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What is Dry Camping: 21 Tips & Essentials for RV Dry Camping

Every year, as camping itself becomes more popular, so does the solitary art of dry camping. This fun and affordable camping style lets you enjoy a more comfortable camping experience anywhere.

Read on to learn all the essentials for dry camping and some tips to make the experience enjoyable.

dry camping

So, What IS Dry Camping?

The Fast Facts

Dry cramping refers to camping in a vehicle, such as an RV, motorhome, or van, without access to hookups. That means no electricity or water (hence, “dry” camping).

Plenty of state parks, national forests, resorts, county parks, and free campsites or regulated campgrounds provide dry camping opportunities. Essentially, you can go dry camping anywhere you can drive in a vehicle, regardless of hookups.


More Affordable

Most campgrounds run a fee, ranging from nominal to pretty hefty, depending on where and when you choose to go. Dry camping, in contrast, relies typically on a permission-based system; you can park just about anywhere at no cost, so long as you have the proper permit.

More Spacious

In addition to being costly, many campgrounds and common campsites are also incredibly crowded. On the other hand, because of the flexibility in where you can park, and camp, dry camping often creates a better atmosphere of seclusion for your camping experience.

More Flexible

Traditional campground camping often requires that you plan months ahead. In contrast, dry camping allows you to pack up and go whenever it conveniences you. You can even sometimes dry camp at state parks or in national forests after the common campgrounds have closed for the season.


More Cargo

While you won’t be fronting the cost of a campground fee, with dry camping, you must pack more cargo to sustain yourself. Depending on the number of people in your RV or other vehicle, things can get crowded with the extra gear needed.

More Effort

A lot of work is involved in dry camping versus camping with all the amenities. This can mean more effort to gather and store everything, make meals, and clean up after yourself. There is also more work upfront to attain permission for camping on various properties.

More Legal Legwork

Both public and private properties frequently require notification that you will be camping there, and they may have rules and regulations for you to follow. This requires more legwork before you get to camping.

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Dry Camping Essentials

1. Permits and Permission

This is the most crucial piece of dry camping. Because this form of camping can take place on private or public lands, you will need permits or permission to dry camp somewhere. This is important to do ahead of time.

If you plan to dry camp on public lands, this requires contacting the public location to receive a permit or permission to go dry camping there. If you plan to dry camp on private property, you will need to contact the owner of that land to receive their permission beforehand.

2. A Trustworthy Vehicle

Your RV, van, or motorhome will be your transportation and shelter. That means you want something that is both roadworthy and sturdy. It’s important to ensure your dry camping vehicle of choice is in good repair and can cover the miles you want to without hassle or breakdown.

Depending on the location where you plan to try camping, consider the type of terrain this vehicle can handle.

3. Propane Tanks

Propane tanks are a must with many RVs. In the case of dry camping, these tanks can help sustain you, power the RV, heat the water that is in your RV tank, and more. Bringing extra propane tanks can extend the length and enjoyability of your experience.

4. Plenty of Food

When it comes to dry camping, remember that you will not have any electricity as your ally. You will want to pack enough food to sustain you for your trip and take steps to keep it preserved.

Regarding what food to bring, a mix of cooler-preserved goods and dry food is recommended. Depending on where you go, you may also have access to some campground amenities or tools you’ve packed to allow for fun camping cooking.

5. Plenty of Water

Since your vehicle cannot provide a sustainable water source, this means no filtered water or steady plumbing. So you will need to pack along not just drinking water but likely some gallons to refill your RV’s water tank.

Having things on hand like purification straws or tablets can also be handy if your water resources run out for whatever reason.

6. Batteries

Batteries are necessary to power handheld lights, gadgets, and more. Investing in rechargeable batteries is one way to reduce the overall cost and carry of batteries to power your necessary items. Just be aware you will have to be able to recharge them via your vehicle’s battery or a portable charger.

You can also mitigate the need to pack extra batteries by acquiring a solar-powered light or a rechargeable lantern.

7. Camp Stove and Cookware

As mentioned when choosing food, you can bring along the proper tools to enjoy a wonderful cooking experience while camping. A good camp stove and proper cookware will help ensure you can prepare food for yourself in various situations.

8. Cooler

A cooler is also necessary for dry camping to sustain your food supply. Consider a hardy camping cooler or portable electric cooler that can charge off your vehicle’s battery.

9. Tool Kit

Lots of things can come up while dry camping. A tool kit is a must because you will often be in relatively remote locations. Make sure you have a tool kit stocked to address a variety of potential hazards…from a flat tire to a squeaky door. The more possibilities you can cover with your tool kit, the more peaceful you will feel!

10. Emergency Supplies

It’s important to have the same emergency essentials on hand as you would for tent camping. Matches, an emergency radio, first aid supplies, backup batteries, water purification tablets, and a reliable flashlight are some supplies you should consider having on hand.

Dry Camping Tips

dry camping

11. Plan Ahead of Time

Especially if you’re a first-time dry camper, sit down and plan things ahead of time. This includes your route, location, supplies, meals, timing, and more.

12. Choose the Right Vehicle

This comes down to more than just mileage. Smaller vehicles can often gain access to a broader range of dry camping sites. The bigger your vehicle, the fewer spots you may have access to.

13. Consider Water Access

While you cannot access convenient water hookups funneling directly to your vehicle when dry camping, it is important to consider nearby water resources. These can be crucial if you need to bathe or purify water for drinking if you run out.

14. Choose the Right Time to Go

Dry camping has an all-season appeal, but certain times of the year may be more fitting for different folks. Consider the climate, heat and chill, holiday rushes, and potential weather when picking a time for your camping adventure.

15. Choose the Right Place to Go

While many places allow for dry camping, not all may be right for you. Consider the weather, terrain, and more when deciding if a spot is right for you, your family, your vehicle, etc.

16. Plan The Right Length for Your Trip

Typically, dry camping adventures tend to last 10 to 14 days. But you will want to plan the length of your trip according to the supplies you have on hand and your acclimation to dry camping. For a first-time trip, consider something shorter.

17. Pack More Water Than You Think You’ll Need

Generally, you want to have 1.5 gallons of water per person per day on hand for your dry camping trip. Then, consider packing even a little extra for each person–just in case.

18. Be Wary of the Heat

A lot of popular dry camping locations are in the more arid portions of the United States, such as the Southwest. Heat can get to you inside a vehicle sans electricity, so keep an eye on the forecasted temperatures and plan your trip accordingly.

19. Invest in LED Lights

LED lights–for your vehicle, flashlights, lanterns, etc.–are a great way to save on power. These burn longer and draw less power, so they can be helpful in sustaining the dry camping life.

20. Meal Plan

Planning meals and prepackaging food can be incredibly helpful when dry camping. Not only does this help you save on space by packing only the foods you need, but prepackaging will also help keep portions fresh.

21. Always Clean Up After Yourself

Whether dry camping on private or public lands, you want to leave a good impression. This is important not only for yourself but for the sake of dry camping as a whole. Always clean up before you close a chapter in your dry camping adventure.

That’s it for Dry Camping!

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Excited to try dry camping this year? Before you go, be sure to check out our Camping Gear page! This is a great resource to help you stock up on everything you need to enjoy your dry camping experience.