Monday, September 26, 2022


Wife uncomfortable in remote boondocking spots – What to do?

Dear RV Shrink:
I don’t mind boondocking. We spend several months a year on the road and camp a majority of the time without hookups. My ex-Marine husband will camp anywhere, but I do not care to camp in remote areas by ourselves. My husband says I am being silly.

Recently we camped in Big Bend with a backcountry permit. We found several sites that we could drive our rig without doing any damage. I admit it was beautiful, with no noise or light pollution, and we love natural settings and hiking. However, I felt we were too isolated at the end of a dead-end road.

Am I being silly? Should I develop an attitude like my husband and throw caution to the wind? I love the places he finds to legally park, but some of them keep me from feeling comfortable. —Apprehensive in American Outback

Dear App:
Caution is good, but safety has no guarantees. Many boondocking sites come with the disadvantage of not offering the margin of camping security that you expect from regular campgrounds. Most are not monitored on a regular basis by authorities and you are basically on your own. All campers have to make their own calls on these situations.

You should do what makes you comfortable, but don’t make yourself paranoid by reading too many newspapers. Rural America is not as dangerous as you might imagine. Many RVers find safety in numbers and hook up with other campers to share boondocking sites.

Quartzsite and BLM lands all over the West find groups circling the wagons together. Some groups form to stake a mining claim for no other reason than camping on it. The sites you mention in Big Bend are just large parking areas off unimproved roads that would accommodate several rigs.

It doesn’t hurt to “drive softly, but carry a big stick.” If you constantly camp alone in primitive areas you should consider some form of protection. I’m not suggesting you mount a .50 caliber on the roof of your rig. Although it might be intimidating, it’s way too heavy and will put a dent in your fuel budget. I recommend something more subtle. If you do not like guns, carry some bear spray.

Twenty years ago this might have been more of a problem. I find as we move more and more into this age of “The Boomers are Coming,” there are becoming fewer boondocking sites that are not already crowded when arriving – you just have to look harder for the uncrowded ones. In my RV Shrink practice I am dealing more frequently with the “Greta Garbo syndrome.” People are constantly occupying my couch and groaning, “I vant to be alone.”*

Find your comfort zone, compromise with your husband and enjoy the places that make you happy. There are thousands of natural campgrounds that offer peace, quiet and a shade more security than some of the boondock sites. Often the more familiar you become with an isolated site, the more comfortable you are occupying it. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

[*Editor’s note: “I never said ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be left alone.’ There is all the difference.” —Greta Garbo]

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3 years ago

From personal experience living in rural WA and ID for many years, I’d advise stopping in at the local county Sheriff’s office to inquire about the public boon-docking areas you’re interested in. It’s typical for the Forest Service and BLM agencies to have cooperative law enforcement agreements with county Sheriffs to patrol their federal lands, so they should have advice about any problem areas. Similar advice from the district Ranger or BLM area manager office? Not so much, in my experience. They’ll likely refer you to the local Sheriff. AND be sure to check if there’s a good cell phone signal in your proposed camping area, and have a list of emergency numbers. You may need to report a wildfire, flash flood, or other incident. Needless to say, have a “Plan B” escape route in mind (for fire & flood.)

Renee from Idaho
3 years ago

Great advice. When we first boondocked, I was nervous and hubby had no problem. Now, that’s all I like to do and loathe RV parks. A good FS CG is ok, as long as it’s not too occupied or the sites aren’t too close. We’ve learned to be cautious and aware out by ourselves and to date we’ve been safe.

Tommy Molnar
3 years ago

“Often the more familiar you become with an isolated site, the more comfortable you are occupying it.” I think this says it all. We’re always on the hunt for new boondocking sites, and the ones we like, we return to. And when we DO return to one of these sites, it feels comfortable – because we’ve been there before.

3 years ago

We’re full timers who boondock more than 95% of the time. In our 14 years on the road, we have never once had a single problem in the boonies. We worry more about our security when we are parked in a RV park. We do carry a big stick.

Frank Niehus
3 years ago
Reply to  Robbie

Your are correct, Just think about it, thugs don’t have good vehicles , money, gas, etc. to go look for someone out and away. If they do they are sitting ducks because they are the only other ones out there. They want a large group to choose from, then they want to have a place to hide, mingle with people or traffic on roads so they can disappear. I also do not feel safe or protected from theft in any campground. I see when people leave their site they have to pick up everything & lock them up and be aware of the surroundings. That to me is not fun or enjoyable at all. I think people who are uncomfortable need to think of this and be able to relax and enjoy, but then again we might have too many people boondocking and we lose our space.
One experience was we couldn’t get in a forest camp ground and they showed us a place to camp for free. We drove down the road with not many places to camp but found one wide spot with an Airstream parked in it. So I went over to ask it they didn’t mind for us to camp that close. They again were very friendly and NO problem at all. Then she said her husband had made some huge serving like a crock pot and invited us over for supper. We brought wine and really enjoyed the evening. You can’t find that in any campground anymore.
Love boondocking , spend 3 months in winter doing it and is the only place that we really feel safe, quiet, peaceful, and most of the time beautiful.

4 years ago

No you are not being silly. Ignorance is not bliss. I feel the same way because we experienced a problem once. You have to be cautious and not wander around after dark. Things have changed a lot in the last year and not for the better. That is sad but it is truth. Being in crowds is also dangerous-case in point New York. I am so glad that we were able to do our camping/travel in the 80’s when things were a little more sane.

Ted Denman
4 years ago

I’m a new RV’r, what is a “COE Park”?

4 years ago
Reply to  Ted Denman

Corps of Engineers

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