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Old 07-18-2017, 07:45 PM   #1
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Dry Camping...

My wife and I are wanting to try "dry camping" at Cades Cove Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We are long time campers, but never have we camped anywhere with absolutely NO amenities such as water, electric, sewer, etc. I was just wondering what others that have done this before might recommend as a way to "get started" or things we might need to take our first camping trip without the "comforts" of regular campgrounds. Over thirty years of camping...now retired...and I'm wanting to forsake the conveniences of easy camping for a try "roughing" it. LOL. Hopefully we can make it happen...if it's not really too much trouble. Any help, suggestions, and advice would be welcome. Thanks for all the help and thanks to the Forum for the educational threads that pop up. I have learned a lot on this site. Thanks again.
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Old 07-18-2017, 08:21 PM   #2
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I don't have an on board generator so I have two Honda eu2000i paralled which is great for running A/C, microwave (not at same time) and for charging battery. I don't know what model rig you have but if you can fill your fresh water up 100% before final destination that is a plus. I never camped at a park that didn't have at least a few water spigots somewhere but as you stated there aren't any. Water for toilet is a must as I am sure you already know and water for a quick shower. I would only use paper plates and plastic forks to knock out doing dishes. You can always fill up water containers and bring along. I have a few 5 gallon jugs I fill and take as back up. A few cases of water for drinking or brushing teeth. Of course all of this will depend how long you stay dry camping. I have been able to go 5 days without using all my fresh water and not filling my tanks. Ivory soap floats so if there is a stream, river, lake or pond pretend you are going for a dip and have a bar of soap in your bathing suit. If you drop the soap there is no need to worry, it floats like a rubber ducky.
Then you have to beware of the grey and black holding tanks (again I believe you already are aware of this). If you have an outside shower you can wash your hands/face and brush your teeth. I know what people are thinking but even that little bit of water for that adds up and when dry camping those darn tanks seem to fill up quicker than normal.
Hope this helped a little and if you do this you have a great time.
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Old 07-18-2017, 08:34 PM   #3
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We've been dry campers for 30 years now.

First, will you be wanting to run the a/c or microwave?
If so, you'll need an inverter generator, at least 3000w or two paralleled 2000w units.
If you won't need either, a solar setup is an option to recharge the batteries.

Second, a dual battery setup is necessary, preferably a pair of 6v golf cart batteries.

Third, fresh and gray water can be an issue, depending on tank size. We use a 6 gallon jug for fresh water and a blue tote tank for gray water disposal.
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Old 07-18-2017, 09:46 PM   #4
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The only amenity you will lack is 120 volts AC but not an issue if you have a generator. Your camper already has the other amenities on board ;-)

7 gallon Aquatainer water containers are great to supplement your fresh water tank. If you don't have a gravity fill for fresh water tank, a cheap harbor freight water pump will make your job easier.

How big is your grey and black water tank?

Water conservation is extremely important. A shower uses about 2.5 gallons per minute. I can shower with about 30 seconds of water usage. I have a other post how I do it.

Washing dishes: Don't do it, use paper plates and solo cups.

Grey water: If fresh water is an issue, drain your grey water into a small bucket and use the grey water to flush your toilet. If grey fills up, I often use it to water the local trees and vegetation regardless of what the enviro-weenies rule say. I often dump my RV's grey water on my lawn when I return home to save water and use the black water on my wife's flower beds (we don't flush TP or use harsh chemicals in our black tank and those flowers love the fertilizer plus it keeps the neighbors indoors on a hot day)

Black Water: On long trips 2-3 weeks in the back country, I urinate in the woods so my wife doesn't have to towards the end of the boondock stay.

A small inverter for TV/DVD player is nice so you don't have to run the generator at night.

2 batteries is a must to prolong battery life by reducing discharge below 50% of battery capacity.

Inverter generator is the only generator to use. Before i had solar, generator would run 2 hours in morning and 2-3 hours in evening to top off batteries and ensure enough juice to run heater all night (we camp at 10,000 ASL so it gets cold each night).

