After visiting our family and friends over the holidays, I realize that most of them have no idea what I mean when I say we primarily like to boondock everywhere we go. When we decided to sell our home (our "sticks and bricks" in RV lingo) and live and travel in our fifth wheel, I researched every aspect of RV living and quickly became accustomed to the terminology. Terms that we had never used before became a part of our everyday language but are still foreign to most of the other people in our lives. So just for some clarification and to make listening to our long-winded travel stories a little easier on the non-RVer, let me explain what boondocking is and why we prefer it.
What is boondocking?
Most simply, boondocking (also called dispersed camping, dry camping, wild camping) is camping without hook-ups. What are hook-ups? Those are the electric, water and sewer connections you find at traditional RV campgrounds. You can find campgrounds with "full hook-ups" meaning electric, water and sewer or "partial hook-ups" which could be just electricity or just water. By camping, I mean staying in an RV or travel trailer or van or truck or motorhome. Obviously tent camping would never require hook-ups. Many campgrounds offer sites with water and electric hook-ups but not sewer. That means you have to go to "dump station" to dump your black tank (sewage waste) and your gray tank (liquid waste from washing dishes, showering, hand washing etc).
How much does it cost?
So the majority of the time, campgrounds with hook-ups cost money. Maybe it's a small secluded forest campground and it's only $12 per night or maybe it's a fancy-schmancy luxury resort campground with prices upwards of $60 per night. Boondocking on the other hand is free and that fits in our budget.
Where do you boondock?
This is the amazing part. We boondock in locations that are far more beautiful and secluded and wild than most campgrounds. Our country has huge swaths of public lands that are managed by various government agencies like the National Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that all of us are allowed to camp in for free. Most of this land can be found in the western part of the US which is why so many off-grid Rvers gravitate to that area of the country. There are typically guidelines such as a 14-day stay limit and you should try to camp only in established areas where others have camped before so as to avoid damaging the natural landscape. You can find incredible scenery and off the beaten path places to explore by utilizing these areas.
But boondocking doesn't have to be in the middle of nowhere with amazing views, you can "boondock" just by staying in a Walmart parking lot for the night. You can boondock in a field on a farm or in your friend's driveway or in a casino parking lot. It just means you don't have hook-ups and it's probably free.
How do you live without hook-ups?
We really geek out over this part of things-living a more sustainable lifestyle is a big part of this adventure to us. We knew we wanted to boondock so that we could really get out in the middle of nowhere and not be stuck in cramped campgrounds with neighbors every 20 feet so we invested in solar panels and a composting toilet. Those two changes have made all the difference in our ability to stay off-grid. With the solar panels, as long as we have sunny days, we have plenty of electricity to power our lives. The composting toilet allows us to completely eliminate the black tank so we can go much longer without needing to find a dump station to empty our gray tank. We fill up our 48-gallon fresh water tank and also fill up a few extra drinking water jugs and then we can head out into the middle of nowhere and stay as long as allowed. The biggest adjustment we make is that we don't shower every day and when we do shower it's very, very short.
How do you find boondocking locations?
Hands down, we use Campendium more than any other site. However, I do cross reference the information I find there with other sites. I almost always visit the National Forest or BLM websites to double check that camping is allowed. I also look at FreeCampsites.net. Sometimes if it's city park or a recreation area it's helpful to read Google reviews. Many Walmarts, Cracker Barrels, Cabelas, and rest areas allow overnight parking but for those I always call the location directly to ensure the rules haven't changed. I typically look at the area on Google Earth and check the local weather as well.
So that about wraps it up. We boondock almost exclusively because it's how we stay in our budget, it gives us access to the most beautiful locations we can imagine, provides more privacy than traditional camping and allows us to live in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
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