Dry Camping vs Wet Camping: What You Need to Know

When it comes to outdoor adventures, camping reigns supreme. Amid the panorama of camping styles – from backpacking to glamping – two categories stand out prominently: Dry Camping and Wet Camping. Understanding the dynamics, advantages, and challenges of these two contrasting forms can help guide you in picking the right camping style to engage in.

Dry Camping, also coined as ‘Boondocking,’ typically connotes camping in areas where there are no amenities available, such as water, electricity, or sewer facilities.

On the other hand, Wet Camping refers to a setting where campers have access to these comforts, resembling a home-like condition in the wild.

Thus, it is like comparing self-sufficiency versus convenience. Another notable distinction lies in the location aspect; with dry camping, you are generally in more remote off-grid areas, while wet camping locations are often established campgrounds or RV parks.

The experience offered by both methods of camping is notably diverse. To better comprehend whether to pack light for a raw wilderness experience or bring along the modern comforts, let’s dive deeper into the distinct realms of Dry Camping vs Wet Camping.

What is Dry Camping?

What is Dry Camping
Dry Camping

Dry camping, commonly referred to as “boondocking,” means camping without connections to external water, sewer, and electrical resources. Dry campers rely entirely on the resources available within their rig, whether that’s a tent, pop-up camper, travel trailer, or motorhome. This type of off-grid camping often takes place on public lands like National Forests where amenities like hookups are not provided.

Dry camping is also sometimes referred to as “dispersed camping,” “primitive camping,” “wild camping,” or “stealth camping.” All these terms generally refer to camping without modern hookup utilities. The key distinguishing feature of dry camping is complete self-reliance when it comes to water, waste management, and electricity.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Dry Camping

Advantages

  • More location options: Dry camping opens up many more potential camping spots since you don’t need to be near water, sewer, or electrical hookups. This provides more flexibility in choosing remote, isolated camping locations away from crowded developed campgrounds.
  • Lower costs: Camping without hookups is cheaper since you avoid paying for utility access. The savings add up for longer trips.
  • Adventure: Dispersed camping allows you to access more primitive campsites away from other RVs and campers. This provides more solitude and immersion in nature.

Disadvantages

  • Limited resources: You need to supply and conserve your own water, manage waste carefully, and operate without hookup electricity. This requires more preparation and self-reliance.
  • Less comfort: Dry camping often means doing without RV comforts like air conditioning, using the microwave, or watching TV. You have to adjust to functioning with limited battery power.
  • Weather challenges: Managing temperature, hygiene, and off-grid living is harder without utility hookups, especially in extreme weather. Preparation is key.

What is Wet Camping?

What is Wet Camping
Wet Camping

Wet camping refers to camping in an RV or camper that has access to external water, sewer, and electrical connections. Campsites with hookups are considered “wet camping” spots. These utility hookups provide running water, a way to dispose of wastewater, and an electrical power source to meet the considerable demands of most RVs.

Wet camping typically happens at designated campgrounds and RV parks that offer some or all of the water, sewer, and electric hookup sites. This type of hooked-up camping experience provides access to the comforts and conveniences of your RV or camper without the need for strict self-reliance and resource conservation.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wet Camping

Advantages

  • More comfort: Hookups allow you to use water freely and power RV appliances and electronics without worrying about draining tanks or batteries. This enables a higher comfort experience.
  • Weather protection: Access to water, climate control, TV, etc. makes wet camping more comfortable in extreme weather compared to dry camping.
  • Less preparation: With hookups handling freshwater supply, greywater disposal, and electricity, you need less upfront planning and logistics management when wet camping.

Disadvantages

  • Higher costs: Campsites with full hookups are more expensive than dry camping in undeveloped public lands for free. The nightly fees add up.
  • Less privacy: Wet camping often means closer proximity to neighbors. Hookup campsites are rarely as remote and isolated as dispersed dry camping locations.
  • More restrictions: Campground rules may prohibit activities allowed when boondocking, like generators. You lose some freedom.

What is best? Dry Camping vs Wet Camping

Whether dry camping or wet camping is “better” depends on your goals, preferences, and camping style. Here are some key factors to help choose between them for your next RV or camping trip:

  • Your RV setup – If your RV or trailer is not designed for extensive dry camping, opting for wet camping may be easier. Make sure your rig has the battery capacity, water storage, etc. needed for off-grid camping.
  • Desired activities – If you plan to use a lot of appliances and electronics, wet camping makes this easier. Dry camping is better for a more rugged experience.
  • Campsite ambiance – Dry camping allows you to access more isolated spots for privacy and immersion in nature away from RV parks. But wet camping offers more community.
  • Budget – Dry camping saves money by avoiding hookup fees. But you may invest more upfront in solar, batteries, and water storage for boondocking.
  • Weather conditions – Wet camping may provide more comfort and protection from the elements in extreme cold or heat.
  • Trip duration – Dry camping is better suited for shorter trips unless you have robust tank capacities and power systems. Wet camping enables longer stays.

