Dry camping refers to camping without hookups. For many, the main attraction of dry-camping is to be “off the grid”, or in a wilderness area with little sign of civilization.
Dry camping can be a challenge, especially over longer periods of time, since it can be difficult to adequately conserve the energy resources available in an RV.
This article is not directed at RV owners who have tricked out their coaches with solar panel arrays, large battery banks, etc. Rather, the focus will be on instructing those who want to experience dry-camping without significant modification to their RVs.
There are three main areas to think about when conserving RV resources. These are water, power, and propane. Additionally, you must consider the time you will spend off-grid, as well as how many people will be using the resources.
If you are concerned about your fresh water capacity, you can fill extra containers of water before your trip and pack them. If you will be staying at a campground, there may be water taps there. If so, you should consider using one to do your dishes, brush your teeth, etc. If the facility has washrooms, you can avoid excessive use of your holding tanks. If your fresh water capacity is limited, use your own water sparingly, bring water with you and/or rely on the campground supply as much as possible.
Use your interior lighting and 12V appliances only when required. Consider purchasing LED bulbs for your RV fixtures. Purchase them online, as they are a fraction of the cost of buying them retail. In colder weather, bundle up and use your furnace only sparingly, as the blower consumes significant power.
Operating a generator may be an option, but always adhere to the rules of the location. Most places prohibit running the generator at night, some limit generator hours during the day, and some don’t allow generator use at all. Make sure your generator has a spark arrester on the exhaust pipe. This is a requirement by the department of forestry. Most professionally installed generators have this but check your documentation to be sure. Use the generator sparingly.
An inverter is another option, but don’t use it for large loads. A combination of generator and inverter is a good option. Whether you are using 110V or 12V DC power, do so only as required. Charge your battery when necessary using your generator or vehicle alternator.
This is one area where you generally don’t have to worry, since most RVs are equipped with enough LP capacity. Just make sure your containers are full before setting out and your LP gas should last a long time.
However, there are some tips for conserving propane.
- Consider using a camp stove and cook outside.
- Think about water heater use – if you have a small amount of water to boil, do so over the stove, as it takes less propane.
- If you can use the campground facilities you may not need to use your water heater at all.
- The RV water heater and furnace are the primary consumers of LP fuel, so use both sparingly.
- The fridge consumes a tiny amount of propane, so this should not be a consideration, and is a high-priority appliance.
These tips should help you conserve your RV energy while dry camping. Additional modifications can be made should you decide to make off-grid camping more of a lifestyle.
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.
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