Boondocking is one of the greatest ways to camp. It gives you scenic views, freedom from the day to day rat-race, and best of all, it's almost always FREE camping.
If you never tried RV boondocking, it's a lot different than staying at a campground. Therefore, there is a lot to learn.
This is a very detailed post about primitive camping. Take a deep breath, get some coffee and settle in because you have some learning to do!
No matter how much research you do, mistakes will be made.
Even myself- the very first time I boondocked I did it wrong, LOL! In Quartzsite, Arizona, I accidentally parked in an LTVA (long-term visitor area).
You aren't allowed to stay without a paid permit. I only knew because I got a warning sticker on my RV. Oops! So, I moved and successfully landed on BLM land.
This Is everything you need to know to boondock comfortably including unique insider tips!
Of course, I eventually got the hang of things and I've been boondocking full-time ever since!
So, this article was created to provide you with all the ammunition you need so you can have an educated and enjoyable first boondocking experience!
Here you will learn everything you need to know to boondock including unique insider tips. Let's dive in.
Why Not Just Stay At A Campground?
What is boondocking camping?
It's camping without hookups on some sort of public land. If you ask me, boondocking is WAY better than campground camping.
I may be slightly biased since I love it and I do it full-time, but here's my reasoning plus some facts.
It's free camping. It's freedom. It offers the best views. You get serenity. You get wildlife/nature with dispersed camping/boondocking.
But for you skeptics, let's go over in detail why boondocking is so rad.
I (and Marshall) ONLY boondock. There have been very rare occasions when we have had to (or chose to for SOME dumb reason, heh) stay in a campground.
The last time I paid for a site was in 2017 when visiting Olympic National Park.
You virtually can't stay anywhere in that park for free. So I had no choice.
Here are some RV boondocking pros:
- Views: Boondocking offers you the most beautiful views available in the country. You're going to get MUCH better views boondocking than you will in a campground.
- Savings: Boondocking is free camping! You can't beat that price.
- Privacy: With nobody around you in many spots, you have the option to wear only your birthday suit or to let your dogs (or cats) run around off-leash (while supervised, please).
- Hiking: Often, there's a trailhead close-by. Or you can simply start walking from camp for a great/beautiful hike or walk.
- Quiet: Boondocking isn't always totally peaceful, but odds are it will be MUCH quieter than a campground.
- Nature Abounds: Well, getting into nature is pretty easy as you're usually in the middle of it when boondocking.
- Conservation: Boondocking really helps teach conservation as you have to conserve your power, water, and deal with your trash. It opens your eyes to how much we waste in the world. Which IS a good thing.
- Beneficial For Kids: Get your kiddos away from the city and (hopefully) off of the devices and introduce them to more nature.
- Freedom: You don't have to make reservations to stay, so your plans can be totally Jell-O.
Ok, ok, so it's not ALL rainbows and kittens. (Just mostly, heh.)
- Terrain may not allow your RV to go there
- Can be dirty/dusty
- Usually at least 30 min from towns
- Must be self-sufficient
- Need to be able to charge your batteries and understand your 12-volt system
- Muddy/dirty when raining
- Sometimes challenging to stay climate-comfortable
- Can't stay over the stay limit in the area
- Some spots may not be big enough for RV boondocking
Stuff like that. Let's look at the good parts of park stays.
Even though I am a serial boondocker, I'm reasonable. I'll admit that campgrounds have their pros as well.
(Though not NEARLY enough for me to go there willingly.)
- Hookups: Many campgrounds have power, water, and sewer hookups which is easier than camping without them. (Wuss!)
- Proximity to Town: If you are wanting to camp but to still do things in town, campgrounds win. (This one is a huge plus in my eyes, but only because I am full-time.)
- Cleanliness: It's much easier to keep your RV (and yourselves) clean when living in town on a concrete pad. Dispersed camping can be dusty. (But you're complaining?? Come on- It's smaller than one of the rooms in your house!)
- Amenities: Some campgrounds offer amenities such as hot tubs, pools, laundry, playgrounds, etc.
- Sense of Security: This one is a reach IMHO. That's all it is- a 'sense' of security. You're safer out on public land by far.
- Length of Stay: You can stay much longer than you can in most boondocking locations. (Boondocking = 2 weeks maximum stay on average.)
I could go nuts here. I'll try to hold back. Just for you.
- (Often) can't pick your site
- Views of other RVs (yay!)
