Saturday, December 3, 2022


How to find your rig when boondocking on unmarked roads


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

Hi Bob,
I dream of getting my coach ready to boondock on BLM lands. My goal is to try long-term boondocking out West next winter. My question is: When I disconnect my toad and go into town or for a sightseeing trip, I am concerned that I will forget where I parked the coach! With limited signage and uncharted roads, moving every couple of weeks to similar terrain, and thousands of other campers’ rigs to overlook, how are you confident that you can remember landmarks accurately and get back to where you camped? Have you ever “lost” your rig? —Ken Q

Hi Ken,
Yes, I’ve “mislocated” my motorhome when returning from a day of exploring, but it was never permanent. The good old-fashioned way to find your rig – used by hikers also – is to tie a colorful ribbon to a tree limb or build a pile of rocks at every turn to guide you back. You can also take a picture of every turn on your smartphone and title it with “turn right” or “go straight.”

If you are staying at a location that Google Maps has mapped, you can find the exact GPS latitude and longitude coordinates of a point on Google Maps along with the altitude/elevation above sea level, and simply drag the marker in the map to the point you require. Alternatively, enter the location name in the search bar then drag the resulting marker to the precise position.

To view the GPS coordinates of any location, tap and hold your finger on the screen in Google Maps to add a marker at the desired location, swipe up on the information panel and you will be presented with the latitude and longitude of the location, among other information.

You will find it is not as difficult in most instances to find your way since out in boondocking land there are just not that many alternative forks and major branches that could steer you wrong. Just remember to take a photo of the turnoff from the main highway or record the distance from a major landmark. Providing you don’t miss that turn, you should be OK for the rest of the return trip.

In places like Quartzsite with dozens of RVs, add a tall flagpole and a fancy flag to your rig so you can spot it among many. 

Read more about boondocking at my BoondockBob’s Blog.
Check out my Kindle e-books about boondocking at Amazon.

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


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Ken Q
4 years ago

Thanks for the suggestions, Bob and everyone. Hope to see you in the desert.

Jim Guld
4 years ago

Take a picture of your campsite with your location-enabled phone. With Google Photos, you can easily navigate back home or send your location to friends to find you anywhere.

4 years ago

We use a Garmin GPS, and set the home location before leaving the rig.

4 years ago

In Quartzsite and other wide-open places with unmarked trails branching out in all directions it is NOT hard to get lost, especially after dark.
Several times we have been grateful for the doofus next door who has an irritating strobe light running all night every night.
Erecting a tall pole with a unique flag or beacon is one way to help. Also agree with the prior suggestions to make sure you “save” your RV location on your GPS.

Tommy Molnar
4 years ago

We still carry our ancient Magellan Meridian Platinum handheld GPS’s with us everywhere we go. Mostly for Geocaching, but also for marking our campsite. If we head off on our RZR and we’re in new and unfamiliar areas, it’s great to be able to find our way back if landmarks are in short supply.

The really cool thing about these now long gone GPS’s is they use an also long gone software program Magellan used to sell called Mapsend, which is Topo maps for all the lower 48 states. You designate the area you are going to, hook the GPS to a computer (which still runs this software), and download thousands of miles of roads, trails, waterways etc. Now you have to buy this kind of software state by state.

4 years ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Tommy! Another tech hoarder who uses a Meridian! I too still see value in this older standalone tech, and have full road navigation AND topographic AND maritime maps of North America… same unit then navigates to the lake, plots a safe channel through shallows, and the trail hike up the next mountain… maybe not so amazing for folks used to cell networked apps, but it was incredible versatility for its time.

4 years ago

Using a vehicle GPS or a handheld GPS is the most dependable. When boondocking there will be many times when a ‘cell phone’ signal is not available. GPS units get there input from satellites, not cell towers. Stick with a GPS !!

4 years ago
Reply to  Roy

Most GPS apps have offline options, including the ubiquitous Google Maps. Enable and download the area when you have cell coverage and you’re good to go when you don’t.

John T
4 years ago

Make your RVs location your “home” on google maps. Tap the menu bar at top left. Tap “your places”. Tap the 3 dots to the right of “home”. Tap “edit home”. Tap “choose on map”. Tap the bullseye to center the map on your current location. Tap “save”.

Google maps is surprisingly good at knowing all the dirt roads out in the middle of nowhere. Having saved your home location, just tap “your places” in the menu and then tap “home”, and it will get you back there.

You can also set a home location in your vehicle’s GPS.

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