Is RV Boondocking Right For You? (Complete Guide)

is-rv-boondocking-right-for-you?-(complete-guide)

RV boondocking holds lots of appeal with so many new folks embracing the RV Lifestyle and many veteran campers looking for an alternative to crowded campgrounds. Here’s a complete guide.

Boondocking, in my and Jennifer’s opinion, is the BEST way to travel with an RV. We absolutely love getting away from the noise and crowd of life and busy campgrounds.

It’s sometimes a challenge, and it’s certainly not for everybody. But, hopefully, this complete guide will help you determine if RV boondocking is right for you.

Let’s start with a recollection of how Jennifer and I first experienced RV boondocking…

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Remembering our First RV Boondocking Trip

It was the quiet that we most noticed.

There were no traffic sounds. No TV sets from nearby campsites. No laughter, no murmuring voices of anyone else. Just us.

And yet, camped in the middle of the wilds of northern Michigan, miles from the nearest paved road or power line on our very first boondocking trip nearly a decade ago, it wasn’t completely silent.

There really is, as Simon and Garfunkle used to sing, a sound of silence.

There was the crackle of our campfire. A hoot of a distant owl. The yips of a pack of coyotes somewhere far to the west. The gurgle of the Rifle River moving over a stretch of rocks just downstream from where we were camped. The whooshing sound of wind whipping through a stand of red pine.

And above, as soon as you walked away from the fire and got your night eyes focused, a gazillion stars speckled the ink-black sky.

photo of us rv boondocking
RV Boondocking Arizona – We found this free boondocking spot less than a half-mile from the North Entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park

We were boondocking, totally self-contained with no commercial power or water or Wi-Fi or sewer or any other service. Some people prefer to call it “dry camping” or “independent camping.” Other terms are “primitive camping” or “dispersed camping.”

Whatever, we were loving it.

No one else was around. Probably for miles.

Tai, our Norwegian Elkhound at the time, ran free, though not very far from our motorhome. I swear he smiled the whole weekend, blissfully exhausted from leash-free hikes and the new scents of deer trails and the deep woods.

We slept with the blinds up and the windows open with complete privacy.

photo of our do while rv boondocking
Boondocking Bo – Our dog Bo thinks RV Boondocking is the only way to go camping

That was our first experience with boondocking, even though we took up RVing that past spring of 2012. Most of our other overnights were in commercial campgrounds, state or county parks, or moochdocking in the driveways of friends and relatives.

Wilderness boondocking was different. We gathered our own firewood, used battery-powered lights, fired up the generator a couple of times to make coffee, and generally unplugged– literally and figuratively.

That was all it took. We became hooked on boondocking, and ever since, that’s been our main way of camping. Bo, our current dog, gives us weird looks when we have to use a commercial or organized campground.

Since that first trip by us, we discovered we’re not alone in making it our preferred style of camping. As it turns out, there’s been an ongoing boom in boondocking.

Boondocking & Dry Camping Tips!

Looking to see what a typical RV Boondocking Trip is like and how we find our spots? Click the Video Below:

Like what you see on the video? We’d appreciate it if you would Subscribe to our YouTube Channel (easy to do right here) and consider “ringing the bell icon” to be notified of any new video from us. 🙂 Thanks!

Technology advances in RVing over the past several years – like solar power and long-lasting lithium batteries – have made it so much easier to be off the commercial grid. And with super quiet engine generators and things like Roadtrek’s VoltStart electrical management system, we very seldom even need to plug in anymore.

How to Find Cheap & Free Boondocking Spots

And the places to boondock are many. Some urban areas, like the parking lots at Walmart (a.k.a. Wallydocking), truck stops, and other commercial businesses, are open to RVers for quick overnights, sort of a glorified rest area.

The places I’m talking about, though, are in wilderness areas like state and federal forests and the vast stretches of public land available from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, which has 17 thousand campsites at over 400 different campgrounds, mostly in the western states.

Costs for boondocking on public land are typically $5-10 a night or, in many cases, free.

CLICK HERE FOR A HUGE MEGA-POST ON FREE AND CHEAP PLACES TO DO RV BOONDOCKING

That post has so many resources. But here, in this article, we’re giving you an idea of how to know if RV Boondocking is right for you. And keep reading to the end because we have lots of tips and resources to share here, too!

photo of rv boondocking spot in Montana
Montana – We got permission to boondock on some private land in eastern Montana. The nearest paved road was five miles away. You should have seen the stars at night!

Many other RVers use private land, with the permission of the landowner, of course. That’s where our favorite spot is – in Michigan’s  Ogemaw County, staying on a 200-acre stretch of property owned by my brother-in-law. It’s bisected by the river and surrounded by hundreds of acres of state land.

When not on his land, we try to find similar kinds of secluded sites. However, not all boondocking is done in undeveloped wilds…

Less Secluded Boondocking

Not all boondocking spots have so much elbow room.

