Saturday, September 30, 2023


Is it boondocking, dry-camping or blacktop boondocking?


Here’s a question from a reader of about boondocking. 

Hi, Bob,
I’m confused. I’ve heard the terms boondocking, dry-camping, blacktop boondocking, and others. Do they all mean the same thing or is there a difference?  —Alan F.

Hi, Alan,
You’re not the only one confused. There don’t seem to be any widely accepted definitions separating those terms. Most of the differences are defined by what is most widely used and could vary by region. But I’ll take a shot at clarifying.

Boondocking in Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

Dry-camping is the term used to describe what you are doing, which is camping without hookups. Technically that would mean no water, electrical or sewer connections. But if you had just one hookup, such as a connection to electricity, for example, that would be described as partial hookups.

Boondocking and blacktop boondocking refer to where you are dry-camping. Blacktop boondocking is self-descriptive, dry-camping on a paved surface, like at a Walmart, truck stop or highway rest area. Simply boondocking refers to dry-camping away from all conveniences, out in the boonies, such as on public BLM or Forest Service land with no on-site source of water or electricity and no dump station.

But what do you call camping at a Forest Service campground with a communal water supply and designated paved sites, or an undesignated site at a county fair or RV rally? I would call those just dry-camping. So … should the terms be officially (and by whom?) defined in order to clarify, or is it unimportant? What do the rest of you think?

Read more about boondocking at my blog.
Check out my Kindle eBooks about boondocking at Amazon.

Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) .



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
6 years ago

Always interesting to see how differently these terms are defined and described! After 8+ years of full-timing, here’s how we think of them:

Boondocking is when we stay someplace without hook-ups, and where we shouldn’t and don’t put our slide-out out. So this includes “blacktop boondocking, at say, a Walmart, overnighting in a rest area, etc.

Dry camping is when we’re someplace where we don’t have hook-ups but we can more fully “camp” — put out our slide, put some chairs outside the RV if there’s room, BBQ (if we were BBQers, which we’re not). We dry camp at some RV parks in those designated areas, at state parks or other campgrounds that don’t have hook-ups, but allow full use of the site.

When I think of things this way, it’s a great reminder that parking and overnighting at some places is NOT camping — Walmart or other parking lots, rest areas, etc.

6 years ago
Reply to  Ellen

Ellen: I define Walmart lots as “in transit parking” — to me, boondocking is still enjoyable RVing, while rest stops are just what they say, a pragmatic pause in getting somewhere else.

6 years ago

I think dry/no, partial, and full hookups are the useful designations for what site you’re renting.

I consider using prepared sites on park land just “RVing”… This is what i do 99% of the time. 10% I pay for water for longer stays, or electric to run AC without genny, but i actively AVOID sites with septic hookups. Too many people are too gross crossing hoses/spilling, so I will not take on water near a dumphole, and home-pump out.

“Boondocking” means no prepared site… Park in woods or fields or desert, and dry camp. You might pay for entry to the area, but not a site.

“Camping” is a tent, not RV with AC… Even as an RVer now, if I drive there, watch TV, and sleep in an air conditioned bed, I can’t claim “camping” in an RV with a straight face.

I DO occasionally “boondock camp”, dropping the RV mothership and putting a tent in my canoe to explore for a night/camp “deeper” in up river, but that just confuses terms…lol.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.