Saturday, September 23, 2023


Are boondocking myths limiting you to crowded campgrounds?

There are many boondocking myths held by both new and seasoned RVers. Most so firmly believe them that they fear even trying boondocking for one night. Sadly, this keeps many limited to camping in overcrowded campgrounds, never to experience the freedom boondocking offers.

I quite often hear statements like, “I would boondock, but:

  • I like to shower every day.”
  • I don’t like the desert.”
  • My RV isn’t suited to drive miles down a rough dirt road.”

While their statements are true, they have little to do with boondocking. They are boondocking myths.

In fact, those new to RVing may not even know what the term “boondocking” really means.

While there are many interpretations of what boondocking is, most dyed-in-the-wool boondockers (myself included) consider boondocking as camping outside of a developed campground on public land. Public land agencies refer to it as “dispersed camping.”

Let’s look at 10 commonly held boondocking myths

  • Boondocking means using baby wipes instead of showering. Many RVers associate boondocking with Quartzsite, Arizona, where RVers spend all winter camped in the desert. To conserve water, some RVers resort to using baby wipes to freshen up rather than showering regularly. Yes, conserving water is part of boondocking, but not showering is the choice of the RVer, not a prerequisite of boondocking.
  • Boondocking is parking out in the desert where there are no trees. Again, many RVers associate boondocking with winter snowbirds camped out in the desert where there are no trees. The desert is only one of many places where RVers can boondock. There is plenty of public land located in northern latitudes and at higher elevations where trees are plentiful.
Boondocking myth - there are no trees
Boondocking in the trees
  • Boondocking means no cell or internet service. Yes, if you travel to remote areas, some boondocking sites, campgrounds in the same area too, may not have service. With the advent of Starlink, RVers can now have service wherever they roam. You can also use a SpotX or similar messenger beacon allowing you to communicate via satellites anywhere.
  • Boondocking is camping miles down a rough dirt road in the middle of the boonies. Again, it is the RVer’s choice on where to boondock. There are plenty of boondocking sites just off the edge of the pavement. My wife and I once boondocked on BLM land right next to an outlet mall just feet after leaving the asphalt.
Boondocking Myth - Miles from anywhere
Boondocking next to the Outlet Shops on BLM land
  • Boondocking isn’t safe. Statistically speaking, you are much more likely to be a victim of crime in your own home than when camping in the boondocks. Read more here. Others think they will be attacked by wild animals, which is not supported by facts.
  • Boondocking is parking in the same spot for months on end. Again, this is the RVer’s choice. You can camp in an LTVA (long-term visitor area) for months, or you can use boondocking sites for overnight stops along the way. My wife and I rarely stay more than two or three nights at one site before moving on.
Boondicking Myth - Not long term
An overnight camp just a hundred feet off Hwy 91 in Arizona
  • I can’t boondock because I use a CPAP at night. Here are several tips for operating a CPAP when not hooked to shore power.
  • There is nothing to do in the boondocks. No, you won’t find a heated swimming pool or other RV park amenities in the boondocks. What you will find is that you are not hemmed in by fences or other obstructions found around the perimeter of an RV park. Instead, you will find yourself camped where you can roam for miles without encountering restrictive boundary lines. Recreational opportunities in the boondocks include hiking, biking, off-roading, fishing, mountain climbing, letting your dog run free (where safe and appropriate), exploring forgotten settlements, spelunking and so much more. Crave the social aspect of an RV park, then join one of the many boondocking meetup groups on social media and join with other RVers in the boondocks.
Boondocking Myth - No friends
Boondocking with others
  • Boondocking is only for poor people that can’t afford an RV park. While you will find some that boondock for the monetary savings, you will find many others that do so for the freedom, open space, solitude, convenience and many other reasons. My wife and I often encounter luxury motorhomes camped out in the boondocks.
  • Boondocking means no electricity. Granted, there is no shore power in the boondocks (insert “currant bush” joke here, if you remember that), but there are plenty of options for obtaining electricity. Large battery banks, solar, generators, inverters, vehicle alternator, car generator, and hybrid vehicles with inverters, are just a few possibilities. You can also use items like these in place of their shore-powered equivalents.

By dispelling the above boondocking myths, it is my hope that you might give it a try. It can be a very enjoyable experience. Best of all, you can escape the crowded campgrounds, the reservation hassles, and the expense that comes with them.

Don’t know where to start or find places to boondock? Click here to get an idea.


Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson has been around travel trailers his entire life. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership long before the term “RV” had been coined. He has served in every position of an RV dealership with the exception of bookkeeping. Dave served as President of a local chapter of the RVDA (Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association), was on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college and was a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. He and his wife Cheri operated their own RV dealership for many years and for the past 29 years have managed RV shows. Dave presents seminars at RV shows across the country and was referred to as "The foremost expert on boondocking" by the late Gary Bunzer, "The RV Doctor". Dave and his wife are currently on their fifth travel trailer with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications on his own unit.


  1. The myths addressed here are mostly related to creature comfort. Availability of public lands in the eastern US — particularly SE coastal areas — is negligible compared to western US. Population density is one reason; recent migration of retirees et al. is increasing that population density. The protected areas that do exist in Eastern US are usually much smaller in size. But smaller areas are easier to patrol for those who don’t value our protected lands.

    For those who really want the private, communing with nature experience: get a tent, hike the Appalachian Trail, and leave the motorhome at home!

  2. Haha, funny. I can boon dock for 3 to 5 days on 45 gallons of fresh water and shower each night , me and the wife. Little solar and good batteries. Getting away from people and back in to nature is a BIG reset for me!

