Boondocking is the ideal way to unplug and enjoy camping without the use of electricity. Camping knowledge should be valuable for some people. It’s less expensive and more convenient, plus it gives you great looks that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
‘What precisely is boondocking?’ we’ve been asked a lot. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or just getting started, there are a lot of terminologies to contend with, from terms like “dry camping” to “dispersed camping.”
How you camp and where you camp are the two most important aspects of boondocking. There is the how of boondocking, which is often described as dry camping and wild camping. You have no water, electricity, or sewer hookups when you boondock, unlike at a regular campground.
You’ll have no restrooms, water fountains, or picnic tables. For a night or two, it’s just you, your camper, and a piece of land to call your own. Boondocking is usually free, though a permit may be required sometimes.
In our guide, you can learn more about boondocking in a van or a camper, and by the end, you’ll see how the boondocking life could be the draw you’re looking for as you get ready to set off in your boondocking RV. (Read Is It Legal To Live In A Camper On Your Property)
What Does Boondocking Mean in Camping?
While there is no formal definition, it is dry camping, such as no electricity, water, or sewer, usually done outside of a developed campground.
While you can camp without hookups in national forest campgrounds or other locations, these are usually easier to access and have an oversight that boondocking lacks.
Boondocking is a simpler form of camping in certain ways. You save the reservation process and fees, but you forego the convenience of a developed campground.
A boondocking campsite is somewhere to park your vehicle and sleep. Parking at a free location overnight can save you time and money if you’re on a tight schedule and only need a place to crash for the night. There are various free and low-cost camping options depending on why and how you want to boondock.
Boondocking is a general camping phrase, but it is more frequent among the RV, van life, and Overlanding communities because they have the necessary supplies and storage.
Whether vehicle camping or boondocking in a Class A RV, anyone can boondock. If you plan on boondocking RV camping frequently, consider purchasing charged external batteries, a composting toilet, a freshwater tank, and solar panels.
Is Boondocking Illegal?
Many ask, is boondocking legal? On public lands, boondocking is not prohibited. Local, state, and federal agencies actually encourage it to relieve overcrowding at developed campgrounds. However, just as they do for developed campgrounds, these agencies have rules for boondocking. (Find the Best Camp Chair)
They’ll also demarcate areas of land where camping is allowed. Many people conflict with park rangers and local law enforcement because they are unaware of these specific rules and limitations. They feel that boondocking is illegal because of this lack of knowledge.
Boondocking locations are known as “distributed camping” or “backcountry camping” by local, state, and federal agencies. These agencies don’t say if boondocking is illegal in their territories. They provide rules and recommendations on how to boondock securely while also respecting the land’s natural resources.
Such agencies encourage you to boondock to ease congestion at their developed campgrounds. When their campgrounds fill up, several of them have designated “overflow campgrounds,” which are areas intended for dispersed camping, and they direct campers there.
Can I park my RV on public land?
Yes, for the most part. Our land is public land and owned by the inhabitants of the United States of America. However, there are rules for boondocking and areas designated by agencies as off-limits to cars and even camping.
It is your obligation to be aware of these rules and their locations. You cannot drive your vehicle off of public roads off the beaten path and stick to keep to well-traveled roads, including dirt roads and truck tracks.
You may drive your vehicle inside clearings for RV boondocking as long as the clearing has a well-established entrance point. You may not construct your own roads, nor are you allowed to clear vegetation, trees, or large boulders to gain access or create boondocking sites for your vehicle. (Read 5 Best Camping and RV Podcast to Listen To)
What Are the Boondocking Rules?
National Grasslands and National Forests: You can find rules laid out for boondocking RV sites on USFS Lands.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM): Here is a federal agency that manages public land and a wealth of info about How to Camp on BLM Land.
National Parks: Here are areas often frequented by a boondock-ready RV and campers. You can learn how to go boondocking in National Parks.
Can you go van boondocking in cities and neighborhoods?
Camping in cities and urban areas is, in most situations, illegal. Most cities prohibit camping, except for RV parks and developed campgrounds. Most cities can have laws prohibiting you from sleeping in your vehicle overnight and prohibit you from parking your vehicle overnight in shopping center parking lots.
Can I go boondocking on my own land?
It’s illegal to boondock on your own land or private land, believe it or not. This is frequently due to building and safety requirements and the prohibition of camping in many cities.
There are construction inspectors and code enforcement officers who will flatly refuse to recognize your RV as a residential structure, citing you for camping inside city limits or sleeping in a vehicle overnight.
What is a Boondocking site?
You can’t just park an RV or camper van anywhere overnight on free campsites as in most national parks, yet there are lots of places where you can legally boondock.
Check for signs expressly prohibiting overnight parking and dry camping before you settle down for the night.
You can boondock RV camping for one night in parking lots of big-box retailers like Walmart and Target, truck stops or rest areas, and visitor centers in urban and suburban areas. You can also try hotels, motels, and apartment complexes, yet ask first if you find you get towed away from the parking lot.
Trailheads are a superb choice in rural areas, and many boondockers prefer service roads in national forests.
You will find boondocking areas in some national forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands as they include scattered camping sites, which are a cleared site to park your RV.
There won’t be any hookups, so you need a generator, solar, and batteries as a power source in such a basic campsite. You also need to find a place to dump waste as there won’t be a waste tank dump spot anywhere near.
You can check the USDA camping requirements for national forests and BLM land to see how and where you can camp with RVs.
You may find boondocking sites and national forests with apps like:
- The Vanlife
- Dyrt, and the US Public Lands app.
Remember, conditions can always change, so double-check when you arrive at your boondock location to make that you may still boondock with RVs securely and legally.
Can I Boondock at National Parks?
Except where otherwise restricted, boondocking is allowed everywhere on federal public lands within a specified distance of any existing road.
The objective is to use utilized campgrounds or areas where your vehicle won’t cause damage. The US Forest Service has issued new route and dispersed camping rules, and each forest can come with different requirements. Be sure to check, and also, you would need to check the weather if you are off the common trails and toward the bottom of a mountain.
Weather can change in a second, and if you are too far from sight, unlike Walmart, you could end up in trouble.
Besides this, you’ll find you can’t camp within 300 feet of a water source such as a river or lake.
Although a few US National Parks allow overnight RV parking and boondocking, camping often restricted to established campgrounds, and it will be first-come, first-served.
Typically, you can access these off-grid sites to camp for 14 consecutive days; however, any further camping days must be 25 kilometers away.
You can find exceptions, and these go in either direction with BLM and USFS-managed lands.
INYO National Forest in California: 42-day stays using the best boondocking RV sites and camping areas
Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming: 3-day stays in Grand Teton National Park; however, there are BLM LTVAs (Long Term Visitor Areas) where you can stay for several months for a small price.
You can also find hosts dotted around the country where they welcome boondockers onto their small campsite. You would need a generator so long as it is quiet, and you may not be able to have a fire nearby.
Whatever way you do it, you can hit the road and find a dispersed camping campground that you can stay at, be it a Walmart parking lot or in the middle of a forest in your self-contained vehicle. Just remember your power source and fresh water, and you are good to go.