- So many rules
- Having to check in/deal with reception
- Karen's (lol)
- Not free camping
- Loud children
- Annoying neighbors
- Dogs barking all day
- Bright lights at night
- Needing to have reservations/to plan ahead on dates of arrival and departure
- Possibly can't get a reservation if you don't plan in enough time.
In essence, you're PAYING for noise, neighbors, rules, and power (none of which you don't need if you're self sufficient)!
Where Can I Find RV Boondocking?
Most boondocking/dispersed camping can be found on our public lands. The majority of these lands are in the West.
(What is dispersed camping? It's the same as boondocking.)
You can find spots in the East, but choices don't even come close to matching the availability in the West.
Be aware that most RV boondocking out West will be at least 20 minutes from any decent city or town. And much of it will be BLM boondocking.
What Website/Apps Can I Use To Find Boondocking?
I use primarily one app for finding spots. That app is Campendium and currently only available for iOS devices. (They have a website too: Campendium.com)
Why is it so good? It's a crowd-sourced site.
The personal reviews and photos users provide make it superior to any other site/app out there.
There is simply no better resource for finding boondocking locations than Campendium.
Users review the spots and upload photos and other information (including cellular service) about the area.
You get to read the good and the bad about wherever you are considering camping before you go.
It's the most complete, comprehensive resource we have seen to find as MUCH information as possible about potential dispersed camping sites.
They review campgrounds and RV parks as well.
If you want to find boondocking spots, just hit 'free' on their price filter.
More recently, they have started giving 360-degree tours of spots (via YouTube 360º videos) so you can literally 'drive-in' online and see the sites, the road in, etc.
There is simply no better resource for finding boondocking than Campendium. Others sometimes have info on spots that aren't on Campendium.
Often they lack details of the ins and outs of the spots. (Such as can RVs fit there or turn around, etc.)
Use at your own risk, LOL:
- AllStays Camp And RV (app)
- FreeCampsites.net (website and app)
- Google Maps Satellite View (You can look for campsites along dirt roads that are on public land.)
- iOverlander (app)
Differences Between RV Boondocking On Public Land And Boondocking At A Long Term Visitor Area
- What Is Boondocking? It's free camping on public land and always has a duration limit.
- LTVA- (Long-Term Visitors Area) this is also public land but you must pay. Paying allows you to stay for a MUCH longer time. (7 months.)
LTVAs only exist in southern Arizona and southern California. RV boondocking on public land can be found almost all around the USA, but primarily out West.
Both free public land and LTVA's are dry camping experiences. An LTVA will be crowded.
When boondocking, you can find places where there's hardly anyone else around or there is much more space for people to park away from each other.
For example (free boondocking), see the photo above.
What's The Difference Between Boondocking, Dispersed Camping, and Dry Camping?
These three terms are kind of interchangeable but also not. What is boondocking versus dry camping versus dispersed camping?
What is Boondocking? Usually is a term saved for camping in remote places. But it also implies camping without hookups.
It's true off-grid camping.
What is Dry Camping? Technically, this means 'camping without hookups'.
If you are staying in a campground and there are no hookups, you are still RV 'dry camping'.
What Is Dispersed Camping? This means pretty much the same thing as boondocking.
Not in a campground, no utilities. It is the term the US Forest Service uses for 'boondocking'.
It's not 'correct' to say you are boondocking or dispersed camping if you are in a campground without hookups.
But you COULD be boondocking and also call it dry camping (though it's implied) because there is no boondocking WITH external hookups.
(Your generator doesn't count as a 'hookup' here.) 'Cause ya know, nature doesn't provide spigots or outlets.
Primitive camping and wild camping are other terms often used for RV boondocking.
Where Exactly Can You Boondock On Public Land?
So you see that there's a lot of BLM (Bureau of Land Management)land out West. How do you know where you are allowed to camp?
First, use Campendium for reference to find the road into an area. The coordinates Campendium gives for a location is often the entrance to that particular spot.
It's up to you to find a legit camping spot.
Stick to existing roads. The reality of it is that there's lots of land out there. But not so many places to RV camp.
Can you simply park wherever you want? Absolutely not.
Public land has rules. Yes, there's a lot of land. No, you can't park just anywhere.
Sadly, if that were allowed, humans would quickly destroy the landscape.
Instead, you are only allowed to park in areas that have been previously used for camping.
