Why so few RV boondockers?

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By Bob Difley

We boondockers find camping outside of campgrounds as normal and comfortable as the rest of our RV lifestyle. When we need to start looking for a campsite for the night, we start looking for side roads leading off into who-knows-where more often than we pull out a campground guide.


We plan our trip routes through national forests, along two-lane roads, over scenic byways, and across BLM land rather than head for popular areas along Interstate highways known to have lots of campgrounds and RV resorts.

In fact, less than 1 in 4 RVers boondock, preferring to stay in organized campgrounds. I’m not sure of the reason, but I would guess that it is for convenience. Why else would RVers prefer to pay their hard-earned money for an organized campground rather than stay at a free or cheap campsite? Or be shoehorned in with other campers when you could have lots of space and privacy instead? And why prefer a campground with the constant din of other campers, running vehicles, screaming kids, barking dogs, and late-night 20-something partiers around a campfire–when you could have peace and quiet and solitude and a view of Mother Nature?

One other reason, I suppose, is that most RVers are sociable types and like meeting other campers and being part of a campout community. And the amenities, like access to a swimming lake with a lifeguard to watch the kids, park campfire programs with entertaining Ranger talks, RV resorts with Wi-Fi, cable TV, heated swimming pools, hot tubs, recreation rooms with programs, games, TV, and potlucks, proximity to cities, restaurants, golf courses, shopping — oh, and electric, sewer and water hookups.

Staying in campgrounds is much more convenient, also, and they are easier to find than boondocking spots. You can locate them in campground guides and online, along main roads and highways, with signs for easy access in and out, have hook-ups so you don’t have to monitor your state of battery charge and your water and waste tanks, and you don’t have to drive down a dirt road and get your rig dusty.

These conveniences and amenities must be more important to most RVers than the physical open space, private campsites with few if any neighbors nearby, scenic settings with long views, star-filled skies not dimmed by campground lights, access to hiking trails and wild areas, the sound of rustling leaves or a babbling brook instead of vehicles, kids and dogs, and little or no cost that boondockers value.

Or is boondocking in the wilds — not including dry-camping at a Walmart — just too much of an unknown, alien to most RVers’ normal way of camping, or does camping out in a natural environment not appeal to them? Not that I would like all RVers to suddenly discover boondocking and I find all my favorite places occupied.

Why do you boondock — or not boondock?

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

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Eric

We attended the Tampa RV Show last week (although we live in California) in part because they were having 2 buildings of vendors, selling stuff. After a while, we noticed that there were very few vendors selling things for the boondocking RVer. At lunch, we sat with a salesman for one of the manufacturers (who was really nice and interesting) and he was saying how folks on the east coast don’t boondock much, due to the lack of available places and how few toy haulers they sell. We spend 2 days driving around and every RV park we saw was full. We are planning on staying in campgrounds when we workcamp (as required) and as a way of meeting others, since we are going to be new and want to make some new friends. But we are also looking forward to do our share of boondocking so we can get away from the crowds and enjoy nature. Hopefully we can boondock with our new friends. It will be just us, no kids and no pets and the idea of reading, hiking and stargazing for hours sounds fun. We both work in offices, sitting at computer screens so desperately want to get outside. Our 5th wheel will be outfitted with solar and I really want to try cooking with a solar oven.

Joel and Betty

I gave up ‘camping’ 45 years ago when my 3 kids grew up.
I can’t handle the hassle of not having things convenient.
We city people are used to being crowded so private campgrounds away from the city is all the outdoors we need. And you are too much concerned with the money….basic camping is old school way before the digital age. Our senior class of RV’rs need the creature comforts after years of hassle and the company of friends.

Bill P

The vast majority of our camping (at the beginning) was at NASCAR tracks with no services so we kind of “grew up” with dry camping as our paradigm. Once I retired we, through sites like this, discovered so many opportunities to boondock along our travels. We use Harvest Host and Casinos a lot if we’re trying to get someplace and only need an overnight stop, but those nights are fewer and farther between the more time we spend traveling. There’s just a ton of stuff to stop and see and (generally) so many places to camp for free or a very small donation.

That said, we’ve seen a ton of people with no idea how they can stay in their RVs sans services. We were dry camping at MacDill AFB last winter. They have 50 or so full hookup sites they rotate people in and out of as part of their “first come, first served” plan and we had neighbors who were rotated out and wondering how to keep their lights on.
Simple things like showing them how to run and connect a generator.

In the end, another example of the diversity in this community, and I think that’s a good thing.

