There are so many retired and younger people who are interested these days in escaping what they call a typical life and exchanging the house and yard for an RV or a Travel Trailer and practicing what campers call Boondocking hitting the roads of America to find a new type of living. What does boondocking mean?
Boondocking or Dispersed Camping is a form of dry camping where the camper is off-grid, mostly in the wilderness, being totally self-sufficient. You rely solely on your RV’s systems & the supplies which you’ve brought along. Saving money, utilizing Solar Power & using no or little campsite amenities.
Boondocking takes special individuals that have the knowledge and experience of RVs, Campers, Motorhomes, or even Vans with the right equipment to take a weekend Camping Trip to the next level realizing these days that anything is possible.
Boondocking Or Dispersed Camping
Boondocking or Dispersed Camping means just pulling off the road and camping for free. It’s also known as Dry Camping. Whether you are driving an RV, a Camper, or Van, or a giant Winnebago. According to RVers, some say that the term Boondocking means you are lost out in the Boonies with no electricity no water, or sewer hook-ups. The real reason to do this is to save money. The price to use these hook-ups at a campsite these days even for one night could cost you some dough.
You can avoid the busy campgrounds and get away from crowds this time of the year that makes people flock to places that empty out after the season is over. That is why you camp or RV in the first place right, to get away from the crowds of people and be with nature.
Boondocking can make that possible. There are numerous places around the country that give the opportunity to RV’ers to use for free. Parking there overnight or longer without the hook-ups that you can find at a Campsite. You can save time and money only by using these sites every now and then.
With some help from this article and some good research, you can take advantage of these spots. I’m talking about spots that are legal. There are many spots that are not. The main places are named Public Lands that allow what they call Dispersed Camping is:
- National Forest
- BLMs-Burea of Land Management Lands
- WMA-Wildlife Management Areas
- Wildlife Refuges
- Regional County Parks
- Some State Parks are listed as Free
- Utility Districts
Most of these parcels that are considered Public Land have Web Sites that carry information on whether or not Dispersed Camping is legal or illegal. In general and in most States BLM land allows Boonedocking for 14 consecutive days before you have to leave. Still each District and part of the country is different so you need to check with them.
Whether they enforce these rules is also different in most parts of the country so just to be on the safe side, contact them through websites.
Most Districts have offices where you can have access to maps of the Public land, what roads are closed, and what roads are off-limits. So if you plan on using Public Land use their website and stop in their office which will be listed on the website and follow their rules and regulations.
On Public Land, there may be a No Trespassing sign that you run into. This land within the Public land may have been grandfathered into folks for whatever reason. So pay attention to them and follow the law. You will see Private Property or No Trespassing on occasion and if you do, respect them. Stay on the designated roads and never block a designated road. National Forest is for everyone to use and enjoy.
Respect the land you use no matter how far you are into the Forest and never dump your Grey Water Tank from your Camper.
Expect Cell Phone problems deep in the Wildlife Refugees or BLMs cell phone problems will be an issue. Don’t assume because you have one when you get there you’ll have a signal all the time. So a map of the area you are in will come in handy.
Buy a Personal Location Device, which is a safety device that will help locate you just in case you have an emergency and might need to be rescued. A great-comforting tool for the Boondocker, who goes deep into the wild to use, if there is no cell signal like this one is a Garmin in Reach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with Topo Maps and GPS Navigation
You just can’t rely on a cell phone signal if you are Boondocking.
Boondocking at Walmart
Although a boondock technically means a rural area of a rough countryside mountainside deep in the woods, You will need to rest and stay in a safe area in your travels. Some of the more popular places to rest overnight include Wal-Mart, shopping malls, Car Parks, and truck stops. Veteran Boondockers say when you are staying there to rest, discretion is the best policy in these temporary places. Stay only a night or two and behave yourself to avoid being thrown out. Their Security at these places will remember you if you cause trouble but most likely won’t if you are uneventful. Avoid the city or town get your rest to be safe and be respectful.
Another convenient place that allows Boondocking is Crakerbarrel Restaurant. They are located in most of the Country and are more popular with overnight campers than Walmart. They are faster to get to from the turnpikes and freeways than most Walmarts and are very welcoming to folks needing to rest up for the evening. They actually have designated parking signs for RVs and camping vehicles, while others will have No Overnight Parking signs.
They don’t allow Semi-trucks in to park at Crackerbarrel where Walmart does. Not only is Crackerbarrel a great place for Boondocking but their food is great too especially the breakfasts. Camper says there is an unwritten rule that if you spend the night then you should spend some money and enjoy a meal there.
If not a meal they have gift shops where you can leave a little money so everybody wins. It’s a great family place that acts like a Mom & Pop smaller business. Walmart is more Corporate.
There are Crackerbarrel Restaurant billboards that will even have small RVs on the side of the sign that indicates that they are RV-friendly. Long before you get there which helps out. Crackerbarrel has overnight security too with cameras located in view.
