For most RVers, hitting the road is an expression of ultimate freedom. Once your wheels are rolling down the highway, you can drive anywhere your heart desires! That’s probably why boondocking has become such a popular camping option.
Just imagine: You don’t need RV park reservations. You may have few, if any, neighbors. And, best of all, it’s almost always more peaceful and beautiful, and doesn’t cost any money!
Today we’re sharing 11 ways to find the best boondocking spots.
Let’s get to it!
What is Boondocking?
Boondocking is camping off-grid, generally on public lands, which are funded by tax-payer dollars and maintained for your enjoyment.
Most often, boondocking is available in the following areas:
- BLM Land
- National Forests
- Conservation Areas
The typical stay limit is 14 days. And be prepared to be self-contained. In most cases, amenities are not provided.
What You Need to Know Before Boondocking
No hookups or amenities – When you’re boondocking, there are no hookups, no swimming pool, and no camp store for grabbing extra marshmallows. There is no place to plug in your rig for electricity, and no place to get fresh water or dump your waste holding tanks.
It’s usually a remote location away from cities and other conveniences.
No services – There’s no place to get gas, water, or propane when you’re boondocking. It would be best if you arrive with those tanks full, and your black and gray tanks empty.
Remote places – Most boondocking “sites” are in remote locations, most often out West. However, there are times when you can boondock at people’s homes, on farms, or you can sometimes even “stealth camp” on the street if you have the kind of RV that can be stealthy.
The 11 Best Ways to Find Boondocking Spots
Here are 11 of the best ways to find boondocking spots before you arrive. Whether you want free camping on public land, overnight parking, or a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) site, the following apps/websites will be helpful to you:
Websites and Apps
Campendium – Campendium is a website and an app for browsing camping locations. The site offers reviews on everything from campsites to cellphone coverage for all the major carriers. You can get a feel for the area from the many crowdsourced reviews and photos. www.campendium.com
Free Campsites – On Freecampsites.net, you can find sites on the fly or plan out your whole route using this tool. Enter your location, and it will pull up places where others have spent the night, and you’ll find their reviews of the location. There are many parking lots and some dispersed camping areas listed. The site also lists places where you can stay for a nominal fee. www.freecampsites.net
iOverlander – Another crowdsourced resource for finding free camping is iOverlander. In the US alone, there are 19,882 reviews, more skewed toward smaller and off-road-capable rigs. Click on the area you want to explore, and niche down to the specific campgrounds and parking areas. It also lists nearby places where you can get propane, find recycling, pet services, mechanics, and fuel. www.ioverlander.com
Boondockers Welcome – This unique resource gives you access to private property, where owners have space for RVs, and where you’re welcome to stay. As the name implies, you must be prepared to boondock, but many hosts actually offer electric hookups. The hosts are usually RVers themselves, and are familiar with the area and can give you info on the location you’re visiting.
Using Boondockers Welcome does require becoming a member. But the annual fee is reasonable, and our blog post and video about BW includes details on how to save 15% on your initial membership. Also, if you have the space, offering to host fellow RVers on your own property cuts the annual fee in half.
There are currently 2,700 Boondockers Welcome hosts listed world-wide (we camped with a wonderful couple in Australia during our very first BW stay), with more being added all the time. www.boondockerswelcome.com
Harvest Hosts – Harvest Hosts offers a yearly subscription that gives members the option to stay overnight at various farms, breweries, wineries, museums and even golf courses all over the US and Canada. It’s suggested that members patronize hosts, for example by purchasing a bottle of wine or shopping in their market, or by having dinner in their restaurant. To sign up for Harvest Hosts, be sure to use this link to save 15% on your first year’s membership. www.harvesthosts.com
Maps and Public Land Resources
Google Maps Satellite View over Public Lands – We recommend that you use Google Maps’ satellite view to check the location where you’re interested in staying. Sometimes the areas where you’re looking to camp are at the end of a rutted, washed out, steep road. It could be terrible for your Class A RV, or for a tow-behind with very little clearance. Looking at the satellite view can save you time, energy and a headache.
USFS Website – The United Forest Service website offers a wealth of information for those looking to boondock or to take advantage of dispersed camping. Under “maps”, you’ll find topographical and satellite images you can use to scope out your location using the “interactive visitor map.” www.fs.usda.gov/visit/maps
BLM Website – The Bureau of Land Management website is geared for travel out west. Here you can find maps of hikes and other recreational sites and activities. While some of the camping sites are developed, you can’t reserve them, and for some there is a fee. You’ll find all of this information and more at the BLM website. www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/camping
Other Ways to Find Great Boondocking Sites
Word of Mouth – The best way to find a good boondocking site can often be to ask others who have stayed in that area. You can ask over social media, talk to your camping friends, or talk to the locals and ask where a good place to stay is located.
Ask a Ranger – Most of the BLM lands and state or national parks have rangers. They’re willing to give you information about cool places to stay for free or at low cost. They have the inside scoop on how to get there, as well as the condition of the roads.
OvernightRVParking.com – While “boondocking” does generally refer to camping without hookups on wild lands, some people do consider overnight stops in Walmarts, rest areas, or other similar locations to be a form of boondocking as well. At the very least, these sorts of non-hookup locations can be ideal for quick overnight stops during long over-the-road trips (always keep in mind that when staying at overnight parking locations you’re “parking” and not “camping”… so don’t get settled in, and be discreet). While there is a fee to access this great resource, RVgeeks subscribers get 15 months of membership for the cost of 12. Enter “RVgeeks” as the “Name of referring subscriber or blog” at www.overnightrvparking.com.
Use These Methods to Find Your Next Boondocking Spot
When it comes to boondocking, most campers say that it’s the best camping experience they’ve had. There’s a bit of a learning curve to making sure you have enough fresh water for your trip, and the tank capacity for gray and black water. If you haven’t tried it yet, look for experienced boondockers who can take you under their wing and guide you through the process.
Always be safe when scouting for sites. Don’t park or camp in a dry river bed. Look for potential problems before they happen and before you set up camp. If you feel unsafe, feel free to pack up and leave to find a new location.
When boondocking or engaging in any type of camping, the mantra of “leave no trace” is a must. This principle makes camping great for you and the next person who will camp on that site. Pick up trash and debris, and don’t leave anything behind. In other words, leave the place in better condition than it was when you found it!
If everyone does this, we’ll all be able to keep camping at these free locations for years to come!