By Dave Helgeson
I have touted the many benefits of boondocking for years. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, I have discovered even more reasons to choose boondocking over more conventional campsites like campgrounds and RV parks.
Now before I get into the reasons why I prefer boondocking and why boondocking makes even more sense in a coronavirus world, let’s spend a minute looking at how I define the term boondocking as there are many definitions floating around out there, as this previous entry illustrates.
There is no right or wrong definition of the term “boondocking,” but for the purposes of this and following entries written by myself, boondocking will be defined as “dispersed camping on public lands with no amenities (vault toilet, picnic tables, etc.) for free.*” This definition excludes dry camping in developed campgrounds (forest service, national parks, etc.) and on private property (Walmart, Cracker Barrel, etc.) *Occasionally some type of access permit (state or federal) may be required. Important Note: Government agencies always use the term “dispersed camping.”
Following are some of the reasons my wife and I prefer boondocking:
• We don’t have to deal with the inconvenience of making reservations and adhering to a rigid travel schedule that comes with it.
• A boondocking camp spot is typically closer to the activities and places we want to see, as many of the things we enjoy are located on public land.
• The price is right!
• We can arrive and leave when we want as there are no check-in or check-out times.
• We don’t have to deal with other campers who think the rules don’t apply to them, as you will often find in a campground.
• We can orient our RV however we like in the boondocks to take advantage of the wind, sun or the view, unlike a campground with a predefined space to park in.
• We don’t look out the window at the neighbor’s slide-out, as our RV neighbors in the boondocks (if we have any) are hundreds of yards away.
• We are parked in natural surroundings.
• We don’t have to deal with other RVers roaming or any of their barking dogs.
• There are no street lights or lights from other RVs to disturb the night sky or our sleep.
• We are never awakened early in the morning by a garbage truck emptying the campground dumpster or the street sweeper in the Walmart parking lot.
• If we choose to travel with others, they can camp with us, not five campsites away.
• The views from our campsite aren’t cluttered up with buildings, other RVs, or man-made obstructions.
• While we no longer have a dog, the boondocks are much more dog-friendly than any RV park or campground. (No breed /size restrictions and seldom any leash requirements.)
Since the pandemic, the following benefits and advantages have been added to our list:
• The Constitution pretty much guarantees you and I unfettered access to undeveloped federal “public” land. Therefore, “dispersed camping” was and is permissible on most federal land (USFS – United States Forest Service, BLM – Bureau of Land Management, and others) during pandemic restrictions issued by state governors.
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• Dispersed camping has become the clear and perhaps only choice after pandemic mandates have closed most developed public areas like campgrounds, boat launches, picnic areas, trailheads, etc., where “dry camping” was permissible previously.
• There are no hard “high touch” surfaces like picnic tables, vault toilets, etc., possibly harboring the virus for you to come in contact with.
• There is no “check-in” process that could possibly expose you to the virus (doorknobs, pens, credit card touchpad screens, personnel, other people in line, iron rangers, etc.).
• You are unlikely to have a neighboring RV with occupants (potential virus carriers) anywhere near your camp unless you allow it.
• Other than when you are safely in your RV, you will be outside – where studies suggest virus transmission is rare.
• There is a plethora of activities available in the boondocks that by nature provide social distancing and allow you to get some exercise in beautiful surroundings.
• Many boondocking locations (especially in the West) are far removed from broadcast TV or cell phone coverage, allowing you to quickly forget there is even a pandemic occurring.
• When boondocking, there are no worries that your travels will be interrupted by RV parks or campgrounds being forced to close due to a second wave of the virus.
• Since there are no hookups in the boondocks, you won’t have to worry about the possibility of lingering virus particles left on water spigots and the electrical pedestals from the last user.
• If a second wave does occur, boondocking provides a safe and available means of obtaining overnight campsites while returning home.
Run your RV air conditioner with a small generator
When the temperature heats up and you’re boondocking with only a small portable generator for power, you’re out of luck running an air conditioner. That is, unless you have a SoftStartRV. It’s inexpensive, simple to install, and makes running your A/C possible. Learn more or order at a special discount.
More reasons to like RVing in a coronavirus world:
While most of you reading this are likely already enjoying the RV lifestyle, a few of you may have stumbled onto this site while researching the lifestyle to see if it is right for you in these troubled times. For those that aren’t current RV owners, I suspect you are quickly discovering the many positive features of RVing (boondocking or not) in a coronavirus world, and will choose to make it your preferred method of travel this summer for many of the following reasons:
• Just like we witnessed after 9/11, people may be reluctant to return to the confined space of an airplane after practicing the safety of social distancing for so long and will opt for RV travel instead.
• The thought of traveling abroad to foreign countries will still be a concern for many.
• Traveling by RV allows people to prepare their own meals and consume them in their own space, not in restaurants that they were banned from during the outbreak.
• Sleeping in your own bed every night and using your own bathroom is always preferred over the alternatives, especially after an infectious outbreak when you question every surface you come in contact with.
• You know when the interior of the RV was last sanitized and by whom (you!).
With more people turning to RV travel for the reasons listed above, demand for campsites (which have been exceeding capacity over the past few summers due to soaring RV sales) will be at an all-time high, as this article points out. Even if you can obtain a campsite, do you really want to stay at a crowded RV park or campground where there could be even one asymptomatic person walking around unknowingly spreading the virus?
Is boondocking right for you in a coronavirus world? You won’t know until you give it a try. It is not as hard or scary as you may think.
See other boondocking-related articles here.