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dry camping (dos and don'ts)


Tim and Peggy
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Spoiled, lazy or naïve???

My wife and I are full-timers and somewhat embarrassed to admit that we've not dry-camped once in the 21 months. We keep talking about it, but fall victim to our spoiled, yuppy nature (and maybe laziness) to find a state park of nice area of the country to dry-camp. The questions, of course abound. 

  1. How long will the black/gray tank last (  I know what the issues are there). 51 gallon capacity on both
  2. How much fuel with our 10,000 watt generator last (I suppose that depends on how much diesel I have in the tank).
  3. Portable water tank (e.g. showers) how long will that last. 91 gallon capacity 

So has anyone dry camped and if so, how long is realistic, given these #'s.

I know there are many, many variables.

Thanks.

 

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It really comes down to how you are willing to live.  Personally, I would prefer an inverter/battery/solar set up for dry camping, but you can do it with a generator.  Having experience dry camping and knowing how we live when dry camping, I would say my wife and I could comfortably stay a week with the tank capacities you list.  Without an inverter, our lifestyle would dictate running the generator in the mornings for my wife's coffee and the evenings during dinner for a little TV and to top the batteries off before going into the night.  The gray capacity is a little small and would probably be our limiting factor in that week.  There are some dry camping areas that allow you to dump gray water on vegetation, so that could help.

Edited by Chad Heiser
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The best way to try dry camping is to fill your tank with fresh water and empty the grey and black.  Then go to a RV park with hookups.  Yes, you'll be paying a higher price (hookups) to test this out but it will give you a very good idea how long you can go.  You'll have the option of plugging in and filling/dumping when you run out your dry camping experiment or when you chicken out. 😁

We dry camped 95% of our 16 years of full-timing - in public parks with no hookups and on public lands - BLM, forest service, etc.

We had 105 gal fresh tank; 65 grey; 45 black.  We had 300w solar.  We could last 12-14 days.  The grey tank was our limiting factor and we never filled the black tank. Therefore, we dumped our dish water in the black to save space in the grey.

To be successful you need to conserve.  Don't leave the water running.  Showers: wet down, turn off water, soap up, rinse.  Dishes: we usually did them every other day. We wiped them with a wet, used paper towel and stored in dishpan under the sink.  A fry pan and a vegetable pot can be used over again.  We usually grilled outdoors.  Toast? Butter the bread & plop in the fry pan. Excellent!  Our coffee pot was a stovetop perculator which made awesome coffee.  We had an inverter so could use the microwave for heating up.  We stayed by elevation so never needed AC.  The Fantastic fan cooled the RV down great, if needed.  Just opened a couple windows slightly for cross breezes.  Block the sunny side windows and the huge windshield from direct sun.

Why we did it?  We enjoy the quietness and peaceful nature surroundings; many time on a river or lake. We don't need a clubhouse or activities. We walk, take hikes, explore.

Definitely try it!

Edited by 2gypsies
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My most recent rig had tanks about half the size of yours but there was only one of me in it and I could go a week. Again, it depends on how you use your resources. My rig was all electric with no generator so even with lots of solar panels, it was the need to drive to recharge batteries that was most often my reason for moving.

Linda Sand

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7 hours ago, Tim and Peggy said:

My wife and I are full-timers and somewhat embarrassed to admit that we've not dry-camped once in the 21 months.

I suspect this statement probably puts you with the majority of RV owners and quite likely the majority of fulltimers.  We were on the road fulltime for more than 11 years and we probably dry camped fewer than 20 times in those years and there were years that we didn't dry camp at all. Now that we are back to part-time and downsized in our RV we have not dry camped even 1 time in 8 years. There was a time that we did a lot of dry camping but not recently. It has probably been 20 years since the last time that we spent more than 2 consecutive nights with no hookups at all. My point is that there is no reason t be embarrassed by this, since the entire point of RV travel is to allow you to live in the way you wish and enjoy, not in the way some part of society says that you should. 

The length of time that one can live on without hookups depends as much on him as it does on the size of his tanks. There are a host of things that can be done to lower the amount of water needed, which is usually the most limiting factor. Since most of your water ends up in the waste tanks, and for most people the gray tank will fill first when the two waste tanks are of the same size. If you each shower every day and you both take long showers you will go through your water very quickly. If you can shower on alternate days and use minimal water that will greatly increase the time that you can stay. We used to spent 3 to 5 days on our first class A with 40 gallons of water and shower often by doing the "submarine shower" method and several other things to save water. Later we spend 4 days in the next class A with 80 gallons of water and have very little left because we didn't conserve much. 

