Reducing Power Usage when RV Boondocking or Dry Camping

One of the most pleasant aspects of traveling in RVs is that they are self-contained. It is possible to pull off the road almost anywhere and still have all the conveniences of modern life while boondocking or dry camping. One of the limitations to this self-sufficiency is electrical power. For extended periods of boondocking and dry camping, you either need to increase the amount of power that is generated or you need to reduce the amount of power that is needed. The latter is more cost-effective and requires only slight adjustments to your habits.


Instead of heating with an inefficient RV furnace, consider installing either a catalytic heater or a small marine propane fireplace. These heaters do not use any electricity, and they also use less propane.


Most RVs have either 50 watt halogen lights or #1141 automotive incandescent bulbs. The halogen lights each use four amps while the incandescent lights use about one and quarter amps. If several lights are left on in the evening, especially for an extended period of time, they can wear down the battery very quickly.

The alternative is to use L.E.D. (light emitting diode) bulbs. While more expensive, they last longer and use between 70% and 90% less power than the standard RV bulbs. Alternatively, it is possible to purchase battery operated L.E.D. puck lights and stick those under the cabinets to use when boondocking and dry camping.

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Thanks to propane, it is possible to cook without using any electricity at all. Make toast in a pan on the stove, switch to a stove-top kettle for heating water, and learn to make coffee with a French press or a stove-top percolator.


Doing laundry by hand when boondocking is easy with the right tools and reduces not only power consumption, but also that of water.


Inverters draw their own power, some as much as one to two amps. It can be more efficient to run several small inverters than to operate a single whole-house inverter to only recharge the computer or watch television.

Charging Small Items

Rather than charge cell phones, cameras, tablets, and the like with the house battery, invest in a 12 volt charger. Then, recharge these items in the cigarette lighter plug of the vehicle used to run daily errands while driving around.

Water Pump and Water Heater

Turn off both the water pump and water heater until they need to be used since they both have a slow power draw. It only takes about 15 minutes to heat a tank of water. This can be done in the morning; the water will be at the perfect temperature for taking a shower by bedtime and you will have hot water all day to do dishes and wash up.

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By making small adjustments to your habits, it is possible to significantly reduce the amount of power needed to live comfortably in your RV. This makes it possible to boondock or dry camp for extended periods of time without having to invest in a major solar set up or a large battery bank.

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