What Everyone ought to know about Boondocking!

If you are a boondocker, there is something to glean, even from a newbie.  If you are not a boondocker, you may be curious because you have heard whispers around the campfire.  Or have you not heard about boondocking yet?

What is boondocking?  That depends on who you are.  You might be a boondocker who does it just for the freedom of taking your RV into the middle of nowhere and camping alone with nothing but the wilderness.  Maybe you are a full-time RVer looking to keep your monthly camping cost as low as possible – so free or nearly free camping as a boondocker is the answer.  You may use your RV for more freedom, flexibility, and privacy.  You might be all these types of boondocking RVers.

My spouse and I had boondocked a couple of times on family land, narrow plots generously offered up to us.  I think that is a great way to get started because you can test the limits of your systems and have family as backup in case of the unexpected.  To branch out, we had friends offer for us to join them in boondocking and that is a great second step for easing into the adventures.

1) Where will you boondock?

This is the toughest questions getting started.  The key is to make sure you always ask permission.

a) As mentioned above, you can stay for free on a family or friends’ land.  This is sometimes called Moochdocking.  Naturally be respectful of their offer if you want to be invited back again.

b) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is public land managed and conserved by the government.  They tend to have standard rules of staying – camp for up to 14 days in one location and then you need to go a set distance away from that location before you can set up camp again.  Be sure to check into any of the rules and requirements prior to staying. The term you will look for online is ‘dispersed camping’.

c) US Forest Service (USFS) under the Department of Agriculture manages our national forests and there are places to boondock for free within the forests.

d) Private Property Owners are opening their homes and lands to RVers.  There are lots of resources out there that have lists, contact information and more on how to locate these owners and see if you fit their RV limitations or restrictions.

2) What supplies do you need?

This might be a little scary at first.  You don’t know what you or your rig are capable of, but you won’t know until you test your limits.  Here are some things you DO want to have on hand getting started:

a) Make sure your water tanks are full and you have a reasonable knowledge of how much you use daily and how long your water will last.  You should also practice any steps you can on conserving daily water use.

b) If you have black water holding tanks, you need to know approximately how much they will hold and when you need to dump them.

c) Do you need a generator?  Be aware of the weather.  You may not have the resources to run air conditioners or heating and you will need a supply of propane to get by.

Make sure to pack enough supplies when it comes time for Boondocking.

Make sure you pack/clean up everything you brought with you!

3)  What are your local resources?

This is an easy step.  Just do a Google Maps search of your area and make sure you have it available.

a) Know where all the places are to take care of your basic needs:  where can you fill up with water, where can you dump if you need to, where can you get propane and where can you get new food supplies.

b) You should also know where the closest emergency care or hospitals are – especially if you require medications or refills.

c) Where are the safety areas to go in case of flash floods, earthquakes, tornados, or other natural disasters?

4)  What are your responsibilities?

a) I REALLY wish this went without saying but when you boondock, you take everything out that you took in!  Do NOT leave trash bags, loose items to blow around and don’t leave trash in the firepit.  If your folding chair broke while you were there, it stays with you like a best friend until you find a place to throw it away (or repair it).

b) Take care of the land.  When you choose a spot to park your rig, try to use and existing spot that was used before.  Don’t destroy new plots of land with growing vegetation and homes to animals.  Preserve the landscape so you have something to come back to.

c) Let somebody know where you are.

From my first experience boondocking I was hooked and couldn’t wait to do more of it.  Looking out over the desert in Arizona changed me.  It was nothing like any other camping I had ever done, and I wanted more.  I hope you plan to discover what it means to boondock.  Because it is more than taking your RV out into free (or nearly free) lands and setting up camp.  It is a life-changing event.

About Lucinda Belden

Lucinda Belden is a travel writer who has been full-time RVing for several years in a 44-foot fifth wheel toy hauler with her husband Will and their dog Cozy. Lucinda writes on all kinds of travel from cruises to motorcycling to RVing as well as travel books available on Amazon. She is also the Program Director for MyRVRadio, the first online radio station for RVers. You can follow her adventures at www.fb.com/DirectionWideOpen.