What is boondocking? It refers to a camping style that is quite different from staying at an RV park. There will be no hookups, including electricity or water. Basically, all you need is a place to park your rig.
Camping this way is a great way to experience the outdoors. You can save money on campsites, although it requires careful planning and management of your resources.
What does boondocking mean for your trip, and how do you know if it’s right for you? Read on to find out.
What Is Boondocking?
Boondocking, also called dry camping, is the practice of camping without any hookups. That means no electricity, water, and sewer—just you and your RV in the great outdoors. Other than a campfire and portable toilet (which are perfectly legal), there’s nothing between you and the wilderness. The freedom to roam, camp, and travel wherever you want makes RV boondocking so amazing.
Boondock camping may be free or cheap, depending on where you camp. However, some people choose to pay for their campsite because they prefer a more secure location or other amenities, such as showers or laundry facilities.
The vast majority of boondocking RV sites are in public areas like national forests or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. These sites offer an unparalleled opportunity to experience nature up close while still enjoying outdoor camping.
What is boondocking? Let’s find out everything you would want to know about this topic.
What is boondocking meaning?
“Boondocks” is a variation of “bundók,” a Tagalog word. It originally means a remote rural place, but the meaning has been changed to a backward area that’s not up to the taste of urban people.
The word “boondocking” currently refers to dispersed camping, which means camping on public land (not on commercially-run campgrounds).
The challenges of boondocking
Boondocking, also known as dry camping, is a great way to experience the great outdoors without the need for hookups. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some of the most common challenges of boondocking:
- Lack of amenities: Boondocking sites typically do not have access to water, electricity, or sewer hookups. This means that you will need to be self-sufficient and bring your own supplies.
- Limited access: Some boondocking sites can be difficult to reach, especially if you have a large RV or trailer. Narrow roads, rough terrain, and steep inclines can make it difficult to get around.
- Isolation: Boondocking sites are often located in remote areas, which means that you may be far from help in case of an emergency.
- Limited cell reception: Many boondocking sites have poor or no cell phone reception. This can make it difficult to stay in touch with loved ones or call for help in an emergency.
- Weather conditions: Weather in remote areas can be unpredictable. You may need to contend with extreme temperatures, rain, snow, or high winds.
- Wildlife and insects: Boondocking sites can attract wildlife, such as bears, coyotes, or insects like mosquitoes. It is important to take precautions to stay safe.
- Waste disposal: Properly disposing of waste can be a challenge when boondocking. You may need to pack out waste or find a dump station, which may be located far away.
- Limited resources: Supplies such as food, water, and fuel may be limited in remote areas. It is important to plan your supplies carefully.
Why should I go boondocking?
Because it’s awesome! You can go anywhere you please without making reservations months in advance. There’s nothing like the freedom of being able to pull off the road and set up camp in a beautiful location. It opens up many new opportunities for exploring this great country of ours.
Dry camping is an excellent option for those who want to get away from crowded campgrounds but don’t want to stay at home all summer. You can get out there and enjoy nature without having to see another camper unless you want to.
Where to go boondocking?
Figuring out where to go boondocking can be a bit tricky. If you’re looking for sites that are already set up for camping, you might want to check out the BLM website. They have lots of information about free camping in areas they manage.
Just remember: if the BLM says it’s free, it’s FREE! Don’t pay anyone for these spots. Also, be sure to look into any specific rules that might apply to the area you want to visit. Every recreation site is different.
So what if I don’t see an option on the BLM site? No problem. There are lots of other options available outside of established campgrounds. Plenty of websites provide boondocking suggestions along with insightful reviews from real-life users. You can also ask around in the RV community and people you have met on the road about great boondock sites.
Also, there are many places around the country where it’s legal to camp on private property with permission from the owner – just make sure you have permission before setting up camp.
Dry camping vs boondocking
The terms are interchangeable, but with a slight difference. Both terms refer to camping without hookups, but the difference lies in where the campers park their RV.
Dry camping is when a camper parks their RV at a campsite with no hookups or running water, and they have to bring everything they need with them.
Dry camping is when campers park at a designated campsite but do not use the hookups. Boondocking means parking on designated public land or outside developed campsites.
Is boondocking legal?
Of course, boondocking is legal. The state and local governments encourage RVers to dry-camp by providing designated camping areas. It’s beneficial for both parties. Campers don’t have to pay a dime to stay in these places, while more people living on these sites means less pressure on RV parks and well-developed campgrounds.
However, living on public land has a time limitation, ranging from 14 to 30 days. Also, if you camp on private land, you must take permission from the landowner. Some private businesses like Walmart and Home Depot allow parking on their lot for the night. But you have to take authorization from the shop manager beforehand.
Some cities have laws that make it illegal to park on the street overnight. So, learn the state and city rules and ordinances before pulling your rig on the roadside and call it a day.
To stay safe while boondocking, following local laws and regulations is essential. Also, check with land management agencies to know which things you can or can’t do while camping.
How to Boondock in an RV: Some Useful Tips
What is boondocking? I’m sure that you’ve already figured that out and are feeling adventurous about going on your first dry camping trip. But leaving all creature comforts behind and heading out into the wilderness for the ultimate experience requires some preparation. Here are some ways to prepare and start your adventure.
Choose your time and location.
Before starting anything else, you should decide where and when you want to go. Do you want to be by a lake? A stream? In the mountains? The desert? Whatever landscape or climate you choose, make sure that you will be safe there.
It can be a bit tricky because your supply loading and rig selection will depend on the location and time of your trip.
Check the weather forecast.
The last thing you want to do is find yourself without enough warm clothes or water in the middle of winter in Montana because you didn’t check the forecast. It’s also important to know if any storms or bad conditions are coming your way to avoid getting stuck in the middle of one.