I'll leave the advice on just how and what you should do to extend your time to the many others here who still practice a lot of dry camping and simply say that there is no requirement that you do any dry camping in order to be a fulltimer. If you and your spouse truly wish to do this, then there is plenty of good advice here, but never allow others to make you feel less because you choose to only stay where you have full hookups!

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9 hours ago, Tim and Peggy said:

How long will the black/gray tank last (  I know what the issues are there). 51 gallon capacity on both

We boondock/dry camp about 98-99% of the time.  The tanks on our current RV are about 30/30/30 and we can go a full week before we have to dump (we do carry three 5-gallon water jugs to fill the fresh water tank between dumps).  We might be able to squeeze a day or two more out of it, but I'd rather play it safe than wake up in the middle of the night to use the facilities and find that the black tank is completely full! 

If we had tanks your size, we could go at least two weeks between dumps, maybe even closer to three weeks. We are very judicious in our use of water, taking navy showers (which we do, anyway, even when we're at home), not keeping the water running while brushing teeth, etc.  

9 hours ago, Tim and Peggy said:

How much fuel with our 10,000 watt generator last (I suppose that depends on how much diesel I have in the tank).

We have a 4,000-watt generator that runs off the motorhome's gas tank.  In the winter, when we're boondocking at one of the LTVA's, we'll fuel up on one of our trips to town to get propane.  We get propane about once a month and we top off the gas tank maybe every other trip (it's never below half).  We do have solar, though, so only run the generator for about half an hour first thing in the morning to get a head start on charging the batteries while the furnace is running.  Then we use it during the day if we need to use the microwave or other AC item that we don't run off the inverter.

 

9 hours ago, Tim and Peggy said:

Portable water tank (e.g. showers) how long will that last. 91 gallon capacity 

I'm not sure what you mean by "portable" water tank...maybe you meant "potable" as in your fresh water tank?

At any rate, see my comments above.  Gray and black tanks of 51 gallons each and a fresh water tank of 91 gallons would last us at least two weeks, and probably closer to three.  But that's us...we've had a couple of decades experience boondocking/dry camping.  

I suggest doing what 2gypsies said -- go to an RV park, fill your fresh water tank and make sure your gray and black tanks are empty.  Then go about your daily living using just the water in your fresh water tank, being judicious on your use of water and see how long it lasts YOU.  You won't be able to run your generator in an RV park, of course, but you'll get an idea of how long your water supply and tanks will last.  The more you boondock/dry camp, the better you'll get at conserving all of your resources.

Edited by LindaH
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Been boondocking since my first rig... an Aliner! That was '07.  I'm high class and got an old truck camper now.

I put a large alum tool box on the front hitch. I can pack about 50 gallons in it and maybe 10 gallons here and there in the camper / cab. I used to use 5 gallon jugs, but I'm old and back is old as well. I switched to 1 gallon recycled water jugs for ease of lifting. Works great.

I have a cassette toilet and and go maybe 2 weeks. It holds 2 gallons of rinse water. Toilet rinse water seems to last and last. Now, with lots of pee in the toilet it may get full quicker. So my boondocking results may not equal yours. While out and about I may use the facilities I find and not the RV's all the time. I also have some little urinal bottles to help with cutting back on the liquid waste. Gals can use a Lady J.

Lady J urinal - Google Search

Toilet is not the issue, showering and cooking is the issue. Showering uses maybe 7 - 8 gallons. So I wash up with towels and a dilute 25% alcohol rinse then shower every few days.

...and if there was an issue, I got the old standby Lug-a-Loo!

Electric is an issue and use a mini generator every 2 - 3 days. No AC, too bad for me. It gets 95 degrees+ inside in the summer during the day. The fan/s kills the battery.

Edited by slackercruster
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10 hours ago, Tim and Peggy said:

Spoiled, lazy or naïve???

My wife and I are full-timers and somewhat embarrassed to admit that we've not dry-camped once in the 21 months. We keep talking about it, but fall victim to our spoiled, yuppy nature (and maybe laziness) to find a state park of nice area of the country to dry-camp. The questions, of course abound. 

  1. How long will the black/gray tank last (  I know what the issues are there). 51 gallon capacity on both
  2. How much fuel with our 10,000 watt generator last (I suppose that depends on how much diesel I have in the tank).
  3. Portable water tank (e.g. showers) how long will that last. 91 gallon capacity 

So has anyone dry camped and if so, how long is realistic, given these #'s.

I know there are many, many variables.

Thanks.

 

You probably are not bohemian enuf for it OP! If it is not you, don't worry. Try a night at Walmart or a Casino parking lot to break yourself in. 

