Boondocking Basics

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What Do I Need for Dispersed Camping?

What Do I Need for Dispersed Camping?


What you will need for dispersed camping is “self containment”, meaning sewage tanks, fresh water, and the ability to generate electrical power. Otherwise, your RV has everything else. It’s recommended to have a cellphone, and either be within range of a cell tower, or have a satellite receiver to boost your cellphone.

dispersed camping canyon ferry lake
Dispersed camping in Montana

What Do I Need for Dispersed Camping?

Federal and state agencies that manage public lands only require that you refrain from dumping your black tank on the ground, and that you pack out all of your trash. That being said, you will be required to least have a sewage tank on your RV (which all RVs have), and at least a trash bag to hold all your garbage. From a regulatory standpoint, that’s all you will need for dispersed camping.

Our Recommended List of Dispersed Camping Supplies

But you will want to have more than that. Here’s what we recommended…

  1. A shovel – If you plan to camp in national forests and grasslands, and you want to have a campfire, you will be required to have a shovel. Get a small, rigid shovel, not a fold-up shovel, because these offer the best leverage and strength (see it on Amazon).
  2. A pocket knife – A knife with at least a 3 inch blade has so many uses in camping (see it on Amazon).
  3. A gasoline jug – Get a 5 gallon jug (or 2-gallon if you cannot pick up heavy items). Assuming you have a generator on your rig, you’re going to need a way to refuel (see it on Amazon).
  4. Rope – Just like a big knife, strong, nylon rope, has so many uses (see it on Amazon).
  5. Patio mat – This is needed to prevent tracking sand and pebbles into your vehicle. Get a plastic straw mat because they are very lightweight, they don’t soak up water, and they don’t grow mold. You will need large rocks or tent stakes to keep them secured down (see it on Amazon)
  6. At least two patio chairs and a small table – Otherwise, you won’t spend as much time enjoying the sunsets and campfires.
  7. An outdoor cooking grill – This can be a BBQ grill or a propane stove. But, get something that will let you enjoy outdoor cooking.
  8. A lighter – to start a fire
  9. Leveling blocks – Dispersed camping is always on unlevel ground. You’re going to need to a way to level your rig. Standard leveling blocks are still the best in that they are cheap and versatile (see it on Amazon).
  10. Wheel Chocks – If you have a trailer, definitely place wheel chocks behind the tires BEFORE you unhitch, to prevent your rig from rolling backward or forward. Get the heavy duty black rubber chocks, they are cheap and durable (see it on Amazon).
  11. A bubble level – You’ll need it to know how level or unlevel your rig is.
  12. Tools – Bring with you only the most widely used tools… screwdrivers, hammer, crescent wrench, pliers… you’ll have to decide which tools you’ll want the most, but don’t freak yourself out by packing half of your garage.
  13. Duck Tape – Just about every boondocker keeps a roll of the famous tape.
  14. A high powered flashlight – Get one that puts out the most lumens in the smallest package. There will always be something that will send you outside in the middle of the night to look for something.

Generating Your Own Electricity

Your RV has “house batteries” to power lights, water pump, ceiling fans, and other 12 volt appliances. But, you will need at least a generator to recharge them.

Most boondockers use a 2,000 to 2,200 watt generator to recharge batteries and create enough 110 volt power to run a microwave oven, or to recharge their electronics. They will also use a generator run a C-PAP machine all night. If you want to run your air conditioning unit, you’re going to need a larger generator. You will need generator that puts out at least 3,500 watts to power a 15,000 BTU air conditioning unit. Most medium to large RVs have 15,000 BTU units, while small vans and small trailers have 13,500 BTU units.

Solar panels are great for recharging batteries, but if you’re camping over a few days, a single 150 watt panel, which is what many RVs come equipped with, will not keep up with your electrical demands. Most RV manufacturers equip their rigs with a single panel as a means to provide just enough power to tide you over at a Walmart or rest area as you travel from one RV park to another. But to spend several days dispersed camping, you’ll want at least 600 watts of solar panel capacity. That’s generally enough to keep two batteries topped off most of the day while you’re using your RV.

Read our other article, “How Big of a Generator Do I Need for Boondocking?” and “Do I Need a Generator for Boondocking?”

How Much Battery Power Do You Need?

Most RVers who disperse camp on a regular basis have either two 12v batteries, or two 6v batteries. The latter tends to offer more amp hours of power. RVers who want to take their dispersed camping activities to a higher level will double up with either four 12v batteries, or four 6v batteries. There are some that go with 12v lithium batteries, but these are very expensive, and require a higher degree of maintenance to keep them working properly.

Read our other article, “How Much Battery Power for Boondocking Do I Need?”

Getting Internet Access When Dispersed Camping

Most RVers rely on their cellphone provider for Internet access. Verizon seems to be the most popular among dispersed campers because it seems to get the best coverage in the western states, which is where most of the dispersed camping is.

Cellphone signal is always best when you are camping within without obstruction from the nearest cell tower. Camping inside canyons or ravines gets you the worst signal because the signal has difficulty getting into those areas. Hills and large rock formations will obstruct signal. On the other hand, camping on flat lands tend to get good signal because there’s little obstruction. Camping on hilltops and high elevations also tends to work well too.

Camping closer to highways and Interstates usually results in better signal too. You can rely on signal boosters and 4G antennas to help you get a better signal.

Read our other article, “Getting Internet Access While Boondocking.”

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4 thoughts on “What Do I Need for Dispersed Camping?”

  1. There are some that go with 12v lithium batteries, but these are very expensive, and require a higher degree of maintenance to keep them working properly.
    Expensive, yes. Higher degree of maintenance is totally wrong. In fact they require little if any maintenance at all. They are so much better than any other option even with the cost.

    • Clint, lithium batteries require temperature regulation. Either a battery monitor to shut off charging when temp drops below 32 degrees, or a battery warmer to keep it going.

  2. All the new lithium batteries have all the safeguards built in the battery. Extremely low maintaince. No water to top off. No corrosion at all. Because you can discharge a lithium battery to 0 without damaging it like would happen to a flooded lead acid or gel cell. You get equivalent of twice the usable amp hours out of the use of a lithium battery compared to the acid type batteries. Lithium batteries last at least ten years. Amortized over ten years, they are lower cost for more amp hours of usage than FLA batteries without all the maintenance issues.

  3. I have 4 6 volt AGM batteries. What % of use can I use before I hurt them with sulfating? I have 400 Watts of solar and a built in 5500 watt generator. I prefer to not use the generator if I don’t have to.


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