When you camp with no amenities available, it’s mandatory to check the weather forecast and be prepared accordingly.
Rent a suitable RV.
Many RV owners choose not to take their vehicles out in bad weather or in locations where they may get stuck or damaged—and that’s understandable.
Rent an RV suitable for where you’re going and what time of year it is. If it’s summertime and you’re counting on an air conditioner, make sure your rig has one. If it’s off-season at your destination, then an economical option might be best for you (but still make sure there’s a heating system).
Prepare your rig.
You want your rig to be ready for whatever happens in natureland. So make sure everything is in working order before you set off: tires pumped up, fully-charged batteries, oil changed, brakes checked… That kind of stuff.
Stock up supplies.
And make no mistake: you’ll need more than just your rig. You’ll also want to bring solar panels for RV to charge your electronics and an RV generator for recharging batteries if the sun isn’t cooperating. Always reserve extra water for drinking, cleaning, and flushing the toilet.
Don’t forget to pack RV batteries for boondocking, plenty of food, matches, a first-aid kit, clothing, and equipment needed for the specific location where you will be staying.
Always pack smart. When boondocking, you’re responsible for your power supply and waste disposal, so pack accordingly. Bring enough propane for cooking and heating and a backup power supply.
Start your journey.
Now that you you know what is boondocking and have taken all the preparations, it’s time to hit the road. You can do one final check to see if the RV is functioning correctly and equipped with all necessary supplies.
Boondocking in an RV: How Does It Feel?
Dry camping in an RV is the stuff dreams are made of.
Boondocking in an RV is fun and provides some great experiences. But it also takes getting used to. It’s a chance to feel the cold dirt beneath your feet and get up close and personal with all that Mother Nature has to offer.
If you’re the kind of person who likes a hot shower after a long day, you might not be ready for it. But boondocking might be for you if you’re an adventurer who is ready for something new.
So what does boondocking in an RV feel like? Well, it feels like freedom. It’s freedom from the stress and expectations of daily life. You’re living off the grid completely self-sufficient—and that’s half the fun! Imagine waking up each day with no obligations except whatever adventure awaits you.
5 Best Places to Boondock in the US
1. Needles District in Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park is a mesmerizing landscape of sculpted rock spires, deep red canyons, and vast horizons. The unique sandstone spires, which give the district its name, jut into the sky like gigantic needles. Interspersed between these dramatic geologic features are expansive grassy plains and narrow, winding canyons. The isolation of this area ensures a tranquil boondocking experience, punctuated by starlit nights and the haunting beauty of the untouched wilderness.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land to the north of the city welcomes boondockers without any fees. Venturing down a side street after visiting Canyonlands National Park can reveal hidden gems.
2. Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area, Bowie, Arizona
Tucked away in southeastern Arizona, the Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area is a stunning blend of desert beauty and geologic wonder. The area gets its intriguing name from the rounded, loaf-like rock formations that pepper the landscape. These rocks are made of sandstone, and they were formed millions of years ago by wind and water erosion.
Amid the arid terrain, these rocks stand as sentinels of the past. Many of them bear ancient petroglyphs, which are rock carvings that were created by Native Americans. These petroglyphs silently narrate tales from centuries gone by, providing a glimpse into the lives of the people who once lived in this region.
Set against a backdrop of vast desert skies and sprawling landscapes, boondockers here can immerse themselves in a blend of history, tranquility, and natural wonder. The area is a popular spot for hiking, camping, and stargazing. Visitors can also explore the nearby town of Bowie, which is home to a number of historical sites and museums.
3. Magnolia Beach Camping, Port Lavaca, Texas
Along the Gulf Coast of Texas lies Magnolia Beach, a hidden gem offering pristine sandy stretches and a tranquil atmosphere. This serene coastal spot is a boondocker’s dream, allowing campers to park right on the beachfront, with the gentle lull of Gulf waves as a nightly serenade.
Days here can be spent beachcombing, casting a line to fish, or simply lounging and watching seabirds dive and play. As evening falls, the sunsets paint the skies in hues of orange, pink, and purple, providing a tranquil end to the day.
4. BLM Land South of Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua Tree National Park is a camper’s dream, and the BLM lands to the south offer a more secluded desert experience.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands to the south of Joshua Tree National Park are a haven for those seeking a more off-the-beaten-path desert adventure. Here, you can camp for free and enjoy stunning desert views without the crowds.
The BLM lands are vast and varied, with landscapes dotted with cacti, rugged rock formations, and the iconic Joshua trees. You can boondock (camp without hookups) in peace and quiet, or explore the many hiking trails and scenic drives.
The town of Indio is just 15 miles away, so you can easily stock up on supplies or grab a bite to eat. And at night, the clear desert skies offer some of the best stargazing in the country.
5. Madden Peak Road Dispersed Camping, Colorado
Nestled near Mancos in southwestern Colorado, the Madden Peak Road area is a boondocker’s paradise. Surrounded by dense coniferous woods and set against the backdrop of majestic peaks, this region offers a cooler retreat, especially favored during the summer and early fall.
Madden Peak Road, ColoradoOpens in a new window
Hiking trails wind through the woods, offering glimpses of local wildlife like deer, elk, and an array of bird species. The area is also home to a number of waterfalls, including the Cascade Falls and the Lost Falls.
Boondockers can also enjoy easy access to Mesa Verde National Park, which is home to the intriguing ancient Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. These dwellings were built by the Pueblo people between 600 and 1300 AD, and they offer a glimpse into their culture and way of life.
What is boondocking? It’s the most accurate form of RVing and camping. It’s a more eco-friendly way of living since you will be using fewer man-made resources. But you will experience a sense of adventure. Boondocking means more exploring and less staying put as campers get to know what it means to live off the grid.