Last Updated on 08/06/2022 by Glynn Willard
You’ve Heard The Term Boondocking, But What Do You Really Need To Know?
First of all, what is boondocking and how do you boondock?
Boondocking is simply using your rig without hook-ups. In other words, your rig is self contained. It’s also known as dry camping.
So, what’s dispersed camping?
Dispersed camping is generally thought of as using government land such as BLM, National Forest, etc. on which to boondock. In other words, public lands.
Think of those beautiful pictures with an RV sitting out in the middle of nowhere. And it’s still functioning. That’s dispersed camping.
Well, that’s our preferred method of living. And once you have mastered the skill set of finding land to boondock on, you may never look at an RV park again. I can’t (except to dump and fill fresh water as a last resort).
I learned most of what I’m discussing here through trial and error (by doing). When I started, I found boobdockersbible.com. They have a fantastic, no BS site with good information.
Download our free guide to boondocking.
What’s our set up?
If you’re going to boondock, your rig needs to have a way to run the systems as a self contained unit.
At the least, you need batteries and a way to charge your batteries. That can be in the form of solar panels or a generator. I find we need both.
If you want to run your outlets, you need an inverter that converts DC to AC. Or you need a generator.
Most rigs don’t leave the factory well set up to boondock for long periods of time. So, you may have to make an investment. Although, I’m starting to see a trend toward “boondock ready” rigs from higher end manufacturers.
We were fortunate to find a rig that was built just for boondocking. But I would still like to add more batteries and an invertor.
Regardless, it works for now.
Our take on boondocking
Like I mentioned previously, now that I know how to find places to boondock, dumps and water, there’s no turning back. More on that in a moment.
Especially out west.
Why would I pay a lot of money per night to be close to a neighbor when I can have an acre of space with views for free?
I’m okay with the work required to find sites. One way to look at it is the work is all up-front.
Once you build a list of locations, it gets easier to build a circuit of great places to boondock.
Although, there are so many great boondocking locations, there’s no shortage. At times, it feels like this may change. It is getting difficult to find locations in super-popular areas.
But there’s always turnover of campers coming and going. So, many times it’s about timing.
Issues with boondocking
Personally, I have nothing negative to write about boondocking. But, again your rig has to be self contained and capable of generating power.
Yes, you can do the van life and cook outside and carry portable water. That’s awesome, but not appealing for a family of four.
We can microwave meals, flush a toilet, take a shower, store over a weeks worth of food, control our climate, sleep in a comfortable bed, store ten days worth of water and so on.
Get the idea? Although this comes at a cost. I’ll go over what we’ve found to be necessities below.
What do I like about boondocking?
I genuinely feel like I’m in control of my surroundings when boondocking. It feels REALLY free!
And speaking of free, it’s usually free. Yeah, that doesn’t hurt!
We’re not sandwiched in with neighbors. And if we don’t like it, we move. Nothing lost. When there are others nearby, I still feel like we have an acre to ourselves.
I like managing the systems built for boondocking. Such as the solar, batteries, water, etc. Conserving does not feel like skimping to me.
I like meeting other like-minded campers who share the same values. We’ve made some genuine friends dispersed camping.
We like feeling like we can stay for awhile or leave whenever. There’s no schedule. Most National Forest and BLM has a fourteen day limit. We tend to max out in one place for ten days.
Rose likes that so many of the locations are as beautiful as many of the national parks.
We also like having a lessor impact on resources. That goes back to conserving.
How Do You Find Great Boondocking Spots?
Here’s the million dollar question. Especially for a newbie!
There are a lot of apps to choose from. Campendium, ioverlander, Google maps, freeroam.app, etc. This list grows by the week.
- 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 reception. That doesn’t always work in our favor. Starlink is changing this for many boondockers.
- Then I select plan A, B and C options.
- Next, I find the locations on Google maps in satellite mode.
- I make sure the sites look like they can handle a total of 50′ trailer and tow vehicle combo
- Finally, I 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 incase the first option is unsuitable or full.
That’s the basic low down on how I find boondocking sites.
The only other way is by speaking with other boondockers and getting their suggestions and input.
Necessitates for boondocking
There are a few things that you really need to enjoy boondocking in an RV. You don’t need a $20k solar and battery set up to get by. It sure would be nice though!
You do need:
- A decent amount of water storage. We average 10 gallons a day for a family of four.
- A storage vessel for your “personal excrement’s.”
- Enough battery power to run the DC systems in your rig for 1-3 days.
- A way to recharge those batteries in good or bad weather. That’s solar and a generator.
- A way to heat your rig in cold weather. Propane is the typical solution. It also runs the fridge if you avoid a residential fridge.
- Finally, you need a good set of tools to do self repairs when you’re away from civilization.
- Pack out your trash.
- Be friendly to neighbors.
- Minimize your noise (generators, etc.). Our Yamaha generators are very quiet.
- Police the area and remove any trash that’s not yours.
- Stay for more than fourteen days (unless it you’re in an extended stay area.
- Leave trash in the fire ring.
- Annoy your neighbor if they appear to want to be left alone
- Run your generators super early or late.
- Dump your black tank anywhere except for a designated dump station.
- Dump your grey water unless you have it confirmed that it’s allowed.
- I’m sure I’ve left some out. But, simply, don’t be a butt-head.
How Do You Find Water When Boondocking?
Originally, this was the toughest thing to find. Especially in the desert. We used boondockers welcome to fill our tanks.
Then we became more familiar with finding water elsewhere.
Now, I use freeroam.app, iOverlander.com and sanidumps.com to find water. A lot of the more recent reviews mention if water is available.
All else fails, we call RV parks in our area to ask the price to fill water and dump tanks.
Most will allow you to do that for a fee. If it’s inexpensive, we swing by and return to dispersed camping. If it’s expensive and the only convenient option. We book a night.
At least we can take a longer hot shower and, if it’s time, sanitize our fresh tank.
How Do You Find Dump Stations?
Again, freeroam.app and sanidumps.com are great resources.
Many of the states out west make them available for free because of the popularity of RVing.
Also, many of the gas stations in the west offer it for free or for a small fee. If I’m using a gas stations dump, I always purchase diesel from them as a thank you.
It gets easier to find them the longer you’re on the road.
I make it a point to find everything I need on the way or close to our next dispersed location. In other words, I have a plan.
Boondocking Do’s and Don’ts
When you’re boondocking, there are a few understood rules.
Is boondocking dangerous?
I haven’t experienced anything that would make me uncomfortable. The few “sketchy” individuals I cam across, actually had great stories.
I always offer anyone that fits that criteria some water and I make a friend. Water is like gold when you’re dispersed camping.
You can also get a vibe of those who want to be left alone. Respect that situation and all is well.
Worst case scenario, you feel really uncomfortable or get a bad gut feeling, you move to plan B. That simple.
My families thoughts on boondocking
They love it! And that about sums it up!
Have you found boondocking to be better than campgrounds?
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