Off Grid RV Living: How to Live Off Grid in an RV

Off Grid RV Living [How to Live Off Grid in an RV]

RV off grid living is one of the most cost-effective, freeing, adventurous lifestyles you could possibly choose, but there is a long learning curve. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’re going to reduce the learning curve associated with this lifestyle by disclosing everything you must know about living off grid in RV. 

We’re going to cover topics such as the necessary items for off grid RV living, where you can park off grid, and major considerations that you need to keep in mind. 

Setting Up Your Rig for RV Off Grid Living

Naturally, the most important piece of the puzzle when RVing off the grid is your RV. But you don’t want to simply buy any old RV and head off grid. 

Rather, you’ll need to make sure that your RV is set up for off grid living, which requires a few things that your RV wouldn’t need for staying in an RV park, so some of these items don’t come standard on every RV. 

RV Living Off Grid Necessities

To live off grid in your RV, there are only a few things you absolutely must have. There are certainly many items that could make your life easier or more comfortable, but the following four items are absolute essentials for living off grid in an RV.

Off Grid RV Power

Arguably the largest upgrade that’s necessary for living off the grid in an RV is your off grid RV power system. This system will supply electricity for the house portion of your RV, which means keeping the lights on and any electronics you plan to use. 

There are two primary types of off grid RV power systems commonly employed: solar and those that charge from the engine. Both will need a battery bank, so we’ll discuss that first. 

Off Grid RV Power Battery Bank

When you need to store energy, the solution is a battery. To store more energy than a single battery can hold, you can connect several batteries in parallel to combine their storage capacity without changing the voltage. 

Most RV power systems will utilize 12-volt batteries. These are similar to car batteries, but to power the home portion of your RV, you want deep-cycle batteries instead of regular automotive batteries. 

There are four major types of deep-cycle batteries most often used for off-grid RV purposes. 

Sealed Lead Acid (SLA)

Sealed lead acid batteries are the cheapest, but they require regular maintenance and can’t be discharged past 50% or you’ll risk damaging the battery. SLA batteries also off gas and have the potential to leak, so you must vent them and be ultra-careful with their installation. With proper care, they can last up to 10 years. Be warned, these bad boys are heavy – about 80 pounds for a single one. 

Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) and Gel 

AGM and gel batteries are similar enough to lump them together here. They have a short lifespan of about four years, but they require no maintenance, don’t off gas, and won’t leak. They’re more expensive than SLA batteries, but still a fraction of the cost of LiFePO4. Like SLA batteries, these can only be discharged to about 50% before you risk permanent damage. 

Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4)

A single LiFePO4 battery will cost about 10 times what you’d pay for a SLA battery of the same size, but they don’t really compare. LiFePO4 batteries weigh a fraction of what SLA batteries do and they’re more compact as well. Even better, you can discharge a LiFePO4 battery all the way without causing permanent damage. They also have a higher total voltage, so in the end, you get two to three times as much usable battery from a LiFePO4 battery than you’d get from a SLA battery with an equivalent amp-hour rating. 

How many RV batteries do I need?

This depends greatly on how many electronics you use and what type of batteries you install. Lithium iron batteries offer far more usable capacity than sealed lead acid batteries, so you can more with the same number of batteries, but the lithium iron batteries are very pricey. If you only want to power your lights and a perhaps a fan, then a single 100 amp-hour deep cycle battery of any type should suffice, though you’ll need to increase your storage capacity as you increase your electronics usage. 

RV Off Grid Solar System

Your battery bank is the crux of your off grid RV power system, but without a way to charge it, you’ll find that it’s not much use. 

The most common way of recharging a battery bank in an RV when you’re off grid is via a solar system. This type of energy is 100% renewable. Once you install your solar system, it will, in theory, continue generating power without any input from you whatsoever. 

Now, you can’t simply wire a solar panel to a battery and call it a day. There are a few more items you’ll need to complete your solar system, including a charge controller and a fuse block. 

Your charge controller takes the incoming power from your solar panels and adjusts it so that it’s the right amount of energy for your batteries, lest you end up damaging your batteries. 

Solar charge controllers don’t have to be expensive, with PWM controllers like this one often costing under $20 and slightly better MPPT controllers like this one still coming in under $100 most of the time. 

Next, your fuse block allows you to wire multiple devices to your battery bank with fuses to protect them in case of power surge. One like this allows you to wire several devices at once, only having to connect a single set of wires to your battery bank. 

Charging Your House Batteries While You Drive

With an RV, you have an added possibility of charging your house batteries while you drive by using the alternator on your engine that’s already charging the starting battery. 

All you have to do is wire your house batteries to your engine battery via an isolator relay such as this one and your house batteries will charge while you drive but won’t drain your starting battery when you’re parked. 

An alternative option to achieve the same effect is to use a solar charge controller that can utilize energy from the engine’s alternator to charge the house batteries, acting as a sort of built-in isolator. 