Good luck and have fun. Boondocking is the only camping we do and we love it and I'm sure you will too as long as you don't mind a very quick shower every other day

Other tips:

Get an icemaker if you like ice. My wife is crazy about having ice and one of those $99 units works great.

Hot water heater and fridge on propane 100% of the time. Turn off hot water heater when not needed.

Disconnect your tow vehicle electrically from your camper just to be safe. Several years ago my camper drained my truck batteries overnight...not supposed to happen but it did. Had to run generator to charge RV batteries and then used RV battery to jump start truck.

I planned for 1.5 gallons of gasoline usage per day without air conditioning. I used much less gaso but whatever I didn't need at end of day got dumped into my gas truck's fuel tank.

Level blocks: Lots of boondock sites are not always level and those "Lego" type levelling blocks are awesome. If you have a self leveling camper, I hate you cuz I don't and I'm jealous.

A 5 gallon "Homer" bucket is a nice thing to have for a variety of emergencies and situations.

I burn my paper trash by using it to start my camp fires. Who am I kidding, I also burn plastic and anything else that is flammable. Trash easily builds up on long camping trips while boondocking and trash makes a great fire starter.

If you use your generator to run air-conditioning, realize that the water heater and fridge must be on propane setting. Also realize that running airconditioner and microwave at same time. may not be feasible.
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Old 07-18-2017, 10:15 PM   #5
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When you wash dishes/pots/pans, etc., don't do them after every meal. Do them all at once at the end of the day and you'll use much less water.
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Old 07-18-2017, 10:19 PM   #6
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When you wash dishes/pots/pans, etc., don't do them after every meal. Do them all at once at the end of the day and you'll use much less water.
Since this is your first time doing this I think paper disposable stuff will be OK. Gotta keep water use low.

The big question is: do you have a generator? If not are you going to buy one. If neither you really should have 2 batteries.
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Old 07-18-2017, 10:37 PM   #7
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Length of time comes into play here! If it is Only for 2 days you should be fine for Water/43 gal,Gray/45 Gal,Black/45 Gal if Longer you will need More Water! Catch gray water and use it for Black Flush! You will need a Geny regardless, by the time you run all 3 slides in/out,run water pump,run Refer on gas,unless it is a Optional Residential,then your Power needs jumped way up,and we have not even used the Fans or lights,let alone if it gets Hot & Muggy in the Valley and you want AC let alone with that much Square Foot to Cool you probably have 2 AC units= More Power,radio & TV,charge cell phones & Tablets/Comp! Yes you will need & Want a Big Genny! Youroo!!
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Old 07-18-2017, 11:37 PM   #8
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Well let's see... Facilities:
Cades Cove combines the feel of primitive camping with the modern convenience of flush toilets and drinking water. A camp store provides visitors with basic necessities as well as bike rentals.

That's not exactly "roughing it" by my standards, but then I tent camped "dispersed" in National Forests for years. All kidding aside, the long pole is going to be how many days you are planning to camp. Then the tank and battery capacities come into play. My take is that most RVs can do 3 or 4 days of dry camping with some restraint on part of the occupants (no long showers, minimize things running on inverters, turn off unneeded lights etc.) You can stretch it by using the campground toilets, cleaning dishes with little water and pour dishwater into the black tank (given that you do most of your business elsewhere). Then you can add fresh water from the faucets via a water container, and maybe run a generator for a few hours to recharge batteries unless you have a solar setup already.
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Old 07-30-2017, 09:12 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Tirebuilder View Post
My wife and I are wanting to try "dry camping" at Cades Cove Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Would love to know how this trip goes and more importantly some good sites to look for there. We really want to go there but worried about finding a good camper spot.
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Old 08-23-2017, 11:48 PM   #10
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Would love to know how this trip goes and more importantly some good sites to look for there. We really want to go there but worried about finding a good camper spot.
ive camped in cades cove with the pop up a couple of times. all the bath houses have water to fill up containers, they have a dump station. just no water hook ups at the site or power. I believe no generators are allowed.
we are going the 23 of October to cades cove. checked the other day and I think there is only a few spots remaining. you can go to their web site and look at each site to get a idea of how the site looks. I made my reservations back in april or may, whenever they opened them up to set your reservations. of course the one I wanted was taken. being at the time I was planning of getting the tt I just wasn't sure so I got one for both but it will work out best with the tt.
of course the pop up was set up for boon docking, ive used it to camp in the national forest turkey hunting and where I camped there is nothing just a cleared spot.
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Old 08-24-2017, 05:02 AM   #11
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Some of below more apply to primitive boondocking - but good to consider and develop habits in easier circumstances.

