What the heck is boondocking?!
Boondocking is dry camping - meaning no water, electric, or sewer hookups. Generally speaking, it’s free and out in the boonies - just you, your house on wheels (or tent), and the expanse of nature surrounding you. Other terms are "dispersed camping", "primitive camping", or "wild camping".
Why do you boondock?
There are 2 main reasons why we choose to travel this way:
1. It is more enjoyable. We want to have nature at our doorstep and look out our window to see desert mesas, oceanfront views, or an abyss of trees - we do NOT want to see a 5th wheel's poop tank. We want to fall asleep to the sound of crickets and owl hoots - we do NOT want to listen to the RV generator powering the television nextdoor. We want our children to be free to explore in the wilderness - we do NOT want to have to remind them to stay out of the road and watch for cars every ten seconds.
2. It is FREE and we save a lot of money by using our public lands and not staying in pricey campgrounds and RV parks.
How do you find boondock sites?
The US Forest Service (USFS) and The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) along with other government entities manage public lands and allow access for recreational use. Camping is usually restricted to 14-days and may be enforced strictly if there is a host present or not at all depending on where you are. You can find public lands open for dispersed camping the old fashioned way with a paper map but we prefer to use modern technology and love the Campendium app. There are a few other apps and websites that offer the same service but we typically find everything we need with Campendium. The reviews and photos are very helpful in letting us know if our rig can handle the access road which is the most crucial part of boondocking. If you are in Canada or Mexico the iOverlander app is very helpful in finding dispersed camping areas.
What do I need in order to be boondock ready?
The main issue with boondocking is that there is no source of electricity so you will need solar or a generator. You can have one or both, it depends on your battery setup, your usage, and where you are camping. If you are in the desert and have full sun than solar may be enough to do the job! The second issue is water. You will need a few water totes or a water bladder to fill up in town and bring back to your rig. That’s it! If you want to prolong your time boondocking than a compost toilet is more efficient so that you don’t have to go dump when that black tank fills up!
Do you ever feel unsafe?
No. There may be an eclectic mix of people parked on BLM land and whenever we are in a new area we are wary of our surroundings, but most people just keep to themselves. Honestly, I feel much safer out in the middle of nowhere than in a congested RV Park. We always use general precautions and of course our large German Shepherd helps to keep us alert and safe!
What else do I need to know about boondocking?
The roads are usually unpaved and can be washboard or have deep potholes. Try not to arrive at your spot in the dark, it can be very tricky to navigate and find a decent, level spot at night. Look for land that is already disturbed and has a fire pit, never park in an area with pristine vegetation, we want to preserve and leave little/no trace. Pack everything out, PLEASE! Respect the land and the people around you.
This sounds great, so what’s the catch?!
Every camper has different levels of comfort and some people may feel like the access to free-flowing water and endless electricity is necessary. That is not our priority, and we prefer to sacrifice some comforts for majestic panoramic scenery and isolation in nature. There are some drawbacks; however, one of which being that we cannot reserve spots and will not know if a place is booked up until our arrival. This means we need to be flexible and always have a backup plan. Cell service can be spotty so if you rely on WiFi connection for work then that can pose an issue. Also, since these public lands are open for recreational use there are sometimes target shooters nearby and people that do not respect the land and leave the area trashed. Overall we have had so many great experiences boondocking and these negatives are hugely outweighed by the positives.