Some of the most serene, beautiful, and enjoyable RV parks are those without hookups. This is especially true of many of our provincial, state, and federal parks. These rustic locations have always been popular with tenters, backpackers, and cyclists, but RVers are discovering and using them at an increasing rate. In fact, it is often difficult to get summer reservations on short notice, and largely impossible during long weekends. In this article I will discuss ways to enjoy the RV lifestyle without relying on shore power or water.
Prior to pulling into a dry camping location, be sure your holding tanks are empty and your fresh water and propane tanks are full. As I often mention in my articles, it is a good idea to have your propane system professionally inspected at least annually. A licensed RV technician will check your LP system for leaks, proper operating pressure, and the overall condition of your appliances. If you will be dry camping, you should have your house batteries checked as well. I highly recommend the use of 6V Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries. 6V batteries provide higher current capacity for prolonged operation of 12V devices. It is also advisable to utilize as many 6V batteries in a series-parallel configuration as your vehicle space will allow. This is especially true if you do a lot of dry camping. AGM batteries are superior to standard SLA batteries, as the electrolyte is suspended in sponge-like material, making them considerably safer and cleaner. Finally, some combination of generator, inverter, and solar panels finishes off the ultimate dry setup.
The first thing I do when I purchase a new-to-me RV is replace all the incandescent bulbs with LEDs. Avoid purchasing these at RV dealerships, and opt instead for buying them online. They are costly when you buy them retail, but I paid about $20 to outfit my entire coach, as opposed to almost $20 for a single bulb purchased retail. Also be careful to purchase the correct temperature. Warm white is the closest to the original incandescent colour. LED bulbs are not quite as bright as tungsten bulbs, but once you get used to them, you will find that they cause an insignificant drain on your house battery.
If it’s cold outside, the largest drain on your battery and propane system will be the furnace. Even the largest battery banks will have a problem supporting an LP forced-air furnace on a high duty cycle. Try turning down the heat and using extra clothing and blankets to keep warm. If its hot outside, keep the windows open. In the case of a motorhome, the windshield is the major source of thermal load, since it is not tinted or low emission (low e). Keep the windshield covered or shade drawn during the day. Open vents and turn on fans. Try to maximize cross-flow through the RV. extend awnings and try to park in the shade if you can, although if you are relying on solar panels, try to expose them to the sun.
If you have a large number of people using the RV, and/or your fresh water and holding tanks do not have a large capacity, consider using the campsite washrooms if there are any.
If you have a generator, be considerate of your neighbours, campground rules, and surroundings before running it and try to minimize use. It should only be used when absolutely necessary.
Employing some or all of these tips can help you maximize your dry camping experience.
About the Author:
Steve Froese, an avid RV owner, traveler, and Coach-Net member since 2013, is the principal of “A Word to the Wise Technical Communications”, a published RV author, certified RV technician, and licensed Professional Engineer. He frequently collaborates with the “RV Doctor”, Gary Bunzer, and has worked with the RVIA/RVDA as a technical and training writer and consultant. Professionally, he works as a quality engineer and musician. Watch for more of Steve’s work in upcoming Coach-Net publications.