X2 on what Skyliner said about 5-Gallon bucket. The Code Orange Homer Bucket (Home Depot) is great for it's loud color.

x2 on what Bikendan said also - Have a way to bring FRESH water to your site. Some people like the 5-6 gallon totes, some like the collapsible totes, even gallon water or milk jugs work. This needs to include a way to get the water IN to your fresh tank ... some have an inlet that is difficult to pour into so you will need a hose, others may require pressure to overcome an entry valve.

Having some water purifier goes along with this. Sodium Hypochlorite = BLEACH ... just make sure it is just plain bleach, NOT the no-spill and NOT scented or anything fancy. Plain Bleach is same stuff as packaged water sanitizer. For drinking water, 1/2 tsp (teaspoon) per 10 gallons of water - that round to about 2 drops per quart (source - Clorox web site https://www.clorox.com/dr-laundry/bl...g-water-tanks/ )
Opinions vary a little on amount - in part depends on bleach potency:
EPA - https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and...drinking-water
"Survival" - Bleach - Water Ratio For Drinking Water - Modern Survival Blog
Keep in mind that bleach loses potency at about 20% per year in cool dark storage.

Coleman "Camp Shower" - solar bag shower - is great for boondocking. Rope and a pulley can make this work really slick. Admittedly a gallon jug of water left in the sun all day makes for a nice hot shampoo and rinse as well.

What Hangdiver and Evereddie said about dishes and disposable - X2 again. A small dish tub helps conserve what water is needed for washing pans and utensils.

A "real" Mini Shovel - like a 2-foot Round Point shovel - easy to store and obviously very versatile. Doubles for fire pit / fire safety (as does that 5-gallon bucket.) Example picture attached, we have and really like that exact one.

If you are in a place where you are allowed to burn, and gather wood (for example private property with permission, and of course acceptable conditions) then wood tools are great to have - a pruning saw and if you are motivated, a bow saw. A nice hatchet is a great idea - one that doubles as a hammer (all it needs is a blunt back side, not a fancy hammer face.) Big axes and mauls are more of a pain to haul than useful unless you anticipate need to fell and split. A stash of kindling in a plastic box or baggie is more valuable than gold in some circumstances. "Fat Wood" starter is terribly convenient, keep it in a ziplock or such as it is aromatic. A source of flame (BIC etc.) and a modest poker round out the picture. (Get a 2- or 4-foot piece of REBAR when you pick up the bucket at big-box hardware, and jam a wood handle on the end; bend it 4-inches in with a propane torch or heat from fire, then harden by heating - quenching - reheat - cool slowly.)

If so motivated - campfire grade cooking tools - cast iron skillet or dutch oven, steel pan, hot dog and/or marshmallow forks, etc.

Tarp and Rope - you can amplify your living space if weather is not your friend, and a tarp can be a problem solver for temporarily dealing with leaks or damage. Add a roll of duct tape and you can fix anything (half kidding and half serious - can get you back to civilization and real parts / tools.) Can even make semi-private shower or privvie areas with a little tarp and ingenuity. A few "real" tent stakes can also have high utility. Enough Rope for multiple projects - including a stupid long clothesline - is an okay idea. That said, wood clothespins are useful for many many things - including chip clips.

Solar Lights - light the entry to camper and path to privvie at night. Glow sticks - when aren't they on clearance somewhere or other ???

"In General" - candles are BAD. Fire hazard.

This was flogged to death in other threads - consider a non-electric way to brew your coffee, if that is how you start your mornings. We use a Cone-and-filter that fits on top of a Vacuum Pot - but you can even just manually pour boiling water into top of some Mr. Coffee-type machines and use the in-place basket and caraffe.

