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Tips to keep you out of trouble when boondocking on public lands

By Bob Difley
Most boondockers know about the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) near popular snowbird locations in Southern California and Arizona. But boondocking is also permitted on most BLM land, even if it is not a designated camping or dispersed camping area.

The rule as it now exists allows you to camp/boondock anywhere on BLM land unless expressly prohibited by signs or fences.

But that doesn’t mean you can just go tearing off across the desert mowing down cacti and smashing wildlife burrows – not that too many RVers would do that in their expensive rigs. To keep the rangers off your back, and to set a good example for RVers and RVing in general, follow these common sense tips – not only to avoid trouble with authorities but also to keep yourself out of trouble.

Common sense tips to keep boondockers out of trouble

  • Drive only on established roads.
  • If a road looks like it is not maintained or well used, best to avoid it rather than to get stuck a mile or so in.
  • If in doubt, walk or bicycle or drive your tow or toad in to check the condition of the road and see if there are any suitable campsites.
  • Camp only in campsites that have been used before.
  • Before turning in to a campsite, walk it and check for a solid surface, like desert pavement or hard-packed dirt.
  • Be very wary of driving through dry washes where the sand could be very soft and deep. You don’t want to get stuck.
  • Try to find campsites as far off the access road as possible to avoid dust from others driving by. Close your windows on the road-side of the campsite to avoid dust blowing in.
  • Don’t crowd other boondockers even if the campsite is large enough for both of you. Most boondockers don’t want to be that close to others – unless you’re invited. There are plenty of other campsites.
  • Walk the campsite and pick up any trash, cigarette butts, etc., when you arrive and before you leave – even if you aren’t responsible for the trash. Always leave the campsite cleaner than you found it.
  • Do not dump your waste tanks on the ground.
  • Don’t burn unburnable items in your campfire, like soda cans, plastic, etc. Anything unburned should be carried out with the rest of your trash and disposed of properly.
  • Camping on BLM open desert land is free, but you may only stay a maximum of 14 days, then you have to move at least 25 miles away and you cannot return to that same area for another 14 days. If a ranger finds you have overstayed your time limit, you could get a ticket.

Related:

More on the gray (legal) area of dumping the gray tank

You can find Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle.

##RVDT1750

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Drew
6 months ago

Boy, seems too good to be true- free? I had always read that you had to go by the field BLM office or pay a ranger before going to your site.

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  Drew

I’d be curious where you read that, Drew. Even in boondock paradise (Quartzsite, AZ), I have only seen a ranger once, and he never came anywhere near us. He just drove up a nearby road and disappeared. I think it’s different in LTVA’s where you pay for a season. Money is involved so rangers show up. And a BLM office may be a hundred (or more) miles from where you want to camp.

The Lazy Q
6 months ago
Reply to  Drew

Must have read that on Facebook. In this instance, too good to be true is in fact true. Remember, there are a variety of BLM camping areas. Invariably if it is not a maintained campground it is free. Just look for dispersed camping.

Jesse Crouse
6 months ago

Well, so as to not muddy the rather gray area of gray water disposal- Don’t dump it. Move to a dump station and do it properly. Why? As many manufacturers of RV’s as there are they do not all follow a single standard as to what is gray or black or if they co-mingle the 2 types. If there was an absolute standard to follow they would complain about the cost to follow it. It’s all about the money.

Frank Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Jesse Crouse

Spelling of common is common NOT commen. Please turn on your spell checker!

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
6 months ago
Reply to  Frank Mac

I don’t even see what you’re referring to, Frank, or I would go in and correct it so people like you wouldn’t be so critical about a minor typo. Have a good night. 🙂 –Diane

Helen
6 months ago
Reply to  RV Staff

I don’t see the word “common” either……?

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
6 months ago
Reply to  Helen

Thanks, Helen. I read it several times, and even the nearby comments, but never found it. I do need new glasses, but that made me think I needed them even more than I thought! Have a great day, and stay healthy. 🙂 –Diane

Carson Axtell
6 months ago
Reply to  RV Staff

FYI: The misspelling is in the header of the final tips section: “Commen sense tips to keep boondockers out of trouble” (I found it immediately by using the “control f” search function for text searches…)
And Frank probably shouldn’t criticize others if doesn’t know how to insert his criticism in the correct place.

Last edited 6 months ago by Carson Axtell
Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
6 months ago
Reply to  Carson Axtell

Thanks, Carson! Duh! Totally missed that. 😯 I should have done the Ctrl F, especially since I use that several times every day. Just thought it was something in the comments that I was missing so didn’t search any further. Have a great day! 🙂 –Diane

Carson Axtell
6 months ago
Reply to  RV Staff

No prob! And thanks for providing such a great resource! My week seems incomplete without reading each issue.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
6 months ago
Reply to  Carson Axtell

Thanks, Carson. Appreciate you having my back. I/we also appreciate your very knowledgeable and well-stated input about various topics. Take care, and stay healthy. 🙂 –Diane

Grant
6 months ago
Reply to  Frank Mac

What would we do without {bleeped} people critiquing spelling errors? I don’t know I could possibly figure out what was meant without your correction.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
6 months ago
Reply to  Grant

It’s OK, Grant. I appreciate it when our astute readers let me know about typos I’ve missed. I do correct hundreds of them every week when proofreading every single item (including words, letters, punctuation marks, even spaces) in everything we publish, and I hate it when I miss any. It’s fine. (But I see our filter bleeped a word you put in. 😆 ) Have a good night. 🙂 –Diane

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