Boondocking is defined as: Camping without hookups. Also referred to as dry camping. Boondocking means staying in a completely undeveloped area. Often Free.
Due to several requests, we are writing a blog about our experience so far with boondocking. We hope it helps all who is interested.
Why is it that we were so afraid of boondocking in our RV? And I know we aren’t alone. Well, I can tell you, it’s because of the unknown. Lets go back almost 2 years ago. We decided to sell our two homes, quit our jobs and live simply, debt free. But we wanted our new home to be a nice place that was comfortable for us. We decided on a 39 foot Grand Design Solitude. This wasn’t our first RV, or even our 2nd. We raised 2 kids out camping and roasting marshmallows over open campfires for years. Weekends and vacations were spent in campgrounds in our RV. Though, living in it would be different. We’re in our 40’s so we had to be frugal, and live simply and make sure we left with everything paid off. And in order to stay in that budget, we would have to boondock. So fast forward to last year when we started researching this lifestyle. Boondocking was going to have to be our future. Not exclusively, but mostly. We plan to spend only 4 days a month in a paid campground. We have a very small pension from military retirement and without a steady job and steady income, we would have to set the RV up for boondocking and really take advantage of it. So the research began. And continued. And we got all sorts of information on how to set up our RV. But all the people who boondock were either really secretive about where, and didn’t share their good and bad places specifically, or it was just always very basic. Such as – “you can stay at any BLM land areas”. “Great” we would say … “where are those? Rules? Length restrictions?” There are apps to use, but when people stay there, a lot of times they don’t leave any information on conditions, or sizes of RV’s that will fit (or not fit) We needed more specifics. We knew the basic’s about it, but not really where to go, or how it really worked. We wanted pictures. We wanted to know if we got ourselves in there and didn’t like it, we could find an area to turn around.
So we are here to share all our information. The good. The not so good. The secrets from talking to the locals (we love our locals! And we talk to them a lot) We still have so much to learn and experience, but we want to ease your apprehension on boondocking. Free camping is perceived as camping in some place right out of an old horror movie. We have found some of the most amazing places that we’ve both agreed that we would have even paid to stay there it was so incredible.
Tip #1 – Be flexible. Do your research before you go. We sat one day at McDonald’s for 3 hours doing research on their free wi-fi so we could be prepared for the next place.
Tip #2 – Have a plan B (and C). Since there is so little information that we could find on the specific places we needed/wanted to go, we always have 2 places plus a local Walmart scoped out. Just in case! We can always find out some information, but often it’s very limited.
Tip #3 – Always travel during the day. Our rule on drive days is, we are on the road by 9 (ok, we say 9, but that’s never happened. We are slow early morning movers since we quite our O’dark 30 alarm clock jobs. But we are always on the road for sure by 10am). And off the road by 3. We almost exclusively stick to this. That way it gives us time if there is an emergency or we get lost or we arrive and just don’t feel comfortable or don’t fit (did we mention we are almost 40 feet long?).
Tip #4 – Don’t rush! If you’re reading this and you are a full-time RV-er, don’t drive 8-10 hours in one day. If you need to get from CA to FL, don’t give yourself 2 days to do it. We drive about 3-6 hours at the most. And we always find a rest area to stretch, pull the slides out and eat lunch or do some internet research. There is so much to see in those few hours. Don’t pass the beauty right in front of you.
Tip #5- Never ever arrive in the dark. We’d rather arrive and stay in a Walmart Parking lot if an emergency comes up than to try to get into a boondocking area in the dark. Even if we’ve been there before, we wouldn’t recommend arriving in the dark. Weather changes things, as we’ve already seen with the flooding this year.
Tip #6 – Join social media lists on Facebook or RVilliage. Two of our favorite places. We have posted in a boondocking forum something like “hey, we are headed to Western Indiana, anyone have any great information where my 40 foot RV can boondock
overnight?” And people are so forthcoming when asked. If it’s a great experience, they want to share. And, you just might meet a new friend!
Tip #7 – Talk to the locals. Whether it is the guys coming out of the lake after an afternoon of fishing or the local hardware store owner. The locals are valuable resources for everything local. I once was lucky enough to be filling my truck at a fuel station when the local mail carrier pulled up and was able to give me directions on where I could get a propane cylinder refilled for cheap and right around the corner.
Tip #8 – Arriving early allows you to make choices. In Missouri there are a lot of conservation areas to boondock, and we found a very nice one. After unhooking and exploring the area just down the road, we found a better spot near the lake we wanted to be. So we went back and got our RV and moved it. Had we arrived later in the day or in the dark, that wouldn’t have been possible.
Tip #9 – Don’t utilize only one app or one website. There are popular ones that are fantastic, but some of the information isn’t reliable, or up to date, or just isn’t complete. Cross check, recheck and triple check. It’s not as time-consuming as you think. It takes us about 30 minutes to do our “plan A and plan B” and then scope out the closest Walmart for the last resort plan. We use at least 7 different resources. Apps on our phones and websites.
Tip #10 – Watch your days of the week! People who work hard want to get away on the weekend. We’ve been there! Maybe you have too. The best time to find a boondocking spot is Monday-Thursday. We recently didn’t think about this and ended up pulling into our location on a Friday. With everyone else who was just there for the weekend. We were quickly reminded of why this tip is important. Holiday weekends …. get in no later than Wednesday and plan to stay through the whole weekend. If you try to get in on Thursday or Friday and expect to find a place to boondock, you will be frustrated.
We will be continuously updating our list of boondocking areas. We are sure you can find your own, but if you need any help, email us, and we’ll be able to share our information with you.
Live Simply! Give More! Expect Less!