Neither camping style is inherently “better” – it comes down to aligning with your goals, preferences, and RV capabilities for each trip. Mixing in both dry and wet camping can let you enjoy the best of both worlds!

Tips for Successful Dry Camping

Tips for Successful Dry Camping
Successful Dry Camping

For RV owners eager to give dry camping or boondocking a try, preparation and planning is key. Here are some top tips for an awesome off-grid camping experience:

  • Invest in extra freshwater storage tanks and large greywater/blackwater holding tanks so you have the capacity to go days without hookups. Carry 5-7 gallons of water per person per day.
  • Check that your RV batteries are in good shape. Upgrade to lithium batteries or install solar panels to sustain power. Limit energy use.
  • Research potential dry camping locations on public lands ahead of time. Apps like Campendium help find sites.
  • Bring along a portable camp toilet and biodegradable RV waste bags in case restrooms aren’t available where you dry camp.
  • Use a portable solar shower for hygiene, cook with propane instead of electricity, and utilize 12V or battery-powered options when possible.
  • Bring extra food, water, and fuel since you won’t be able to restock as easily. Don’t forget first aid supplies.
  • Get an RV surge protector, monitor panel, and tire pressure monitoring system so all systems are safe.
  • Respect leave No Trace principles when dry camping on public lands and disperse from the area when it’s time to leave.

Tips for Successful Wet Camping

Tips for Successful Wet Camping
Successful Wet Camping

To maximize the benefits of wet camping with full hookups, keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose an RV park or campground that offers the amenities you want – some have just electric, while others provide full hookups.
  • Call ahead to reserve your site – popular campgrounds can fill up fast. Make sure to have the right length site for your RV/trailer.
  • Arrive with empty greywater and blackwater tanks so you can take full advantage of the sewer hookups.
  • Sanitize the freshwater system prior to connecting to the potable water source to avoid contamination.
  • Check that your shore power cord is in good condition and rated for the amperage of your site before plugging into electrical.
  • Attach a water pressure regulator to protect your RV plumbing from excessive pressure from the hookup.
  • Prevent electrical issues by running the air conditioner and microwave separately.
  • Bring extra hoses and extension cords in case the hookups are farther away from your campsite.
  • Be thoughtful of your neighbors, following quiet hours and keeping your site tidy. Expect less privacy than boondocking.
  • Take advantage of campground amenities like showers, laundry, pool, and recreation room while wet camping.

Final Words

Dry camping and wet camping both have pros and cons, so the “superior” choice depends on your particular needs and preferences for a given camping trip. RV travelers should try out both varieties of camping experiences.

For a more rugged, isolated adventure where you want to immerse yourself in nature, dry camping allows you to access secluded boondocking spots for free. But this off-grid style requires more preparation and self-reliance. Wet camping makes things easier with hookup access, but offers less privacy.

Carefully evaluating your goals, budget, RV capabilities, and desired activities for each trip will determine whether dry camping or wet camping is the best fit. Mixing in both styles can let you enjoy the freedom of boondocking along with the comforts of a fully hooked-up campground.

Some RVers start with short wet camping trips to acclimate to RV living before attempting completely off-grid dry camping excursions. There’s a learning curve to managing limited resources without hookups that first-time boondockers should respect.

With the right preparation and expectations, both wet camping and dry camping can be rewarding ways to enjoy time spent camping in your RV or trailer. As long as you pick the style suited to each trip, you’ll be able to make priceless memories while spending time in the great outdoors.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the different types of dry camping?

    The main forms of dry camping include boondocking, dispersed camping, primitive camping, wild camping, and stealth camping. All refer to camping self-contained without hookups.

  • Where can you go dry camping?

    Dry camping is often done on public lands like National Forests, BLM land, State Parks, National Parks, and any other locations where amenities like water and electric aren’t provided. Apps can help locate sites.

  • Is dry camping safe?

    With proper preparation and self-reliance, dry camping can be done safely. Make sure to have adequate water, power, and waste capacity. Leave no trace and follow principles for responsible dispersed camping.

  • What do you need for dry camping?

    The essentials include freshwater, grey/blackwater storage, battery/solar power, a generator (where permitted), camping toilet, food, first aid, and other survival supplies. An RV suitable for boondocking.

  • Is a travel trailer good for dry camping?

    With the right setup and equipment, travel trailers can handle dry camping well. Make sure it has sufficient tank capacities, battery power, and boondocking gear.

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