Whether you’re a weekend-warrior, or a fan of RV-and-Chill, boondocking and dry camping must be on your camping to-do list.
Logging out of the digital world and plugging into nature is one of the best ways to detox. Evidently, camping grounds and full hook-up resorts in the midst of untamed wilderness provide us all with The Great Escape from the maddening city rush.
That being said, camping grounds and resorts can often be heavy on the pockets. If, like us, you’ve been looking for pocket-friendly ways to enjoy camping, you have come at just the right place!
What Is Dry Camping?
Put simply, dry camping is basically primitive camping mixed with the fun and thrill of road trips. Whether you opt for an RV, a van, or a motorhome- when dry-camping, you will be carrying your campsite with you, wherever you go!
As a dry camper, you will have to set up your camp on a public or private spot, without access to any of the amenities. The only supplies you get are the supplies you carry with you.
P.S: But hey, don’t forget to take permission beforehand. We don’t want our campsite to be a site of trespassing now, do we?
What Is The Difference Between Dry Camping, Boondocking & Dispersed Camping?
|Can take place in developed campsite||Takes place outside of campsites|
|Can reduce RV costs in campsites||Relatively higher RV cost|
|Can cut costs on levelling blocks||Cannot cut costs on levelling blocks|
Firstly, to bust your bubble, boondocking and dispersed camping is in fact the same! Federal agencies prefer to address boondocking in a more formal way, i.e. “Dispersed Camping”.
Now, coming to the difference between boondocking and dry camping:
Although dry camping is often used to describe or refer to boondocking, it is a misnomer. There is a slight difference between the two.
Boondocking is a form of free camping in which you set up a camp without any hook-ups, outside of a developed campsite; while in dry camping, you can set up a camp in a developed campsite. Check out our Ultimate Guide To Boondocking.
There are many National Forest Areas that have specific dry camping sites with a noticeable place to park your RV, and if you’re lucky, with a fire-ring too. Other than that, you won’t find any other amenities and will be completely self-reliant.
Dry Camping VS Wet Camping
While there is no separate category called “Wet Camping”, there are two perceptions with regards to it.
- Some campers take wet camping to be, well, camping in wet weather, i.e. Camping in the rains.
- Some others take wet camping to be the same as full-hookup camping, i.e. camping in developed campsites where you have access to amenities like flush toilets, plumbing, water, etc.
In the sense of our current discussion, wet camping (or full-hookup camping) is the exact opposite of dry camping.
|Dry Camping||Wet Camping|
|No access to amenities; increased self-reliance||Access to amenities like plumbing, electricity etc.|
|Reduced costs||Relatively expensive|
|Greater schedule flexibility||Schedule restrictions|
|Can be legally murky if proper permits not taken||Legally safe as the developed campsites take care of legalities|
Where Can You Set Up A Dry Camp?
This is the most important factor to be taken into consideration- the location of your dry camping.
Remember: Do a thorough research before setting up a camp in order to avoid getting trapped in a legal mess of any kind.
Now, here is a list of areas you can check out for dry camping:
1. BLM Lands
The Bureau of Land Management is an agency within the Department of Interior. It controls about 250 million acres of publicly owned lands.
The BLM allows you to set up a camp on its lands for up to 14 days. You can even set up a camp even when they’re mining! The land is available for free, and round-the-year unless otherwise stated.
The BLM lands are under 11 states:
- New Mexico
2. National Forest Lands
The US Forestry Service controls 175 national forests and grasslands. As with the BLM lands, unless otherwise posted, you can camp in these lands for free for up to 14 days!
Click here to check the database of all national forests– you can look them up by state.
Although, make sure to check all the rules and regulations thoroughly, as these vary from state to state.
3. State Forest Lands
Like the National Forest Lands, you can even look up state owned Forest Lands. However, getting a permit from the state can be a little trickier, and you might even have to pay a small fee.
Whether you opt for National or state-owned forests, it is of utmost importance to look through and abide by the rules and regulations. Click here to check the database of all rules and regulations for different forests.
