What Does Dry Camping Mean | What Is Dry Camping

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Millions of Americans camp every year. It’s a great way to get out of the house and away from the city. There are many ways to enjoy camping. You can camp in a tent. You can choose a cabin. Or an RV.

While you are most likely familiar with traditional camping methods, have you heard about dry camping?

If not, this article will teach you the basics. And you can decide if this something you want to try.

What Is Dry Camping?

Dry camping means that you won’t have access to water at your campsite.

This type of camping is most likely to occur when you’ve chosen to go dispersed camping.

Dry camping can also mean the act of heading out on a camping trip in an RV or motorhome and not having all of the basic amenities available to you. This means that you will not have unlimited access to things like water and electricity while you are on your journey. Since many people are used to the comforts of home, this is a serious challenge that everyone must be prepared for. It will be necessary for one to prepare both physically and mentally before getting started.

The Benefits Of Dry Camping

While it may seem to be the opposite at first glance, this type of camping has its benefits. Here are all of the advantages you can look forward to if you decide to plan a dry camping excursion:

Saving Money

When you are dry camping, there are locations all over where you are allowed to park free of charge. For instance, many Walmart locations allow people to park their RVs in the lot overnight without paying anything. This means that you will have a safe place to stop without having to spend any money. The amount you saved can be put away for a rainy day.

Social Opportunities

Most people stick to themselves and their friends when they are camping the traditional, but dry camping allows many opportunities to socialize with others. Not only can you converge with others when parked in locations across the country, but there are events scheduled each year where like-minded campers can meet up and have a great time.

What does dry camping mean and how long can you dry camp

Character Building

Everyone in the world is not capable of unhooking themselves from all of the luxuries they hold dear and becoming one with nature. If you are someone who is interested in building their strength and character, this is certainly a great way to do it. Remember science tells us that camping is a great way to instill confidence in children.

Dry Camping Disadvantages

As with all things, there is a bad side to dry camping. Here are some disadvantages you can expect to deal with along the way:

Safety Concerns

One of the main things to worry about when dry camping is safety since it is likely you will be camping in areas you are not familiar with. Since much of your trip will be spent parked at random places, there is no definitive way to tell ahead of time if danger is looming.

Preparation Needed

You will have to take the time to thoroughly prepare when you are away. Since you will not be at a traditional campsite with water on hand and other amenities abound, you will have to be careful when planning in order to avoid any issues. For instance, you will have to bring along plenty of water since you will not have much of it available while you are on the road. This means that those who are all about spontaneity may be a bit disappointed.


This is a brief explanation of the four basic amenities and how you should handle them when on a dry camping trip.


If you park your RV in a traditional campground, you have access to the standard electric grid. This is called shore power. When you are dry camping, the only electrical power you will have will be what you bring with you via battery power or generators. While it is possible to charge batteries with modern solar panels, you will still need to monitor your electrical use.


You may arrive at several water sources on your journey. When this happens, it will be your responsibility to stockpile enough to last until you make it to another source. It helps to have a grey water tank in your RV since all of the already used water can be reused for things like flushing the toilet.

Waste Disposal

You will need to have a black water tank available. This is where you place all of the dirty water that cannot be used again for another purpose. You should NEVER dump this on the side of the road or in a trash bin. It should only be emptied when you reach dump stations.

Preparing Meals

Try to make things that do not require much prep or cleanup. It is always a good idea to cook when you are near a water source since it will be easier to clean up any mess before moving along.

You can learn how to store food here.


  • Bring food with you that has a long shelf life. You do not want to have to worry about spoilage and waste.

  • Use LED lights. They use less energy than traditional light bulbs and they will prevent the RV from becoming too hot.

  • Unplug any devices that are not in use. Phantom load is real and will reduce your battery supply.

  • Plan well. Write lists if you have to, the goal is to get to where you are going while enjoying the scenery and making sure there are no significant bumps along the way.

  • Take short showers. You may be used to long, drawn-out showers every day, but you need to conserve as much water as possible. Try to clean up in 5 minutes or less.

