Whether you love the outdoor adventure or are searching for a more sustainable way of life, RV off-grid living can be one of the best things you can do to find the freedom you’ve always wanted.
What exactly is off-grid living? It’s a way to live the outdoor adventure lifestyle while minimizing your environmental impact. Tiny homes, homesteading, and full-time RVers and vanners fall into this category, where the focus becomes on minimizing your material possessions and reduced reliance on non-reusable energy, like electricity and gas.
When we decided to move into an RV for off-grid living, we had a lot of questions that we needed to answer and things to figure out. It also didn’t help that we put ourselves under a time crunch – we made the decision just five months before our lease expired, which meant that we had 5 months to plan and get everything setup!
If you’re thinking about the full-time RV lifestyle, and are excited about the freedom and adventure that you’d love to experience, we reviewed our journey to pull out the most important things that we had to figure out to make our transition successful. From choosing the right type of RV for your expected off-grid lifestyle to electrical hookup and the Internet, here are just a few things that you should consider to prepare yourself for RV off-grid living!
1. Choosing your RV
If you’re planning on moving into an RV, the first thing you have to figure out is what type of RV is the best for your expected lifestyle. And yes, there are actually many options that you can choose from.
The first thing you should decide is whether or not you want a motorhome or a towable RV. Motorhomes are an all-in-one while a towable will require an additional vehicle, usually a pick-up truck with significant towing capacity.
We chose a class A motorhome because we liked the idea of being able to pull into a spot for the night, and not have to worry about getting soaked if it’s raining. It’s also more convenient because I can work at our dinette, strapped in, while my wife drives!
Whichever model of RV you decide on, make sure that you do some serious research, talk to dealers, and attend RV shows and expos, like the Off-Grid Expo. Expos and RV shows are amazing because you can speak with the experts in person, and more often than not, they have some incredible deals on rigs that you can only find at these shows!
2. Utilities: Power & Heat
While you might not be living in sticks and bricks anymore, you’re still going to need some of the services you had for basic survival: electricity and heat. While some full-time RVers prefer to only camp at campgrounds with full-hookups, if you’re looking for information on RV off-grid living, you’re probably not part of that pack. That means you have to choose between solar panels or a gas generator. I think we all know which one is the more sustainable option!
Many RVs have a propane-powered heating system, but you can also get an electric RV furnace or a portable heater that can run on solar as well.
Moving into an RV means that you’re going down to about 200 square feet of living space, and that requires paring down your belongings drastically. This was way more emotional than I expected it to be. While I gleefully donated my corporate wardrobe to Dress for Success, I ugly cried as I packed up my library to give to the local fundraiser for the middle school. When it gets tough, keep in mind the freedom that awaits you.
4. Route Planning & Overnight Parking
If you’re going to primarily boondock or dry camp, and remain off-grid, one of the most important things you have to figure out is where you can park overnight. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands are free for open camping for a set amount of days before you have to move, but depending on where you are in the country, they might be challenging to find.
Always know which businesses are friendly to overnight RV parking as well, like truck stops, Cracker Barrels, and some WalMarts. Always ask before staying the night, though, because no one wants that knock on the window at 2am telling you to move on!
Living off-grid means that you’re going to have to get creative with cooking your meals. Even though your RV probably has a burner and a microwave (at least), that takes resources like propane or electricity. As such, we do a lot of grilling and are learning how to cook over a campfire. Plus side – s’ mores!
6. Meal Planning
Similar to figuring out cooking, meal planning is a must for the full-time RV off-grid living. While we love going out to eat and checking out the local places when we travel, that can certainly add up quickly. We always make sure we have a plan for dinners throughout the week, and options for breakfast and lunch.
7. 24-Hour Fitness Centers are Your Friend
While most RVs have showers and bathrooms, they’re often small and cramped. Plus, you have to keep an eye on your water usage and tanks, so that you don’t overflow. Get yourself a pass for a 24-hour fitness center with national locations. You’ll be so happy to have a full-sized shower with unlimited hot water, you’ll send me a thank-you card.
8. Monitoring Your Tanks
Speaking of water, off-grid living in an RV means managing your water usage at all times. An RV has a freshwater tank, where it’ll hold around 40 or so gallons of clean water. This is the only freshwater you have when you’re off-grid, and it’s for your sink, toilet, and shower. Additionally, you’ll have to watch your wastewater tanks – grey and black. Know how long you can go with a reservoir of freshwater and before your tanks get full. That way, you can plan when you’ll need to find a dump station before it becomes an emergency!
9. Working & Internet
If you’re taking off in your RV because you’re ready to live that digital nomad life, you’re going to need to figure out working and access to the Internet. The folks over at Technomadia are the experts on all things mobile Internet and can answer any of your questions. We use a lot of coffee shops and have two different hotspots from two providers so that we’re always in a covered area.
This one is common sense, but you clearly want to always be aware of your surroundings. As we prepared for taking the full-time RV adventure, we knew we wanted to dry camp in the BLM lands, but were concerned about safety.
Fortunately, the RV community (and nomads in general) are a friendly, welcoming community of folks who are very “live and let live.” Just use your common sense: only park where overnight parking is allowed, if you’re in a business’s parking lot, make sure you ask beforehand if it’s okay to stay. Park underneath a streetlight, so that you have extra visibility.
Now that you know what you should be thinking about if you’re looking to take the plunge into RV off-grid living, ready to hit the road?
Don’t worry, I’ve been there.
My best advice to you if you’re considering RV off-grid living is to do your research and talk to the people that have made the transition. If you have a question, ask it. More often than not, we have a story of how we learned the answer to that question the hard way.
At the end of the day, going off-grid in my RV was one of the best decisions I ever made. I’ve seen more of North America than I ever thought I would, and I’m not done yet.
So, is it worth it?
Yes. 100% yes.
Kyle Doran is a writer and content creator for Off-Grid Expo. Kyle is a Colorado native so he loves getting out into nature. When he’s not writing, he likes to spend his time hiking, mountain biking, and camping in the Rocky Mountains. Currently, his favorite Colorado camping areas are Guanella Pass, Estes Park, and Glenwood Springs.