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January 2, 2021

What Is Dry Camping?

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Written by

Daniel Wade

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Dry camping is a pure and rustic way to enjoy the great outdoors and all that Mother Nature has to offer.

But, what is dry camping?

Simply put, dry camping is a primitive way to camp. You will not have access to water or electric hook ups, fire rings, grills, picnic tables, and everything else that makes modern day camping comfortable. The lack of “essentials” makes the tranquility of dry camping a surreal experience.

What Is Dry Camping? | Today I'm Outside

Table of Contents:

Campsite Camping

Before we talk about dry camping it would behove you to know what campsite camping is.

Campsites are generally owned by the state or a private company.

They will set up their land with as many campsites as they can “comfortably” fit. Then you rent a campsite.

You can rent a campsite that can fit a tent, trailer, or RV.

Campsites generally offer electric hook ups, running water, fire rings with a grill, picnic tables, bathhouse, and a store where you can buy food, drinks, firewood, or any gear you may have forgotten.

Pros Of Campsite Camping

Campsite camping offers some pros that you cannot get while dry camping. Such as:

  • Comfort
  • Ease
  • Accessibility

Campsites are common throughout the country and are a great segway into dry camping.

Cons Of Campsite Camping

On the flip side of campsite camping pros are the cons. These are:

  • Congested
  • Noisy
  • Often do not offer views
  • Cost

If you are looking to get away from it all and have peace and quiet with panoramic views, then you will probably be disappointed with your campsite.

You will pay a decent amount of money to be a few feet away from someone else.

I stopped camping at a site, when I realized I was paying $60.00 a night to sleep in my tent, which was right on top of someone else's site. I didn’t have views and quite frankly it didn’t feel like camping. Meanwhile, there was a remote and primitive cabin up the road for $100.00 a night, that offered solitude and views.

Dry Camping

Now that you know what campsite camping is, you can truly appreciate dry camping.

Dry camping goes by a couple names, the most common being boondocking or wild camping.

When you dry camp you are going off-grid. Thus you will not have access to the same luxuries of a campsite, meaning there are no electric or water hook ups, bathhouses, or stores to keep you afloat.

Many people automatically associate dry camping with camping in a RV or trailer.

You can dry camp in a car, truck, or even a tent. As long as you are off-grid, you are probably boondocking.

Pros Of Dry Camping

Dry camping offers perks that a campground can not compete with. Such as:

  • Solitude
  • Quiet
  • Views
  • Cost

When dry camping you will most likely be alone. Allowing you to pick a spot, so if you want waterfront then park near the water. If you want a view that rivals a Bob Ross painting, then park there.

The world is your oyster when you dry camp.

Cons Of Dry Camping

There are some “cons” of dry camping, such as:

  • Lack of power
  • Lack of water
  • Completely self-reliant
  • You need to be more knowledgeable

I would hardly consider these cons, but some people may. When planning a dry camping trip you need to keep all these things in mind. You also need to have some basic knowledge about camping and what vessel you are camping in.

I recommend that anyone who wants to get into dry camping, to try camping at a campground first. This way you learn a little bit more about your gear and needs, before being in a remote spot with no help.

Where To Dry Camp

You can essentially dry camp anywhere that you're allowed to legally park overnight.

Many cross country travelers will simply camp in the parking lot of 24/7 businesses, like Walmart, Cabelas, Bass Pro Shop, Target, and even some hotels allow it.

Oftentimes trailheads will allow overnight parking, which can be used for short term dry camping.

Finally, you can check the Bureau of Land Management and National Forest websites. This is where you will find camping spots in the remote backcountry.

You may be able to get permission from landowners, but that will require some research and knocking on doors.

Tools To Help Locate Dry Camping Sites

You can talk to other campers or research locations online. However, here are some free Apps that may help:

  • Recreation.gov (list of national parks)
  • Reserve America (list of state parks)
  • Boondocking

Just make sure you check local laws and regulations to confirm you are legally camping.

Dry Camping Shelters

As I mentioned above, many people automatically assume dry camping is for RVer’s only. I never owned a RV, but I have dry camped in the back of my SUV countless times.

Dry Camping In A RV

Dry camping in a RV is very common. You can travel the country without paying for additional housing. However, the cost of the RV is a large expense, plus they burn gas.

However you need to pay attention to things such as water storage, grey water storage, black water storage, and gas.

Many RV owners will equip their RV with items such as solar panels, which will allow them to use electricity off grid.

They will also do things such as buy clean water in bulk and build latrines, so they do not use up their water storage space.

Also, keep in mind RVs are going to be fairly large, so you may have a hard time accessing small trails and roads.

RVs offer the same accommodations that you get from your house, on a smaller level, making them a popular choice.

Dry Camping In A Vehicle

Camping in a vehicle is the second most common way of boondocking. Common vehicles:

  • Vans
  • SUVs
  • Trucks

They all offer pros and cons. I like SUVs and trucks, because I feel like they are better for accessing tight trials. However, vans offer more space.

Like RV camping, you need to put some thought into this. You will need to pack water, build latrines, and maybe even consider solar panels.

I used to boondock in my SUV during the hunting season. This was 20 years ago when I was in college and didn’t even know the term boondock.

I didn't have the money or knowledge to boondock comfortably, so to stay warm, I bundled up in multiple sleeping bags and wool blankets.

When it was legal I would cook over an open fire. In places that didn’t allow open fires, I had a small Coleman cooking set that was fueled by small propane tanks.

I would go to the bathroom outside. Then I would boil water to clean dishes and so forth.

It wasn’t a perfect set-up, but it was good enough for a dumb 20 year old.

My brother now has a Jeep, complete with a Jeep Sleep mattress that is an amazing set up for dry camping.

Dry Camping In A Trailer

Dry camping in a trailer is going to require the same set up as a RV or vehicle, but offers some other perks.

The biggest perk is you can detach your living space from your vehicle. This allows you to keep your camp set up, but gives you the freedom to run into town to get supplies.

If I was going to get into dry camping, I would opt for a trailer for this reason.

But, you also need to remember you are trailing something. This can prevent you from accessing certain trails.

Putting It All Together

Dry camping is one of the best ways to spend time outdoors and gets you away from the stress of work, phone calls, emails, traffic and so forth.

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About THE AUTHOR

daniel-wade-author-today-im-outside

From a young age I was introduced to fishing, hiking, camping, and more through family, friends, and scouting. After 20 years of learning and participating in these outdoor activities, I share what i've learned (and continue learning) with you.

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