Missed the reservations for camping grounds this season? Donâ€™t fret. Weâ€™re here to help you turn your missed chances into an opportunity for gaining a whole new camping experience- and whatâ€™s more, for free!
Free camping is a fun, exciting way to get off the grid and rejuvenate in the untamed, wild nature. No hassle of pre-bookings, and no worries of missed reservations! You can experience free camping in the US in 3 different ways:
In this article, weâ€™ll look into the â€œwhatâ€™s, howâ€™s and whereâ€™sâ€ of Boondocking. So, letâ€™s get started!
What Is Free Camping?
Free camping is a form of camping wherein instead of booking a campsite or taking a reservation in a developed camping ground, you go out camping all by yourself, with just your own supplies.
This is a more self-reliant form of camping because youâ€™ll be camping in spots that do not have the amenities provided by developed campsites.
What Is Boondocking?
Boondocking is a raw form of free camping wherein you travel in your RV and set up a camp in a publicly-owned or private remote location. It is similar to, but not exactly the same as, dry camping.
Click here to check out our article on dry camping to understand the differences between boondocking and dry camping.
Boondocking involves traveling in an RV, van, or motorhome; carrying your own supplies, and relying on no one but yourself.
It may sound like a lot of work at first, but on the contrary, this self-reliant form of camping is one of the most fun and adventurous experiences youâ€™ll have!
Campground Vs Boondocking
|Amenities like electricity & plumbing etc||No amenities-self-reliance is the key|
|Needs prior booking||Needs prior permit acquisition-but no reservation needed as such|
|Can be expensive||Relatively pocket-friendly|
|Relatively safer||Some extra precautions need to be taken|
Types Of Boondocking
A common word in the Boondockersâ€™ lingo, wallydocking is essentially staying in your RV in a Walmart parking. As unusual as it sounds, wallydocking is in fact the most common form of boondocking.
Many RVers plan stays at Walmart when traveling by road on long routes. However, wallydocking isnâ€™t limited to just planned breaks.
As an RVer, you will almost certainly come across some unforeseen circumstance that demands wallydocking.
The most common of these unforeseen circumstances is the weather- whether itâ€™s a sudden stormy downpour, or a bad case of snow, being comfortable RVing in a Walmart will surely come in handy.
This is usually an unplanned RVing stay. It is when you spend the night in your RV parked in a friend or relativeâ€™s driveway.
3. No-Hookup Boondocking
This is what most people refer to when they talk of boondocking. It is when you go RVing and stay in an undeveloped campsite with no hookups whatsoever.
Advantages Of Boondocking
1. Reduced costs:
the only things you pay for are the things youâ€™re carrying with you- like food, RV, and other supplies.
There are no additional costs of reservation or amenities. Boondocking is one of the most pocket-friendly forms of camping.
2. Greater Privacy:
Whatâ€™s the point of getting off the grid, if all you end up doing is living with another crowd of people in a campsite?
If you need some pure off-the-grid time, boondocking should be your choice.
The only people around you are your amazing gang of friends and family. Boondocking gives you enhanced family-time fun.
3. Lesser Restrictions:
The freedom from itinerary restrictions is just another cherry on the top when it comes to boondocking. Are you a night-trekker stuck with an itinerary with afternoon hikes? Or an early riser who doesnâ€™t like the idea of venturing out so late?
Donâ€™t worry. With boondocking, you get to decide what your schedule will be.
4. More Bonding Time:
Friends who get self-reliant in the middle of nowhere together, stay together! Boondocking will indeed be one of the most memorable experiences you have with your friends or family.
Disadvantages Of Boondocking
1. Extra Cargo:
well, that does go without saying. If youâ€™re going to set up a camp without access to amenities, you will have to carry extra luggage that helps you survive.
2. Can be legally murky:
Boondocking needs research. Period. You cannot set up a camp anywhere without prior acquisition of permits, and you need to respect the rules and regulations of the camping spot.
As a fellow camper, the way you treat your camping spot impacts the way of camping for every other camper too. So, be a responsible camper!
3. Can be a little difficult for beginners:
If youâ€™re just getting into free camping, it would be better to start with dry camping as it can take place in a developed campsite too.
Camping without electricity makes batteries the topmost priority on your checklist. There is a variety of batteries you can choose from.
The most important factors to check while selecting a battery are:
- Life (amp hours)
- Weight of battery
- The steadiness of current supply
Here are a few batteries you could opt for:
- ExpertPower Lithium 12V 100Ah Deep Cycle Battery
- Renogy Pure Gel 12V 200Ah Battery
- Weize Deep Cycle Battery
- Battle Born LiFePO4
- Optima Batteries Dual Purpose Battery
- VMAX SLR125
2. Solar Upgrades
Solar upgrades are a must-have for boondocking. These are basically devices that act as portable chargers for your devices.