This means obvious tracks/road, a fire pit, and any other reasonable/obvious sign people have been parking there.
Stick to existing roads. The reality of it is that there's lots of land out there, but not so many places to camp.
Moving Day Considerations
There are certain things you need to plan (ahead of time) for moving day.
Failing to plan these things can mean a very aggravating day.
Moving Day Planning:
- Check the weather
- Plan where to dump your tanks, get fresh water and buy propane (if necessary)
- Figure out where you'll get gas. (Use Google Satellite to see how big a station is and Street View for potential access issues.)
- Plan your route
- Figure out drive time
- Find out if there are any route height restrictions
- Look for road closures
- Determine the sunset time at your destination keeping potential time zone changes in mind. (You do NOT want to arrive at a dispersed camping location after dark!)
Scout Your Spot
I HIGHLY recommend scouting your spot. That is unless you're coming into a wide-open area like Quartzsite, Arizona.
You CAN use Google Maps satellite view to at least preview the road in. With it, you can sometimes see if there are places to turn around or not, and how many spots are in the area.
Even if there are a lot of dispersed camping spots, you could arrive and they are ALL taken.
This is often the case on Forest Road 525 in Sedona. The spots are small, they are often full, and you don't really have a good place to turn around but in one of these spots.
(There's usually enough room to do so though.)
Just be aware that you DON'T want to get caught in a place where you have to back up for a mile or more (or less) to get out of where you just drove in.
It's best to have a toad if you are driving a motorhome. Or a motorbike or even a bicycle. If you are pulling a trailer, you can unhitch somewhere safe and then go scout.
Insider Boondocking Rules/Etiquette
Ok, now you have scouted a primitive camping spot and you're ready to drive in.
Before you go and park, there may seem to be no rules 'out there' when camping on public land.
Of course, there ARE rules, but there are also 'unspoken' boondocking rules. We won't cover the written rules that can be enforced by a ranger.
We are talking about the unspoken rules you may not be aware of:
How Not To Be 'That Jerk' When Boondocking
- DO NOT bring your contractor generator. Only inverter generators while boondocking. Seriously.
- Don't park right next to someone (or even mildly close) when there is PLENTY of room elsewhere. Nobody wants close neighbors when boondocking. It's called personal space, and yes, it exists on public land. (You don't not have a personal body bubble anymore just because you are on public land, do you?) Often when you see a cluster, the people in that group know each other already.
- No blaring your music. Unless you're deaf, that's not necessary. It's a bit rude. Also, sound tends to travel in open spaces. Also, watch what you are saying!
- Don't leave barking dogs at home in your RV all day. If they are going to bark while you are away, don't bring them.
- Nobody wants your dogs running up into their camp, peeing and pooping all over the place. (Yes, this happens.) It's OK for them to be off-leash, but please keep them in YOUR camp at all times. Your dog(s), your responsibility.
- Generators off at a reasonable night-time and don't start them at 6 am please. Give people considerate "quiet hours". Even inverter generator noise will carry a surprising distance.
- This should go without saying, but people are doing it all over the place and it's disgusting. DO NOT crap outside without digging a cathole at least 6 inches deep. Bury that s*** deep IF it is allowed in the area. And take your used TP with you (pack it out) in a plastic bag.
That's a good starter package for you on ways not to be 'that guy/gal'.
There are more things to consider when parking other than not parking on top of someone.
Here are more things you should consider when positioning your RV while primitive camping.
Things To Consider When You're About To Park:
- Views- If possible, it's nice to park so you have the best views out the window you use the most.
- Be considerate- if there's an obvious gorgeous view people are parked to see, don't park right in front of them, blocking their view. That's not cool.
- Watch the slope- You may not be able to park for the best view. If you have an absorption refrigerator (most RVs do), you have to be level. This may determine exactly where and the angle of where you park.
- Solar- if your solar panels tilt or get blocked by shade from various utilities on your roof, angle so you get the best solar for most of the day. This may trump your view.
- Summertime- you may need to park so that your awning gives you the most shade during the day to help keep temps down. During the summer, this might trump views and solar needs.
- Give Space- Again, if there is plenty of room around, do NOT park right next to, or even fairly close to other people. They don't want neighbors. You're safe out there 'alone'. You're likely safer NOT parking on top of someone.
- Washes- Don't park in a wash. In the event of rain, even if it doesn't rain right where you are, the wash could flood.
