with some alterations to your rig, you can become both self-sufficient and energy efficient.
Dry camping or boondocking is often used to refer to camping without hook-ups for power, water or conveniences. If you’re a frugal camper, you can also save money on camping by going off the grid and finding alternatives to a campground. It doesn’t have to be a Walmart parking lot, but sites to dry camp are often found by coincidence or word of mouth. To get you started, boondocking.org has a database of free dry camping locations in Canada and the U.S. Boondocking 101.
To get you ready to go off the grid and start dry camping, here are some tips to make your RV less reliant on hook-ups.
A photovoltaic (PV) system can make you completely independent of power hook-ups.
Solar panels can be mounted flat or at an angle, which increases output, on the roof of your RV. Solar energy recharges and maintains your RV batteries, so you can run electronics and appliances. Keep the panels clean and they will supply your power.
A portable solar panel is also an option if you want to test camping off the grid but don’t want to commit to installing solar panels right off the bat.
Keep in mind what your needs are. Smaller PV systems are usually enough to power a few lights, a water pump and small electrical devices. If you rely on large electrical appliances or know you need a steady flow of power, solar power may not be for you. Energy output varies with the amount of sunlight, so bring other energy sources such as a generator if necessary. This solar calculator can help you determine what your power needs are.
Switching from regular bulbs to LED lights will help you save on power and make the switch to solar power more seamless. Although the up-front cost of LED lights is higher, they will help you save on power in the long run and last longer than conventional bulbs.
Solar Showers and Water Conservation
A solar shower typically comes in the form of a black vinyl bag, with or without a pressure pump. Let the bag heat in the sun for a couple of hours before using, and you can use the heated water to shower or wash dishes.
Other options to reduce your water consumption are to get a low-flow showerhead or an aerator for your faucet.
When camping off the grid, conserving water is key. Tips to conserve water.
To always have clean drinking available, get a water distiller that allows you to grab water from any nearby water source.
Replacing your chemical flush toilet with a compact composting toilet will eliminate the need to use the blackwater tank in your RV AND it uses almost no water.
A composting toilet can be emptied in the trash when full and is generally less smelly than a standard toilet.
Read more about RV composting toilets here.
There are many ways to gradually become more and more self-sufficient while camping. The freedom appeals to many, especially boondockers or dry campers as discussed earlier, but going off the grid can also be a simple way to extend your camping season, as many campgrounds don’t have services and hook-ups available early or late in the season.