Solar installations in your RV are more of an investment than an expense. It not only provides you with extra power on-the-go, but it also helps extend the battery life of your portable batteries, and is not noisy and polluting like the usual generators.
Solar panels are also virtually maintenance free- they only require minimal cleaning; and that too can be reduced by using RV solar kits that arenâ€™t mounted on the roof.
3. Portable Water Tanks
Portable tanks are useful because when used smartly, you can reduce your cleaning chores of the RV septic system. Moreover, these will also help you carry extra water- more water on a self-reliant camping trip without access to amenities is always a happy welcome!
4. Tool Kit
It is so, so important to carry a good tool kit for your RV. You do not want to be left helpless in the middle of nowhere, away from civilization. Another handy addition would be downloaded videos of â€œHow Toâ€ videos of basic repairs, in case you get stuck in a place with no human, and no signal.
5. First-Aid Kit
No checklist is ever complete without the mention of the all-important item- the first-aid kit. Better safe than sorry!
6. Extra Clothing in cold seasons
Carrying extra layers will help no only with keeping the cold away, but also with reducing the use of heaters. So, in a way, youâ€™ll also be saving power!
7. Propane Tanks
Propane is the cornerstone of RVing. Carry a few extra tanks to ensure you donâ€™t run out of fuel.
20 Top Boondocking Sites/Locations
Here is a list of the top boondocking locations:
- Freidlein Prairie Dispersed Camping
- BLM Joshua Tree South
- Jumbo Rocks Campground
- Uinta Flat Designated Dispersed Camping Area
- Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest Pawnee National Grasslands
- Tonto National Forest
- Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests
- Coconino National Forest
- Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
- Dixie National Forest
- Chattahoochee National Forest
- San Juan National Forest
- Gordon Gulch Dispersed Camping Area, CO
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area
- Prescott National Forest
- White Mountain National Forest
- Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
- Kaibab National Forest
- Yellowstone National Park
- Cibola National Forest
Boondocking Tips and Hacks
1. Conserve Water. You will need it.
There are many easy ways to conserve more water- reduce the number and duration of showers. Take shorter showers.
Keep a separate portable tank outside of your RV for cleaning dishes and washing hands- this way youâ€™ll reduce the load on the gray tank of your RV. Carry food that doesnâ€™t require much water to be added.
2. Conserve Power.
Now, this is something that sounds tricky, but is actually pretty easy to achieve! Make small changes in your camping checklist-
Carry food that doesnâ€™t require microwave- power saved.
Carry extra clothing for cold weather camping- usage of heaters reduced, power saved.
Get solar panels and kits installed in your RV- reduce the load on batteries, power saved. And in this case, even generated!
3. Have some pre-planning done.
While free camping has the advantage of spontaneity, it is better to have at least some pre-planning done.
Plan out the location youâ€™ll be setting up a camp in, list out the things youâ€™ll need, and see where you can cut costs.
4. Double-check the permits.
It is always better to double-check all the permit work required to be done. It might seem like a bit of work, but itâ€™ll save you legal trouble.
5. Follow the rules and regulations of the spot. Be a responsible camper.
Always clean up after yourself. And do not leave the property-owners agitated with your camping mess. What you do while camping has an impact on the way others camp, too!
Safety Hacks: How To Have A Safe Boondocking Experience
1. Install an alarm.
While statistics show that the rate of RV crimes is very low, it is normal to be concerned about your safety when RVing; after all, you will be staying in a remote area.
Installing a 12-volt alarm in your RV can come in handy to alert you in case of an unwanted visitor.
2. Park where cell phone service is available.
This is helpful not just to protect you from criminals, but also in case of any emergency. It is always good to be able to contact a friend in an emergency.
3. Park according to your circumstances and location.
Whether you park in view or out of view of the roadway will be a deciding factor in safety concerns. Study the location beforehand, and park your RV accordingly.
4. Know your exact location.
Be sure you are able to provide a good description of where you are camped including the name of the road, milepost and your position relative to both.
Better yet, capture the coordinates of your campsite via your GPS receiver when you arrive at camp and keep them handy to give to first responders if needed.
5. Carry a spot messenger.
Regardless of cell phone coverage, it allows you to check-in with family, let them know where you are camped, and summon 911 services from almost anywhere. Learn more at FindMeSpot
Frequently Asked Questions
Free camping is a fun, thrilling way to experience the untamed wilderness. It might seem like a bit of a work, but thatâ€™s where the fun is! You get to choose your own schedule, camp on the spot of your choice, and have a great experience in a very affordable and pocket-friendly way!
Boondocking requires some prior experience in camping. So, if you are a beginner, you could try dry camping first. But, with some practice, you can boondock for up to 14 days without much trouble!
What are your ways to enjoy camping in a pocket-friendly manner? Let us know in the comments below.
Happy (free) camping!