When choosing an RV, there are always trade-offs. The key is knowing what your priorities are before you go shopping. This allows you to evaluate features of a given RV when you’re walking through different rigs at the dealer. This list helps you know what must-haves to look for if easy boondocking is a priority for you.
Before we dive in, it’s important to note that boondocking is possible in almost any RV. Any RV can overnight at a Walmart without too much trouble.
This guide is for you, if you’re looking to boondock often or for extended periods. In those instances, you’ll want your RV to have features that make boondocking easier since you’ll be dry camping often.
Water is going to be a major concern when you’re boondocking, so make sure to think about the following things.
Larger Tank Capacities
One of the main limiting factors when dry camping is your tank capacity. You don’t want to run out of water before you’re ready to leave. RVers in Class Bs typically have smaller tanks. RVers in Class As typically have larger tanks. Yet owners of both happily boondock.
When shopping, keep in mind how much water you personally consume to be comfortable. One RVer may be comfortable taking super short showers every other day and doing dishes for one meal a day.
Two of their meals may consist of sandwiches and energy bars. Another RVer may wish to be able to do dishes for all three meals and shower longer or more often.
Your tank capacity will be much less of a factor if you only boondock overnight, but if you plan to dry camp longer, you need bigger tanks.
Efficient Water Heater
The water heater in your rig can make or break your shower experience while boondocking. If you’re not a fan of cold showers, this should be on your list. There are dry-camping-friendly water heaters in many rigs like the Truma Combi and Truma AcquaGo systems.
Water heaters like the Truma AcquaGo circulate water through your pipes even when the water is not in use. This, in turn, keeps the water hot giving you hot water on-demand. For easiest boondocking, you’ll want to make sure your water heater doesn’t only give you your hot water when you’re plugged into shore power.
Depending on the climate you’re RVing in, this could be important even for overnight Walmart stays. You may be a very unhappy camper skipping a shower if the climate is a hot and humid one.
In order to use most of the equipment on your rig, you need to have access to a power source of some kind and think about the draws on that power source. Here are some things to think about.
Appliances and Power Combination
You need your RV appliances. Let’s look at your refrigerator as an example. You need your RV fridge to keep your food cold when camping off-grid.
Luckily there are a few refrigerator options. The first is for your fridge to be able to run off of multiple power sources. Going this route, look for a three-way fridge that can run off of DC/AC/LP (LP is propane).
If your fridge will run off of LP when you’re boondocking, keep in mind your rig will need to be completely level. So you may also want to check out if your RV comes with leveling jacks or be prepared to use leveling blocks.
You can boondock with a residential-style, or compressor, fridge. In order to easily boondock with one of these, you must have a beefy battery bank that can keep the frige working properly.
Ultimately you’ll want to research how many watts or amp hours you personally need. Don’t forget to think about any other appliances you use in the RV, too. This is important even for overnight boondocking.
Easily Accessible Batteries
If you love an RV, but it’s battery bank leaves something to be desired, you can always upgrade. If you want to upgrade or fine-tune your battery power post-purchase, it’s much easier if the batteries are easily accessible for the user.
One RV may require you to climb underneath your rig and unscrew fasteners to access the batteries. Another may have an easy to open, very accessible panel in your RV stepwell on the inside.
The latter will be easier and more convenient for you, and accessible batteries should be a priority for all RVers.
With an inverter, you can do simple things like charging your laptop or making coffee without being connected to shore power.
You do always have the option of carrying a portable power bank. There are many portable power systems like the popular Goal Zero systems.
An onboard inverter makes both extended boondocking stays and overnight boondocking easier.
In the case of Motorhome RVs, an onboard generator will make boondocking easier, and you have to have it if you plan to run the AC while boondocking. Although an onboard generator comes with many RVs, not all RV manufacturers have made them a standard option.
An onboard generator will be most important to make boondocking easy for those of you free camping in hot or humid climates where running the AC is a must.
If the rig you’re falling in love with doesn’t have an onboard generator, it may have lithium power. Some systems, like the Pure 3 system in the Winnebago Travato or the EcoTrek system in Roadtrek RVs, make it possible to power your coach without a noisy generator.
These systems are popular among avid boondockers and replace the need for an onboard generator. You really need to have one or the other, though.
Floorplan & Exterior Must-Haves
Don’t spend all your time thinking about water and power. The interior and exterior features of the RV are very important, too. The last thing you want is to buy an RV with a floorplan you hate.
Slide-Out Independent Bed
For easier boondocking, you’ll want to have a bed that doesn’t rely on a slideout being popped out to be functional. This isn’t to say that you can’t boondock if you must pop out a slide to sleep in your bed.
This will be more important if you’re a full-timer or often frequent places in-season rather than shoulder season or off-season.
At almost any Walmart you can pop your slides out. However, if you find that you arrive late, or you plan on overnighting in rest stops, space may be limited. More parking options are available to you if you can sleep with your slides in. The same can happen with BLM land that has many trees or fills up (Sedona). You may be able to just squeeze into that last spot if you don’t need to pop slides out.
If you love a floorplan but the bed requires the slide to be out, you can usually get away with it if there are alternative sleeping areas (loft, convertible dinette, etc.).
This tends to be most important for full-timers, and RV travelers that need to overnight in a variety of places, particularly in-season.
If you have an outdoor activity you love (kayaking, climbing, backpacking) you might find yourself boondocking more than the average RVer. That means you should really take note of a rig’s storage area.
Ample interior and exterior storage will make it easier to pack gear, equipment, extra food, and coolers for boondocking trips.
Although everyone loves extra storage space, this is of extreme importance for those that plan to boondock for extended periods.
On the outside of the RVs, you’ll want to consider what’s underneath. Take a look underneath and think about the following:
- Where does the exhaust pipe come out of?
- How low does the waste valve sit?
- Where is the generator located?
Also, consider the departure angle and clearance of the RV. If the overhang past your rear wheels is long, your departure angle will be poor. A good departure angle makes it easier to boondock on certain BLM land and even helps you get in and out of certain parking lots easier. Most RVs will be fine in all but true off-road situations, but it’s worth noting.
Some RVs have air ride suspension which helps with clearance. If the rig you’re looking at lacks air ride suspension, what you see or measure at the dealer will be all you’ll have. Keep that in mind when going off the beaten path.
What are your must-have RV features for boondocking? Leave a comment below.
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