Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Boondocking in a coronavirus world. Part 4: What’s holding you back?

By Dave Helgeson
My wife and I are in the age bracket that places us at increased risk for severe illness if we were to contract the coronavirus. Many of you reading this probably are too. Maybe you have read this report at npr.org (See item 13) that conveys camping in an isolated area in the outdoors, away from crowded campgrounds, shared restrooms, communal picnic areas, etc., is a low-risk scenario for contracting / spreading the virus.

This fact alone should send us scurrying for the safety of the boondocks (dispersed camping on public land) where other RVers are few, if any, and there are no hard surfaces to harbor lingering virus – yet campgrounds and RV parks are still packed with RVs and people of all ages.

This begs the question: Why aren’t more RVers fleeing to the boondocks?

One thing I have discovered through the years of talking with other RVers and presenting boondocking seminars is that many of you are interested in boondocking but are held back by the fear of the unknown, such as: Where can I camp? Is it legal to camp there? What are the rules? How can I find these places? Doesn’t my RV require hookups each night? Isn’t my rig too big? Is it safe in the boondocks? Where can I dump my tanks?

Boondocking on Fish & Wildlife land

I have even presented my boondocking seminar at an FMCA convention where ownership and demographics are very similar to the readers of this newsletter. Hundreds attend, wanting to know more. I also learned that many started out “camping” in a truck camper, weekend travel trailer or tent trailer, and now that they have a “big rig” they feel they can’t go back to rustic camping as they once experienced and long to return to those times.

The BLM has over 200 million acres of land open to boondocking

Hundreds of millions of acres of public land are available for dispersed camping. Along with the technology to determine the location, solar technology is improving daily, generators are getting quieter and less expensive, the availability of obtaining the internet remotely is getting better, potable water tanks and holding tanks are becoming larger, devices have become available allowing air conditioners to work easier with less power. And there’s the peace and quiet, the fresh air, availability of outdoor activities and, of course, the most important in this current crisis – social distancing! Yes, even the proverbial lonely campsite by the gurgling stream is still possible for those that seek such a spot, as this half-minute video will demonstrate.

How about you? What’s keeping you from taking advantage of the boondocks during the pandemic? Please share using the comment box located below.

Stay safe, and I look forward to reading your comments.


Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson has been around travel trailers his entire life. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership long before the term “RV” had been coined. He has served in every position of an RV dealership with the exception of bookkeeping. Dave served as President of a local chapter of the RVDA (Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association), was on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college and was a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. He and his wife Cheri operated their own RV dealership for many years and for the past 29 years have managed RV shows. Dave presents seminars at RV shows across the country and was referred to as "The foremost expert on boondocking" by the late Gary Bunzer, "The RV Doctor". Dave and his wife are currently on their fifth travel trailer with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications on his own unit.



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Ann Baker (@guest_88550)
3 years ago

We have FOFUWT, Fear Of Filling Up Waste Tanks (45 gal black and 45 gal grey – really not small at all). That’s the only reason we don’t boondock. Power and fresh water aren’t real issues, even though we don’t have a generator and know we can’t run the a/c on battery. On our last trip, though, we spent 4 nights in a state park and, though the black tank monitor said otherwise, we don’t think we came anywhere near filling either one. It’s just two people and two dogs, so we might be tempted to try for 5 or 6 nights next time. After we dumped, the monitor still said the black tank was 2/3 full – and yes, we know the sensor could be goobered up, and we also have seen recommendations of how to fix that, and we might someday.

Dave Helgeson (@guest_88968)
3 years ago
Reply to  Ann Baker


If your black tank is directly below your toilet, you can just shine a flashlight down the opening to determine the true level of your black tank. I know, not a very pleasant thought but it beats breaking camp to go find a dump station when you didn’t need to.

Pat J (@guest_88442)
3 years ago

In these times, we need to rely on good internet connection. Plus, we work from our RV. That is the only thing holding us back from boondocking. Otherwise, when we do for a night from time to time, we love it!