- Cellular- If you need cellular service, test it when you are scouting. Or test it before you get all set up. It may be way better just 1/2 mile down the road.
Two Of The Best Boondocking Tips Ever
You don't see these two mentioned often. However, they each can save your life or hours of frustration when primitive camping!
1. If you aren't already sharing your location with someone you trust, share your location ESPECIALLY if you are remote camping in the middle of nowhere.
2. If you are in an unlit area, and you VERY likely are if you are RV boondocking, listen very very carefully:
DROP A GOOGLE MAPS PIN WHERE YOUR RV IS PARKED!
DROP A FREAKING PIN WHERE YOUR RV IS PARKED!!!
If you fail to do this and you leave and come back after dark, well, you may have a VERY hard time finding where your RV is.
It may be obvious where you are parked, depending on the area.
But if you are in a wide-open area with little to no roads showing you in, you could be in trouble. Just do it.
RV Power Needs (Recharging Your Batteries)
You can get power in one of two ways when boondocking:
Without one or both of these, you cannot keep your batteries charged (batteries are your power) while boondocking.
If you have a motorhome, there's a very good chance your RV comes with a built-in generator.
If you have a trailer or don't have a built-in generator, you will need a portable generator or plenty of solar.
What size generator or solar+battery bank you will need is outside the scope of this article. Google will help you there.
You don't want to have to depend on having your generator on ALL DAY for power needs. This is no fun for those around you, not to mention for YOU.
Dispersed camping is half about getting out there in nature and enjoying the peace and serenity.
Having a generator drone on the whole time you are there defeats that purpose.
You need a battery bank that can sustain you for at LEAST a day before going below 50% charge. (For typical lead-acid batteries.)
You might be able to get away with a portable solar array.
How Long Can I Stay?
This is a great question.
Once again, the availability of online resources makes finding the answer to this question much easier than before.
If you are using Campendium, it most likely will list how many days you can stay in a particular primitive camping area.
Which is VERY nice and it's what I mostly rely on. If Campendium doesn't list the stay limit, look around the entry road for signs.
Often the BLM/National Forest/State Trust Land signposts will declare the stay limit.
If they don't have a stay limit listed, you need to find out what type of land you are parking on.
Is it National Forest, BLM, State Trust Land, or what? (Usually, there are SOME kind of signs around with this info.)
Then hit the Internet. Look for a ranger station if you are in a National Forest, and look for a BLM office if you are on BLM.
You can search for them by doing a Google maps search around where you are. Then call or visit the station and ask.
Finding, Conserving, And Refilling Water
Water is a resource you can go through VERY quickly when primitive camping.
To save, you have to be very diligent and change how you normally consume water.
You're going to have to learn to do things a bit differently. (Even if they seem to go against everything society has taught you about 'cleanliness'.)
Trust me, you can get away with using WAY less water than you normally do.
Cooking/dishes and showering are the two biggest water hogs.
No need to fret, we are going to give you some tips on how to use less.
Here are some ways to conserve water:
- Lick your plates. I'm serious. No-one is watching! And/or let your dog lick your plates.
- Use a dish bowl full of water to keep dirty dishes in so food doesn't dry on them.
- Shower once every few days. In the West, this is not an issue. No humidity = no sweat.
- You can sponge clean the 'dirty' areas. (Pits and bits.)
- NEVER let water run when it's not performing a 'job'.
- When showering, catch the water that hasn't warmed up. You can use it for dishwater or for flushing the toilet, etc.
- Get a composting toilet.
- Get water bags or a large bladder and fill them up when you fill your RV. This way you can replenish your supply without moving your RV.
- Make meals and freeze before you hit the road. Saves tons of dishwater. Just heat and eat!
Ok, so I mentioned not showering every day. And I mentioned sponge-bath type bathing your pits and 'bits'.
Most full-time boondockers only shower about once or twice a week, on average. No, we don't smell. And guess what?
My skin is in better shape than it has ever been.
Soap strips you of your natural oils. My face is not NEARLY as oily now that I don't wash it every day.
So, here's what you need to do when showering.
NOT the one that comes with your new shower head. (These products are listed at the very bottom of this post for your convenience.)
The on-off valves that come with showerheads will dribble when in the 'off' position. This causes the water to turn cold or hot when you turn it back on.
We recommend you get an actual shut-off switch. No more maddening dribble. No more temperature changes.
When taking a shower, you can't let the water run unless it's rinsing something. It wastes too much water.
