Posted on February 08, 2016
Image by adamos photography, used with permission
Boondocking refers to getting off the highway to stay at free locations in your RV. For some RVers, this practice may involve staying overnight in a remote Walmart parking lot, for others it’s about finding that picturesque public land to pull over and rough it. Boondocking is a lifestyle choice, and though its thrill lies in its spontaneity and the joy of discovering less-known sites, first-timers are better off having a clear idea about where they can stay.
This post tells you about the various options in boondocking sites that you can explore.
The government’s public lands
A lot of the boondocking sites are typically on land managed by the US Forest Service (which oversees 175 national forests and grasslands) or Bureau of Land Management or BLM (which oversees approximately 1/8th of the country’s total land mass). Dispersed camping - or camping on public lands outside of a campground area - is permitted by most ranger districts. And while regulations may vary by district, RVers are typically allowed up to 14 days of dispersed camping. The public grounds may have fire rings, picnic tables or lantern posts.
You can get some information on regulations and boondocking opportunities on the USFS or BLM website. Even better, you can contact the ranger’s office, which will provide you with information on the lands open for camping, detailed maps, the condition of the roads, how long you can stay, and so on.
Typically, RVers like to get a sense of the area on Google Earth and then some more in their tow vehicle, before arriving in their RV. Some may even stay awhile at a campground nearby and explore the area more thoroughly to find that perfect boondocking spot.
This is a coordinates-based database of boondocking sites. The web application combining a mapping program and a GPS is handy when you’re on the move and want to find a place nearby to stay the night. It’s really easy to use: you search from your current position by adding the latitude, longitude and maximum search radius. The public database of GPS coordinates can be accessed for free.
This site introduces you to free or inexpensive RV sites, offering information on boondocking destinations, routes and BLM’s rules related to the use of public lands. It is a useful site for any RVer travelling through North America, Canada and/or Mexico.
There’s still Walmart to stay overnight when you can’t find a decent boondocking site. But the catch is, not all Walmart sites allow overnight RV parking. This usually happens when the building is located on leased land whose landlord does not permit it. You can access a list of ‘no overnight parking at Walmart’ sites here.