Boondocking is defined as: Camping without hookups. Also referred to as dry camping. Boondocking means staying in a completely undeveloped area. Often Free.
Why is it that before we started boondocking, we were so afraid of it? And I know we aren’t alone. Well, I can tell you, it’s because of the unknown. Let’s go back over 4 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 our two kids by spending weekends and holidays camping and roasting marshmallows over open campfires for years. Though, living in it would be different. So the research began. And continued.
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 want you to know that it’s ok to be apprehensive and a little scared. But the way to get over that is to try! Free camping is perceived as camping in a location 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.
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. Especially having a larger RV, make sure you read the reviews, check out Google maps and follow the road in, ensure you can get in … and more importantly, OUT!
Have a plan B (and C). This is so important!! We always have 2 places plus a local Walmart scoped out. Just in case! We can always find out some information, but sometimes it’s very limited. So many people are out there boondocking nowadays, and there is a lot of helpful information to read. But always take it for what it’s worth. Remember, this is their opinion. For example – we once read 3 out of 10 reviews on a place where they said it was the worst place they had been, trashy, terrible, and unlevel. They wouldn’t recommend a rig over 15 feet and on and on. We decided to try it and it ended up being very clean, very level, and the best place we had been in a long time.
Always travel during the day. Our rule on drive days is, that we are on the road by 9 (ok, we say 9, but that’s never happened. We are slow early morning movers since we quit our O’dark 30 alarm clock jobs. But we are always on the road for sure by 10 am).
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 don’t feel comfortable or don’t fit (did we mention we are almost 40 feet long?).
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, eat lunch, or do internet research. There is so much to see in those few hours. Don’t pass the beauty right in front of you.
Never ever arrive in the dark. We’d rather arrive and stay in a Walmart Parking lot if an emergency arises than 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.
Check out our 10 Myths about Boondocking – Debunked here
Join social media lists This can be so helpful. Most people are willing to help and give advice on places to boondock. Join a boondocking list or full-time RV travel list. You’ll get some great help most of the time!
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.
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 in. 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.
Don’t utilize only one app or one website. Some popular ones are fantastic, but some of the information isn’t reliable, up-to-date, or 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.
Watch your days of the week! People who work hard want to get away on the weekend. We’ve been there! Maybe you have also. The best time to find a boondocking spot is Monday-Thursday. We recently didn’t think about this and pulled 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. You will be frustrated if you try to get in on Thursday or Friday and expect to find a place to boondock.
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.
In the end – You got this! Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Boondocking is an amazing, safe, and great way to travel around the USA. Did you know in 2018 we traveled and spent a total of $48 on camping fees for the whole year? Want to read how we did it? Click the link below, and we’ll share lots of information with you.
Here are a few other blogs we think you’ll love!
- Free Camping in Utah
- Our Top 7 Free Camping Spots and Boondocking Tips
- Free Camping in Idaho ~ 5 Epic Boondocking Areas!
- How Much Does it Cost To RV Full-Time?
Thank you for coming to our little corner of the internet! We hope you found value and helpful information and we’d love to hear from you! Send us any questions you might have! We’re here to help!
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16 thoughts on “Boondocking – Our Top 10 Tips on Free Camping”
Thank you for this post. We hope to boondock quite a bit, and as a newbie I appreciate the inside information.
Hope you’ve found your way ok! How is your boondocking going?
Great article! Keep them coming – You’re like the Boondocking pioneers!
I would not say pioneers but we are learning a lot and want to share.
First of all thanks to your husband for serving our country.
Thanks for the great information. I agree that there is much discussion about boondocking out there but nobody says exactly where they do their research or where the boondocking sites are exactly.
Would you share the different phone apps and websites you use to do your research? I use Facebook daily to scope out the RVing groups. We will begin boondocking in the next few weeks and I’m still unsure of where to begin.
For all of our places to stay we use the following sites or software.
RV Park Reviews
Some are free, some are paid, and some have subscriptions. There is some cross posting between the apps but then some are not as detailed. There are a lot of places out there. But the biggest thing to remember is until you get there you don’t know what you will find. Plan ahead but have multiple options in the works. And you don’t have to settle on the first or try to force a situation. It has been a great way to experience the local areas. Many locals have been happy to share with us their history and culture.
“We will be continuously updating our list of boondocking areas.” I saw this note……..
HI! I saw your blog and love it, plus follow you on facebook. Do you have a spreadsheet list of great sites, with notes of the areas? I sure would like one if you have one please. I plan to full time within a few years and before then, take many trips. We will be thinning up our belongings soon and selling our beachside 5,100 sq ft home ( 2300 not under ac, but a work area) What a great life style you have!
Dave and Patty
Indialantic, FL 32903
We do not have a list yet. But the list of apps can get you a lot of ideas and talking to the locals definitely helps.
Great tips….we have a GD Momentum, huge tanks, 660W solar. So no excuse to not boondock! But we got in habit of volunteering for a free site a few months, then traveling a few. But that gets soooo expensive. I’m so glad I found your blog…..needed the kick in the a## to start boondocking more!!
AWWWW That’s fantastic! Hope to see you out there sometime! Let us know if you have any questions!