Other businesses or areas that allow RVers or Campers to come and stay overnight are:
- K Mart-they have space and will let you know if you can’t
- Camping World-They has many locations and sells RV and Camping Vehicles
- Pull-Overs– that you can find on most major turnpikes or highways that are in secluded areas mostly in states like Alaska and Utah
- Cabellas- Some of these stores have dump stations and fresh water for free. Still call and make sure it’s ok.
- Casinos– most Casinos across the Country have huge parking lots and offer complimentary parking. Again like all these places, like Cabellas and Walmart, they are letting you stay there with the premise that you come in and spend a little money.
- Rest Areas-most Rest Areas that have food and gas will let you stay but because of truck traffic getting some rest might be difficult.
- Shopping Malls– huge parking lots but some make it available to stay 1-2 nights.
- Gas Stations– on occasion if you tried and explain most small businesses like Gas Station that have space and you ask will oblige.
Best Boondocking Travel Trailer
Planning ahead is an important part of Boondocking in an RV. If you know what you’ll need to be self-sufficient then you can plan to start with your RV, Travel Trailer, or whatever you’ll be using to Dry Camp. In order to survive in this lifestyle, you’ll need bigger waste and freshwater tanks along with other things. If you buy a vehicle and aren’t aware of what kind of things you will be needing to stay out on the road without returning to a Camp Ground it defeats the purpose of Boondocking or Dry Camping and truly realizing what it means to be self-sufficient and free.
The specific needs for Boondocking are:
Solar Power- for 2 people in an RV or Camper the average couple will need 500-700 Watts of Solar Power. For a single person in a Class C Camper 3-4 oo watt, Solar Systems are might be enough to sustain their needs away from the Camp Grounds where electricity is available but at a price. Boonedockers say that at a minimum for Dry Camping you’ll need around 400 watts that will be able to run a refrigerator.
At 400 watts a Camper in a Vehicle that is the size of a Class C Camper will be able to run a Furnace, Lights (change them over to LED), and a few extras like your electronics. Whole Solar Kits are somewhere between $600 & 700 dollars like this one through Amazon. WindyNation Complete 400 Watt Solar Panel Kit with 1500 Watt VertaMax Power Inverter RV, Boat, for Off-Grid 12 Volt Battery
These Kits come with everything you’ll need to get going, Controllers Power Invert and for staying off-grid in the world of Boondocking 40 feet of UL Listed 12 AWG Solar Cable, connectors for wiring, solar mounting hardware + 1500 Watt (3000 Watt surge) VertaMax DC to AC Power Inverter, 2 pcs of 2 AWG Battery Cables for connecting the inverter to a 12V battery.
Generator– Some Campers just need to run a few devices in their Camper or if there is a Solar problem just a Back-up Generator for charging the Batteries on the Solar System which will do in a pinch that can cost a few hundred dollars.
Or a more efficient system that will do the whole job that your Solar System does and cover the normal amount of wattage used in the appliances and what they pull in the Camper. No matter what kind of Generator size it is to your needs. RVs come with converters built-in so they can charge your Generator.
Battery-RVs and Campers rely on so many things that are powered by batteries besides the lights and furnace off-grid. If you Boondocking you need to step up something from the standard 12-volt battery from K-Mart. You can save some money by buying Golf Cart Batteries that are 6 volts and wiring them in Series together for 12 volts.
You can do this with 2 12-volt batteries, and when you wire up 2 or more batteries you have created a Battery Bank. Step it up from there to AGM Batteries and from there you need Lithium Batteries. When you are Boondocking, you’ll need to conserve energy.
Again when you pick up your Travel Trailer or Camper and want to go places off the map to Dry camp where a smaller Truck would only have that kind of access, it’s possible. Besides a Truck or Van that converted to a Camper wouldn’t have space for supplies and necessary or enough Solar panels to power it.
If you plan well ahead you can use a Travel Trailer that is light enough to move through smaller places but big enough to be able to stay there for longer time periods. A huge part of Boonedogging is to be able Dry Camp and be seg-efficient for long lengths of time without needing a Camp Ground.
When you are planning to purchase your Travel Trailer, you need to ask yourself some questions before you do:
- Where do you plan to go with your Travel Trailer
- How long would you plan to stay there or out the road
- How much storage space would you need
If you don’t pre-plan then you’ll end up getting looking for another Travel Trailer because the one you bought can’t cut it for whatever reason. If you plan on the Boondocking type of camping that is camping in the wild without any services that Campsites would include. You need to make adjustments or preparation like:
- You can tow the trailer with 4-wheel drive
- You can raise the trailer giving it more space off the rocks and rough ground
- Add more Solar Panels and Batteries for more power
- Add more space to your Camper to accommodate more space
The most important lesson you can learn about Boondocking will be the next lesson that comes from the people you run into, that do what you do, and who discover better ways of doing it. Where to go to rest or what the newest Solar Equipment is available and the best way to install it. There’s no better way to learn than from a new friend you met who loves what you love to do.
Get Out-Go See The World!