  • Never dump your black water tank randomly. This cannot be stressed enough. It is not only disgusting, but it can be harmful to the environment.

Now that you have all of this information under your belt, it is time to decide if you want to embark on this kind of journey. If you choose to give this a try, make sure that you consider all you have learned here. This will ensure that your trip is as enjoyable as it can possibly be.

Why Dry Camp?

More Time To Yourself

It is always nice to have a community around you, but there is a good chance you are not looking to camp around other campers. During busy weekends, camping sites usually have hundreds or even thousands of campers; and the RVs can be close to each other. You might not enjoy the experience when there are many campers around. Established campsites might not be for everyone, even though they have gm rooms, hot showers, full hookups, and minimarts.

Dry camping gives you the chance of getting away from it all because you can blaze your own trail. You can set up your RV somewhere you love. You will not be distracted by the sounds of idling diesel, or kids playing close to your RV. It will be all about you and your crew. There will be no distractions around you.


You have a wide range of options when dry camping. If you plan properly, you can have many options to choose from. You can go to places that don’t have an established campground. You will not be limited to places with established camping grounds. Your RV is going to be ready no matter the location you are interested in.

No Worrying About No Vacancy Signs

You don’t have to worry about no vacancy signs because dry camping enables you to camp in any area with a field. When going to established camping grounds, you have to book in advance and there are times when the camping ground is full. This is common during the busy tourist months. Having dry camping skills will come in handy because you might find yourself in a situation where all the camping grounds and RV parks are full.

National Parks

Dry camping in a national park is one of the best experiences. You get the chance of connecting with nature while camping in the park. The US has some of the best national parks in the world, take advantage of them. Start planning early so you can go to parks that have attractions you are love. With the right skills, dry camping will prove to be an amazing thing.

What does dry camping mean and how much water do you need

How To Dry Camp In A National Park

Make Your Reservation In Advance

It is important to reserve your campsite in advance, especially if you plan on camping in a popular park. There are many people interested in visiting the parks and you might find booked up, which means you have to do it in advance.

Identify Destinations You Are Interested In Then Camping Near Them

When doing your research, you will most likely find a few places within the park you would like to visit or landmarks you would like to see. Make a list of these areas so you can camp close to them. National parks are usually big, and being inside it doesn’t mean you will be able to see everything. Having a plan in place will prove to be a great idea. When you camp close to your must-see destinations, you can easily hike to those areas.

Be Ready For Dry Camping

If you want to camp inside a national park, you have to know you will not have a full hook-up. You should not expect to have water or electricity when you camp in a National Park. You should plan for your power and water. Make sure it is enough to last your entire stay at the park. You will need to look for ways of reducing your power usage and using public or campground restrooms to save water. Dry camping is not going to be a big problem if you have the right plan and mindset.

Know the Routes Inside The Park

Many national parks usually have more than one entrance. There are some roads that are not meant for RVs. You should learn in advance so you don’t end up getting stuck. An easy way to know whether the route is suitable for an RV is looking at routes other RVers have been using.

Getting Good At Maneuvering The RV

Things will get easier the more you practice, including towing or driving your RV. You will be able to get better at controlling the RV in parks because there are narrow roads. You also need to practice parking because campsites can be small.

How Long Can You Dry Camp?

There are 2 parts to answer this question. The first part is how long are you allowed to legally camp on the land you park at. Please, follow all local guidelines, rules, regulations and laws regarding this. You can read more about this in our article about BLM camping.

And the 2nd part is the technical limitations based on your supplies. We will cover these limitations in the rest of our article.

1. Expedition Members

The first and most important factor is the head count. Consider that every mouth drinking water and body creating waste will be slowly shortening your capacity to remain completely disconnected. It is no stretch of the imagination to say a single person expedition could last up to two-weeks on the exact same resources and vehicle set up that would sustain three-people, with a dog and cat, for only three days.

2. Water

In a survival situation, the most important item is to procur reliable and safe drinking water. Dehydration and morale will kill you quicker than starvation. The amount of water you have brought will be calculated against how much water you and your team will be using in a day. Filling several extra gallons of drinking water and several jerry cans of clean water that can be poured into your fresh water tank can add a few days of fun and adventure for a small but water-disciplined team.