This is the route I chose for the sake of simplicity, and I personally use the Renogy DCC50S. I’ve used the same controller for over three years without a single issue!

Water Storage and Conservation

Getting electricity for your RV is one of the most important aspects of preparing it for off grid use, but water is arguably more important. The difference is that your RV already has water storage built-in in all likelihood. 

That being the case, your concern now is water conservation. In many cases, your water usage and storage capacity will determine the amount of time you can spend off grid and away from utilities before you need to go and refill. 

If you check out our article listing the 20 best tips for full time RV living, you’ll find quite a few water conservation methods to help you make the most of your water. 

Food Storage

Dry food is very simple to store. You just put it in a cabinet. But if you want to bring along meats, cheeses, other dairy products, eggs, or anything else that’s perishable, you’ll need a refrigerator. 

Again, most RVs come equipped with a fridge. The problem is that they’re not generally well-suited for off grid living. 

The problem with the stock fridges built into most RVs is that they’re not efficient. These are usually three-way refrigerators, able to be powered by shore power, 12-volt electricity, or propane. 

Compared to other 12-volt fridges, these three-way fridges use considerably more power. Sure, you can use propane to power them, but propane is not infinitely renewable like electricity is once you have solar. 

A better option is to get a 12-volt fridge like this one. I personally use that model, though there are many similar products to pick from. 

BougeRV 12 Volt Dual Zone Portable Refrigerator

  • Two separate temperature-controlled zones
  • Bluetooth app for wireless control
  • Uses just 45 watts in eco mode
  • Cools down to -4 degrees F

You’re looking for something efficient with plenty of storage that can easily handle the bumps and vibrations your RV will certainly incur during dirt-road travel. 

Having proper cold food storage changes the game and really makes your off grid RV feel like a complete home. 

Tools for Maintenance and Repair

As almost anyone can attest to, homes need very regular repairs and maintenance. Similarly, anyone with a vehicle can tell you that it too requires regular attention, maintenance, and repair. 

Well, your RV is both a vehicle and a home wrapped up into one package. As such, you’ll have to deal with many of the problems applicable to each, which can make it feel sometimes like you’re dealing with more issues than makes sense!

But don’t panic. Most of these problems are very minor, and if you keep around some essential tools, you’ll be able to solve a majority of them right when you notice them. 

There are many tools you could keep on board, and if you have room, keep adding to your collection. To start, get a basic mechanic’s tool set like this one so that you have all the most important tools for essential repairs. 

RV Off Grid Living: Where to Park Long Term

Your RV might be your home, but you still have to park somewhere each night! 

If you want to get a good night’s sleep, restful and peaceful, then you need to be somewhere safe where you know you’re allowed  to be. 

There are many options, ranging from free to a bit pricey. Each offers different benefits and drawbacks, which we will discuss at length. 

BLM, National Forest, and State Trust Land

The biggest advantage of RV off grid living is that it doesn’t cost if money, if you’re parking in the right places. 

BLM land is land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management, and you’re free to do most recreational activities here. 

National forest land is also open to recreational activities like camping, so long as there are no current restrictions in your area. In the southwest, for example, fire closures are commonplace. 

State trust land has different regulations in each state, but it’s generally quite affordable to get a permit that will allow you to camp here legally. 

Make sure you observe all posted laws. For example, in many places, you’ll have a 14 day limit for camping. Once that time is up, just close up camp and move on down the way to set up at a new location. 


Many campgrounds, particularly in rural areas, are off grid entirely and feature no hookups. What’s great about these is that they’re usually pretty cheap. Even in town, you’ll sometimes find drydocking RV parks that are very affordable. 

$20 per night is average, but it’s not uncommon to find spaces for just $10 per night. These are safe, convenient places to park, and they’re often paved, so you don’t have to worry about inclement weather. 

Keep in mind that these campgrounds won’t have any amenities. You’ll be on your own to deal with trash, water, sewage, and everything else, just like in any normal off-grid situation. 

Personal Property

If you’re looking for a place where you can set up permanently for living off grid in an RV, then your best bet is to purchase some land in a rural area. 

Rural land is still very affordable in many parts of the country, and if you do just a little looking, you’re likely to find suitable property available for just a few hundred down and $200 or less per month. Or, if you have a lump sum, you could feasibly expect to walk away paying well under $10,000. 

One thing to consider with this solution is that living in your RV full time is not legal in every jurisdiction. Some places disallow this practice altogether, but in many places, you can live full time in your RV if you meet certain requirements, like installing a septic system. 

For example, in Apache County, Arizona, you can legally live off grid in an RV so long as it’s hooked to a septic system. Of course, Arizona is one of the best states for off grid living, as you can read about in our complete guide to off grid living in Arizona. 

Living Off Grid in RV – Major Considerations

Getting your RV set up for off grid living is the first major step. Figuring out viable places to park your RV off grid is the second step. But even once you’re safely parked off grid, there are some major factors that you can’t forget about, or you might risk some unnecessary trouble. 


