When you’re finished exploring new RVs for sale and are ready to hit the road, you have many different options to explore. Your camper offers the perfect setup for visiting a campsite, trailer club, or park outside a friend’s home. This versatility and portability are why so many people love lightweight travel trailers and lifestyles on the road. If you’re interested in adding another experience to your belt, consider boondocking. This method of camping involves camping off-the-grid, away from the standard services and features you’ll find at a dedicated campground or RV park. Boondocking can create a magical environment, allowing you to spend uninterrupted time enjoying the majesty of nature without other people around. However, there are some tips and tricks to boondocking safely and legally. Learning all about boondocking, the various types of boondocking, and how you can enjoy this travel style.
Many people want to know what exactly boondocking is. You might also hear this type of camping referred to as “dry camping,” “dispersed camping,” and other terms. Let’s explore all the details surrounding boondocking.
Boondocking is a mix of two main elements: where you can and how you camp. Setting up when you’re boondocking is very different from taking used travel trailers to a mainstream campsite. Boondocking involves camping out away from infrastructure, wherever you can find a favorable view and level ground. Because you’re not at a campsite, you don’t have water, sewer, or electric hookups. You also won’t have bathrooms, water spigots, or picnic tables if you don’t bring them yourself. Boondocking is usually free, but sometimes you need a permit. This practice is also illegal in some areas or on private property, so do your research before pulling over. Boondocking is a similar experience no matter where you stay. Here are some of the most common places where people choose to boondock.
According to the traditional definition, boondocking is also known as dispersed camping on public lands. The Bureau of Land Management, National Forest Service, and Department of Fish and Wildlife are federal agencies that allow boondocking on their managed lands. Some boondocking locations managed by these agencies provide a flat surface where you can park or set up your tent but don’t count on this across the board.
Boondocking has become more prevalent in recent years. Many travelers have kept an eye out for used campers for sale, just dreaming of the day when they can hit the road. The rise of the van life or digital nomad lifestyle has also led to increased rates of boondocking.
It’s great to see people enjoying the beauty of nature, but some common boondocking locations have suffered from all the attention. Irresponsible campsite placement, overcrowding, pollution, unapproved dumping, and other issues have become a problem on managed lands. The National Forest Service has tackled this problem by creating designated dispersed camping sites in some areas. These sites offer a blend of benefits from traditional boondocking and standard campsites. A designated camping site is usually marked by numbers or letters, helping people know where to go. These sites may have occupancy limits as well as duration limits. You can’t bring a huge party and plan on staying indefinitely at one of these sites. Many management agencies allow up to fourteen days at a dispersed camping site, but some organizations ask you to stay only one night before moving on. Make sure to confirm the guidelines before you settle into your temporary home. What Isn’t Considered Boondocking? As the RV lifestyle continues to welcome new people, we’ve seen various people using methods that don’t technically fit the spirit of boondocking. You may still have a great time and a lot of fun camping in one of these styles. However, they shouldn’t be considered boondocking.
On your travels, you might stay at a campsite without plugging into the amenities. This means you don’t connect to the water, electricity, sewage, or other utilities. From the inside of your RV, it might feel like you’re roughing it. However, we can’t call this boondocking because you have all the comforts of civilization just outside your door. If your campsite has vault toilets, staff, picnic tables, shade structures, convenience stores, or other standard amenities, you’re not genuinely boondocking. This doesn’t mean that you should think less of yourself for going dry camping. Setting up to dry camp can be fast and efficient compared to fully connecting, especially if you’ll be heading out again the next day. When you’re looking for used RVs for sale, dry camping is also a practical way to gain experience. You might feel more comfortable boondocking after you spend some time set up to dry camp.
Stopping to sleep in a parking lot is something that most campers do at some time on the road. After you find dream travel trailers for sale, you won’t always be guaranteed an easy or convenient place to stop for the night. That’s why many campers have tried overnight parking at a Walmart, truck stop, rest area, or casino parking lot. These places can offer relief from the road and help you get a good night of sleep, but they don’t truly count as boondocking. Most of these locations aren’t public lands which is a requirement for traditional boondocking. You’ll also not far away from modern amenities in a parking lot. You might need to go into the Walmart or step inside the casino to find services, but this is a far cry from camping in an isolated patch of our federal lands.
Moock-docking refers to parking in a private driveway or outside a private home. Family, friends, or other members of the RV lifestyle might be willing to let you stay outside their house when you pass through town. If you’re not paying, mooch-docking is an appropriate term for this practice. If you are paying your host, then you’re technically driveway camping.
Dry camping can’t be considered authentic boondocking, but it’s a great way to get practice. If you’re thinking about making the jump to full-time RV life, or are ready to take longer and more rugged trips, then dry docking will help you prepare. You can test out boondocking by dry camping first. Book a stay at an RV park, or even spend the night in your driveway. Don’t connect the power, water, or sewer, and then see what you think. Some people love the challenge of boondocking and take to it immediately. Other RVers only need one night of dry camping to discover that boondocking isn’t for them. It’s better to make this discovery at home than in the middle of isolated woods, so we encourage practice runs.
If your dry camping test run goes excellent, you can move to an official dry camping spot. Many campgrounds or state and national parks offer specific dry camping services, allowing you to park and not connect any utilities. These spots are usually easy to find with well-maintained roads. If you need extra services or assistance, you still have the camp staff or park rangers as a backup. Give yourself a couple of nights dry camping at a campsite before heading off to the wild.
It’s essential to do your research before heading out on your first boondocking adventure. Start with an easily accessible boondocking location that has lots of reviews available online. You can find boondocking spots and distributed campsites online, including through the land management agencies.
Pay careful attention to what other travelers have said about road conditions. If you can, look for RVers who use a similar rig to yours. Someone towing a camper behind a light pickup might have had much trouble getting to a campsite, where someone with a more robust rig was able to find the site without any problems.
It would be best if you always aimed to arrive at your boondocking site in the middle of the day when there is still plenty of light. You want to see your surroundings to gauge if your RV can make the trip. Most importantly, never head down any dirt road before scouting out the options first. You’ll probably need to pull over to the side of the road, then get out of your vehicle to see the possibilities. In other cases, you can unhitch your trailer and drive down the road.
You should never take your camper down any road if you’re completely confident it can make the trip. The last thing you want to do is wind up stuck down a small, bumpy, dirt road. Isolated boondocking spots make for the best experiences, allowing you to relax and enjoy nature truly. However, being so far off-the-grid will also make it hard for you to call for help or a tow truck if you get stuck.