For those of you who are unfamiliar, Boondocking is a term used to describe camping with your RV, Skoolie, van, etc. out in nature without hookups. No plug ins, no water connection, and no sewer. Just you, your rig, and the great outdoors. Being that we love camping and being alone in nature, when we first got our RV, we knew that this was what we wanted to be able to do 99% of the time. In fact, we made sure to outfit our rig with solar panels so that with ample sunlight, we can park, and work from our rig in these wild camping spots for weeks at a time.
But where do I find these places? Well, dear reader, you’re in luck. This article is here to serve as your guide to finding these wild places to camp.
Where are these spots you can boondock in?
Most boondocking spots are on public or BLM land as well as many national and state forests. In most cases, Government agencies allow you to park and camp in the same spot on publicly owned land for up to 14 days.
The American southwest is one of the best places to boondock as it offers miles and miles of sprawling public land between cities, that offer incredible views, and in a lot of cases, privacy to boot.
How do we find specific locations that we can park in? There are several ways to guarantee that you will find an awesome boondocking site.
Campsite Apps and Websites
Fortunately, the rise of the internet has led to getting information on the many public lands that are available to camp on, easier than ever to access. Here are our favorite apps and websites we use to find free camping.
Probably one of the most well known campsite apps, Campendium is a comprehensive app/website that shows both paid and free campsites. Because its so well known, we have found the reviews to be the most comprehensive. Upon creating an account, you are able to review sites you stay at, as well as save camping spots in your ‘favorites’ folder. They also have a blog on their site with camping gear recommendations, and camping guides for various locations
Free Campsites is a community driven platform that allows users to share free campsites as well as campsites that are under $12/night. Once again the reviews are encouraged and plentiful on free campsites.com. Like Campendium, upon creating an account, you will be able to review campsites and save your favorite sites for future/repeat trips.
iOverlander is a nonprofit project run by volunteers that also allows users to contribute both paid and free camping destinations that they find. They also have restaurants, dump stations, places to fill up water and repair shops that users have contributed and reviewed. Unlike the two platforms above, you are unable to save a site to a favorites folder, but cross checking reviews with this app is one of the top reasons we use it.
Boondocking Tip: Read Reviews.
Reviews can give you an idea as to what to expect when you get there, if your rig will fit in the spot, and even if there are spots nearby that may work better for you.
Explore Back Roads- Utilize google maps
Another option is to find places to camp is to explore dirt roads. Yes, seriously. Some of our favorite camping spots were discovered after saying “I wonder where this road goes? Let’s find out!” Using either publiclands.org or the U.S. Public Lands app are two ways to determine if the area you are in is public lands. Forest Roads almost always allow dispersed camping.
Boondocking Tip: If your turning radius is poor due to a larger rig, it might be a good idea to drive the road to your campsite with a tow vehicle first, if you have one. This can serve as a final check to make sure the roads are in good condition, that the site has both ample parking and turnaround room, as well as allowing you to check and make sure the spot you’d planned on taking isn’t occupied. Sometimes another rig being parked in the spot can leave you stranded without proper room to backup.
When using this method, make sure to use Google Maps! Weather its to make sure that your rig will be able to fit in a predetermined spot, or be able to turn around if you can’t find a site, utilizing the satellite view on google maps can be a lifesaver. Look for large pull outs like this one here. Sometimes you will even be able to see RVs parked on BLM land in the satellite images!
Boondocking Tip: Watch the weather.
If it’s been raining in the area, dirt roads that were fine to drive on even a week before, may become impassable. Always keep an eye on the weather
Or finally, my personal favorite, ask locals, other travelers, park rangers, but especially old men with long white beards sitting outside of old rusty gas stations
The best people to get recommendations from, are people who have either visited the area heavily, or people who have lived there for years. Starting a conversation with someone at the local grocery store or a fellow traveler online can give you insight into lesser known areas to camp. Remember that locals love the land they live on. If they trust you with insider information on a better or more remote camping spot, they probably want to keep it that way. Think twice before sharing its location with the public and as always, remember if you pack it in, pack it out.