Last Updated on 11/14/2023 by Glynn Willard

What’s the difference between boondocking and dispersed camping?

Let’s look at it from an RV perspective.

The term boondocking is simply camping in your RV without hookups on land without amenities.

Dispersed camping is boondocking on public lands such as BLM land or National Forests outside of a campground.

That’s as simple an explanation as it gets, so let’s look at some examples.


What Is Boondocking?

Boondocking in Durango, CO
Again, boondocking is simply camping in your RV without hookups on land without amenities.

If there are pit toilets or a water spigot, you’re technically not boondocking because your RV does not need to be self contained.

But, many still consider the above scenario as boondocking.

I’m not here to argue or roll my eyes over the technicalities.

Even when we are in a designated spot and there’s a pit toilet nearby, in my mind we’re still boondocking unless we’re in a developed campground with full hookups.

We supply our own water, electricity and use our own bathroom.

In other words, we’re self sufficient and untethered.

What Is Dispersed Camping?


Dispersed camping in Sedona, AZ

Dispersed camping in Sedona, AZ.

Dispersed camping is utilizing Bureau of Land Management land or National Forest land to camp in either a tent or an RV in free campsites. It’s our favorite type of camping!

We’ve stayed on a lot of BLM land or in National Forests Service land that has a designated campground, but no hookups.

This is for good reason. Allowing campers to just make a spot wherever they please is detrimental to the land.

Where Can You Boondock?

Again, boondocking is simply camping in your RV without hookups on land without amenities.

In fact, you are boondocking if you use truck stops, rest areas or a Walmart parking lot for overnight parking.

In most instances, the listed locations below denote free camping. On occasion, a permit is required.

  • BLM land: We find BLM land to be the easiest. In most cases it’s desert land, easy to find and spacious.

  • National Forests: All of our favorite locations so far are in National Forests. There are fewer spots and less availability, but they’re generally very pretty locations.

  • State Forests: Some states allow primitive, roadside camping in designated spots for free.

I highly recommend obtaining the correct information for each state regardless of the type of land.

A quick Google search listing the state and free dispersed camping locations will send you down that informative rabbit hole.

Stick to state agency websites for the most accurate information.

Where Can You Dispersed Camp?


Dispersed camping in Quartzite, AZ

Dispersed camping can get busy. Quartzite, AZ.

Dispersed camping specifically refers to boondocking on BLM, National Forest and State Forest lands.

This does not mean, drive into the woods, clear a spot and make yourself at home.

All of the public lands have designated spots. Please respect the land and stick to those designated free camping spots.

You’ll find a lot of boondocking locations our West near national parks and state parks. They usually get busy during peak season.

Some of the best wild camping is in remote areas of the National Forest Service and BLM. You’ll need an RV suitable for some fo the rough dirt roads though.

What Is Designated Dispersed Camping?


Free dispersed camping in Idaho.

Designated dispersed camping spot in the Sawtooth Mountains.

Again, I want to clarify that BLM, National Forests and State Forests have designated dispersed camping locations.

You can easily tell which clearings are designed for camping. Sometimes there’s even a fire ring.

It’s not OK to clear and create and new camping spot even if all the designated spots are full.

If that happens, ask to share a spot with someone and respect their wishes.

What’s It Like To Boondock?


Boondocking in Utah

Sunset view outside Vernal, Utah.

We absolutely love boondocking! There’s a real sense of privacy and connection to the land.

It allows us the luxury to come and go as we please without reservations.

The overnight sounds are predominately wildlife rather than a neighbor.

Lastly, a great way to sum it up is that it just feels big and peaceful.

Can You Boondock In An RV?


Dispersed camping in the sawtooth mountains

Boondocking in our RV in Idaho.

Absolutely! That’s typically what people mean when they say “boondock.” You can even boondock in RV parks if you don’t use the hookups.

Your RV does not need thousands of dollars worth of solar and batteries either.

All you need is a fresh water tank and waste storage. Electricity via solar/batteries or a generator is optional.

How much power you need will dictate whether you need a generator, a portable power bank or a lot of solar power.

We have two batteries, two solar panels and two generators and the combination allows us to like as though we’re connected to the grid.

The larger your freshwater tank and waste tanks, the longer you can enjoy your overnight stays boondocking either on private property, big box stores or in the middle of nowhere.

Regardless, the bottom line, you’re closer to the land and living simply.

How To Find Boondocking Locations

Whether you’re asking how to find dispersed camping locations or boondocking location, the process is similar.

Rather than go into detail, I wrote several articles thoroughly explaining how to find free dispersed camping.

You can learn all about finding free boondocking locations in our article How To Find Boondocking Sites.

What About Camping In A Parking Lot Or Driveway?



Moochdocking at our best friends in Maine.

Some consider this boondocking. If you’ve never boondocked before, start in your driveway in order to learn your rig’s systems.

Technically, if you’re camping in a friends driveway, you’re moochdocking. We love doing this!

How awesome is it that you can move your house right next to your best friends and stay awhile!

Camping at a Walmart, Cabela’s, a rest stop or a Cracker Barrel (to name a few) is simply “parking lot camping.”

Some Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome locations on private land offer different ways to enjoy boondocking in your RV.

Generally, you have no amenities, so one could easily say it’s like boondocking, just not as appealing.

We only use such options as a last resort. It’s not for us.

Dispersed Camping Etiquette


Free boondocking on public land.

Enjoy the land, but clean up after yourself when boondocking.

When you’re boondocking, there are a few understood rules.

  1. Pack out your trash. No compromise on this issue!

  3. Be friendly to neighbors.

  5. Minimize your noise (generators, etc.)

  7. Police the area and remove any trash that’s not yours.


  1. Stay for more than fourteen days (unless it you’re in an extended stay area).

  3. Leave trash in the fire ring.

  5. Annoy your neighbor if they appear to want to be left alone

  7. Run your generators super early or late in the day.

  9. Dump your black tank anywhere except for a designated dump station.

  11. Dump your grey water unless you have it confirmed that it’s allowed.

  13. I’m sure I’ve left some out. But, simply, don’t be a butt-head.

Bottom line, leave the land better than you found it!

What’s Our Favorite Aspect Of Boondocking?


Dispersed camping in Sedona, AZ.

Sunrise in Sedona includes beautiful hot air balloons.

I love waking up before the sunrise, tsking a short hike right out my front door and watching the sunrise from some of the most beautiful locations!

Most campgrounds don’t offer such immersive tranquility.

We also like not having to deal with reservations. We arrive and leave when we want. Of course we never overstay the allotted time on public land.

We move every 5-10 days.

After spending so much time dispersed camping, we have a hard time staying in an established campground.

What’s your favorite aspect of boondocking?
We appreciate any help we can get to bring you great content. Donate or buy us a coffee on our Ko-Fi site. You can also follow along and subscribe to our YouTube channel, Reset Your Journey.