4. Army Corps Of Engineers
As a part of public service, the Corps of Engineers of the US Military provides spots for dry camping. These spots are often very well maintained, and you get to choose from spots that provide amenities to purely raw primitive camping spots.
Websites & Apps For Finding Free Camping Sites
While the list above will provide you with many locations, that list is not exhaustible. There are many more locations that allow free camping, you just need to know where to look.
Advantages of Dry Camping
Dry camping is a great experience for various reasons-
- More personal space: With dry camping, you get to choose a location away from the hustle and bustle of regular, crowded campsites.
- Less expensive: Booking a campsite can be heavy on the pockets, especially in the holiday seasons! Instead, with dry camping, you enjoy camping without burning a hole in your pockets.
- Flexible: If you’re the kind to make spontaneous plans, then free camping is for you! With dry camping, you can just take out your RV, and go camping. It is as easy as that. You don’t have to worry about bookings and reservation lines.
Disadvantages of Dry Camping
Even with all the pros, dry camping is not for the faint hearted. The most important luggage to carry for dry camping is your confidence!
1. Extra Cargo: With great fun comes great cargo! Okay well, the humor may not be that heavy here; but your cargo certainly will be, when you go dry camping.
Since the only amenities you get will be the supplies you carry, you cannot afford to be a light packer on this trip.
2. It’s more work: Well, that goes without saying. If you’re the only one you have to rely upon for the supplies, then you have to do all the work.
But, don’t let that get you down. With the right company, even camping chores can be a fun experience!
3. It can be legally murky: If you do not get the required permits beforehand, and if you fail to follow the rules and regulations sincerely, you can get into legal trouble.
Dry Camping Essentials
Here’s a complete checklist of things you should carry when dry camping:
1. Batteries: For an extended stay without power, you need to ensure that you carry good batteries that can provide a steady current and have a longer life.
You can choose between 3 variants:
- Lead Acid Batteries
- Lithium Batteries
- Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) Batteries
Before selecting a battery make sure to go through the specifications of the batteries. A few important factors to keep in mind could be:
- Ampere Hours (AH) Life
- Ease of recharge
2. Fresh Water Containers: This one goes without saying. You will be relying on your own supplies for the duration of the camp. Make sure to carry enough water, and in fresh and good quality containers to avoid leakage and waste of water.
3. Propane Tanks: Propane is the cornerstone of most of your camping activities- from running the RV to heating your water to cooking, you will need enough propane to last until the camp ends.
4. Levelling Blocks: Nature will not be as forgiving as traditional campsites when it comes to parking spots. If you’re an RV-and-chill person, you might already know the importance of carrying levelling blocks. But if this is your first time in an RV, double check your luggage for levelling blocks.
5. Tool Kit: Tool kits become extremely important when traveling remotely. You don’t want to be stranded in an RV with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere!
Extended Free Camping Checklist
Here are a few extra things that will come in handy while dry camping:
1. Solar Upgrades: While it isn’t compulsory to carry these, it surely would be great to have a few of your devices recharge when you go for a hike.
2. Generator: Generators can provide an alternative source of power.
3. Ziploc: Having Ziploc bags can help ensure that your food remains fresh.
Dry Camping Tips For Beginners
1. Have some pre-planning. Know how much fuel, food, water and other supplies you’ll need.
2. Use LED lights. These are cooler, consume less power, and have a certain aesthetic appeal too!
3. Divide your food into small portions and seal in separate Ziploc bags, so you prevent all the food from losing its freshness at once.
4. Pick foods that have a longer shelf life and don’t require microwave- that way, you not only have a supply of good food, you also save on power!
5. Clean up after yourself, always.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re a beginner, and aren’t very sure about surviving without amenities, you could start by dry camping in a designated campsite. With practice, you will be able to ace not just dry camping but other forms of free camping too!
Dry camping is a fun, tricky, difficult, amazing experience- it is the complete package!
What other forms of free camping would you like to experience? Let us know in the comments below. Happy camping!