Wild Camping, Boondocking, Dry Camping, Dispersed Camping, Off The Cord…No matter what you want to call it we think being out in the wild wilderness is, by far, the best way to camp.
Nothing beats that feeling of turning down an unmarked dirt road, finding that picture perfect spot far away from everyone and busting out the adventure gear. However, if you don’t plan right, or have the right tools, chances are your first Wild Camping experiences might not be good ones.
If you don’t know what RV Wild Camping (boondocking) is, or you’re not sure how to find free camping, you may want to check out our post on Boondocking Tips – the How to and Where to. In our most recent Crowdsourced Content poll your votes let us know you wanted our take on the Best RV Boondocking Gadgets. So, we’ve compiled all the items we use while dry camping and picked out the 10 that make the biggest difference when we’re out in the wild. Of course I could go on and on about how great each gadget is and give endless details of why we like each item, but to keep from boring you to death we’ve included just a brief story of how we use each boondocking tool and the links so you can research and/or purchase items yourself.
Below is our top 10 countdown of the items we feel are most valuable to our Off The Cord RV Lifestyle:
1. Composting Toilet
By installing a composting toilet we’ve been able to extend our dry camping by leaps and bounds! It uses zero water, it’s eco friendly, and we no longer have to deal with a black tank or “stinky slinky”. Since there’s no need for black water storage we’ve combined our black and grey tanks giving us 30% more grey water storage. Make sure you measure the bathroom to confirm the toilet will fit before you purchase! We use the Nature’s Head composting toilet and love it. You can get the full scoop (what, how, tips, tricks, and a discount purchase code) on our Composting Toilet Page.
2. Solar, Inverter and Batteries
Whether you go all-in on a giant rooftop solar kit, or just dabble with a portable panel, solar helps keep you from running the generator. There’s nothing worse than turning the engine key after a long week of wild camping… and hearing nothing! Dead batteries are no good! We use GoPower! solar because they’re a reputable company and they create complete kits for RV’s so there’s no guesswork when it comes time to purchase. With our first RV Solar setup (on Windy) we had the “Extreme Kit” and 420ah of battery power which did just fine. On our new setup with Roy we have 500 watts of flexible solar and 464ah of battery, (and our current set up is the ultimate 960Watts and 700AH Lithium Battery!) but because we have a residential fridge I’d recommend a minimum of 600 watts with a matching 600ah of AGM battery power. You’ll want a good pure sine wave inverter to power all your gadgets too, Roy the RV came with a Magnum 2000 watt psw inverter that works great. Keep in mind every RV is unique so measure and do your research before purchasing any solar/electrical systems. For more on inverters and solar systems, check out our Solar page.
3. Automatic Generator Start (AGS)
Roy the RV came with an auto gen start and it was love at first sight! Since we have a power hog for a fridge our batteries and solar can’t keep up on a cloudy day. This is where the AGS kicks in: I set a low voltage number and when our batteries fall to that voltage the generator kicks on automatically, charges the batteries and then kicks off. That’s all great, but the coolest feature is by far the auto A/C setting: While boondocking in the summer it can get hot, and if we’re not at the RV the cats could get really hot inside the rig. So when the temperature gets too high the AGS tells the generator to kick on, then the AGS turns on the roof A/C to cool down the RV. Once the desired temperature is reached the A/C kicks off, the generator kicks off, the RV is cooled, the batteries are simultaneously charged and the cats are alive and happy. Brilliant! You can get AGS for most Onan Generators, Magnum Inverters and even with some Solar Charge Controllers like the Outback we currently have.
4. Temperature Sensitive Automatic Vent Fan
When we’re wild camping in sub 90 degree temps we don’t typically use the A/C feature of our AGS; instead we keep the windows open and hangout outside of the RV. We removed the factory fan and installed a MaxxFan that has 2 cool features: a built in rain cover so it can be left open during a rainstorm and a temperature setting. When it gets warm in the RV the vent automatically opens, turns on and sucks air through the RV. We set the temperature and the Fan will vary the fan speed based on the inside temperature of the RV. It’s great for dry camping or even when we pull over to do a bit of shopping and we leave the RV in a parking lot with the cats inside.
