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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Follow the mostly unwritten rules of responsible boondockers

If you don't boondock, you might think that when you are truly boondocking--camping out away from any hook-ups or other amenities, not in a campground, and on free public lands--you also don't have any rules to follow.

Not so--though there are those who do not follow the rules and that hurts the rest of us. The rules are loosely defined, aren't hard to follow or unusually restrictive, and generally don't infringe on or detract from the boondocking experience.

  • Pick a campsite away from others. Most boondockers, until otherwise determined, value their solitude and privacy, and prefer not to have neighbors close by.
  • Upon arrival, walk the site with a bag and pick up any man-made trash left behind by previous campers. Just do it and don't fret about it. It won't take you long
  • If you build a campfire, anything that will not burn to ashes, carry it out. 
  • Find ways to hang things other than driving nails into trees. 
  • Keep your campsite neat. Put things away when not in use. Nobody wants to see all your stuff scattered about like a yard sale in progress.
  • Pick up only downed and dead wood for a campfire. Chopping limbs off trees or uprooting bushes to burn is something only clueless teenagers would do.
  • Think safety when building a campfire. Scrape all debris several feet away from your fire and keep your fire small. Build a rock ring or dig a depression to contain the fire. 
  • If you dump the gray water from dishwashing and rinsing, wipe all food bits off everything with a paper towel first. Always use biodegradable soaps. Dump gray water on thirsty plants or bury in a hole away from your campsite. 
  • When you leave, your campsite should appear as if no one had been there, just the way you would like to find your next boondocking site.
  • Remember that the way others--hikers, off-road wanderers, officials--see your site is the way all RVers are seen. Set a good example, that of a responsible, environmentally-aware, and conservation-minded steward of the land. It's good for all of us. And thank you for doing so.


  1. Why have a campfire, anyway? Because you have always had one? Because it is not 'camping' if you don't? I haven't built a fire in years, and don't miss it. In fact, I prefer not to be around them after dark -- too many stars and nocturnal wildlife to look at. We intentionally choose a site away from other campers and humungous bonfires just so we can use the night.

    Dumping gray is acceptable only if it is a lightly used site. If it is a popular boondocking site haul your waste away. It takes a lot longer for nature to recycle it than you think (think weeks to months depending on soil and climate). You may just be leaving your mess for the next boondocker, then the next, ad nauseum, accumulating over time. Burying does not make it go away, it just hides it.