Take the tiny, quirky town of Quartzsite, AZ, with a permanent population of 3,000. In January, though, Quartzsite becomes the boondocking capital of North America because of a giant Sports, Vacation, and RV Show. An estimated 150,000 RVers descend to park their rigs side-by-side on the pancake-flat, treeless desert and boondock away under that warm Southwest sun.

photo of mike cooking breakfast on an rv boondocking trip
Boondocking Bacon – The best-tasting bacon is always cooked outdoors in the wilderness!

There are so many boondockers out there for the big January RV show that businesses set up huge tents to cater to them. It looks like a giant RV rally that goes on for two months.

Quartzsite is too crowded for our tastes those first few weeks of January. But in February, when all those in for the RV show have left, it’s heaven on earth.

Here’s a video we did of a visit that shows what a great place Quartzsite is for RV boondocking:

Like what you see on the video? We’d appreciate it if you would Subscribe to our YouTube Channel (easy to do right here) and consider “ringing the bell icon” to be notified of any new video from us. 🙂 Thanks!

Wild vs. “Tame” Boondocking

The upsides of our style of wilderness boondocking are many. Privacy, serenity, uncluttered scenery, wildlife and truly getting away from it all are at the top of my list.

But our style of boondocking is not for everyone. In the wilds, you often have to work hard to find the right spot to get level. You’ll have to conserve your battery power. Generator noise is never pleasant, so if that’s what you have, you’ll surely limit that, too.

And because you are truly on your own, you are more vulnerable. Accidents do happen and being out in the boondocks means getting help is more challenging than at a more developed campground with people around.

Boondocking, except in a paved Walmart parking lot, is probably out of the picture for big Class A motorhomes.

Here’s a video review of our Wonder, which is perfect for our RV boondocking style:

Sometimes, going down such roads can be slow, and sometimes, Jennifer has been known to jump out and run ahead to hold back bushes or tree limbs that could scrape up our motorhome.

Interested in trying it?

We Wrote the Book on Boondocking

First, in a shameless plug, let me suggest the very detailed Beginners Guide to Boondocking book we have written.

This complete guide helps you understand the nuances of boondocking, the most common boondocking problems, and what you need to do to get your rig “boondocking-ready.” Jennifer and I teach you step-by-step exactly what to do so you can easily enjoy your RV anywhere, both on and off-road! 

Here is more information…


Want to learn how to boondock?

We created a PRINT version of our most popular guide to help you with the most common boondocking problems. We get a ton of questions from our subscribers about how to get started boondocking that range from where to go and wild animals to water conservation to what equipment to use and more. 

Is RV Boondocking Right For You? (Complete Guide) 1

Throw off the shackles of traditional RV Parks and campgrounds, stop paying high fees every night that you spend in your RV, and experience the boundless amounts of nature while boondocking.

You’re done with the noisy RV parks, the 3.5 feet of room you have squished in between two other RVs, and other people’s kids running through your campsite?

You’ve ditched the hookups, the concrete blocks and have replaced them with self-leveling and Navy showers?

This is the book for you.


And if you prefer ebooks…

We have a great bundle of two of our most popular ebooks — Beginners Guide to Boondocking (one of our most popular ebooks) and our newest ebook The Ultimate Guide to Free and Cheap RV Camping!

Boondocking Apps, Resources, and Special Planning Tools

Our Complete Guide to Boondocking (both the print and ebook version) will give you an excellent foundation to grow your boondocking adventures on. There are also some websites and apps that can help you become a boondocking pro.

The following are boondocking apps, resources, and planning tools we use (and have used for years!). We highly recommend them and have even become partners with some to get our readership the best deals.

RV Trip Wizard

For starters, our all-time favorite Number 1 tool for finding great places to boondock and planning our RV trips is RV Trip Wizard

We have an entire RV Podcast episode on this awesome tool. 

Jennifer and I have been using  RV Trip Wizard to help plot out our RV travel routes and stops for years now. But since the product has been bundled into a whole suite of other related resources, its value has greatly increased.

The umbrella program that I’m talking about is RV Life Pro, a $59 a year subscription that contains a slew of tools. They give you a week’s free trial to be sure you like it. If RV boondocking sounds like something you want to try, this tool will really help. If you’re unsure, check out our article: Is RV Life Pro Worth the Money?

AllStays

Also, check out the app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices by AllStays. They list more than 22,000 campgrounds and boondocking spots, everything from KOAs and Walmarts to state and federal forests, military, and BLM land.

While the regular AllStays app is great, the paid version, AllStays Pro, is great for finding places to stay that really stand out, especially out-of-the-way boondocking spots and free places to stay. Since Jennifer and I discovered AllStays Pro, the browser-based subscription site, we rely on it almost exclusively in our RV travels.

