A reason to boondock: The value of personal space

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By Bob Difley

There are two primary motivations why RVers boondock. Possibly a third. One is financial. With campground fees reaching into the lower end of motel prices, staying every night in a private campground can take big chunks out of your budget month after month. While most boondocking is free, except for the lower fees paid at primitive dry-camping campgrounds like the forest service or BLM, even a few nights spent boondocking can seriously reduce your total campground expense.

The second reason for boondocking is personal space. We RVers are a diverse bunch, with many of us preferring the camaraderie of campgrounds, with lots of RVing neighbors, a social club house gathering place, planned activities, swimming pools, and all the other pleasurable amenities of RV resorts. I, too, enjoy this lifestyle from time to time.

Then there are others who prefer a more natural setting, away from the hubbub of campground activity, vehicular traffic, security lights and neighbors, preferring the wide-open spaces and long views of much of the southwestern deserts, or the nesty spaces carved out of pine forests beside a mountain stream.

The third, less important but practical and efficient reason to boondock, or dry-camp, is en route camping — pulling over in a convenient place to spend a night while on the road logging miles. Here you don’t want to take time to research campgrounds in the area, check in, hook up, etc. All you want is a place to sleep for the night and get going again in the morning  — places like Walmart, Cracker Barrel restaurants, rest areas, etc. No cost. Quick in and out. Efficient.

But the RVers that become the most fervent boondockers are the ones that take the time and expend the effort to find real boondocking campsites  — those off the beaten path, on the road less traveled, in the boonies, away from civilization. The locations found, and collected on GPS devices or in campsite logs, become a major — and valuable — part of your RV lifestyle.

When you have perfected your boondocking skills so that you know just how long you can boondock without support services or hook-ups, you know how much extra water and supplies to carry, and you can spot secondary or dirt roads that are likely to have boondocking campsites, then you can relax on the technical parts of boondocking and concentrate on finding the perfect campsite.

And when you find it (them) and settle in, and wake up to the sound of birds chirping, and look out the window to see twinkling stars, lofty mountains, rushing water, towering trees, a herd of elk, a flock of ducks, a covey of quail — not another RV, or hear neighbors’ conversations, arguments, TVs or barking dogs — then you realize the true value, and attraction, of boondocking.

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

##NRV1-18 ##RVDT1288

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Frank Niehus
6 months ago

U hit it on the head, I don’t consider wal mart as boondocking. Yes I’m lucky were out west & have the wide open spaces. Much more secure & have meet some great people out there. One time the spaces were small and ask the couple already parked if we could park next to them. They even invited us to dinner since her husband
made a big pot of soup. Had a great time. Have boondock all our life @ 79 that’s a long time. Can’t even imagine Spending a night 5 ft from someone else’s rig. 3 yrs ago I spent $33. In the 3 month’s we were in AZ. That 33 was because we were at a lance camper rally, but was able to use dump & get water. Let’s keep it a secret so we can have the beautiful scenery & security

Herb Goff
6 months ago

Good article – but for most of us boondocking is just not an option -there is no “BLM” land in the east (east of the Mississippi) and for us working stiffs, taking time off to travel to AZ or thereabouts is just not reasonable. i’m personally getting tired of all the focus on something i can’t do.

what about some articles about eastern camping (IN, KY, TN, etc)

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  Herb Goff

I understand your frustration, Herb. I grew up in Chicago waaaay back. I now live in Nevada. I’m not sure I would BE RV’ing if I still lived back there. But, I did a quick search for Indiana camping (since you mentioned IN) and found all kinds of campgrounds. Not free, but there were some free casino parking mentions (not that casino parking is camping, but good for a quick overnighter on your way to someplace cool). I think most of the articles come from the west because that’s where most of the contributors are. “Most” being the key word there. Don’t give up hope.

Alvin
6 months ago

Bob great article, particularly the final paragraph. For over 50 years the lady and I have been pursuing that camping ideal, and boy oh boy I don’t have to tell anyone it is getting harder all the time as the population grows in direct proportion to a prevailing give a dam me, myself and I attitude.

Robbie
6 months ago

Bob, my wife and I have been full time boondockers for 14 years. We’ve found that our treasure chest is our experience and our collection of boondocking spots.

Your article nailed it! Well said.

Thank you.

Eric
6 months ago

The biggest problem I encounter is knowing where boondocking is allowed (excluding Walmart, Flying J, and the like.) There are really no publications that tell us. They all seem to dance around the subject, e.g., they say “OK to go to BLM land, “but as I drive along how do I know what is BLM land, or other public land where boondocking is OK?

Robbie
6 months ago
Reply to  Eric

Eric, look at Benchmark Maps (Amazon). They show BLM and other public lands highlighted in color. They are only available for western states.

MIke
6 months ago
Reply to  Eric

Eric, you might want to check out Allstays Pro. They give a great representation and outline of the BLM lands as well as showing camping spots.

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

Hi, Eric. Sorry for the delay in responding. Here are three helpful videos from boondocking veteran Dave Helgeson on RVtravel.com’s YouTube channel:
What is RV boondocking and how to do it — https://youtu.be/v_QYa0PYUsk
Where to RV boondock for free on public lands — https://youtu.be/4ST9aJFGnxg
Using Google Earth to pinpoint boondocking locations — https://youtu.be/bCkLWhCxHOA
Or go here: https://www.rvtravel.com/?s=boondocking and search the several hundred articles we have on boondocking.
I’m sure these will help you find some good boondocking locations.
Thanks for asking, and have fun boondocking! 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

Will
6 months ago

I welcome you to boondocking, but please help preserve our beautiful dark sky at night by turning out all of your exterior lights and instead, carry a small flashlight when you move about. There are no boogymen out there, so leaving your porch light on all night only ruins the wilderness experience for others. Thanks!

Alvin
6 months ago
Reply to  Will

#I concern of ours also Will. Why folks feel the need to screw up the night sky with artificial light has always puzzled us.

Ronald
3 years ago

My first boondocking was great,however solar panels seem like a must for this type of camping,as I did not want to fire up my generator.

Will
6 months ago
Reply to  Ronald

Or a higher amperage alternator for the lithium crowd. I have a buddy who runs a 200 amp alternator on his truck (no solar) and he can recharge his lithium bank idling for an hour.

Will B.
6 months ago
Reply to  Will

Would assume you don’t mean a diesel truck! 🙂

Alvin
6 months ago
Reply to  Will B.

Will B. , to the diesel truck owner, if he (or she) had to leave it running for an hour it would make ZERO difference as long as his or her ends were being met.
A comment made not in malice but many years of observation of this inconsideration of others.

Steve S
6 months ago
Reply to  Will

Yes, I boondock 95% of the time from November to April. Mainly BLM, but some military land (with a permit) too. I use Lithium (LiFePO4) batteries and charge them using 200W of solar or idle my engine for 1 hour or less. I do have a built in generator but it’s too noisy and not as efficient as idling my engine.

Boondocking is done for all 3 reasons that the article mentions but, even, overnight stays are not at Commercial businesses … there’s always a more natural setting you can go spend a night; you just have to plan on where to stop for the night.

Tommy Molnar
3 years ago

Amen Bob. Well put.