The biggest perk of living the RV lifestyle is freedom. Freedom to hit the open road. Freedom to travel off the beaten path. Freedom to explore all the wonders the world has to offer.
RVing can also free you from “the grid,” –the power grid. When you learn how to boondock and live using your self-contained RV, you can travel almost anywhere.
When planning your next excursion, it helps to know how to boondock in an RV ahead of time. It’s a popular choice among RV enthusiasts who really enjoy disconnecting from their everyday lives and connecting with their natural surroundings.
What is Boondocking?
Boondocking is a term used by RVers to describe RVing without being connected to water, electricity, or sewer. It’s also called dry camping since you’re not connected to any of these services. Other terms you might see or hear that also refer to boondocking are “free camping,” “dispersed camping,” and “wild camping.”
With boondocking comes the freedom of location. You can boondock your RV in various approved locations, but there are three particular types of boondocking that every RVer should know about.
- The Overnight Stay: A quick camping experience at a specific location for a single night
- Wallydocking: An overnight stay at a Walmart parking lot. It’s more common than you’d think.
- Moochdocking: A stay at a friend or relative’s place, often their driveway, for a night or two.
It’s also common to boondock on public land. We’ll talk more about that below.
How to Boondock in an RV
If you’re new to the idea of boondocking, you’re probably asking yourself how to go about it. As with anything new, start with baby steps.
A few tips for beginner boondockers:
- Check the weather.
- Cover your RV basics (such as filling your freshwater tank and emptying your gray and black water tanks).
- Plan a partial hook-up stay to ease into the idea of camping without hookups.
- Boondock with a built-in backup plan in case you don’t love it.
- Boondock at a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Campground.
- Boondock on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property.
Not only are these tips helpful when starting out on your first boondocking journey, but they’re great reminders for those who have been doing it for years. Another fun fact that’s helpful to know is that you can boondock in any type of RV.
With smaller towables and teardrop campers equipped with off-road capability, you’ll be well-prepared for seeking very remote destinations. Still, there are plenty of boondocking locations accessible to larger RVs and travel trailers.
With proper preparation, your RV can be the perfect home away from home when exploring off the beaten path. There are a few accessories that will make your boondocking experience as smooth as possible.
When it comes to equipment, you don’t need much to take your boondocking trip up a notch. In fact, there are three main pieces of equipment every boondocker needs for their RV, whether you’re a weekend warrior or on the road full time.
- A solar power setup: Since you’re off the grid, you won’t have access to shore power. The best way to charge up your RV batteries is with solar power.
- A portable generator: Portable generators allow you to run larger RV appliances, like your air conditioner, that normally require shore power.
- A cell signal booster: While boondocking is the best way to disconnect from everything, it’s wise to have a cell booster to ensure a signal in the event you need one.
Following the steps and tips above will help you save money and allow for more freedom when planning your next road trip. Not to mention, once you’ve introduced yourself to the world of boondocking, you’ll never plan another RV trip without including it from the start.
How to Find Boondocking Sites
There are assumptions when it comes to boondocking. Among them is the thought that it’s idyllic– camping under the stars, pointing out constellations before falling asleep under a tree canopy to the sound of a babbling brook and chirping birds. While those scenarios can absolutely happen, finding those locations requires some effort.
For starters, not every boondocking location will be scenic and worthy of an Instagram post. There will be times where practicality takes priority, and an empty parking lot or rest stop might be the best option.
Luckily, there isn’t just one way to discover a good boondocking spot for your RV. Whether you’re looking for that mesmerizing, secluded location or somewhere to hold you over to your next stop, these five ways to find your next boondocking spot will help you get started.
- USFS Website
- Campendium (site and app)
- iOverlander (site and app)
- Google Maps Satellite View
- Ask a Forest or Park Ranger
Word of mouth is also a helpful way to find the perfect boondocking location. Ask other RV full-timers where they enjoy staying and you’ll be amazed at the answers you receive. We spoke with Rachel and Nathan from 2 Traveling Dogs as well as Dan and Lindsay from Follow Your Detour about where to stay and they had plenty of advice to share. Watch the campgrounds & boondocking interview with them. We’re sure you’ll learn something new.
How to Camp on BLM Land
When most people think of RVing and camping, they picture a campground that’s fairly developed. However, there are many square miles of land that fall under the care of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that are open to camping for public use. The best part? There’s a lot of it.
As for boondocking on BLM land, it’s free! Often referred to as dispersed camping, boondocking is allowed in many areas of BLM land. Conveniently, the BLM outlines where and when they allow it on a map from their website. Something to note is your stay cannot exceed 14 days in a single 28-day period meaning you’ll have to move and relocate every 14 days if you plan on spending a significant amount of time on BLM land.
BLM land is available for public use, but it should still be treated with respect. Practice the “Leave No Trace” camping guidelines when boondocking on this land.
If you’re out on BLM land, you’ll need to watch your power use carefully. Try implementing some of these tips and tricks from RVers Mike and Jennifer Wendland.
What to Bring Boondocking
When you head into rural areas to boondock, you want to be prepared. Beyond solar power, a generator, and a cell signal booster, you’ll find it handy to be prepped with a few other items. Chances are the nearest store isn’t right around the corner and you’ll want to have these things on hand.
- Bring extra jugs of water, more than you think you’ll need.
- Bring adequate propane. Calculate how much you’ll need using our video below.
- Bring solar chargers and batteries, if you have them, for charging small devices.
- Bring flashlights and lanterns for moving around the campsite after dark.
- Bring a 12-volt fan if you’re camping in the summer, and a propane heater if you’re camping in the winter.
- Outfit your RV with a water-saving showerhead to make your freshwater last as long as possible.
- Prep your RV with a First-Aid Kit. You don’t want to leave home without this.
- If your RV fridge does not run off of propane, prep a cooler with ice and any items that need to be chilled.
- Bring all the food and meals you plan on having while on your trip. Outfit your camp kitchen with what you need to feed the family.
Have you been boondocking before? Share your experience in the comments below!