That's about it for showering.
We also touched on this a bit earlier.
Lick your plate. Let your dog lick the plate. (But YES, wash it after, LOL!)
Heck, I will even lick a plate in a restaurant if the food was good enough.
OR, get paper plates and utensils that don't need washing. Though this does increase the amount of trash you create and have to deal with.
(I actually sometimes even lick my paper plate and re-use it. Not kidding.)
Did I just say that out loud? Oh well. I do, so... (And yes, Marshall is leery of the paper plates when he comes over for a meal.)
Keep your dishes in a water-filled container in the sink if possible. Dried-on food takes a lot longer to clean.
Line what you can with tin foil or wax paper when cooking. Then remove the tin foil/paper when done and throw it away, leaving your cooking container clean!
There are multiple places you can go to refill your tank or water containers.
Here are a few places you are likely to find sources of water:
- Gas station spigot (ask before using)
- Dump stations that have potable water
- City parks
- Fairgrounds (ask before using)
- Rest stops
- If you boondock a lot, you will get good at keeping an eye out for spigots that may be available for use
You may stay longer than your water supply can last any time you are remote camping. It can happen even with the best of conservation methods.
Sure, you can drive your RV to the nearest water spigot, but who wants to do that? You have to break your entire camp to do so.
Instead, if you have a toad that has the cargo space, get yourself a large water bladder. Fill it at the water spigot and bring it back to camp. Using a portable pump, you can pump it right into your RV.
If you have a smaller vehicle without a large cargo space, you can also just use collapsible water bags or jugs.
Fill the 5-gallon bag(s), or hard-sided containers at a potable water source.
Bring them back to camp and fill by using a water pump, or by simply dumping the water right into your rig.
Again, you can bring the water with you to camp if you don't have a toad. Fill the bags when you fill your RV.
(Given that you have a place to put them while on your way to your dispersed camping spot. The bags are notorious for eventually leaking.)
Dumping Your Holding Tanks
Well, this is something you mostly can't get around. Unless you have a composting toilet and don't put water down into a grey tank.
So you're going to have to get over it! If you have a regular RV toilet, you're making sewage.
You can't just dump raw sewage anywhere. (Gross, people!) You need to dump it at a dump station.
(Or a toilet somewhere, if you have a cassette toilet.)
Finding Dump Stations
- Call nearby campgrounds - both private and public
- Use Campendium (Filter for dump stations)
- Sanidumps website
- AllStays App- shows mostly campground dumps though
- Truck Stop Apps (Lowe's, Flying J, etc)
- City parks (some have dump stations)
- Rest areas (certain states will have RV dump stations at rest areas)
When dumping your tanks, dump the black tank first. Then the grey tank.
This way the grey water 'rinses' out the black tank 'residue'. Sure, the grey water is still gross, but which is worse?
If you said black (sewage), you are correct. If you said grey (dish/shower water), what is wrong with you??
See our guide on how to dump your RV's holding tanks to learn exactly how to do this 'lovely' task.
RV Boondocking Safety
Let's stop this madness and concern about 'bad people' when you're camping on public land once and for all.
YOU'RE SAFER FROM PEOPLE 'OUT THERE' BOONDOCKING THAN YOU ARE IN ANY TOWN/CITY/CAMPGROUND.
You probably think that you will be out of range of help and that people 'out there' will want to get you or rob you. This is 100% not true. How do I know? Read on...
No criminals are going to drive miles and miles to look for some camper people are likely just vacationing in.
What are they going to get? Clothes? Food? Maybe a computer if they are lucky? Think about it. Not worth it.
Criminals are lazy and they need a lot of low lying fruit. That means lots of people and lots of opportunities, which means cities.
I often don't lock my RV when I go for a walk. Or I may leave my truck unlocked all night.
This is unheard of in a city. There I don't dare leave my truck unlocked.
Case in point - recently friends of ours stayed in an urban RV park after spending a month out in the middle of nowhere.
They didn't lock their truck because they were so used to not locking it while staying out in the boonies.
The first night in the RV park someone rifled through the truck. This just doesn't happen when you are boondocking.
As far as safety goes, don't worry about other people. Worry about real fears such as getting hurt or stuck somewhere without anyone around to help.
You're probably still afraid of dispersed camping if you have never done it. This is perfectly natural. You can stop worrying about 'bad people'.
