What Is Dry Camping And Why You Should Try It

Have you ever wondered what “dry camping” is? I have. So I had to do some research to find out. Interestingly enough, you may have done some dry camping yourself and not even know it, I myself happen to partake in dry camping quite regularly, it is my favorite kind of camping.

So what is dry camping? Dry camping can have different meanings for different people, but generally, dry camping refers to camping in locations where there is no electricity, sewer or water available. Dry camping is not to be confused with dispersed camping as it can be done in an established campground. 

If you do not have access to electricity, sewer, or water then you must take extra precautions and be more prepared for your camping trip. It is important to distinguish dry camping from dispersed camping since there is one major difference. There are some advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind if you want to try dry camping, but I think that everyone that enjoys camping should give it a try at least once.

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How to be prepared for dry camping

So now you know that dry camping involves not having access to utilities like electricity, sewer, and water. This means that you won’t be able to charge your phone, this means you won’t have a toilet, and this means that there will be no running water from a spigot. Not having these things presents unique challenges for you on your camping trip. The key to overcoming these challenges is preparation.

Preparing for no electricity

This should be the easiest step for most campers since most campgrounds do not even have hookups, to begin with. Especially in National Parks and National Forests. To be prepared for no electricity you simply need to have a means of preparing your food and to stay entertained. For preparing your food you will probably be relying on the use of a propane camping stove or the campfire. For entertainment, you will need to resort to things that do not involve your cell phone or TV. This should be the easiest thing to prepare for since camping isn’t associated with electricity.

Preparing for no sewer

Dry camping doesn’t just mean not having access to flush toilets, it also means not having access to a pit toilet. Not having access to even a porta potty can be very strange at first since you will still need to go to the bathroom. To be prepared for this you will simply need to bring toilet paper and a nice sturdy shovel. Yes, you will need to bury your poop if you are dry camping. In order to do it correctly; first, dig a hole at least 6 inches deep and do your business, then bury it and conceal it with leaves and sticks. Pack out the toilet paper if it is not special biodegradable toilet paper and remember to be at least 200 feet from a water source, trail, or campsite.

Preparing for no water

Not having running water can be a minor nuisance if you aren’t used to it. To prepare for this simply pack more water than you think you need. You can read my other article about how much water you should pack for camping here. Basically, bring a lot more than what you think you will need because you need water for more than just drinking. You also need water for things like washing dishes and cleaning yourself.

What is the difference between dry camping and dispersed camping?

Dry camping is simply not having access to any utilities while camping. Dispersed camping, on the other hand, is when you are camping somewhere that is not an established campground. An established campground could offer no utilities and therefore be considered dry camping. Dispersed camping would mean that not only do you not have access to utilities, but you also won’t have access to other sometimes forgotten campground amenities such as trash removal, picnic tables, fire rings, etc.

What are the advantages of dry camping?

The advantages of dry camping are plentiful because it is a different camping experience if you are not used to it. Here are three advantages of dry camping over regular camping:

The first advantage is that it usually requires less preparation than normal campgrounds. Dry camping typically is first come first serve and therefore you do not have to worry about reservations. This means that you can partake in dry camping on a whim and take a spontaneous camping trip, which is awesome.

A second advantage is that dry camping is usually quieter than regular camping. It is less popular because people enjoy having access to utilities when camping, especially a toilet. Therefore you can usually enjoy more peace and quiet depending on where you go. If you decide to completely disperse camp then you could potentially be completely alone.

A third advantage is that it helps make you more resourceful and appreciate the modern comforts we enjoy today. Dry camping for even just a short amount of time will make you appreciate more what you have. It can make you realize just how easy and great modern-day life is. At the same time, it will force you to be creative in dealing with more difficult situations on your own.

What are the disadvantages of dry camping?

The disadvantages of dry camping are more in line with simply not having access to utilities that we regard as basic requirements of survival. The disadvantages are purely up to you because only you can see them as a disadvantage

The first disadvantage is that if you did not prepare correctly then your camping trip could be cut short if you forgot something important like enough water. If not cut short, it would be very inconvenient to have to leave your campsite and go acquire what you need. That is why proper preparation is the most important thing for dry camping. I like to have a personal camping checklist to use every time I pack for a dry camping experience.

The second disadvantage is uncertainty and safety. When we are more uncertain about our environment then we can feel unsafe. This is all in our head and dry camping is no more unsafe than regular camping (which is actually pretty safe). So realize that it is mostly all an illusion in your head, and if you can change your perception then you can change your reality.

Where can you dry camp?

By now you should know that you can dry camp in regular campgrounds. As long as those campgrounds don’t offer any utilities then it is dry camping. However, there are some other places you can dry camp that is also considered dispersed camping.

You can camp freely on much of the National Forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land that we have available. The rules can vary slightly by the particular location, but typically you can dry camp freely at least one mile away from developed campgrounds and areas, at least 100 feet away from any water source, and at least 150 feet away from any roadway.

Of course, try to do some specific research on the particular BLM or National Forest land that you plan to do some dry dispersed camping on. Some National Parks also allow this type of camping but their rules are very specific to the park itself. Most of all the information that you would want on this can be found on the government websites of the National ForestsOpens in a new tab., Bureau of Land ManagementOpens in a new tab., or National ParksOpens in a new tab..

Why should I try dry camping?

You should try dry camping if you want to have a more rugged camping experience. If you want to avoid the crowds and experience more peace and quiet then dry camping might be for you. IF you want just a small taste of what it’s like to really live without most of the modern-day comforts that we enjoy today then give dry camping a try at least once, I think you will enjoy it.


Dry camping is not having utilities provided by a campsite. Although it is similar to dispersed camping, dispersed camping is even more extreme because you are outside of an established campground. Proper preparation is the most important element for successful dry camping. If you have never tried it before, I urge you to do so because it is a unique camping experience that any serious camper should try at least once.

Related questions:

What is the difference between dry camping and boondocking?

Boondocking is a term that usually refers to RVs that are partaking in dispersed camping. It is dispersed camping that exclusive to RVs. You can dry camp and you can disperse camp in an RV. If you are simply dry camping then you don’t have utilities available to you at a campground. RVs can generate some of these utilities on their own.

What is a full hookup campsite?

Full hookups are the opposite of dry camping. If you have a full hookup campsite then you have exclusive access to electricity, water, and sewer drainage. Full hookup is usually associated with RV campsites since they are designed to be “hooked up” to utilities. You can also stay in a “full hook up” style campsite with regular vehicles.

What about wet camping?

Wet camping just means you are stuck in the rain, and it stinks. Unless you enjoy rain then congratulations. It’s not really a common term I just made it up.

My Favorite Camping Gear

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Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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