9 Beginner Mistakes to Avoid When Boondocking

Dec 13, 2021 | Travel & Destinations

9 Beginner Mistakes to Avoid When Boondocking

Camping off the grid is not as easy as it sounds—here's how to make your first-time boondocking experience as simple and enjoyable as possible.

By Amy Rekart

Photo: Amy Rekart

Boondocking brings out the adventurous spirit, allowing for an off-the-grid, relaxing getaway in beautiful locations. But camping outside of a campground without amenities isn’t as easy as it sounds. Simple mistakes can bring your trip to an abrupt end, sometimes before it’s even started. In order to avoid setbacks, understand the necessary planning for a seamless boondocking adventure.

Related The Ultimate Guide to Boondocking

Boondocking Mistakes to Avoid

1. Not Scouting the Location Ahead of Time 

Whenever possible, drive your tow vehicle to scout your boondocking spot in advance to determine if it meets your safety standards and needs. You may have specific requirements for things like road conditions, privacy, and cell phone coverage. It can be defeating and sometimes dangerous to drive your RV to a boondocking site only to find out the spot can’t accommodate your needs or rig.

2. Not Researching the Campsite 

The most important thing to do before you arrive is to ensure that your rig will fit in the boondocking site and have room to turn around. If it’s not an obvious open space, use Google Earth to measure the space, especially if you’re unable to scout it ahead of time with a tow vehicle.

Related The 6 Best RVs for Going Off the Grid

Researching for the next boondocking site.
Photo: Amy Rekart

3. Not Having a Back-up Plan 

Even if you’ve done your research and scouted ahead, sometimes you need to resort to a back-up plan. The site might be occupied, it may not have strong enough cell phone service for your needs, or maybe there was a big rainstorm that created a wash-out. Whatever the reason, it’s important to have a back-up plan for peace of mind and safety.

Research boondocking locations with sites like Campendium, Free Campsites, OvernightRVParking, or iOverlander.

4. Not Having Four-Wheel Drive 

Popular boondocking spots are typically in remote areas with rocky, windy, and oftentimes steep roads. It’s best to have a tow vehicle or rig with four-wheel drive to avoid the risk of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. 

Carry traction pads and tow straps just in case your RV or tow vehicle gets stuck in the mud


5. Not Understanding Your Power Needs 

Many new boondockers think they can rely on their RV battery for boondocking for several nights. This is typically not the case. A standard manufacturer’s RV battery will likely only be able to run lights, heat, and a water pump for roughly 1 to 2 days depending on usage. 

You won’t be able to use AC (alternating current) outlets that run your microwave, A/C, or TV without additional power. Experienced boondockers use a generator or solar panels for their off-grid energy needs. 

Related Lessons Learned When Installing Solar Panels on My Van

Perform an energy audit to determine how much power you need to meet your most important energy needs. This could include charging electronics, watching TV, or using a hair dryer. 

Avoid using the microwave simultaneously with other high-powered electronics or appliances, or you may trip a fuse.

6. Using Water Too Quickly

Water conservation is important when boondocking for long periods of time. It can be hard to determine your water usage needs and habits. Conserve water by limiting usage while doing dishes or brushing your teeth to help extend the period of time you can camp off the grid.  Bring along extra water in jugs or bladders in case you need to stay at your site for longer than planned.

Conserving water to do the dishes while boondocking.
Photo: Amy Rekart

7. Dumping Gray Water on the Ground 

Don’t dump your gray tank in your boondocking spot. It smells, can harm wildlife, alters the state of nearby water sources, and can cause erosion. It’s also illegal in most public land areas in the U.S. We want to keep these spaces beautiful and available for use, so wait to empty your tanks until you can get to a dump station.

Never dump your black tank on the ground. If you need more capacity for black or gray water, buy a portable RV wastewater tank.

8. Arriving After Dark 

Travel days almost always take longer than anticipated, so leave early enough to arrive at your boondocking spot with plenty of daylight remaining. Having enough light to see road conditions, potential hazards, and time for setup is essential. Leaving early enough also allows extra time for a back-up plan if needed. 

Arriving at your desired boondocking location early also gives you a better chance that your planned spot won’t be occupied.

Boondocking in a remote area with peace and privacy.
Photo: Amy Rekart

9. Fear of the Unknown 

The number one hindering mistake new boondockers make is letting the unknown hold them back from the true boondocking experience. There are some potentially scary unknowns for a first-time boondocker, but the more prepared you are, the better your experience will be. And when a plan goes awry, be open to necessary changes—it’s what makes boondocking an adventure.


Amy Rekart

Amy, along with her husband Matthew, are the couple behind Carpe Diem Campers. They travel in their Cruiser RV Stryker toy hauler with their two dogs and two cats. Amy works remotely teaching physical education and health. In her free time, she and her husband are exploring the outdoors, visiting small towns, and finding the best breweries around.