Tips for Camping without Full Hook Ups

Giant City State Park has only electric at their campsite, but they have a great station to fill up your fresh water and dump your tanks.  Its clean and easy to access.

We are not "boon dockers".  I prefer a full hook up campsite.  But there are some places where full hook ups are just not available.  And, if you really want to explore more territory and do more things while camping, sometimes you have to give up the convenience of full hook ups.  What are some tips to make this possibility and reality?

Camping is always an adventure, and we love the challenges that we face and overcome with creative solutions.

Tips for Camping Without Full Hook Ups

In Mississippi, we have full hook ups at most every state park.  We have found the same to be true mostly in Alabama as well.  There is the Corp of Engineer (COE) campground here and there with water and electric, but most every where we go has a full hook up.  This also means that we are somewhat spoiled campers.  

We take one trip a year with my cousins in Southern Illinois where state parks only offer electric at the campsite.  In our pop up camper days, this worked fine.  We didn't have a lot of amenities in our camper.  We already used the bathhouse for showers and the restrooms.  But, now that we have a travel trailer, we have gotten used to our own facilities in our RV.  So, how does limited hook ups change that experience?

First, I want to say that if you plan to camp with limited hook ups or boondocking, tank size really does matter.  I wrote about this a couple of years ago.  We have a Grand Design that has 43 gallons of fresh water capacity, a 39 gallon black tank and two 42 gallon grey tanks.  Our tanks make a huge difference for camping in spots where we don't have a full hook up.  Aside from tank size, what can you do?

Fill Your Tanks At the Campground

I would advise against traveling with fresh water in your tanks to the campground.  Most campgrounds with limited hookups have a spot as you pull in to the campground to fill up your fresh tanks.  Traveling with water in your tank can reduce gas mileage and be hard on your tow vehicle.   A few miles wouldn't make a huge difference, but towing for a day wouldn't be great.  

Portable water in a small container makes it easy to flush your toilet without using up all of your fresh water.

I used this container with a spigot for my dish washing station in the kitchen.  This also stretched my fresh water.

Portable Containers of Extra Water

If you have limited hook up capability or are boon docking, you can always have additional containers of fresh water.  I did this for both flushing the toilet and washing dishes.  We have some portable containers from SMART Bottle.  These are made in the US.  They can also have an additional spout that makes it easy to use.  These hold up great and do the job perfectly!

I kept a small container of water in the bathroom to pour down the toilet each time it was used.  I could refill the container as needed at the campground.  This was an easy thing to do, and we had no issues when it came time to flush the black tank.

Additionally, I kept a second and larger container of water on the sink in the kitchen to wash dishes.  I would heat some water in an electric kettle for hot water.  I would both rinse and wash using the water container that I had placed there for dishes.  I would typically fill each container for each for both the toilet and kitchen once a day.  It was a quick task that I got the kids involved to do!

This shower head from Oxygenics was easy to install and helps reduce the amount of water being using the shower.  It conserves fresh water and keeps from filling up our grey tanks as fast!

Low Flow Shower Head

Regardless of the hook ups your campsite has, I would recommend using a low flow shower head.  It keeps from filling your grey tanks so fast.  And it conserves water.  We switched to an Oxygenics Fury Shower Head a couple of years ago, and love it.  

The switch on the back of the shower head reduces the water flow to a trickle so that you don't waste water.

There is this handy switch on the back of the shower head that shuts off the water to a trickle.  And, this makes it easy to control how much water you are using too.  It was easy to install, and makes taking a shower better no matter where you are camping.  

Navy Showers

My dad was in the Navy, and I would hear him talk about a "Navy Shower" when he was talking about his time in the service sometimes.  This method of showering is a quick was to conserve your water usage.  Turn on the water enough to wet your body and hair.  Flip the switch on your shower head to turn off the water.  Soap up and wash your hair.  Turn on the water to rinse.  Done!  

Having a shower head that you can hold in your hand is a quick way to get the job done.  I don't know if the military still does this, but it is something that totally makes sense in the camping world.  And we managed to really stretch our water doing this!

A portable holding tank will allow you to drain your tanks without towing your camper to do the job!

Portable Holding Tank

If you think you might need to drain your tanks before you tow out of your camping spot, you can always get a portable holding tank.  There are lots of different ones on the market.  Be careful as to how large of one you get.  These can get really big and bulky, and you are going to be transporting this to the campground in the back of your truck or strapped to the back of your RV.  Consider the size before your purchase.

Either way, you can drain your tank and keep using them by doing this.  I would advise against using this for black tank waste if you can.  I would probably only use this for grey water.  But, that is up to you.  I hear all kinds of tales about how these are used.  These can be super handy, and if we camped in more places where hook ups were limited, I would invest in this.  

One final thing to consider is that you could always add some additional water to your fresh tank if you run out.  Just remember to check your grey and black tank capacity before you do this.  If you don't have a portable holding tank to drain your water, then you will be in trouble if you are maxing out your limits.  

Giant City State Park in Southern Illinois is a favorite destination for us.  And we don't mind the limited hook ups.

Limited hook ups are not as scary as you think.  I don't mind it.  Its a way to get me out of my comfort zone and be creative.  It also makes me feel like I'm a better steward of our natural resources and not just wasting water when I don't have to.  We actually need less than we normally use anyway.  

If you have not branched out to do camping in spots where you have less resources at the actual site, I encourage you to do so.  Some really beautiful camping spots may not have every amenity, but the beauty in nature makes up for all the rest.  

Until next time...happy camping!

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