Last Updated on 09/09/2023 by Glynn Willard
There’s nothing like waking up to magnificent views on public lands with lots of space and it didn’t cost you a dime.
Yes, boondocking is amazing! Finding free boondocking sites doesn’t come without work and planning, but it’s worth the effort.
BTW, it’s actually one word, Not boon dock. I wondered the same thing when I first started.
Over time, we’ve developed specific criteria for the best boondocking sites and solid methods for finding free camping locations.
Most of the locations are in national forests and on Bureau of Land Management land.
I hope this helps you rapidly become a pro at finding the perfect boondocking location for you and your family on your next road trip.
Criteria For A Great Boondocking Site
There’s a lot of land out there for boondocking. The sites can be limited, but there’s still enough to be a little picky (in most locations).
These are the things I look for in a great boondocking location for it to be the perfect campsite:
- A good distance from other boondockers.
- Passable roads for our travel trailer and tow vehicle.
- Close enough to a town to obtain supplies.
- A solid cell signal for our phones and hotspot.
- Preferably a dump station and place to fill our fresh water tank on the way to our selected boondocking location.
How To Find Free Boondocking Near Me?
There are several steps to find free RV boondocking sites. Or any free camping sites for that matter.
I begin first with some of the best camping apps. And the number of boondocking apps is growing rapidly.
But my favorite apps (and the best apps) to find free campsites are still Campendium, ioverlander and freeroam.app. This list grows by the week. And I don’t use The Dyrt app.
The newer app, Sēkr seems to be making waves by offering a free version that also brings in the community aspect of boondocking. It offers offline maps with an annual subscription.
It’s not specific to boondocking, but the satellite view on Google Maps app is crucial for a bird’s eye view of boondocking locations.
- To begin, while I have an internet connection, I look forward a few weeks in our area and find options within 200 miles on freeroam.app and iOverlander.com.
- Next, I layer on cell coverage, looking only at sites within cell range. Cell service in that region doesn’t always work in our favor. Starlink is rapidly changing this for many boondockers.
- Then I select plan A, B and C options.
- Next, I find the locations on Google Maps in satellite map layers.
- I make sure the sites look like they can handle a total of 50′ trailer and tow vehicle combo.
- I then add them to a list to decide on when we’re ready to move. I always prepare an option A, B and C close to one another in case the first option is unsuitable or full.
- Finally, since my best boondocking app does not offer offline use, we store the GPS coordinates on our Android devices, so we can rely on the truck’s GPS if we don’t have offline maps.
- On a side note, I also look at Harvest Hosts (Boondockers Welcome) to see if there are any hosts in that area as an option to boondock on private property. We like meeting the hosts, so it’s worth checking.
That’s the basic low down on how I/we find boondocking sites.
You can also use BLM.gov to find free camping locations. It’s not as user friendly as the apps, but can be helpful as a backup.
Look over my article: 8 Best Apps For Boondocking And Free Dispersed Camping to learn more about boondocking apps for Android devices and ios devices.
Another Way To Find Free Boondocking Sites?
Another great way is by speaking with other boondockers and getting their suggestions and input.
Some may be willing to share. But many like to keep their boondocking locations a secret. I don’t blame them.
Many of the best locations have a limited number of spots. So the less locals talk about it, the more likely they will have a spot when camping.
Regardless, if you’re kind and develop a good rapport, you may find them revealing some great “secret” boondocking sites.
It pays to be nice.
What Are The Best Days To Look For Boondocking Sites
Hands down, the best days to look for free boondocking sites are Tuesday through Thursday. This is easy if you’re fulltiming in an RV.
Since we were already on site for the weekends, we can tell you about our experience every time.
Friday, starting around 4PM, rigs would start pulling in until after dark.
And by Saturday morning, most or all boondocking sites were occupied.
We always looked at each other and said “no way, not on a weekend!”
What Are The Best Time To Look For Boondocking Sites
Since we’ve narrowed down the best days, let’s talk about the best times to find boondocking locations.
The best time to find free boondocking sites is between 1PM and 3PM. Why?
- It gives other campers who are leaving time to clear out opening more sites.
- New arrivals tend to show up after work around 5Pm to 7PM.
- We like to have time to set up before preparing dinner.
What If All The Boondocking Sites Are Full?
This has happened to us on many occasions. I learned the hard way to establish a plan A, B and C.
Plan A was always closest, B a little further and so on. About half the time, we had to move on to plan B and found a spot.
Fortunately, I can count on one hand the number of times plan C was full. With no more options, we had to resort to “the next step.”
We looked for larger spots where the occupants were there and outside.
On every occasion, we mentioned our time on the road that day and asked if we could share their site.
On one occasion, they were reluctant but still said yes. Turns out they were leaving in the morning anyway.
Most of the time, people were fine with it and we would spend time getting to know them.
I would even find out their favorite beer and when I drove into town, I would bring back a 6 pack for them.
That always went over well and was appreciated.
So, if you have to share a site, offer something in return.
Of course, if all else fails, you can boondock at truck stops and some parking lots.
Wrapping Up How To Find RV Boondocking Sites
The key to finding free boondocking sites is to have a plan.
Use the apps to find plan A, plan B and plan C for a place to boondock.
The best days and times are Tuesday-Thursday from 1PM-3PM.
Make sure you fine-tune your boondocking etiquette if you are in need of sharing a site. Remember kindness and giving go a long way.
If you’re curious about the best RV for boondocking, you can read our experience with boondocking RV’s.
And don’t forget, sometimes you may have to book yourself into state parks, RV parks or use national parks to dump your tanks and obtain safe potable water.
Is Boondocking Camping?
Yes, if you’re boondocking, you’re camping. Typically it refers to being in an RV vs primitive tent camping.
Boondocking means to utilize your camper without hookups. In other words, it’s self sustained. Read more about it here.
Dry Camping Meaning
This can also be referred to as RV dry camping. Again, no hook ups, i.e., a self sustained RV.
Not all RV’s are well equipped for boondocking (even though they are marketed that way). Learn more in our articles:
Are There Good Boondocking Websites?
You can learn all about boondocking from this website in our Boondocking Section under RV Living.