All About Boondocking (Camping for Free!)

by Merissa on May 15, 2017

in Fulltime RV Living

Here are some tips on dry camping and how to camp for free!

All About Boondocking

Camping for free....sounds like a nice idea doesn't it? Whether you plan on living in an rv fulltime or if you are simply traveling in an rv part time, campgrounds costs can add up in a hurry. Boondocking with your rv can be a partial solution to this issue! I'm not sure that I would recommend doing it all of the time (unless you are very ready to be off the grid!) but boondocking can be a great way to not only save money on a few nights of camping, but to also take time to reconnect with nature. How exactly does this boondocking thing work? First things first...

What Is Boondocking?
Boondocking is another term for dry camping. It was sometimes considered a derogatory term but has now gained traction in common use, with many campers happily identifying themselves that way. A preferred term for many people is “independent parking”. All of this basically refers to the practice of parking anywhere with or without amenities and being prepared to go without them if needed. Dry camping, or boondocking, is often used by people who like camping in an RV but prefer it to be more like camping under the stars in a tent, without electricity and other amenities.

Some campers are always dry campers, whereas others might use hookups when they are available but are also just as content to go without them. Campers will have varying opinions about the actual definition of “boondocking”. Some say it’s strictly parking out in the “boonies” away from traditional campsites and resources. This would mean no water, electric, or sewer hook-ups. Others say you don’t have to be out in the middle of nowhere for it to be considered boondocking, so long as you are dry camping.

So why do people do it? As with anything, there are many different reasons. Sometimes you just want to get away from it all and experience nature in the quiet. Some people do it because they want to save money on campground fees. Some do it for a combination of reasons and again, there is no right or wrong. Whether you do it every time you camp, or just now and then, dry camping can be a fun experience.


How to Go Dry Camping in an RV
What does this mean, exactly? As I mentioned above, dry camping refers to the practice of camping in an RV without amenities. This means no hookups for water, sewage, or electricity. It’s like old-fashioned camping in a tent, except you will be inside your RV. So let’s take a quick peek at how you do it.

First, you need to know where to park your RV. Here are some places you can consider for dry camping:

  • Officially recognized campsites
  • National parks and camps and other public land
  • Rest areas
  • Private business lots (some places like Walmart and Flying J allow overnight parking for free)

Keep in mind that just because one Walmart allows you to park overnight in their parking lot for free, another one may not. (This Walmart Atlas is a guide to all Walmart parking!) Be sure and look for signs or better yet, ask permission of any store manager before assuming you can stay. Rest areas are hit and miss, and you will need to know the regulations of any federal land before parking your rv overnight. There can be certain limits to where you are allowed to park and how long you are allowed to stay.

In addition to where to park, you will want to prepare yourself for the trip. If you’re going without electricity or water, you need ways to prepare meals to eat without these amenities. You also need to plan for where and how you will go to the bathroom and if you will need to bathe, how you will do this. Some people plan their trips of dry camping around other stops so this all works out. You will need to carry any water you plan on using with you. It’s always better to have more than not enough, in the case of water.

You will want to make sure you plan how you will wash clothes or dishes if you’re dry camping, and where and how you will store dirty things until they get washed. I have some great tips that would be helpful in this situation on my Ways to Live Without Running Water article. With these things in mind, you’re ready to plan your next camping trip!


5 Great Places to Go Boondocking in the US
Part of the appeal to boondocking for many campers lies in where you stay. There are many great places for dry camping. In fact, you can do it nearly anywhere it is legal to park. That said, some people enjoy the experience of seeing the sights and for them, that’s what boondocking is all about. In this case, location is very important. There are far too many great places to see and camp to ever begin to list them all but we’ve found some good ones you might not have tried out yet.

So let’s take a look at just five great places to go boondocking in the US:

  1.  Goosenecks State Park, Utah – This is a beautiful park and it’s good for boondocking. You will find a parking lot, water fountain, and bathroom in what they call the “state park” so amenities are limited. You can drive along the canyon rim and find a good place to park and enjoy.
  2. Vista Point at Golden Gate Bridge, CA – This is technically limited parking at rest stops, which is generally 8 hours. You can usually get away with staying a bit longer, so long as you’re not permanently parked there. Great views on the Bay and nice if you want to see a little city after lots of time in the boonies, but still dry camping.
  3. Heceta Head, Oregon – At the top of a 400-foot cliff and across from an expensive B&B, this is a great view and you’ll be right by the ocean. It’s gorgeous!
  4. Pistol River, Oregon – Here you will actually find about five miles that you can use for parking up to 12 hours. You can move around the spots, allowing you to stay for longer without breaking any rules.
  5. Mineral Creek, San Juan NF near Silverton, CO – Here’s another very pretty place for camping. You will find it along a creek that is way up in the Colorado Rockies. There are great views, amazing trees, and more. You’ll remember this place for a lifetime.

For even more resources on boondocking locations, The Ultimate Guides to Boondocking may be of great help to you! The guides tell you exactly where many boondocking sites are located in the states offered. There are also many great Free Camping/Boondocking books on Amazon (some are even free for Kindle!) And I would also recommend the book Free and Low-Cost Campgrounds by Don Wright.

Now that you have these ideas, you might be ready to start planning your next trip. Have fun!

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5:47 am

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Debbie sykes May 19, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Well Merissa Please send some of that rain over to Florida we are in desperate need of it for those fires and our gardens/yards. LOL
Thanks for your camping and boondocking shares and comments . Your a real inspiration to me. Happy days to you Debbie Sykes


2 Priscilla May 19, 2017 at 2:11 pm

I had never heard of boondocking, so I learned something new.:-) I’m glad you wrote about it because my sweet husband and I have thought now and then about RV camping but not sure how it would work. I feel a little more confident now.


3 Sophia Rose May 19, 2017 at 2:53 pm

I didn’t realize it had an official name, but my family and I do this each year while we’re traveling. It is a fun experience and yes, agreed, planning is in order to make it work.

Great post, Melissa!


4 Annabelle Hammer May 29, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Thank you, Melissa, for these great suggestions. We plan to buy an RV after my husband retires. We are collecting info about the best places to travel in an RV and you’ve been a great source!


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