RV Boondocking – Where And How To Do It

PublishedApril 9, 2020

What Is Boondocking?

Boondocking??? Such a weird word. But I happen to love doing it and I have been doing it exclusively since 2015.

That said, let's get right to finding 'what is boondocking?'.

Kellys travel trailer in the desert

Boondocking at Joshua Tree South

What Does Boondocking Mean?

So what is boondocking?

Simply put, it's camping remotely, outside of improved campgrounds, without having any hookups such as a water source, power, trash, or dump stations.

Therefore, boondocking is ALSO considered dry camping. Also, because boondocking is usually done in remote camping locations, it's never done in a campground or RV parks.

Camping without hookups in campgrounds or elsewhere, like a driveway, is considered dry camping.

Kelly's rig moochdocking

This would be dry camping, but NOT boondocking.

A couple of terms similar to boondocking are 'off grid camping' and 'camping in the boonies'. 

Where Can I Find It?

Most boondocking spots are in the western parts of the United States.

Boondockers do it in national forests (but technically, national forest remote camping is called dispersed camping), on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, state land, or private land.

Boondocking camping is very limited in the east. Generally, regions north, south, and west of Colorado is where you will find allowable campsites for your motorhome or camper van.

Arizona has tons of public land, so it's very popular in the winter for full-timers and snowbirds from Canada.

Campendium boondocking spots four corners

Tons of spots in the west

Campendium boondocking sites southeast

Not as many spots in the east

There are some good resources for finding free camping in the wilderness. Sites like Campendium are amazing for finding remote RV campsites.

A nearby ranger station can usually help as well. The rangers are there to help you.

There is so much to know about what is boondocking and overnight parking. For more in-depth information on how to do off the grid camping, check out our guide on how to start boondocking.

Going boondocking without knowing a thing can turn into a nightmare. So educate yourself before you go!

How Do I Boondock?

Boondocking Stanley Idaho

A little know-how about camping and boondocking etiquette should be had before jumping right in.

Having access to amenities will not be available. You will have to provide your own comforts. You'll need electricity via a solar panel or a generator.

Depending on how long you plan to stay, you'll need good sized RV holding tanks. Decent grey, black (sewer), and fresh water tank space, as well as lots of drinking water are all helpful.

You can't just park anywhere. There are rules for this type of adventure.

The location must be one that is an obvious campsite. Campers must have stayed there before. Look for bare spots or things like a fire ring. Signs of people RVing there before should be obvious.

Boondocking Safety

Talking to Sheriff

This particular police-involved incident happened in a CAMPGROUND. I've never had an issue in five years of boondocking. It can happen, but it's rare.

It's very common to hear people say they are afraid of boondocking camping. If you take a few simple precautions, security should not be a worry whatsoever when you go boondocking.

Here are a few things to know about what is boondocking and safety:

  1. Power: Make sure you have a good battery or batteries. Know how many amp-hours you have. Even if you don't have high am-hours, generators are good to have for solar backup and to re-charge your battery bank.
  2. Wildlife: Don't worry. The critters 'out there' are few and far between and they want nothing to do with you. You only need bear spray for hikes for protection if you are in bear country. Mice will likely be your only very unwanted problem unless you follow thes steps mentioned in this article
  3. Roads: Common sense says to stay off dirt roads soon after a rain. Wet mud doesn't bode well for travel.
  4. Scout: Before going down a dirt road, scout it. Disconnect your tow vehicle or your toad from your rig and drive down that road to make sure it's accessible and that there's a place to stay. Look for other RVs as a good sign.
  5. Death: You CAN die if you are out in an area all alone where you don't have cell service and/or nobody is within earshot. IF you choose to be camping without another person, make sure you have a GPS safety device on your person at all times. Marshall's story should teach you a lesson the easy way.

Who Should Try Boondocking?

Kelly hiking in Colorado

If you like mountains, nature, trails, freedom, maybe a river, trees, beauty, wild grass, quiet conditions so you sleep in peace, and so much more, it might be right for you.

Some RVs aren't equipped to go off grid for long. Even so, just one or a few nights can get you out of town and even offer more options on places for overnight parking.

Your RV should be at least somewhat equipped for boondocking. Having a composting toilet is helpful, as well as a large fresh water tank, solar panels, and a big battery bank.

Who Should Not Try Boondocking?

Las Cienagas boondocking

Oh, wow. Why WOULDN'T one want to boondock? Let's define 'what is boondocking' again. It's RV parking OUTSIDE of a campground or improved site without connection to any facilities.

Let's say that again- OUTSIDE of a campground.

What comes with a campground? Neighbors, maybe a dumpster for a view, no pretty scenery, it will cost you money, you may have sewage smells, RVers who are loud, parking lot views, etc.

If you aren't an adventurer, if you like comfort such as guaranteed RV parking, lighted streets, and paved spots, stay in the campground.

Do you want to camp without having to think about much? Then stay in campgrounds.

Do you like having frequent access to the laundry and to the public showers and toilet? Well then boondocking won't be for you. You get the idea.

If you like those things, stay in the campgrounds, by all means.

Is It Safe/Fun To Camp Alone?

Kanab Utah boondocking

Totally alone parked in Kanab, Utah.

This depends a lot on you and who you are.

You don't like to be alone? Ok then, boondocking won't be your jam. This camping style could have you in the middle of national forests, all by yourself with no friends or other campers in site. If you love that idea, great!

Oh, you are a solo female and are on the fearful side? Then it might scare you to camp away from the city.

Truth is that it's SAFER out away from cities than trying to camp outside of a campground NEAR a city. But boondocking while afraid is not fun.

What is boondocking if not freedom?

If you are looking to connect with nature, get off the grid, shower naked outside, maybe fish, see animals, stay off your cell phone and the Internet to contemplate life, then boondocking could be right up your alley!

10 Boondocker Pro Tips

Leigh Brian and Marshall

Three very experienced Boondockers and great friends of mine. Leigh, Marshall, and Brian. Photo courtesy of Campendium.com

Here are some insider tips on what to do and what not to do when you are boondocking or free camping:

  1. Pack It In, Pack It Out: NEVER leave trash. It shouldn't have to be said. And no, don't put your beer bottles in the campfire expecting them to burn.
  2. Don't Park Near Others Unless You Know Them: Part of the boondocking meaning, to some, is to be REMOTE. To get away from society, people, and congestion. Stay as far away from others as possible. They don't want neighbors.
  3. No Contractor Generator: What is RV boondocking about? Half the reason people go is for the serenity. Peace and quiet. Your contractor generator can easily be heard a mile or more away. Get an inverter generator.
  4. Know Your Stay Limit: Free camping isn't there for people to live out their lives. If this was the case, favorable public lands would become homeless camps. You have a stay limit. Find it and adhere to it.
  5. Fresh water limitations: You can bring spare water using jugs or a large water bladder.
  6. Dogs: Keep your dogs under your full control even if they aren't on a leash. If you can't do that when you're boondocking, KEEP them on a leash.
  7. Campfires: Make sure ALL embers are out and the fire is cold when you finish.
  8. Driving Courtesy: When passing others' camp, SLOW DOWN. Especially if it's dusty.
  9. Personal Space: It's creepy when people come walking through your camp when you're out boondocking. People's bodies always have a personal bubble. Think of someones camp as being a personal bubble. It's a bigger bubble when you're out in the middle of nowhere.
  10. Parties: Be considerate of the peace and quiet. Boondocking isn't the place to go to party all day and all night, blaring your music outside for everyone to hear. Keep it down, keep it daytime hours and respect quiet times. (Around 10pm to 8am)
  11. BONUS: I know I said ten, but this one is too good to miss: if you are camping remote with no defined road to get there, PIN THE GPS COORDINATES of your spot on Google maps, or finding it again may prove very difficult. Especially at night since there are no lights! Binoculars may or may not help, lol.

Conclusion To What Is Boondocking?

Boondocking Government Wash Nevada

Boondocking With Friends At Government Wash, Nevada

So what is boondocking?

Boondocking is camping outside of a developed campground.

Boondocking is also dry camping.

It is usually free to boondock, it's easy to find spots using Campendium, and it's a great way to get into nature and away from the craziness of life in our society.

I am a huge boondocking fan.

There is normally no charge to boondock, but there are rules and regulations to follow. Your responsibility for keeping the peace and knowing the rules lies on your shoulders.

You will have to learn your power needs, learn to regulate your water consumption, check the weather before you go, and so much more.

If you use common sense, you should be fine the first time you get out there and boondock. 

You might even love it. 

Kelly Headshot

He-llllo. I'm the co-founder of Camp Addict, which my biz partner and I launched in 2017. I frigging love the RVing lifestyle but in December of 2020, I converted to part-time RV life. Heck, I lived in my travel trailer for over 5.5 years, STRICTLY boondocking for pretty much all of it. Boondocking is a GREAT way to live, but it's not easy. Anyway, I'm passionate about animals, can't stand campgrounds, I hardly ever cook, and I love a good dance party. Currently, I can be found plotting and scheming whether or not to start collecting farm animals (or plotting my next RV trip!) at my beautiful new 'ranch' named 'Hotel Kellyfornia', in Southern Arizona. 

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