COMFY Camp Chairs are worth the effort. The Steel-Framed "Director" style chairs suit some folks quite well, they aren't so low to the ground so are easy on the old knees getting in and out of.

We did more than an entire Summer boondocking with little jaunts back to civilization for supplies - no generator, no solar - obviously a little primitive on some of the comforts - but the peace and quiet was well worth the trouble. So this is sort of a "cold turkey" list of things that we found made the experience a lot more civilized.

The TC (Truck Camper) we did those months in, had ZERO parasitic load - or darn near, the fridge was an ancient Dometic that did not have a computer. Modern RV's are hungrier for 12-Volts to keep alive.

Water Management is the biggie.

Good Luck, and Have Fun !!!
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Old 08-28-2017, 05:02 PM   #12
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We stayed at Cade's Cove last year and we used generators. Some loops allow them
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Old 08-28-2017, 09:01 PM   #13
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We are camping at Cade's Cove (two nights) in two weeks. Generator loop. We may rent a generator--not sure yet. I called and was told there is potable water at the dump station. So we will fill the tank upon arrival to avoid driving with fresh water tank full. Probably bring gallons of water to drink. Should be cool enough without A/C. Everything else can run on gas. Battery for water pump/awning/slide out/lights. Can live without TV and microwave.
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Old 08-28-2017, 09:28 PM   #14
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Sitting there running the generator while you watch tv, with the air on.....

Is dry camping??
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Old 08-28-2017, 10:05 PM   #15
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Sitting there running the generator while you watch tv, with the air on.....

Is dry camping??
Popup...Snowy Range Wyoming...no 12v battery, flashlights and Coleman lantern. 20gal water tank and two 5gal jugs, no furnace or air, propane for cooking and campstove. 2 coolers with as much ice as we could pack. Lots of can goods and freeze dried food for 6 people and 5 days.
That is what I think of when someone says "Dry Camping."
Everyone is just camping....Boondocking ? Dry Camping ? with all the equipment they take....it's just plain old RV Camping !
When you're washing you face and hair in the morning, in a snow fed creek where the water is barely 40 degrees and you get kicked in the head by a moose passing your tent at night....now you're "Wilderness Camping."
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Old 08-29-2017, 04:15 PM   #16
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Sitting there running the generator while you watch tv, with the air on.....

Is dry camping??
I dry camp a lot. This doesn't mean you have to lack comforts. For Saving power to watch TV we purchased a small Harbor Freight AGM Solar battery, 400 watt inverter (Wallys or HF) with 2 120 v plugs and even a USB, Plug TV and DVR into inverter, hook inverter to battery and enjoy about 4+ hours of TV while you usb charge your devices. Saves all your trailer battery for mama. Next morning I charge the solar battery for about 2 hrs. With a 80 Watt portable solar panel.
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Old 08-29-2017, 05:48 PM   #17
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I dry camp a lot. This doesn't mean you have to lack comforts. For Saving power to watch TV we purchased a small Harbor Freight AGM Solar battery, 400 watt inverter (Wallys or HF) with 2 120 v plugs and even a USB, Plug TV and DVR into inverter, hook inverter to battery and enjoy about 4+ hours of TV while you usb charge your devices. Saves all your trailer battery for mama. Next morning I charge the solar battery for about 2 hrs. With a 80 Watt portable solar panel.


I notice, you didnít say you run your generator all day.
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Old 08-29-2017, 06:11 PM   #18
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Dry camping will make you appreciate your everyday conveniences. We do most of our dry camping at Walmart. Most dry camping sites (state parks) don't allow generators because it's all about enjoying the great outdoors.
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Old 08-29-2017, 07:03 PM   #19
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For what Iíve spent on solar, if Iím ď dry campingĒ and buddy is over there, running a generator 24/7.. Iíd be one pissed off camper.
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Old 08-29-2017, 08:50 PM   #20
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Dry camping will make you appreciate your everyday conveniences. We do most of our dry camping at Walmart. Most dry camping sites (state parks) don't allow generators because it's all about enjoying the great outdoors.
Out on the West Coast, every state park I've been to, over the past 30 years, allow generators.
There are specific hours you can run them though.
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