But, remember your supply of fresh water will also have to be balanced against your capacity to store waste water. This is just one of the many important ratios to consider.

3. Blackwater tank

Cardinal rule of dry camping, you got to keep things dry. It will probably be ok to use a portable shower outside of your RV, so long as you are using biodegradable camping soaps, and 200ft from any natural sources of water. But, DUMPING WASTE WATER ON PUBLIC PROPERTY IS NOT PERMITTED. Therefore, the capacity of your blackwater tank is going to determine how long you will remain away from a proper sewage deposit.

4. Power

Most RVs rely on a circuit of batteries to produce a 12V power supply. This means that unless you have also brought a generator, there will be no 120v appliances being used. Air conditioner, TV, Fans and battery gone. Many RV’s have certain appliances that will still run on the 12V power supply, but you will have to be sparing. Things like battery operated reading lamps, solar powered battery chargers and strict power rationing will enable your team to stay out in the boondocks for much longer.

5. Preparation

The most important factor will be preparation. Food can be stored for many weeks and your LP gas tank can also last a long time. But, if you failed to fill your tank or bring the coffee, your dry camping adventure will face some harsh decisions. This goes the same for all other essentials that must be carefully collected before heading out for adventures off the campgrounds.

How To Set Up A Toilet In A Dry Camp

In a dry camp, it’s essential to make use of everything around you due to the lack of facilities. However, the average person is not going to want to head outdoors to relieve themselves. This is why it’s best to learn how to set up a toilet in a dry camp.

Here is a detailed look at what to do and what to think about during the setup phase.

Required Materials & Tools

  • Bucket (5 Gallons)
  • 4 Wood Boards (¾” x 3 x 12”) (Legs)
  • 2 Wood Boards (¾” x 10” x 18”) (Sides)
  • 2 Wood Boards (¾” x 10” x 19.5”) (Front)
  • 2 Hinges
  • 1 Plywood (¾” x 3” x 19.5”) (for Removals)
  • 1 Plywood (¾” x 16.5” x 19.5) (Top)
  • Toilet Seat
  • Cover

  • Screws (15-20)
  • Circular Saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Screwdriver/Drill
  • Wood Glue

Build the Frame

Start with the frame, which means cutting the wood boards and building both the top and the sides. The goal is to make sure everything is screwed together so it looks like one piece.

For the top pieces, you are going to use hinges as that will allow the flap to open and close seamlessly.

Trace the Toilet Seat

Now you are going to want to create a hole on top of the box. This is going to be done by measuring the toilet seat and creating a simple hole by tracing an outline.

Set up the Legs

You are going to want to secure the box by setting up legs. This will make sure it can carry weight without breaking down.

The legs are going to be screwed into place and should be evenly set up on all four corners. The lid needs to open up without being impeded by the legs, so make sure the measurements are correct.

Attach the Toilet Seat

Now you are going to attach the toilet seat and make sure it is in line with the hole that was created beforehand.

It should be even and there shouldn’t be any gaps otherwise you are going to be dealing with a mess later on when you use the toilet.

Sand the Edges

It’s always important to work on the final touches and sanding the edges will go a long way during this process. Make sure all of the edges are sanded since you are going to be using this toilet frequently.

Create Composting Heap

You want to set up a composting heap on-site as this will help get rid of human waste once it is time to empty the toilet.

Sawdust can also help with the scent that is going to emanate out of the DIY composting toilet. Keep this in mind and keep a bit around before using the new toilet.

Is Dry Camping Safe

Dry camping is safe as long as you pay attention to your surroundings. You should camp far enough away from water features such as streams, lakes and rivers so that the ground does not flood why it rains. Likewise, you should make sure there aren’t any dead branches overhead in case they come down on top of your tent. Other than that, bear aware and alert just like always.

Can You Dry Camp Anywhere

Dry camping anywhere without permission is illegal, but dry camping with permission is relatively easy. It’s also common to camp in designated free campsites off the beaten path without worrying about permits as long as you keep your noise and trash levels down.

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