Dianne Carlton (@guest_88322)
3 years ago

Hi Dave. Always love to see your boondocking sites! I have watched your series of boondocking YouTube videos multiple times. The problem is, the publiclands.org website is nothing like it was when you recorded those videos. There is no longer the Land Status option. The message on the website says “LAND STATUS: We are working diligently to update, modernize, and bring the land status layers into the new map. If you found this a valuable resource in the past and would like to support our efforts in making it available again, please consider purchasing a land status map for your area of interest.” I am hoping you have an alternative to that website/app to determine what lands are BLM/Forests, etc.

Dave Helgeson (@guest_88433)
3 years ago
Reply to  Dianne Carlton


Correct, PublicLands.org changed their website and it is no longer very useful. I have been using FreeRoam and starting to use Outside Analytics as they are adding better land status data.

Dianne Carlton (@guest_88445)
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Helgeson

Thank you Dave! Happy Boondocking!

Dave Helgeson (@guest_88484)
3 years ago
Reply to  Dianne Carlton

You’re welcome!!!

Michael McCRACKEN (@guest_88297)
3 years ago

Boondocking would be appealing if I was still in my youth. I may occasionally do it but not my choice for long term stays. I no longer enjoy having to ration my water and leaving my site to find a dump station every few days. It might be a good ideal with the Covid however staying in an RV Park has not presented a threat. I only visit or talk with others while practicing the distance rule.

M.Q. (@guest_88256)
3 years ago

Why I’m not doing much boondocking right now:

  • adult children in crisis who need mom at home
  • low risk-tolerance (boondocking is more risky than supervised)
  • hot sun, no shade, campervan AC sounds like the apocalypse
  • small blackwater tank, huge desire to avoid public dumpstations
  • almost no BLM land within a 10-hr drive
  • territorial jerks who aggressively follow/shout/flip me the bird when they see my out-of-state plate on the road (good job, boys! your plan is working!)
Karen Barton (@guest_88252)
3 years ago

Hubby and I have been camping all week on Colorado Blm land and keeping our batteries charged with solar. The designated camping spots are huge and private. We found Nirvana until last night. Someone pulled in from out state really close to us and set up camp on a non-designated came area then proceeded to run his Jennie all night long. More than 14 hrs straight. Now he has planted a flag pole and shower stall. All I ask is you educate yourself on the guidelines for BLM land and respect the noise factor for those of us that are escaping the noise of normal life around us. Now to head home early😢

Michael McCRACKEN (@guest_88299)
3 years ago
Reply to  Karen Barton

I would have moved to another spot.

Dean Brown (@guest_88231)
3 years ago

Well folks, “boondocking” at Harvest Hosts is NOT boondocking. In my opinion, the primary element of true boondocking is finding a remote location in the wilderness miles from the nearest sign of any human habitation or convenience. Most people today are so tied to their electronic devices and their insatiable need to keep up with the never ending flow of inaccurate “news” together with the latest Kardashian nonsense that they have lost all semblance of rationality. Not to mention the fact that “camping” is now defined as lolling around in your barcalounger, ac humming in the background, while watching your 100″ flatscreen with the washer and dryer gurgling away as your Big Mack warms up in the microwave. Stop the world I want to get off!

Diane Kenny (@guest_88251)
3 years ago
Reply to  Dean Brown

Dean, many people need to be connected because they are still working.

wanderer (@guest_88193)
3 years ago

Because it’s summer, and in much of the country you need a/c to keep an enclosed tin can like an RV bearable.

My most recent night of boondocking was this month, at 6000 ft elevation, yet at 10:30 p.m. it was still over 90 in the coach, with all windows open and a fan running. Not a good night.