Most often, water will be the reason you must head into town to resupply. You’ll have to use lots of water each day, and even if you’re being extremely conservative with your water usage, you’re still going to use it up before long. After all, you have a limited amount of water storage to begin with. 

If you check out our list of 20 indispensable tips for living in an RV, you’ll find quite a few water conservation methods that can help your water last longer, but you’ll still need to pay close attention to how much water you have left at any given time. 

Holding Tanks

Your gray and black tanks will sometimes be the determining factor to your length of stay off grid, though, if you empty them every time you refill your water tank, you’re unlikely to encounter such an issue. 

Still, dumping your holding tanks is absolutely necessary, and I recommend dumping them long before they start to fill up so you can avoid all the nasty smells associated with full holding tanks. 


Everyone uses a different number of electronics. Some people don’t rely heavily on their electronics at all, and, therefore, won’t use too much power. On the other hand, some people, myself included, rely on their electronics a major portion of the time. 

If you find yourself in the latter group, you’ll need to put some thought into how much electricity you need so you can prepare with a large enough battery bank and a sufficient number of solar panels. 

You always have the option of powering your electronics via a generator instead of solar, but this is a non-renewable source of power. Using a gas generator will add up to quite an expense, and if you’re relying on fuel from the petrol grid for your power, then you’re not really living off grid. 

For most people living off the grid in an RV, a small inverter generator serves primarily as a backup in case there’s a problem with the primary solar system, or in the event of several days without sun to power your panels!


It’s easy to overlook the effect that weather can have on your off grid lifestyle, at least until you feel its effects first hand!

Let’s touch on just a couple of examples to demonstrate what I mean. 

Perhaps you’ve traveled down a couple of dirt roads and found yourself a wonderful little spot to park down a small, rocky dirt hill. 

You’ve been there for about two weeks and you’re getting ready to pack up and move down the way a few miles. Only, a thunderstorm sets in and starts to wash out the road. It rains for two days straight, but after all that rain, the road is too muddy and destroyed for you to get your RV out. It takes another two weeks to dry enough for you to leave because the rain continues each day just enough to prevent the standing water and mud from drying. 

Things sound bad enough, but they’re actually worse than that. 

You see, all of that rain brought weeks of cloud cover as well, which means that your solar panels haven’t gotten enough sunlight to charge your battery bank this whole time. Now, your batteries are too low to use, you’re running out of water, your low on food, and you still can’t leave for fear of getting your RV stuck in the mud. 

Luckily, you can avoid such issues by simply checking the forecast. Not that weather forecasters are always right, they’re often completely wrong, but it’s still better to have some idea of what might happen. 

Maintenance and Repairs

Does your RV have any leaks? Hopefully not, but if it does, parking for a long period could see one of your reservoirs emptied. 

A small power steering leak that I didn’t attend to once drained my whole power steering pump in a matter of a couple weeks. Because you’re on the dirt, you can’t see the effects each day. But when you start driving, you’ll notice it real quick!

And let’s talk about repairs for a moment. RVs, particularly those with a few years on them, are in practically constant need of some type of maintenance or repair. It’s usually fairly minor, but if you don’t attend to these issues early, they don’t stay minor for long. 

As such, it’s always important to remember to check over your RV regularly when it’s parked for a long time. And definitely check everything out thoroughly once right before you pack up and start driving. Check the tire pressure, oil level, transmission fluid, make sure the radiator is full, and just generally give the whole RV a good once over to ensure you’re not asking for any trouble right when you pull away!


Full time off grid RV living can be one of the most cost-effective lifestyles around if you make smart choices. Just check out this comprehensive cost analysis of RV living to see what I mean. 

Even so, you’ll need to have some type of income, and this is one thing that you always need to keep in mind. 

If you have enough savings, like a senior couple who has moved into an RV to live out their retirement, then income won’t be an issue. Instead, you’ll need to focus more on preservation of existing funds. 

Either way, just make sure you don’t end up stuck off grid in the middle of nowhere without any money to move on to the next place!

Final Thoughts

I always found that being in a house caused me to feel very stuck, but off grid RV living provides the type of freedom that feels right for my life. It’s an affordable, peaceful, and extremely freeing lifestyle that I hope this article has helped you to understand more about. 

If you’re still on the fence about RV off grid living, then you might try boondocking, also known as off grid camping, a few times to get a feel for it. Read our comprehensive guide to off grid RV camping to prepare yourself to disconnect and head off grid for an adventure that just might become your lifestyle.

3 thoughts on “Off Grid RV Living: How to Live Off Grid in an RV”

  1. Aw, this was an incredibly good post. Spending some time and actual
    effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I
    procrastinate a lot and never seem to get anything done.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, I appreciate the positive feedback! I find that if I think too hard about what a large undertaking it is to write a good article, then I drag my feet on getting started, but if I just jump into it and get the ball rolling, the momentum starts to take care of itself. Try to just jump in headfirst and don’t worry about what comes out at first. Just start writing and get some momentum building! Good luck!

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