  3. We need to stop talking about how safe, how beautiful, quite, no trains running next to RV parks or everybody will be taking up our spaces and we won’t have anyplace to camp. We’ve not stayed in a RV park but a couple of times in the 10-12 years we have been enjoying the winters in the AZ area. When we did we didn’t feel safe, feet away from others, people locking up everything each night, noise, always train tracks next to the park. Must be a unwritten rule that RV parks have train tracks or an interstate with a hill that the trucks need to pull up to make noise.

  4. Boondocking isn’t the safest way to camp .. Not by a long shot. Talk to avid boondockers and you’ll find that most carry weapons for self defense. There’s a reason for that even out here in the wild west.

    • I’m an avid single woman boondoocker and have been doing it for about a decade – I feel perfectly safe WITHOUT a gun, thank you very much!

    • LMAO!! Have you talked to any that have ever used thier weapons? Even just as a threat?? No, you haven’t. Paranoia does not equate to unsafe.

  5. Good points, but I’ll take issue with the idea that you save a lot of money boondocking. That’s ONLY after your have shelled out for generator, solar, and inverters. If you don’t already have those, you’re gonna have very limited ability to boondock, and for most campers east of the Rockies, the investment in alternate power is NOT going to be worth it.

    • I live west of the Rockies where boondocking can be much less expensive than staying at a resort. One example I can site is Death Valley national park. The resort fees range from $400 to $700 per night. The fee for a campsite that prohibits generators is $9 per night (senior rate) and provides a water source and dump station. The difference per week is a minimum of $2800 vs $63. The cost of 2 Battle born lithium batteries ($2000 with 10 year warranty) , two 100 watt solar panels ($300); and solar controller/ battery monitor ($400) can be recovered in one week. We stay there about 10 days a year. To be fair, I installed the solar system myself so the only expense was my time. I’m sorry to hear that camping is so difficult east of the Rockies.

      • You’re talking spa resort not the main RV park in Death Valley. Apple’s to oranges…
        Around $100 a night at the most expensive RV park there.

        • Are you talking about Stovepipe Wells campground in Death Valley NP? It is nothing more than a very large dirt parking lot. Your neighbors are so close on both sides you can’t use your awning. The row behind you is 3-4 feet off your bumper. I paid for 4 nights in mid Feb 2022 but only stayed 1 due to the noise factor; loud parties into the early hours, fights and barking dogs. Will never stay there again. When you are 6 feet from the side of your neighbor (closer with slides) you can’t call it boon-docking. There are better free options outside the park.

          • No, I was talking about Texas Springs near furnace creek. You’re right about a large dirt parking lot but that pretty well describes Death Valley. Everyone seems to have their own definition of boondocking, but I was using the definition of no hookups. Yes, there are free options outside (and inside) the park which would make the payback for alternative power options even better.

        • Yes, I was comparing Furnace Creek Ranch with a dry camp which is an extreme comparison. I was trying to illustrate the potential return on an alternative power investment. Even comparing $50 per night to $9 is a $41 payback per day. 10 days (our normal length stay) @ $41 equals $410 return on investment for one outing. In addition I enjoy not needing to “plug in” even in an full hookup camp.

      • ” The resort fees range from $400 to $700 per night.” What? On what planet does a campsite cost $400 a night?

        I understand you were able to recover your costs. That’s great. I don’t think I have, I don’t boondock enough to make the investment worthwhile. And, for people on a tight budget and an inexpensive camper, coming up with another $4000+ out of pocket is a big, often unsurmountable obstacle. They should know this before getting sucked into the boondocking-is-paradise myth.

        • The planet that charges $400 per night is California’s Death Valley but it is not a campsite but a cabin (about the same as a motel) at Furnace Creek Ranch. I compared that to a campground with no hookups because the only campground with hookups at Furnace Creek is nearly always full when we’re there. I apologize if you thought my reply was snarky as that surely was not my intent.
          Yes, it’s quite an investment up front for lithium batteries, but over their projected lifetime they may be less expensive than lead batteries. Also their performance is far superior to lead batteries both in voltage level (13.2 v lithium vs 12.5 lead acid) and useable power (100% lithium vs 50% lead acid).
          I would never characterize boondocking as paradise, but I do much prefer it to crowded campgrounds or worse RV resorts.

  6. The article seemed to imply that boondocking happens on public lands but I’ll add that it also happens on private property as well, aka Harvest Hosts (HH) and Boondockers Welcome (BW). We’ve stayed at numerous HHs over the years and always enjoyed a safe pleasant experience.

  7. This is an article that if possible should only be sent to people who live in the western half of this great country. I say that as I don’t know of any land in the eastern half that isn’t owned by private, state, county, or city governments. If there is BLM land I don’t know of it. Lol

    • This has been my belief for darned near ever. I did get some feedback from a FB page where the gentleman said I didn’t know what I was talking about. He boondocked all over in areas east of the Mississippi. He didn’t tell me where this abundance of boondock sites were though. Maybe he wisely wanted to keep them secret.

      I know I wouldn’t want to be looking to boondock east of the Rockies, frankly.

      • There are state and national forests that allow dispersed camping, but I don’t know how accessible they are for those not familiar with local areas, and I would not want to try forest camping during any hunting season.

    • Bob, While there is more public land (including BLM) in the west there is National Forest Service land, water management areas, pubic fishing lakes, Tennessee Valley Authority, etc in the east where boondocking is allowed.


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