What is Boondocking? 

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When RVing, you’ll can explore the country in a way many haven’t been able to before. You can cruise through canyons, weave your way up mountainsides, and scale deep valleys–all on four wheels.

As the saying goes, “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.” And when you travel by RV, you can make this mantra a reality. Pit stop at national forests or national parks (and just about everywhere in between).  The experiences awaiting you are nearly endless. 

Most RV campers prefer to explore from the comfort and luxury of a developed campground with electricity and running water. Others, however, prefer to venture off the beaten path and leave those designated campsites in their rearview. 

Boondocking is a great option for adventurers who prefer to take the road less traveled. 

Boondocking: A Comprehensive Definition

Boondocking is a form of free camping that is usually done on public land without any amenities. That means no running water, electricity, or sewer hookups. Known by other names, boondocking is also referred to as “off-grid” or “wild camping” because it is often done in the middle of nowhere (Note: The term “dry camping” isn’t interchangeable with the terms listed here. More on that later). 

At these popular boondocking sites, you aren’t likely to find amenities such as picnic tables, playgrounds, and more.

The most common places for boondocking are state parks, national forests, national parks, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, and other types of public property. 

However, there are other (more unconventional) forms of boondocking. From Walmart parking lot camping to overnight RV parking at a truck stop to setups in someone’s backyard, there are options that you might not immediately recognize as “boondocking.” But as long as it’s free and you don’t have access to electrical, water, and sewer hookups, it’s technically boondocking. 

Boondocking vs. Dry Camping vs. Designated Dispersed Camping: Understanding the Differences

As we’ve already established, the term boondocking refers to free or extremely cheap camping without hookups or amenities and is typically done in remote locations on public land. The only time boondocking isn’t free is when you do it on someone’s property or a business’ parking lot that charges a small overnight fee. 

But what is dry camping? And how does it differ from boondocking?

The main difference between boondocking and dry camping is that you can dry camp at a designated campground, whereas you can’t boondock at a campground. Therefore, boondocking is always dry camping, but dry camping isn’t always boondocking. 

But how does “dispersed camping” compare to these other terms? Dispersed camping is any type of boondocking you do on public or wild lands. In other words, parking your RV in a parking lot overnight is a form of boondocking, but it isn’t dispersed camping since it’s not in the wild. 

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The Appeal of Boondocking: Why People Choose This Style of Camping

Courtesy of Roadtrippers

There are several reasons why people prefer wild camping as opposed to staying at designated campgrounds, including the following: 

  • RV parks can charge anywhere from $50 to $150 per night, while boondocking is usually free. 
  • There are no specified rules for boondocking, whereas most campgrounds have lots of rules you’ll need to abide by. 
  • Boondocking doesn’t require any reservations, unlike an RV park. 
  • Boondocking offers more flexibility and freedom than staying at an established campground. 

In most cases, cost savings and freedom are the two main reasons why some people prefer boondocking over traditional RVing. 

Essential Tips for a Successful Boondocking Experience

Now that you have a better idea of what boondocking is, let’s look at some boondocking tips and tricks that will help you have the best experience possible! 

Tip #1: Stock Up on Essential Equipment and Supplies for Boondocking

Boondocking requires that you RV somewhere without electricity, water, and sewer hookups. However, that doesn’t mean you have to go without these amenities altogether. As long as your RV is properly equipped, you can enjoy each of these things whether you’re driveway camping or in the middle of the Mojave desert. 

Here’s a list of equipment and supplies you will need to make that possible: 

  • A solar generator with panels and lithium batteries
  • Have your RV outfitted with solar panels 
  • A full freshwater tank 
  • A portable or built-in gas generator when solar power isn’t available
  • A wifi router that works well in remote areas 

Tip #2: Plan Your Course

While boondocking offers more freedom and flexibility than traditional camping, it’s still good to plan your trip in advance. That way, you can preselect the best public lands, parks, and forests for your boondocking adventure. Remember, boondocking sites are often operated on a first-come, first-served basis and may impose a two-week maximum stay.

Tip #3: Try to Conserve Water and Electricity Whenever Possible

While you can boondock and still have access to water and electricity (with the right equipment), it will be on a limited basis. Eventually, your freshwater tank will be empty, and you may run out of gas or solar power for your generators. Therefore, it’s important to conserve your resources, and here are some ways to do that: 

  • Install faucet aerators
  • Use a spray bottle for dishwashing
  • Employ navy showers
  • Wash dishes in a bowl 
  • Use the AC and other high-powered appliances sparingly

Tip #4: Prepare to Overcome Boondocking Challenges (Weather, Accessibility, and More)

Boondocking brings its share of challenges, but with a bit of foresight and planning, these can be overcome. Closely monitoring weather conditions is essential for boondocking safety to avoid the risks associated with extreme weather.

You should also have an emergency exit strategy in case things get too rough in the wild. If you’re boondocking during winter, backup heat sources and extra blankets are always good to have along. 

Tip #5: Take Safety and Security Measures

As with all types of RVing, it’s important to boondock safely and responsibly. In fact, since you’ll be camping off-grid and may not have cell service, taking the right safety and security precautions is all the more crucial. 

To ensure you and your loved ones stay safe while boondocking, you should inform someone of your plans so they can check in periodically. A quality Wi-Fi booster and an emergency GPS communicator or satellite phone can also come in handy should you need to contact someone in an emergency. 

It’s also helpful to form connections with other boondockers nearby so that you can help each other out in a pinch. 

Boondocking Etiquette and Responsible Camping

Even though you aren’t camping at an RV park with organized rules, it doesn’t mean it’s the Wild West. It’s still important to practice proper camping etiquette. 

Here are a few principles to camp by: 

#1: Always clean up after yourself, leaving the area better than you found it. 

#2: Put out your fires 

#3: When possible, set up in spots where others have obviously camped before you so that you don’t create more camping spots than necessary. 

Final Thoughts

While it’s fun to boondock in the wild and in the midst of the elements, that’s not a good way to store your RV. Instead, you want to keep it somewhere so that it will be safe, secure, and ready to go for your next RV trip. 

Consider using Neighbor, a peer-to-peer storage marketplace to find proper RV storage near you. From climate-controlled and covered storage to locations that might be in your own neighborhood, Neighbor has the RV storage options for you. 

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