I'm not a wilderness boondocker. I'm an urban boondocker. I boondock because of $$ plus convenience. Even if well off, why drive miles off the freeway and all that hassle for some sleep? I'm not a kibitzer or retired. I drive and drive then bed down at night and drive as soon as I get up to get to my local. 

Wilderness boondocking out west looks wonderful. But I'd be scared, even with guns. Out there in the middle of nowhere and a pack of animals come to have some fun with you. Ugh. Maybe in earlier days, don't know. But I'd be worried now. 

Good luck and give us a report on how you do OP!

Edited by slackercruster
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1 hour ago, LindaH said:

We boondock/dry camp about 98-99% of the time.  The tanks on our current RV are about 30/30/30 and we can go a full week before we have to dump (we do carry three 5-gallon water jugs to fill the fresh water tank between dumps).  We might be able to squeeze a day or two more out of it, but I'd rather play it safe than wake up in the middle of the night to use the facilities and find that the black tank is completely full! 

If we had tanks your size, we could go at least two weeks between dumps, maybe even closer to three weeks. We are very judicious in our use of water, taking navy showers (which we do, anyway, even when we're at home), not keeping the water running while brushing teeth, etc.  

We have a 4,000-watt generator that runs off the motorhome's gas tank.  In the winter, when we're boondocking at one of the LTVA's, we'll fuel up on one of our trips to town to get propane.  We get propane about once a month and we top off the gas tank maybe every other trip (it's never below half).  We do have solar, though, so only run the generator for about half an hour first thing in the morning to get a head start on charging the batteries while the furnace is running.  Then we use it during the day if we need to use the microwave or other AC item that we don't run off the inverter.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "portable" water tank...maybe you meant "potable" as in your fresh water tank?

At any rate, see my comments above.  Gray and black tanks of 51 gallons each and a fresh water tank of 91 gallons would last us at least two weeks, and probably closer to three.  But that's us...we've had a couple of decades experience boondocking/dry camping.  

I suggest doing what 2gypsies said -- go to an RV park, fill your fresh water tank and make sure your gray and black tanks are empty.  Then go about your daily living using just the water in your fresh water tank, being judicious on your use of water and see how long it lasts YOU.  You won't be able to run your generator in an RV park, of course, but you'll get an idea of how long your water supply and tanks will last.  The more you boondock/dry camp, the better you'll get at conserving all of your resources.

Yes, an endless water supply makes you wasteful. Military showers and very easy on the water pressure. 

With respect to my earlier posts. My grey tank wont last long. Maybe 1-3/4 showers. So I drain on the ground at night. Usually frowned upon OP. But it goes with the bohemian life. Cassette toilet black tank gets emptied at a rest stop or any outhouse I find.

Edited by slackercruster
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10 hours ago, Chad Heiser said:

It really comes down to how you are willing to live.  Personally, I would prefer an inverter/battery/solar set up for dry camping, but you can do it with a generator.  Having experience dry camping and knowing how we live when dry camping, I would say my wife and I could comfortably stay a week with the tank capacities you list.  Without an inverter, our lifestyle would dictate running the generator in the mornings for my wife's coffee and the evenings during dinner for a little TV and to top the batteries off before going into the night.  The gray capacity is a little small and would probably be our limiting factor in that week.  There are some dry camping areas that allow you to dump gray water on vegetation, so that could help.

Yes, solar panels on the roof would be great. But it is $$. And on a little rig like a Truck Camper, probably not enough room to do it right and run A/C, etc.

I run a mini Yamaha generator every few days. Someday I hope to get a mini Class C. (I keep buying lotto tickets!) I can have A/C then. 

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On 5/19/2021 at 12:52 AM, 2gypsies said:

The best way to try dry camping is to fill your tank with fresh water and empty the grey and black.  Then go to a RV park with hookups.  Yes, you'll be paying a higher price (hookups) to test this out but it will give you a very good idea how long you can go.  You'll have the option of plugging in and filling/dumping when you run out your dry camping experiment or when you chicken out. 😁

We dry camped 95% of our 16 years of full-timing - in public parks with no hookups and on public lands - BLM, forest service, etc.

We had 105 gal fresh tank; 65 grey; 45 black.  We had 300w solar.  We could last 12-14 days.  The grey tank was our limiting factor and we never filled the black tank. Therefore, we dumped our dish water in the black to save space in the grey.