Kaeleen Buckingham (@guest_88189)
3 years ago

I boondocked some as a child and enjoyed it. Our problem is that we need electricity at night for my husbands oxygen concentrator and our 2 CPAPs. The CPAPs will make it on the batteries overnight. However, the concentrator pulls too much power. We are so terribly dry right now (extreme drought in 1/2 the state) that I would be hesitant to run the generator all night for fear of catching what is under us on fire.

Roy Ellithorpe (@guest_88238)
3 years ago

Just a suggestion, when we Boondock, I always use my Inogen one G3 on pulse 4 or 5 at night. I keep it plugged in to keep the battery charged, but it uses only a fraction of the power that my regular concentrator uses. I put a 10′ extension hose on (17′ total) so that I can leave it in the dining area to keep the noise out of the bedroom.

Lynn (@guest_88188)
3 years ago

Finding public boondocking sites in the eastern half of the US, that will accept a RV, is rare. Yes, there are some on private property charging plenty and some that hope to sell you wine. Even if you can find one, it may not be at a desirable location.

Wolfe (@guest_88194)
3 years ago
Reply to  Lynn

I was going to say very similar… Eastern half the US makes it very hard (in my experience) to find anywhere that doesn’t charge at least something to drop land-anchor. I’m quite able and willing to boondock, but being allowed is difficult.

wally (@guest_88283)
3 years ago
Reply to  Lynn

Right there with Lynn. My wife and I love to boondock, but we are only successful when we get out west. This year with the Covid has kept us from traveling. We hope to be back at it next year, but it is four days of campgrounds until we can get to BLM lands.

KellyR (@guest_88291)
3 years ago
Reply to  Lynn

I guess one has to get “out west” to find boondocking spots. Only once we found ourselves boondocking in Oklahoma. Clearest sky I have ever seen.

Dave Helgeson (@guest_88323)
3 years ago
Reply to  Lynn

Agree finding boondocking spots out west is easier than in the eastern half of the country, but be sure and check with the forest service, state fish and game and Department of Natural Resources as there are opportunities,

John (@guest_88183)
3 years ago

Boondocking really doesnt appeal to us. We know it is popular. We have a favorite RV park in AZ we go to in winter. We are however taking this winter off from traveling due to the spread of Covid in the SW..

Janet Blaes (@guest_88142)
3 years ago

I usually camp in small national Forest Campgrounds. I would very much enjoy camping outside of a campground so next month will be new adventures for me.

Bob p (@guest_88131)
3 years ago

My wife! She doesn’t want to stay anywhere there isn’t a pool and hot tub. When I first started camping in 1978 we never camped in a commercial campground, if there wasn’t a state park or city park campground we didn’t stop. Times change, the family that I started with grew up, my wife of the 70’s passed away, and time changes everything. I wouldn’t trade my lovely wife today for any of the great parks I camped in then, just reminiscing I guess.

Alaska Traveler (@guest_88108)
3 years ago

We usually go home to Alaska in the summer but not this year due to the virus. There we boondock some, stay with friends, an occasional RV park or our residential vacant lot. This summer we chose a tiny RV park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to hunker down in. Come September we’ll head south to a military campground we love. Hopefully we can head west after Thanksgiving. We want to spend several months boondocking in the desert. We do this yearly but usually stay only a month.

Eric Ramey (@guest_88107)
3 years ago

If it is the wife and I we will boondock (ie Harvest Hosts, Local Parks…etc) and entertain ourselves.
Nowadays it seems like we have kids and friends on our adventures which means they need/require the amenities that a full service campground has to offer (bathhouse, pool, kids activities..etc)

Wolfe (@guest_88196)
3 years ago
Reply to  Eric Ramey

I think you need new kids and friends, then! 😀 Seriously, we got into travel-trailer-ing when we wanted to bring dogs and younger kids with us, but I grew up with dogs and kids in a tent and survived — these days, as my kids sit in the trailer plugged into electronics surrounding them on a bunk, I miss MY youth of paddling a tent into the woods. Maybe it’s time to rediscover that FOR them.

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