Steve Gable

At my age this is probably my last big adventure. I have always been drawn to the mountains and wide open spaces including . RVing fits the bill. I cannot ride horses in the Cascades or sail a boat all along the British Columbia coast and Alaska or keep up my medical that allows me to fly. My body just can’t keep up. The one thing left is seeing America. I bo’t my 23 foot Winnebego ( used ) and installed a 1000 watt inverter, one extra battery ( it only had one) and one extra propane tank and a 100 watt solar panel. I only stay in full hookup RV parks when I want an extra long shower, and below 15 degree weather. I travel with Molly, my Border Collie mix. I understand it but so many places I have to have Molly on a leash. Molly is a high energy girl so we like the National forests and BLM land where she can be off leash and run like she should. and they are areas that fill my desire for those wide open spaces while affording me a cozy weather ( it is raining now in East central Arizona) tight home where I have internet services, ( e-mail, weather forecasting, movies etc.), there are a few downfalls but we find them all a minor inconvenience.. I usually have to go to town once a week if I am not traveling.
Safe travels

Neal Davis

We live in the country in the hills of east Tennessee (western foothills of the Appalachians). If I want the peace, quiet, solitude, nature, wildlife, etc., that drive boondockers to boondock, then I go onto my back porch, deck, or front porch and watch the deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, or skunks walk past, or listen to song birds, owls, or coyotes in the distance. Alternately, when I “camp” (glamp?), then I want full hookups, or at least electric and sewer, so that I can relax in comfort after a day of visiting friends, family, or sight-seeing. I boondock only out of desperation or to tailgate for football games.

Ed Hibbs

Love boondocking! The scenery, space, peace and quiet and numerous other factors that are so wonderful. We run medical equipment for both of us so I have set up our RV with additional 6-volt batteries, a solar system (panels on the roof), LED lights, and had additional DC plugs installed. Also, purchased converters to convert our medical equipment to DC voltage and we have plenty of power for boondocking. We charge cell phones, computers and other devices as well with this setup. All works great as long as we do not need to run the air-conditioning or microwave but then there’s a generator for those rare occasions.

Recently we spent four days on BLM land in Alabama Hills near Lone Pine CA and it was awesome. Our longest boondocking has been nine-days without firing up a motor or generator (by then fresh water was low and holding tanks full). Properly set up any RV can boondock and in our case, even with medical equipment needs (just don’t get a residential fridge or other high demand electronics).

Kaeleen Buckingham

Because of the need for electricity for medical equipment, we have to stay in a campground. I try to find public that has electricity before private. Public tends to have at least a little more room between campsites.

Shredder

We motorcycle tent camped our way across the USA in 2008 but used only KOA sites because we liked the availability of electricity and water at our site. We’ve since moved up to a pop up motorcycle camper but have used only KOA’s. We plan to purchase a Class B+ van in the next couple of years (we’re older now and want some comforts). We like the idea of “boondocking”, though we have never done it. My main concern is safety. That’s it. I feel safer at an established campground, but I love the call of the wild… not sure how this is all going to pan out but I’m looking forward to the adventure!

Nanci

I love boondocking, particularly when in the Southwest. It is not just the lack of neighbors, it is the sense of freedom, travel and self-reliance which is why we are living in a motorhome in the first place. I love the solitude and my husband loves people to talk to in a campground so we mix it up.

Bob Weinfurt

I was in my mid 50s when we bought our RV, a 30 year old motorhome. Cosmetically, it was in what I thought was pretty decent shape. It needed some mechanical work to make it roadworthy, all of which I did.
Long story short, we didn’t have any real knowledge of the RVing lifestyle or even what boondocking was. Basically, we used it for transportation to where we were going and as a place to sleep. After chatting with other RVers and reading up about RV life, we saw what we were missing out on. Now, getting there with stops along the way to see the sights. Now, we do a lot of boondocking along the way. It’s much more relaxing and of course, cheaper than always staying at a campground. Now we take more time to enjoy the journey as much as the destination
Oh, and the motorhome was a great $400 investment five years ago and is still going strong.

Janet Newman

We boondocked all the time when we had 3 kids and a Bounder Diesel with a generator. Now that we’re retired empty nesters, our Cougar with tons of storage and our king sized bed does not have a generator. We cannot be without AC due to my health. We really miss it.

Pat

We have a gasser 37’ with residential refrigerator, generator and inverter, no solar. My big worry about boondocking is food safety in the fridge. Many state parks have restrictions on what times you can run your generator, and who wants that noise anyhow? Kind of ruins the peace and serenity of remote camping. We did go boondocking once at Joshua Tree for 4 days but I had dry ice in the fridge and did run the generator 2x daily. It was fun but I will wait until I get solar to do more.

