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Off-Grid Camping: How To Reduce Water Usage

This post was updated on November 27th, 2023

Tips and Tricks for Conserving Water on Your Off-Grid Camping Trip

If you’re living the van life, you’re probably hoping to camp off-grid more often than not. Unfortunately, this can be challenging if you’ve never dry camped before. The biggest challenge? Figuring out how to make your water last while off-grid camping. 

Luckily, plenty of vanlifers have come before you, and they have figured out loads of clever ways to reduce water usage while off-grid camping—yet still live in comfort. Here are the top tips for doing just that from an experienced boondocker’s point of view.

Shower Before You Go

First, if you are planning on heading out on a short-term off-grid trip, we recommend prepping by taking a good shower beforehand. This will mean fewer showers are needed during your adventure and could make a huge difference in your water consumption. If you’re living in your van full time, consider doing something similar by staying in an RV park one night to shower before you head out into the wilderness for a while. 

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Stick to Navy Showers Every Few Days

While off-grid, you will need to wait as long as possible between showers. If you aren’t doing anything strenuous, you can probably go a good 4–6 days between showers if you play your cards right. When you do shower, stick to navy showers, turning the water on to get wet, off to lather up, and back on to quickly rinse off. 

Invest in Venture Wipes

How do you stretch your time between showers to 4–6 days? Venture Wipes (or any other kind of body wipe) can help. These large wipes work really well to freshen up the stinkiest parts of your body when a shower just isn’t feasible. 

Buy Some Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo is also helpful for stretching your time between showers. Experiment with a few brands to find one you like, and then stock up so you don’t have to go through every off-grid trip with greasy hair. 

Use an Exfoliating Glove

When you do finally shower, it can be helpful to use an exfoliating glove to efficiently remove dead skin as well as dirt from your body. 

Bathe Using Natural Water Sources

If you’re lucky enough to be near a decently clean source of water, you can actually use that to bathe (if not necessarily drink). Gather water from the stream to use in an outdoor shower back at the rig and use eco-friendly soap and give yourself a scrub.

Plan on Single Pot Meals

Wishing dishes can consume a lot of water. You can cut back on this by finding ways to reduce the number of dishes you use. One of our favorite ways to go about this is to make only one-pot meals, so there aren’t multiple big dishes to clean once dinner is done. 

Grill Out Often

Another way to reduce dish usage? Break out the grill! You can grill up some meat and veggies without using many dishes at all, and you’ll be able to treat yourself to an amazing meal to boot. 

Wipe Dishes Down Immediately After Use

Be sure to wipe down any dishes you do use as soon as you’re finished with them. This will remove food residue, eliminating the need to soak the dishes later. Depending on what they were used for, wiping the dishes might even mean getting another use out of them before washing. 

Collect Rinse Water for Flushing

Never flush good water down the drain! Instead, collect rinse water from washing the dishes, washing hands, and showering off to flush the toilet. 

If your toilet is connected to your van’s water system, simply turn off the water pump, pour in some of your rinse water, and push the pedal or pull the lever. Then add a little rinse water to prevent smells from coming into your bathroom once you’ve flushed. 

Have a toilet with a separate fresh tank? Simply fill that tank with rinse water. 

Trash Your Toilet Paper

Toilet paper has a hard time breaking down in your holding tank if you don’t use enough water when you flush. Additionally, it has a tendency to get stuck in the bowl, leading to more water usage when you flush. For this reason, many choose to put TP in the trash rather than flush it. 

If It’s Yellow, Let It Mellow

Many vanlifers also choose to let their “yellow” waste “mellow” in order to save water when off-grid camping. This allows you to save that rinse water for flushing other kinds of waste. 

Switch to a Composting (on Incinerating) Toilet

Of course, you could forgo using water to flush entirely by investing in a composting or incinerating toilet in place of a water-based one. Just be sure you know the pros and cons of each when choosing which type of toilet to use in your van build. 

Going with the Flow: Embracing Water Conservation in Off-Grid Van Life and Camping

There you have it, 13 ways to reduce your water usage when off-grid camping in your van. Honestly, once you get into the habit of applying these tips and tricks, they become second nature, and you might just find you really don’t need as much water as you originally thought.

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