To be successful you need to conserve.  Don't leave the water running.  Showers: wet down, turn off water, soap up, rinse.  Dishes: we usually did them every other day. We wiped them with a wet, used paper towel and stored in dishpan under the sink.  A fry pan and a vegetable pot can be used over again.  We usually grilled outdoors.  Toast? Butter the bread & plop in the fry pan. Excellent!  Our coffee pot was a stovetop perculator which made awesome coffee.  We had an inverter so could use the microwave for heating up.  We stayed by elevation so never needed AC.  The Fantastic fan cooled the RV down great, if needed.  Just opened a couple windows slightly for cross breezes.  Block the sunny side windows and the huge windshield from direct sun.

Why we did it?  We enjoy the quietness and peaceful nature surroundings; many time on a river or lake. We don't need a clubhouse or activities. We walk, take hikes, explore.

Definitely try it!

105 gallons fresh...that it a swimming pool!!

I got 15 gallons fresh and 4 gallons or so in the hot water tank.  But I carry +/- 60 gallons of water in bottles in the front box and some in the cab. 

My box is bigger than this, but you get the idea.

0618001906.jpg

 

Edit...

Made mistake as to capacity.

Fresh water is 20 gal

Hot water is 6 gal

Grey tank is 15 gal. 

Edited by slackercruster
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1 hour ago, LindaH said:

We boondock/dry camp about 98-99% of the time.  The tanks on our current RV are about 30/30/30 and we can go a full week before we have to dump (we do carry three 5-gallon water jugs to fill the fresh water tank between dumps).  We might be able to squeeze a day or two more out of it, but I'd rather play it safe than wake up in the middle of the night to use the facilities and find that the black tank is completely full! 

If we had tanks your size, we could go at least two weeks between dumps, maybe even closer to three weeks. We are very judicious in our use of water, taking navy showers (which we do, anyway, even when we're at home), not keeping the water running while brushing teeth, etc.  

We have a 4,000-watt generator that runs off the motorhome's gas tank.  In the winter, when we're boondocking at one of the LTVA's, we'll fuel up on one of our trips to town to get propane.  We get propane about once a month and we top off the gas tank maybe every other trip (it's never below half).  We do have solar, though, so only run the generator for about half an hour first thing in the morning to get a head start on charging the batteries while the furnace is running.  Then we use it during the day if we need to use the microwave or other AC item that we don't run off the inverter.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "portable" water tank...maybe you meant "potable" as in your fresh water tank?

At any rate, see my comments above.  Gray and black tanks of 51 gallons each and a fresh water tank of 91 gallons would last us at least two weeks, and probably closer to three.  But that's us...we've had a couple of decades experience boondocking/dry camping.  

I suggest doing what 2gypsies said -- go to an RV park, fill your fresh water tank and make sure your gray and black tanks are empty.  Then go about your daily living using just the water in your fresh water tank, being judicious on your use of water and see how long it lasts YOU.  You won't be able to run your generator in an RV park, of course, but you'll get an idea of how long your water supply and tanks will last.  The more you boondock/dry camp, the better you'll get at conserving all of your resources.

typo on potable....and to reiterate, cannot imagine, people won;t like the generator running...but I suppose it is not all the time, but when watching NCIS, CNN, etc. 

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Depends where you run it. Places I go to, they don't think much of it. Lots of people wasted or spread out. I only run it for 2 - 3 hours every few days to charge the battery. And it is quiet little Yamaha.

If you drive every day your battery gets charged and you don't need to run the gen. (usually) But this is all for a little truck camper with no A/C. The big riggers will do it differently. 

Edited by slackercruster
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Many good replies in here so far.  We mostly boondock also, campgrounds have nothing to offer us.  I echo the try it while at one of your "normal" locations and see how it works for you.  

First you have to decide what you expect when you boondock and where you want to boondock.  Then decide if you are currently set up for that, or if you want to invest to be set up that way.  

In our case we typically want to live a fairly normal life style.  We do not want to live ultra conservative.  I call it living "aware" vs conservative.  We are aware of our power, fuel, water, food levels and use, but do not do extreme conservation.  We typically move every 5-7 days so that is when we dump/fill/replenish.  If we really wanted to be conservative we could probably do 10-14 easy. 

Does boondocking mean a campground with no hook ups, out on FS or BLM land, other public land, etc?  This will determine what is "acceptable" behavior.

In another forum there is a lengthy thread about running your generator being "rude".  For me boondocking, if anyone else is close enough to be "bothered" by my generator then either I picked a bad spot or they did when they came after me.  On the flip side many campgrounds have many rules including "quite" times.  Last night my buddy had his heater keep kicking on and off.  I would much rather hear the mild consistent hum of a generator.......

