If you don’t already know, we are big fans of boondocking. RV parks tend to have great amenities, full hookups, and bathhouses (with endless hot water), but sometimes even that isn’t enough to get me into one. In this blog post, I am going to define boondocking, share why you should explore it, provide tips we learned along the way, and help you find boondocking locations.
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So first things first. What is Boondocking?
Boondocking = RV camping without hookups (no water, electric, or sewer). It can also go by the name Dry Camping.
Some purists will add that boondocking is a type of dispersed camping – free camping on public lands (not campgrounds) such as national forests, wildlife management areas, and bureau of land management.
Now that you know what it is, let me tell you how great it is!!
Boondocking is BEAUTIFUL!!
Ok, I know that you can find some amazing camping sites with “majestic” views and sought-after-locations.
But how many of you can actually say that that view was unobstructed by massive motorhomes, fifth wheels, and travel trailers?
I mean look at this amazing view from Crazy Family Adventure.
Have you ever gotten a view like that at an RV park?
Yeah, me neither…
This is our typical view…lake blocked by our RV neighbors…
Still need more convincing that boondocking is amazing?
Boondocking is CHEAP!!
You don’t have to be a budget RVer to enjoy a budget-friendly alternative to expensive camping fees. You can always use that money for other things like local excursions, yummy food, breweries, wineries, and coffee houses.
There are tons of boondocking locations that are absolutely free! That’s right FREE!! We have found free boondocking in Tennessee, Florida, and Colorado. You can read more about them here. Free Camping in Tennessee and Free Camping in Florida!!
There are some places where it may be difficult to find free RV camping, like in Maine.
However, the dry camping campgrounds (like some of their state parks) will still be way cheaper than RV parks with full hookups and amenities. We found an amazing inexpensive camping spot in Aroostook State Park. Read about it here.
Beautiful and Cheap. What else?
Boondocking = RV adventures off the beaten path
You are not going to find crowds, ice cream stands, coffee shops, or souvenir shops at your boondocking site.
It’s just going to be you, your RV, and whoever you invited. This is especially the case if you are staying on public lands.
If you are staying at a free campground, there will probably be other RVers around, but there aren’t going to be 100’s of RVs packed together.
Exceptions to the rule:
Wintering in Quartzsite. The town has 3,500 residents…until winter. During winter, RVers from all over the country and Canada set up camp. In January there is even an RV show that attracts THOUSANDS of RVers into the dusty little town.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This annual event attracts lots of people… None of the sites are free and they do have some with hookups, but the cheap sites are dry camping. The fiesta is so popular that it sells out 364-ish days before the event every year!
So we have Beautiful, Cheap, Off the Beaten Path…AND…what else Jess? What else?
Boondocking will call you outside
You will find yourselves hiking, swimming, kayaking, basking in the sun (or shade) more than ever.
It is truly the best way to get disconnected from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There’s nothing quite like making your coffee and sitting outside and seeing nothing but nature. It’s a great way to connect with yourself, those around you, and nature.
I have found this to be the case, even as a digital nomad that has to get work done… Keep in mind that you can still get work done as needed even while boondocking.
How to Find Boondocking Locations:
Now that I got you all excited about boondocking, how do you find these places? There are a bunch of websites out there, but here is my shortlist.
This website is for RV owners, campground owners, and private landowners.
RVers can add boondocking spots that they have visited to the RVwithMe website with descriptions and reviews.
Private landowners can add their land for RVer use. They may add listings that are free or offered at a certain cost to RVers.
Find out how to create a user profile, add boondocking locations, and find locations in the video below.
This is a member-only website. It is a paid site, but it is very inexpensive ($30/year until November 15, 2019. After that, it goes up to $50/year.).
Private landowners list their property for RVers to use. It’s usually just for a few days.
RVers search where they are traveling and find landowners in the area.
Want to know more about Boonodockers Welcome? Read our experience: “Boondockers Welcome – 4 Reasons to Join”
This is another website that can be used by RV owners and campground owners.
It lists free and paid sites.
It is another website where users create the content.
RVers can list various locations and add details and reviews.
This is a popular website, but I have never used it!!
It is also user-generated content.
RVers list locations and add details and reviews.
Now that I have told you all the good things about Boondocking and how to find it…
I feel like I need to share some of the not so great things about it.
I know I already mentioned this, but I feel like I really need to mention it again.
Boondocking means zero access to water, sewer, or electricity.
You might not have an endless supply of electricity either. Solar and a generator will keep you going for a bit, but you don’t want to run your generator for hours at a time to get AC going…and if you are in the shade…there goes that solar. A good set of batteries will help conserve the electricity from your generator and/or solar use.
If you have a tiny freshwater tank and tiny wastewater tanks…this means a shorter stay for you. Water bladders can expand your capacity some, but that water will need to go somewhere once you have used it. Even a portable waste tank will only get you so far. Eventually, you will have to empty it!
Dump stations are available at a variety of locations – you can pay a campground/RV park to dump your tanks, find a dump station at a visitor center (may or may not be free), or find a rest area with a dump station. You can usually find them with a quick Google search.
Boondocking is totally doable, but it isn’t always easy to go from RV park full hookups to nothing.
If you are someone that has to jump in the pool at least once a day, while the laundry is being done in the campground laundry room and the kids play in the adjacent campground playground…
That first day or even that first boondocking trip is going to be an eye-opener.
The laundry will have to wait or you will have to run into town to get it done.
There’s no pool and certainly no playground.
There is just you and the great outdoors. Which for me, is fantastic…but some folks still like city living…even when they are RVing.
In addition, it not having any amenities and no hookups, your stays may be limited and vary depending on boondocking location!!
Boondocking Stay Limits
If you are staying on someone’s private lands, the stay limits will vary depending on the landowner. Some urban areas limit it to 2 nights. Some places may not have restrictions on how long you can stay, but the landowner might have their own limits that they are comfortable with.
From the USDA Website: “You may camp in a dispersed area for up to 16 days. After 16 days, you must move at least 5 road miles for camping in another dispersed area. Campers may not return to the same campsite within the calendar year.”
From WMA Website at Escribano Point (our favorite Florida boondocking site): “14 consecutive days must pass before an individual may obtain a new permit in either campground and the campgrounds must be vacated upon expiration of the permit. The only exception is quota hunt permit holders may obtain a new camping permit anytime while their quota permit is valid.”
So…it varies by location and you need to do your research.
If you are the kind of RVer that wants to be in one place for 30 days or more…this may not be for you.
What do you think? Are you willing to give it a try?
Here are a few of our blog posts that might help you get started: