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Since you're here reading this, you probably think that the idea of boondocking sounds UH-MAZING (And you're right... it is).
But part of you is on the fence. You're just too nervous to try it out.
This is TOTALLY understandable. I think everyone has had that fear. (I sure did! But I went for it anyway.)
But now that I have been boondocking full-time for 5.5 years, I know that it's not scary at all. Even so, it can be a bit intimidating before you actually try it.
But hey, we've found a great way to dip your toes into the boondocking water!
Is Boondocking Really Scary?
Everyone has their reasons for being afraid. Everyone has their own reasons. But here are some common fears:
- What if I don't have enough foldable solar panels to charge my batteries?
- Will I have to run my generator forever to do all I want to do?
- I don't feel safe out in 'the wilderness' where someone could try to harm me. (This is the opposite of reality, by the way.)
- I'm afraid I won't have enough water in my tanks to last a week.
- I'm afraid of driving down a dirt road (legit fear if you haven't scouted it or read about it first).
Whatever it is, there is a PERFECT solution to learning boondocking.
It's called Boondockers Welcome.
It closely mimics boondocking but with people around (feels safe) and possibly amenities around.
What Is Boondockers Welcome?
Boondockers Welcome (BW) is a membership club that connects private land/homeowners with RVers looking for short-term camping spots. (Therefore it works a bit differently than other RV membership clubs).
The landowner offers parking spots on their property for 'boondockers' to camp on for a few days. You can stay for no additional fee aside from the annual membership fee.
Some don't offer any utilities. But many do. (You can choose not to use them.)
The properties vary wildly. Some of them are driveways, some are in an open field, others are a spot beside the house.
They have over 1,000 hosts and they represent every state.
Hosts offer usually one or two nights and some up to two weeks and you'll find any number of nights offered in between. I'd say the average is about 4-7 nights. (Learn about overnight free parking options if you only need a quick and easy place to park your rig for one night.)
The more popular the spot, the sooner you had better try to reserve.
The popular areas fill up the fastest, just like campgrounds do.
How Does Boondockers Welcome Work?
First, landowners that want to offer space sign up to be hosts. They then list their place (usually with photos) on the Boondockers Welcome website.
When you sign up for BW as a guest, you get full information about every listing.
The landowner gives a description of what they offer, what the parking spot is like, how many days you can stay, if utilities are or are not available, how many RVs park at a time, the allowable size of RV, and more.
You can filter for almost anything from number of days allowed to stay, rig length, pets allowed, whether or not they will allow a generator to run, and more.
You contact the homeowner (via the BW website) asking if you may stay. They let you know if you can. You stay. Be sure to thank them for allowing you to stay before you leave.
After you leave, you give feedback on them and they do the same about you.
It is really a great idea and both Marshall and Kelly have used BW on multiple occasions.
How Can Boondockers Welcome Help Me Start Boondocking?
Boondockers Welcome is like half boondocking and half staying in a campground.
You aren't diving 'into the wild' yet you aren't going to connect to utilities. You may even have to go down a dirt road to get to the BW host.
You COULD 'practice' boondocking by simply going to a campground and not hooking up to the utilities. Test and see how long you make it on your water, holding tanks, and more.
But it will still be you simply camping in a 'safe', protected campground. With lots of people around.
With Boondockers Welcome, you can pick someone's place that is 'out there', farther away from the city, has nice views, with possibly no utilities available.
This will force you out of your comfort zone, allow you to see what it's like to camp in a more remote environment.
Here, you can push the limits of your RV waste tanks, battery bank, etc. Learn your systems, see how long you can go without using your camping generator, or do you have enough solar to keep your batteries optimized?
This can also test whether you like being fairly remote and away from civilization and amenities. (Closest convenience store 25 min away... Is that a problem?)
It somewhat mimics boondocking. It's a test run, so to speak.
What Else Is Boondockers Welcome Good For?
Even if you aren't a newbie, Boondockers Welcome simply gives you additional camping choices outside of campgrounds.
It's especially useful in areas where there is no boondocking, or where the boondocking isn't optimal.
For instance, I once parked at a BW in Kalispell, Montana.
There is zero boondocking in the area. (And I don't do campgrounds.)
The Boondockers Welcome spot allowed me to park just outside of town and I was able to hang out around the city for a few days. Huge win!
So if you have been looking for boondocking around 'X' city to explore town but there is nothing to be had, check out Boondockers Welcome.
You just might find someone offering their place for a short stay.
Do I Have To Be Sociable While I'm Staying?
Pretty much no. This was one of my initial hesitations about joining.
We are all victims of the Law Of Reciprocity in that we feel the need to give back when something is offered (Yet you DO pay. But just for the initial membership).
However, I have NEVER felt pressured to go hang out with the host. I don't even think it has been offered at any of my stays.
Still, the hosts have always been very kind and helpful when/if needed.
But I've never felt pressure to hang out.
What Else Do I Need To Know To Become A Member?
To use any Boondockers Welcome host's property, you MUST HAVE A SELF-CONTAINED RV.
This means all of your living requirements be available to use while inside your RV.
A toilet, sink, and grey water tank are absolute must-haves.
You will be asked to confirm that you have all of these things inside your RV to become a member.
If you have a larger RV, you will be more limited in spots as many have a length limit.
If you are camping with pets, some hosts may not allow you to stay.
How Much Is A Boondockers Welcome Membership?
Much less than a week at most campgrounds! One year is $50.
If you become a host, it's half that.
Use it once, and it has likely paid for itself if you usually stay in campgrounds.
Brilliant idea, and both homeowners and RVers alike benefit from this service.
Using Boondockers Welcome is a great way to get a feel for what it is like to try boondocking.
Simply pick a BW host who has a remote place and don't hook up to any utilities while you are there.
If you DO run out of, say, water, pick one that has water available so you can fill up again if you run out.
Just remember, if you have run out of water, your grey tank is likely also close to being full.
Just try it! If nothing else, you can enjoy your membership as you now have over 1,000 new locations to go camping!
Some people have traversed the country using only Boondockers Welcome.
We have used it to expand our non-campground camping choices.
You will figure out how it works best for you.
Author: Kelly Beasley
I dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 6.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road.