Jesse Crouse

We have been in about 3 RV parks in 17 years of our particular brand of insanity-outdoor dog trials. All of our trials are held outside. Rain or shine, hot or cold and even a snow storm and ice event that blacked out an entire county for 3 days. Like our dogs; Jack Russell Terriers; we are a little different than most people. Yes, we like our creature comforts- Tiffin 40′ Phaeton with a Jeep Wrangler toad-But being entirely self contained allows us to drive quite a distance,set up, spend time with our friends for 3 to 4 days and get back home without having to worry about reservations, obnoxious and rude neighbors, and crappy park conditions.

Boondocking is a lifestyle with a different mind set and an independence streak a mile wide. NOT FOR EVERYONE.

Sink Jaxon

IMHO…boondocking is for us who live from the Rocky Mountains and states west. Don’t know about Canada. There are also many, many places where there is a pay station for “sites” with no electric, no dump station and most times only one water source where it’s not allowed to fill an RV. These are the best sites that have the most to offer in the way of wilderness. Staying in an “RV park” …KOA ‘s or the like, is depressing and is akin to ghetto living. Unless it’s a resort in Florida for a hundred bux a night or some such thing. And I can’t imagine a Walmart stay!! I have found that the free camping places (such as open space and BLM land) are abused and trashed out so bad it’s embarrassing to be called a camper. Sadly, it’s getting worse. I have been camping since I was a child and I’m 62.

Paul

Boondock about 1/5th of our time on the road. Even boondocking at Wally World occasionally. 7 years and coast to coast and border to border. Across western half of Canada by backroads and Hwy 1. Mexico day trips in several locations. Daughter and son in law along with friends spend about a month in Mexico every year.

MLR

I agree with JBC, it is about personal safety. In my youth I was a hiker/backpacker so I assumed my husband, young daughter and I would stop our RV in forested pull offs or some of the lesser known rustic, BC Forest Service sites (now called Recreation sites). After a couple of bad boon docking experiences ( a group of Hells Angels rode in to camp nearby, another time a group of young people showed up and started illegal, target practice) we decided that the days of camping just anywhere were done. Now I don’t feel comfortable out there alone but I miss it.
We usually stay in popular BC FSsites or provincial parks, . They don’t have hookups although the big ones have showers and washrooms. in the U.S., occasionally we will stay in a commercial site, but mostly state parks, Forestry sites (if some other people are there) , Army Corps of Engineers or small town campsites. I like trees and privacy.
We like to wander, not stop and stay so we don’t usually need hookups or other facilities. Even ‘though no reservation, wandering is harder now, we never stay in parking lots.
In Winter we reserve ahead for one summer week at a big BC ocean side provincial park. We manage a week in one spot (without hookups) with our grandsons by using a portable solar charger and by driving off for a field trip every couple of days.

Tony King

Basically in my book Boondocking is more like Camping and Full Hook up Parks are more just Parking. That being said I’m a big believer in doing what suits you without a worry what others do.

Jim

There isn’t any BLM land on the east coast that I know of . Camping in the Shenandoah Mts we sort of boon dock but we do use a generator allowed at certain times .

TravelingMan

Based on all the comments thus far, it seems that boondocking is not just for anyone.

One either likes it, never tried it, doesn’t have any opportunities locally, doesn’t have what they think is the proper equipment, or have just had bad previous experiences. Some just think crime is rampent or can’t take the isolation.

For us, it works where opportunities present themselves. One does have to spend time looking but there are several websites that help expedite this process.

If you do boondock, it does take forethought. Will it be hot and require A/C? You cannot use typical solar systems for A/C. It will require a larger generator. There are expenses. Some simply can’t afford that or don’t do it enough to justify the cost. You really have to do it a lot to make it worth while.

Some have issues with water, black and gray tank capacity. They could still boondock. But again, it requires more work for longer stays.

I still appreciate what Boondock Bob has to contribute to this exciting opportunity. I would like to scare others away as some are trying to do here. I don’t want to loose our favorite spots either. But if you ever try it, you may find that you like it.

We still use campgrounds but prefer free over being overcharged for a nights stay. When you are retired, dollars count. Would you rather spend that money paying to camp or use that same money for other entertainment (like a cruise!)?

Thanks BB for your interesting articles! Keep them coming!

mdstudey

We lived off the grid before it became a thing. Then when the work dried up we moved and have been moving since then to where the work is. Now I love being able to get out and live off the grid again even if it is for only a couple of weeks. Now, I have solar, didn’t have that back in the 80’s.