Boondocking, also known as dry camping or free camping, is a great way to camp for free, or at the very least inexpensively. With many areas of the United States ripe with lands that accommodate boondocking, this type of camping provides a unique experience that can help travelers connect with nature that remains relatively untouched by the masses. But this type of camping experience also comes with some rules and requirements not encountered by traditional RV campers in other campgrounds.Photo by Rick Cooper | Flickr
What is Boondocking?
Boondocking at its core is parking in remote areas with no hookups or amenities such as running water, bathrooms, or electricity. Boondocking often takes the concept of dry or primitive camping one step further, with RVers parking in areas not specifically developed as RV campgrounds. This type of temporary residency is often geared towards the more rugged traveler: one who can live off the grid for a short amount of time. Dry camping may not come with many accoutrements, but it has its own benefits, namely low cost and a more private, natural experience. If you’re looking for on-site running water, showers, or playgrounds for the children, a more conventional campground experience is likely a much better fit.
Where can I Boondock?
Boondocking locations can be found through the Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest and National Grasslands, Fish and Wildlife Management, and many other public lands. Many of these spots are near attractions such as national parks that would otherwise require pricier accommodations to camp in or near.
There are also numerous boondocking websites, such as boondocking.org and phone apps, such as BoonDocking, Camping Bundle, and US Public Lands that help RVers find boondocking campsites in remote areas, KOA campgrounds, and USFS and BLM campgrounds.
Because there are no posted rules, boondockers must live by their own code of ethics. A little bit of consideration goes a long way, and it’s important for boondockers to keep the experience safe, pleasant, and clean for all.
Don’t Trudge over Vegetation
Whenever possible, use existing trails and camping spots. If you notice an area that has hosted boondockers before, help maintain the natural habitat by choosing the same spot for your own use. Enjoying wildlife means keeping areas wild and lowering impact by using pre-designated areas. Also, check with public lands officials for any posted rules, such as just how far away from a road you can camp. Often there are requirements in order to help preserve the natural landscape.
Respect Your Neighbors
Boondockers often choose this option not just for the price, but for the privacy. If you’re camping in an already occupied area, leave a respectful distance between you and your neighbor. Common courtesy is the name of the game, and that extends to noise from generators, pets, and music. If you have loud dogs or want to throw a dance party under the stars late into the night, keep a far enough distance between you and your neighbors that you won’t be encroaching on their solitude.
Boondockers are a friendly bunch, but there is often a fine line between being neighborly and being a nuisance. Feel free to say hello and introduce yourself, but remain cognizant of the experience and provide your neighbors with ample space to enjoy their privacy.Photo by Mitch Barrie | Flickr
Clean Up After Yourself
Nature doesn’t have a maid, and that means that every boondocker is responsible for themselves and their items. Whatever you pack in, you should pack back out when you leave. Leaving as little of a trace as possible preserves the cleanliness and remote pleasures of the boondocking experience for everyone.
Don’t Overstay Your Welcome
Public lands often have a stay limit. Although it may be extensive, it doesn’t mean that it is limitless. Once your length of stay is up, do the world of boondockers a favor and move on. This will help preserve the trust between those staying and those permitting such stays, and can help avoid run-ins with rangers and law enforcement.Photo by: Mitch Barrie | Flickr
There are many resources for newbie RVers. Need more help understanding boondocking and would like to know some tips and tricks? Check out some of the many videos on YouTube, such as "Basic Boondocking Tips and Tricks for Newbie RVers" from Love Your RV or "Boondocking/Urban Camping Inside Tips" from Nomadic Fanatic.
Boondocking can be an amazing adventure. Far from the lights and the noise of the city, many RVers have found the pleasures of camping off-the grid out in the great wide open. With just a little bit of common sense and consideration, it can remain a wonderful means by which to see parts of the country that have remained relatively unexplored. Experience life, go boondocking in your RV!