Worry about YOU doing something dumb that could injure you or even cost you your life like this accident could have done to Marshall.
That's a much more realistic scenario.
RV Boondocking Safety Measures:
- Let someone know where you are going to be and when you will be back.
- If you are going to park TOTALLY remote and there are NO other people around, be sure to keep your phone on you at ALL TIMES. Especially if you are solo. Share your location with friends/loved ones if you are in an area with cell reception.
- If you are going to go alone on hikes or going to park alone with no cell service, get yourself a satellite tracker. One that doesn't need cellular service to track you, get one that uses satellite. It might just save your life.
- Bear spray- get this and keep it handy in bear country.
- Never leave food outside overnight.
- Enjoy! Don't be paranoid. It will ruin your trip. There's nothing to be worried about as far as other people go. However, YOU could be your worst enemy if you don't do your due diligence. (But you're doing it now, so congrats on that!)
- Again, PIN the location of your RV in Google Maps so you can find it at night.
Boondocking With Pets
One thing that can make your boondocking experience even more fulfilling is to bring along man's best friend. (Or your cat.)
While it can be a great time for you and your pet, there are some concerns that go along with having your pet with you.
Here are some things you need to think about for their safety.
With pets, the biggest concern when primitive camping is usually heat. Full-timing boondockers chase elevation in the summer to get out of the hottest areas.
Still, there can be days hot enough to put your pet in danger in an enclosed RV if it starts rising above 70 degrees or so.
Even if you have the ability to run your air conditioner while boondocking, don't rely on it while you are away unless you have a temperature monitor such as the MarCELL.
This way you will be alerted if the temperature goes above your set temperature so you can come home immediately. (Your A/C could fail while you're away.)
Keep vents open and turn the roof vent fan on. Crack windows if you can. Know how hot your RV gets at 'X' outside temperature before leaving pets inside on a hot day.
Either bring them with you if you have to leave during hot hours or just don't leave your RV.
Stay there with them and keep everything open.
Traveling With Your Pets
It is not recommended to leave your pet in a trailer while you travel. Bring them into the tow vehicle with you so you know how they are doing.
Know how your pets do while traveling and make your travel days as comfortable for them as possible.
Other Pet Considerations:
- Make sure you bring your pets' important medications and any prescription foods they eat.
- Keep a close watch on your pets when boondocking. They can get lost and the coyotes are ready for an easy meal.
- Get your pets used to your RV at home before you take your trip. This way they are less likely to get separation anxiety while you are away from the RV when you can't bring them with you.
- Certain areas do not allow dogs (Hikes, etc). It's up to you to do your due diligence and know if you are allowed to bring Fido or not.
- Oh, and PICK UP or BURY your dog's poop!!!! Don't be that jerk trashing up sites, please.
- This should go without saying, but get your pets microchipped and have your contact info on their collar.
Heat And Air Conditioning
Heat is pretty easy to get in an RV. You likely have a propane furnace.
You can supplement it or replace it with a portable propane heater such as a Buddy Heater or Wave Heater.
You don't want to use an electric heater. Why? Because you will have to run the generator the whole time you are using it.
You likely aren't going to be able to your rig's air conditioning. Why?
Again, because you will have to be running your on-board generator to use it. Maybe you CAN, but if it's really hot, do you really want to run the genny all day long?
Almost NO-ONE has enough of a battery bank to run an A/C.
Your portable generator also may not be able to produce enough power to turn on and run your A/C.
This is why it's best to go up in elevation in the summertime. Cooler during the day and while you are trying to sleep.
Try to park so your awning faces South or West to help reduce the heat. Or only go camping during Spring and Fall when the temps are milder.
Especially if you want to bring pets along.
Working and staying connected while boondocking/primitive camping is very doable.
I have been boondocking full-time since January of 2016. I ONLY park where I have service.
If I can do it this long, you can find a place for a few weeks.
It's not a bad idea to have more than one cellular provider if you are going to boondock full-time.
If you are just wanting to do it for a week or weekend, you are probably fine having just your phone and possibly using it as a hotspot.
There are service maps (apps) out there, but are they reliable? Not from my nor Marshall's experience. Not 100%.
Campendium now has a coverage map overlay on their website (not the app) for those who support the site with donations. This helps save you a step of looking at another site.
Even better than using a coverage map, Campendium users often report how good reception was at any particular primitive camping site with any particular provider.