You can save 10% off your All Stays Pro annual subscription using this link and the discount code: rvpodcast

Harvest Hosts

Harvest Hosts is a unique membership service that lets RVers camp overnight FOR FREE at lovely outdoor venues such as wineries, breweries, museums, farms, orchards, and creameries.

You can get 15% off Harvest Hosts annual membership using this link and the discount code: RVLIFESTYLE15

We’ve done several videos about the Harvest Hosts RV Boondocking Experience. Here’s a compilation:

OvernightRVParking

Roadpass Pro INCLUDES access to all 14,000+ free boondocking locations in the OvernightRVParking.com app!

You can get $10 off your Togo RV Roadpass Pro annual membership using the discount code: RVLIFESTYLE21

Boondockers Welcome

If you are looking for places to boondock on private land, you’ll find no greater resource than Boondockers Welcome, This is where private property owners open up their land for RVers to overnight. It’s a great service that offers some awesome locations.

You can get 15% off your Boondockers Welcome annual membership using the discount code: RVLIFESTYLE15

Moochdocking

You surely have heard the term moochdocking by now*, a variation on the boondocking trend that we’ve been talking about. While boondocking is typically off-grid camping in remote areas, moochdocking is camping – usually without hookups – in people’s driveways or the back of their property.

You can reach out to family, friends… family and friends of family and friends… and see if they’re open to overnight or short stays.

*If you haven’t heard of moochdocking, check out 17 Common RV Terminology & Acronyms. I also recommend reading Moochdocking Pros and Cons.

Overnight in Parking Lots

Big box stores like Walmart, Cabellas, and even Home Depots in some places allow RVers to spend the night for free.

Restaurants like Cracker Barrell also welcome RV travelers.

And so do some church parking lots. There’s no membership subscription needed, just a very small fee charged by the churches to offset costs.

Here’s more information on Free Overnight RV Parking.

Best Practices for RV Boondocking

Finally, let’s wrap this up with some best practices for being a responsible RV Boondocker. People not following these best practices is Why Boondocking Sites are Still Getting Shut Down.

This list is from the Escapees RV Club

1. Respect the Rules of the Land. Observe posted signs, obtain permits when necessary, follow usage limits, and camp only in designated areas and pre-established campsites, which vary depending on agency and state regulations. Bear in mind, some of these lands fall under federal laws, not state laws.

2. Treasure the Terrain. Camp on durable surfaces. Avoid damaging surfaces or modifying terrain by digging, moving large rocks, cutting plants, etc. Stick to predesignated paths without widening them or creating new ones. Remember, there are native plants, organisms, and ecosystems that interplay here and can be easily damaged.

3. Respect Your Neighbors. Avoid overcrowding an area or blocking your neighbors’ view. Orient your RV so that your generator isn’t directed at them and respect quiet hours. Rules vary but are generally between 10pm-8am. Maintain a tidy campsite. Keep noise to a minimum so everyone has a peaceful experience. Drive at a campground speed and be aware of kids, wildlife, pets, and your dust trails.

4. Respect Nature and Wildlife. Keep pets under control and clean up after them, even in the wild. Don’t entice, feed, or approach wildlife. Limit and eliminate use of pesticides. Check for burn bans; be mindful of firewood rules and make sure your fire is fully extinguished. (Remember, exhaust pipes on vehicles and generators can trigger fires.) Consider a propane fire pit that you can carry with you and snub out easily.

5. Pack it In, Pack it Out. Keep your holding tanks closed! Secure freshwater from approved sources and dispose of trash respectfully in public trash receptacles. Lower your impact with bio-degradable products.

Always leave the area cleaner than you found it!

Take only memories, leave only footprints.

As RVers, we should be good stewards of the land to protect this privilege for future generations. Not following these practices can have serious consequences and could be detrimental to all RVers. Public lands can be closed to camping because of overcrowding, damage to the land, and guests overstaying the time limits. Following the best practices will help ensure that we all remain good neighbors to each other and the land. If you feel that someone is unaware of these practices, share these resources with them in a positive way.


Looking for more Expert RV Trip ideas and RV Travel suggestions?

all ten of the RV Lifestyle
All of our Adventure Travel ebooks

We’ve written a library of RV Travel books that lay out guided RV explorations of scenic areas of the US that we’’ve explored and think would make an excellent RV trip for you.

In each location, we provide a suggested route and itinerary (7 stops in each guide, one for each day of a week trip!) as well as links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, local tips, and interesting things to do at each location.

You can hit everything in seven days, do a whirlwind weekend tour, or you can take your time and explore the area over a 2+ week period.

Planning an RV trip can be very time-consuming so that’s why we’ve done the research for you! Just take our guides and use them, we’re sure you’ll have an RV trip for the ages! Instant download. CLICK HERE for information on our RV Travel Guides




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