Wednesday, December 7, 2022


What is boondocking? The readers speak



photo montage: R & T De Maris

Edited by Russ and Tiña De Maris

“To the beatnik
It’s his beard, beard, beard
To the monster
Something weird, weird, weird
To a night owl
It’s a good days sleep
To the Yankee’s
It’s a four game sweep
Happiness is
Different things to different people!”

So ran the 1960’s tune made popular by Ray Conniff*. Yeah, everyone wants to find his or her happiness, and it can be poles apart between two different folks.

It appears the same is true when it comes to boondocking. A couple of weeks ago we asked readers to tell us just what they think boondocking is. Is staying any place that’s free boondocking? Is staying in a Walmart parking lot boondocking? Or is boondocking holing up free on public lands, often in the wide open desert of the American Southwest? Or maybe off the road in a nice spot in a National Forest?

More than 3,500 of you took time to share your thinking on just what boondocking is. And a number of you shared your comments. Before we get to the results of the poll, proper, here’s how some of you reasoned on the answers you gave.

It turned up pretty quickly that there was a line to be drawn between “dry camping” and “boondocking.”  Here’s PeteD’s take on the matter: “There is a distinction between boondocking and dry camping. Most people who think they are boondocking are only dry camping. That’s my opinion anyhow.”

To which Mike Roberts adds, “Boondocking means staying in the boondocks!”

And Pat chimes in with, “I understand ‘boondocking’ to mean being in the boonies. A simple area, no utilities, no fee (unless there is a fee to enter the park, but not a site fee). Dry camping, as I understand, is a term for staying in a parking lot, no chairs, no awnings, no slides, no grills, etc.”

Not everyone is enamored with the idea of what some call boondocking. Here’s what Joel and Betty had to say, with an interesting exception: “Boondocking to us means, no hookups, no security, dirt all around, no cable, nobody to talk to, no dump. Not for us old people. Scary. (Except Quartzsite.)”

Wayne’s definition comes with a request for secrecy: “Shhh! Don’t tell people about boondocking. I do it all the time in our forests and free lands, picking a road away from civilization and really enjoy the quiet away from rowdy campers. I don’t even want to see another camper in the distance. I live where these lands are plentiful enough and feel so fortunate to have them. If others found out about it, it would be trashed for sure.”

Perhaps the most detailed definition and one that received a lot of kudos came from Al and Sharon. They wrote, “[We] have three categories of overnight stays without hookups:

“1. Boondocking: Staying away from designated parking or camping spots, generally out in the boondocks on public land.
“2. Dry Camping: Staying at a designated camping spot, usually at a numbered site without water, electric, or sewer.
“3. Overnight Parking: Staying at a spot where most people would not feel comfortable putting out lawn chairs, BBQ grills, etc. Usually at places like Walmart, roadside rest areas, or parking lots.”

And so we come to the results of our poll, which was: “In which of these circumstances would you be “boondocking?”

Here’s what our readers said:

21%   Staying free on public lands (desert, forest, etc.)
14%   Staying anywhere without hookups where it’s free.
11%    Staying in a free public campground without hookups.
10%   Staying in a free small town park without hookups.
8%    If I pay to stay, it’s not boondocking.
8%    Staying in a parking lot, Walmart for example.
7%    Staying in a highway rest area.
6%    Staying in a small town park, no hookups, where a donation is requested.
5%    Staying in a friend’s driveway without hookups.
5%    Staying along the side of quiet city street.
5%    Paying to stay in a public campground without hookups.

Next week, we’ll let the panel of “boondocking experts” sound off on their thinking of boondocking. Stay tuned!

*”Happiness Is” written by Paul Parnes and Paul Evans

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