You can get yourself a cell booster. It may or may not help. Personally, I have been successfully full-time dispersed camping since January of 2016 without one.
For more in-depth information about getting a service provider and the tools you may need for getting service while boondocking, check out the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center.
Disposing Of Your Trash
You might think that you won't make much trash while camping. Think again. You will.
Here are some ways to reduce trash and information on where you put the trash you do have.
Minimize Your Trash
Trash is an unfortunate side effect of being a human in our society. The more you boondock, the more aware you will be of how much waste we create as a society.
Much of the trash produced when RV boondocking comes from food packaging.
There are things you can do to minimize your trash.
- Buy mostly fresh foods. Bring reusable bags to put it in.
- Bring your reusable grocery bags for carrying items.
- Take processed foods that you can out of the packaging and throw it away at the grocery store while you're still there. This also saves room in your pantry/fridge.
- Burn the trash that will burn (and isn't toxic to burn).
Where To Store Your Trash
If you are staying long enough to accumulate more than one trash can full, I recommend having a place outside of your living area to store it.
I use a foldable/pop-up trash can in my truck bed. It should be stored somewhere that bears/coyotes can't smell it or get into it.
You might have room in your motorhome basement. Or if you have a toad, you can put it in a sealed container in there.
Where To Dump Your Trash
Finding places to dump your trash can be a challenge.
The most proper way to do so is if you can find the local dump/transfer station, by all means, head there.
Some people dump their SMALL trash bags at a gas station when they fill up. Others find open dumpsters..
Some go to nearby campgrounds and use the dumpsters there.
There are garbage cans all around in towns and cities. Or, keep your trash and throw it in your trash bins when you get home.
If you stay out long enough, just be sure you have somewhere to put your trash in the meantime so it doesn't stink up your living quarters!
Does Size Matter?
The simple answer is yes. Your RV size matters when it comes to dispersed camping.
The larger your rig is, the more limited you will be in choices of remote camping locations.
The longer you are and the heavier you are, the more likely you are to get stuck or to not fit. Taller RVs such as Class A motorhomes will sometimes have height issues.
Check boondocking location reviews for evidence for whether you will or won't fit. Some camping spots are limited to vans and tent sizes.
It just depends on where you want to go. But always make sure to check ahead of time by reading reviews carefully if you are a large rig.
I have a 24-foot travel trailer. In total length (including truck) I am pretty long. Unfortunately, I've been limited before.
Sometimes by lack of power (before I had four-wheel drive and a bigger engine), sometimes by height, sometimes by length.
Each boondocking spot is different.
So if you are still in the market for an RV and you know you want to boondock a lot, stay as small as you can.
How small is small? There's no rule of thumb, but I'd say try to keep your trailer under 25' or so, and with a motorhome, under 30'.
Larger rigs just won't have as many options. You will limit yourself somewhat, the larger you go.
It's all about compromise.
Leave No Trace
We should strive to make the places we stay better than we found them.
With this principle in mind, here are some actual rules as well as unspoken words of advice:
- Pack it in and out
- Use existing roads only
- Don't dump your grey tank (it goes without saying, NEVER dump your black tank!)
- Fires- put them out COMPLETELY
- Pick up your dog's poo (AND your own, or bury it 6 inches deep)
- If you dig a hole to help get your rig level, fill it back in before you leave
- In general, leave the area better than you found it when possible
- Pick up trash around your site. EVEN if it's not yours.
Great RV Boondocking Tools
Here are some things that are very helpful when boondocking. Heck, a lot of them are also good for when you're in a campground, sure.
But dispersed camping? Even better.
Mr. Heater Buddy Heater
THIS is one of my all-time favorite purchases. My Buddy (just replaced with a Wave 8 heater for testing) was plumbed into my RV's propane system.
This saves you time and money on buying and possibly refilling the small green propane bottles.
The heat this sucker puts out is TREMENDOUS. It's great for quickly heating your place.
You can get the Big Buddy (pictured) or the regular Buddy. They come in various sizes.
The Wave Heater comes in three sizes, the 3, 6, and 8.
I now have an 8 in my 24' RV. Some think it's overkill, I actually so far prefer my Big Buddy.
I like it to get warm FAST and I like being able to stand in front of my heater and feel the heat rising to warm my front.
The Wave is a radiant heater, so it heats objects, not the air.
There are no other levelers that can make leveling your RV so easy.
