You’ve probably seen Instagram photos of beautiful scenes with a lone camper on the edge of a sandy beach in Florida or high on a mesa in the Southwest overlooking a canyon.
If you pay close attention, the tow vehicle is likely off to the side. So why do people unhook their campers when boondocking? Let’s take a closer look, and then you can decide what works best for you!
What Is Boondocking?
Boondocking, also dry camping, is when RVers camp overnight without hookups. Generally, boondocking sites are dispersed camping locations on public land.
However, sometimes RVers need a quick overnight stay in a parking lot at places like Walmart, Cracker Barrel, or Bass Pro Shops. Regardless of the location, none of these areas will have electricity, water, or sewer connections, so RVs must be fully self-contained.
Where Can You Find Boondocking Campsites?
One of the best apps to find boondocking campsites is Campendium. This vast database includes free overnight camping sites, dump stations, campgrounds, and RV parks. RVers can also find boondocking locations through a subscription to Harvest Hosts or Boondockers Welcome. Members can stay at wineries, breweries, farms, golf courses, museums, churches, and even people’s driveways for free.
AllStays, TheDyrt, iOverlander, and FreeCampsites.net are also excellent resources for searching for campsites. In addition, many services provide other RV-related information, like propane fill-up stations and mobile technicians.
Pro Tip: We took a closer look at Do You Have to Unhook at an RV Campground (for overnight stays) to help you decide how to best set up camp.
Why Do People Unhook Their Camper When Boondocking?
Sometimes if you’re pulling into a casino for a quick overnight stay, you won’t unhook your camper. But if you want to stay several nights or in a super unlevel campsite, you’ll want to unhook from your tow vehicle.
It’s a Campsite
When you pull into a campground or RV resort, you don’t leave your tow vehicle connected to your trailer. So why should you when you arrive at your boondocking site?
It’s a campsite, so treat it as one. Unhook the tow vehicle, level your camper, set up your patio mat, roll out the awning, and relax with a glass of wine after a long drive day.
Get the Camper Level
For campers that have propane refrigerators or slide-out rooms, leveling the trailer is crucial. Propane fridges won’t operate properly, and you can damage the slides if the camper is unlevel. However, even if you don’t have a propane fridge or slide-outs, you want to be comfortable.
You don’t wish to have cabinet doors swinging shut when you open them or feel like you’re walking crooked when you’re inside. So unhook from the tow vehicle when you need to level the camper.
Keep from Draining the Truck Battery
When boondocking, you have no connection to electricity. Therefore, if you stay hooked to your tow vehicle, the vehicle’s battery will power the lights and other features.
You could wake to a dead battery if you’re not careful. So unhook to use your camper’s battery system and ensure your vehicle’s battery stays charged.
Day Trips from Boondocking Site
When boondocking for several days or weeks in one location, you probably have day trips or errands you’ll need to run, like going to the grocery store or taking the waste tank to a dump station. Unhooking from your tow vehicle allows you to take your car wherever you need it.
Boondocking in the Red Rock Canyon area of Nevada offers stunning scenery, but you might also want to take a day trip to Las Vegas for a night of entertainment.
Should You Remove Your Trailer Hitch When It’s Not in Use?
You don’t have to remove your trailer hitch when it’s not in use unless you prefer to do so for safety. You can buy trailer hitch locks that make it almost impossible to steal a hitch.
You’ll also want to cover the ball to protect it from rust, dirt, and debris. Most boondocking sites are open, and space isn’t an issue. However, if you’re in a small area and want to remove the hitch so it’s out of the way and no one hits their knee on it, that’s not a bad idea.
Is It OK to Leave Your Camper Hitched When Boondocking?
It’s completely fine to leave your camper hitched overnight as long as your site is level. For example, if you have a fifth wheel and it stays attached to the bed of the truck, you want to be comfortable walking around inside and sleeping overnight without feeling like you’ll fall out of bed.
You might like to extend the landing gear to offer some support. But many RVers do not disconnect when stopping for an overnight stay so they can get going quickly the following day.
Pro Tip: New to boondocking? Use these 22 RV Boondocking Tips to make your first time a success.
Is RV Boondocking Safe?
For many RVers, boondocking makes this lifestyle unique. Not having to make reservations, pulling off the main road to enjoy a sunset, and staying away from crowded campgrounds are ideal for these campers. Boondocking, as long as you scout the area and read reviews, is entirely safe. You’ll appreciate the solitude and beauty of nature and the freedom to go where you please.
Are you an RVer who loves to boondock? Do you unhook your tow vehicle when you stay overnight?
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