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Monday, February 1, 2010

Progressive steps to comfortable boondocking

Most RVers have heard of boondocking and know what it is about, but surveys indicate that a small percentage of RVers actually do boondock for time periods more than an occasional night or two in a Walmart parking lot or a state park campground.

But first, consider the term "boondocking." The difference between boondocking and dry-camping, is where you do it. You are dry-camping in a Wal-mart parking lot, at a state park campground, or any other location or event where there are no hook-ups. You are boondocking when you are dry-camping out in the boonies, away from civilization, services, trash cans, a water supply, walk-to resaturants, and probably cell phone service.

So logically to practice boondocking--to get your feet wet--try dry-camping first in a location where if you have questions or problems, help is close by. As you gain confidence, move further and further away from services and help, into more remote, pristine, solitary, and wonderfully isolated private campsites (called dispersed camping by the BLM and Forest Service) you can give your own name to, with no neighbors except for the nighttime coyote serenade and a sky full of the undiminished Milky Way stars.

These are some logical and progressive steps, from just feeling comfortable overnight without hook-ups, to boondocking in the wilds:
  • Wal-mart, Crackle Barrel, K-Mart, parking lots. 
  • Primitive campgrounds with designated campsites, dump and water fill stations, like the Forest Service, BLM, State Parks, and some National Parks and Monuments where there are no hookups.
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA), designated camping areas with hosts, dump station, water fill, and trash containers, but with no designated campsites, where you can stay up close to the entrance and help, or retreat further back where it is less crowded.
  • Designated dispersed camping areas that are designated camping areas but have no services or host and you have to leave the area for dumping, filling water tank, or getting help. Find locations at BLM and Forest Service offices.
  • Open land camping. The BLM and Forest Service permit camping (boondocking) any where unless expressly prohibited by signs or fenced off. You can follow any dirt road or old logging road and camp anywhere where you can get off the road so as not to impede any traffic--even if there isn't any. This is where you find those secret places you can call your own and is the most extreme--and arguably the most satisfying--form of boondocking.
Once you get comfortable spending a few days in the wilds, the next set of skills to develop is making the most efficient usage of your resources, electricity, fresh water, and waste.

Check out Bob Difley's Boondocking and Snowbird Guide eBooks at


  1. Good advice, but your readers should also be aware that there are a few rules that must be observed when doing this. I wrote about these extensively in this blog post.


  2. Sean's "dispersed camping" information is an essential read, IMO. (And, I strongly second the comment from an answering poster on the recommendation of Benchmark "Road and Recreation" atlases!)

  3. Also, when on Indian land, be sure that camping by the public is allowed, or that you have specific permission. Many tribes now days regard their land as a "Sovereign Nation", rather than land open to the general public. You could be fined by the Indian Police for trespassing, or encounter some other kind of unpleasantness.