My set up has 120 gallons of water and 2-44 gal grey and a 44 gal black.  For the wife and I this typically lasts about a week.  We both typically shower daily without turning the water on and off.  We do dishes, use the bathroom, brush teeth, etc.  While we are not taking "Navy" showers we are also not just standing under the hot water for long periods, get in, wash, be done.  We fill a sink with water for washing dishes and not just run water.  Right now we are on Day 8 and yesterday I had 1/3 showing on fresh and 2/3 showing on gray and I am in a location where I was able to drain my grey and top off my fresh.  My black tank is what has me worried since I had some GI issues last week.  It is still showing 2/3 also.  We are here for 2-3 more nights.  Black tank can really vary depend on how much water you put in.  Normally we keep just enough water in to cover the ring which I would guess is maybe 1 cup.  For pee there is no reason to add more.  If you are doing your other business add more as needed.  Even if you used 1/2 gallon/flush, in my case that still = 80 flushes.  

For power I have solar but I also telework so when all of my stuff is on I draw about 1/2 of what my solar provides.  On sunny days it is enough to keep up, on cloudy days I typically run the generator 1 hr in the morning and 1hr in the evening.  I have a 125 amp charger so that works for me.  My battery bank allows evening TV watching, over night CPAP use, often times a fan and normal base load with plenty of reserve.  For generator run time you will have to find out how many GPH it uses and how large of a tank you have.  Mine uses ~0.6 gal/hr and I have a 30 gallon tank.  I have yet to run it out that would be almost 2 days of straight running.  

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8 hours ago, Tim and Peggy said:

as suggested about trying it out in an RV campground is that I don;t imagine people like the sound of the generator running, but great idea, conceptually.

You're correct.  I should have stated to test out your water consumption and tank issues. 

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DW and i are seldom boondocking, when we did dry camp at the Navy base on Key West we began with a full 100G fresh water tank, empty 40G grey and black tanks. We ran out of fresh water on the 8th day. Ran the genset 2 hrs. morning breakfast and 2 hrs. at dinner to recharge everything that was battery-powered.

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1 hour ago, Ray,IN said:

Ran the genset 2 hrs. morning breakfast and 2 hrs. at dinner to recharge everything that was battery-powered.

Us non-morning people do not appreciate that happening before we are awake but we understand it. :)

Linda

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On 5/19/2021 at 10:14 AM, Tim and Peggy said:

I don;t imagine people like the sound of the generator running, but great idea, conceptually.

You really wouldn't need to run the generator at all for your test as the point is to see how long you can make your water and waste tanks last. The generator is the easy part.

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1 hour ago, Ray,IN said:

Mornings for us begin at 8AM, hot coffee is a big part of the awakening ritual and we have a Kureg.

Another reason I'm glad I don't like coffee. You can be glad I never ran a generator to provide for my late night activities. :) 

(We once parked in the desert next to a guy who ran his generator at any time of day or night when he decided to watch TV. Not fun.)

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On 5/19/2021 at 8:17 AM, Tim and Peggy said:

typo on potable....and to reiterate, cannot imagine, people won;t like the generator running...but I suppose it is not all the time, but when watching NCIS, CNN, etc. 

If the only way you have to watch TV when boondocking is by running the generator, if you do any amount of boondocking, you'll want to set yourself up with an inverter and some way of recharging the batteries that don't require running the generator all the time (solar and/or wind energy).

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Interesting discussion. My tanks are 45 gallons each, and my limiting factor is my fresh tank. I’m not big or strong enough to heft a 5 gallon container up high enough to add water to my tank. With careful use of my water, I can easily go 2 weeks, but then I’m solo.

I’m an early bird and like my morning coffee. Even if I’m set up away from anyone, it’s surprising how far the sound of a generator goes, so at the moment I have non-electric means to make coffee, and breakfast. I have solar (started with a portable panel) and a small inverter for batteries and electronic stuff. It got me hooked on quiet and not having to use the generator, so I’m going to be upgrading my system in a couple of weeks.

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2 hours ago, fpmtngal said:

I’m an early bird and like my morning coffee. Even if I’m set up away from anyone, it’s surprising how far the sound of a generator goes, so at the moment I have non-electric means to make coffee, and breakfast. I have solar (started with a portable panel) and a small inverter for batteries and electronic stuff. It got me hooked on quiet and not having to use the generator, so I’m going to be upgrading my system in a couple of weeks.

A stovetop perculator makes awesome coffee - full-bodied and much hotter than an electric pot.  Pour a cup & pour the rest in a thermos and it stays hot and freshly-made all day long

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