5. 4g Cell Phone Booster
If you absolutely need cell/data connection 100% of the time then I wouldn’t recommend dry camping in the boonies, but I can tell you with our mobile cell phone boosters we can get service around 98% of the time. The way we justify our booster as a major necessity: It could be the difference between zero service without the booster, or enough to make a call and possibly even use the internet…but in the event of an emergency it’s comforting to know we can make a call. We use the Wilson Mobile 4g Vehicle Kit in the RV and the Wilson Sleek 4g in our tow car, you’ll also want a Wilson household AC/DC plug so you’re not draining the chassis battery when using the booster. For more info, check out our Staying Connected on the Road article.
6. Shower Head and Water Saving Aerators
Because we have solar power and a generator we don’t have to worry about running out of power while boondocking, so our number one limiting factor is fresh water. We installed the Oxygenics shower head and low-flow faucet aerators to help reduce our daily water consumption by over 50%. Our 88 gallons of water lasts us 10-12 days during normal use, even with doing dishes and showering daily. We purchased the fancy shower head but the RV specific one will work just fine too. Also make sure you purchase the correct thread type (male or female) for your aerator.
7. LED Lights
Switching from Halogen to LED was a huge expense in our Windy, but now prices have fallen and availability is through the roof for RV LED options. LED lights will reduce your power consumption by 90% compared to halogen and LED’s don’t produce heat like the old school bulbs. The main thing to keep in mind when replacing your bulbs is understanding color temperature: A typical RV bulb is “warm white” or 3000K. Daylight is 5500K. My perfect bulb would be in-between and considered “natural white” at 4000K. If you replace one bulb you need to replace all bulbs at the same time to guarantee you’re getting matching color temperatures.
M4 LED is run by a guy named Steve who understands the needs of RV’ers and has answered a ton of our questions. He is great at helping you choose the right color, wattage and bulb for your application. Plus, if you use the coupon code wynns5 you get an extra 5% off.
8. Flashlights & Solar Lights
When you’re way out in the middle of the National Forest or BLM land there aren’t any lights, and if the moon isn’t out you can’t see a darn thing. Our flashlight works as a security device, a weapon, a phone charger, an SOS beacon, a night scope and it’s waterproof! Seriously our ZeroHour flashlight does a lot and it’s rechargeable so there’s no searching for hard to find D batteries. We keep solar powered “Christmas lights“ that charge from the sun and automatically turn on at dusk to light up under the rig so we can find our RV in the pitch black of night. As a rule of thumb you can never have enough light so we also carry 2 Solio solar flashlights, and a few “garden lights” that don’t have to be staked in.
9. Solar Oven
Ok, so this one isn’t a necessity but it sure is nice to cook outdoors using the power of the sun, and I swear things seem to taste better when they are cooked with sunshine. A solar oven captures the suns rays and directs them into the cooking area, since there’s no heating element the food stays moist and the heat stays out of the kitchen which can be huge when boondocking in warmer temperatures. We use the American Sun Oven brand because they’re the original, they’re made in the USA, its a quality product and they support eco-friendly cooking in third-world countries by providing family and village sized solar cookers. If you’re handy there are YouTube videos of how to create your own solar oven for a fraction of the price, but we’re better off just buying something that’s already tried and tested. We just have the Sun Oven but if you’re into dehydrating foods there’s a kit for that as well.
10. UV Water Purifying Bottle
Clean drinking water is a major necessity when wild camping and this camelbak all clear has saved our butts in a pinch. Scoop up any clear water source, push a button, shake and 60 seconds later we have safe drinking water. Sure it only does 0.75 liters at a time, but a glass of clean water for hiking trips, wild camping and international travel is priceless. Keep in mind the Camelbak All Clear only kills the bacteria and doesn’t filter for taste, so you’ll need to add on the pre-filter to remove sediment and pour the treated water into a bottle with a carbon filter straw if you’re going to be drinking from a nasty water source. It charges by USB so our Solio, ZeroHour flashlight and laptops can charge the UV light and provide us with 16 gallons of fresh, safe drinking water per charge.
So that’s it, our top Boondocking gadgets. Here are a few other things we always have on board for wild camping if you’re interested:
I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with gadgets and upgrades. Keep in mind we didn’t get all of these at once, it’s been years of accumulating and testing for us to get to this point.
With proper planning you can stay off the cord for a few days without having to purchase anything special, but to get the max stay we feel these are the top, must-have boondocking gadgets to purchase. Of course another major benefit of camping on public lands is it’s usually free! So pick a beautiful spot, use the money you’ve saved on a campground and purchase a few RV friendly Wild Camping gadgets, then go outside and play.
Do you have any of these items, or did we miss anything that you can’t live without? Please share your favorite Wild Camping gadgets and gear in the comments below.