Combined with the Level Mate Pro, even if you are solo, you can get set up and level without getting in and out, in and out, again and again, to see if you're level.
Level Mate Pro
This makes leveling a dream. If you aren't solo, you can have your partner help you know when you are level. But if you tend to rip each other's heads off when setting up, this can help.
It tells you when you are level by simply looking at the app on your phone.
No more in and out of your vehicle to check for level. Perfection.
CGear Sand Mat
Want a mat that sand doesn't stay on AND can double as a shade? Here you go.
It has two colors to choose from, but each one has different colors on each side, so you can choose based on your mood that day what color you want showing.
Also, no goofy patterns with this mat.
Rubber Wheel Chocks
You need to make sure your RV doesn't roll when you're primitive camping.
I have one set of these chocks and Marshall got himself two, just for extra protection.
You pretty much cannot move your RV with these under the tires.
The little yellow chocks? Girl, please.
Discount Code: CAMP20
MarCELL Temperature Reader
For you pet owners... this can be a lifesaver for your pet.
For $20 off, enter discount code= CAMP20
It uses its own cellular connection to keep you informed about what the temps are in your RV.
This gives you TOTAL piece of mind that your pets won't overheat.
Oxygenics Body Spa Shower Head
You're going to need to save water.
The Oxygenics brand has one of the lowest GPM (gallon per minute) showerheads out there.
They also have a more expensive model called the Fury that allows you to change the spray pattern.
This, combined with the shut-off valve below are non-negotiable for boondocking.
Water Shut-Off Valve
Sure, the shower head that came stock in your RV and even your Oxygenics showerhead have 'low flow' buttons.
But they don't stop the water totally, which is SO annoying, as well as wasteful.
Not to mention when you turn the water back on, it is often freezing or scalding.
Get this valve which will TOTALLY stop the flow.
Y'all, I don't cook much.
But ALL of my friends who do love this thing. It makes meals quickly and with very little electricity, so it's great for energy conservation when cooking.
Get one and make me something.
Yamaha Inverter Generator
I have this and now also a WEN generator so I can use them in parallel and use my air conditioner.
But often I only need to use one generator. It's good to have one to charge your batteries or to use your 120-volt appliances.
If you are going down dirt roads, TRUST me... your stuff is going to go flying.
Stuff that stayed when you were on pavement is going to jump out of your fridge when you open it if you don't restrain it with some bars.
Easy to put in, easy to get out. No clean-up necessary.
Portable Solar Panel(s)
After tripping over my solar panel one night in 2016, I made a new rule.
No going out into the dark without a light source!!!
I have stuck to it and haven't had an accident since. This is especially useful because it's hands-off.
This was one of the very first mods I did in my trailer.
I heard SO much about how much less power they use than the traditional bulbs, so it was non-negotiable.
Replacing them all will be a little costly up front but your batteries will thank you.
In REACH Tracker
If you like to hike solo, or if you are just primitive camping solo in a rural area, this thing indeed could save your life.
Marshall got his finger stuck in between a tire and the leveler under it once. If no-one was around, he 100% could have died there.
Get one of these if you have any doubts. Expensive, but what's your life worth?
These are fun and useful solar lights.
They last a long time and some change colors for a fun, festive look around the campfire.
I'd recommend getting this or some other solar light source.
If you need to stay out of the sun (i.e. skin cancer + aging) then these sleeves are a huge help.
I am out hiking quite often, and if it's summer, I am not wanting to wear long sleeves. So, I just use my UV sleeves.
I don't go anywhere without them!
I've bought some off of Amazon before, but they didn't fit quite right.
The ones I got from O'Neill were the best. But I don't see them on the site anymore. They are pretty cheap on Amazon.
There is much to know to boondock successfully. You should be armed with some basic knowledge about primitive camping before you try it.
This guide is a great start in getting you safely out there for the first time. Much of what you need to learn will be self-taught.
No website article can tell you precisely how many hours of full sun you need to re-charge your batteries.
No-one can tell you just how hot it has to get outside for your RV temperature to rise above 90 degrees.
These are things you will learn with experience and are personal to your situation.
The best I can recommend that you do is find a place that is boondocker-friendly (a place such as Quartzsite, Arizona) and get out there and do it.
There are also a lot of people boondocking in Q, so if you have questions or need help, you can easily find someone willing to help.
Have fun, enjoy it and say hi if you see me! (But don't park too close, LOL!)
Author: Kelly Beasley
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.