Let’s face it.
Deep inside, we all long for some adventure. Roads that lead to nowhere, sleeping under the stars and waking up to the morning sky – these may sound like fairytales for most of us living in overpopulated and noisy cities.
However, the good news is it might not be that far-fetched after all, even for an urban warrior.
If you have been yearning for a break from this mindless cacophony, RV boondocking might be exactly what you’re looking for.
What is RV Boondocking?
Boondocking is actually more common than you’d think. It is known by a few other names such as off-the-grid, dry camping, wild camping, free camping, and dispersed camping. These are all different names for RVing without any basic amenities of water, electric and sewage. Though the RV community likes to call this boondocking, government agencies usually refer to it as dispersed camping.
As for us, we think the names wild camping and off-the-grid camping best describe the whole experience. Going out of touch with society and connecting to the wilderness is what boondocking is all about. It offers you a chance to explore your own wild side and free spirit.
Boondocking allows you the privilege to park your RV at any spot, near or far from the highway, in places with no direct source to water or electricity, outside of what your RV has on board.
Technically, a boondock is any rough patch of land in the countryside or rural areas, filled with thick, dense brush. However, for many RVers, boondocking can also mean parking in a WalMart parking spot, shopping mall car park or a truck stop in general.
Is Boondocking Safe?
Despite the privileges, you might be wondering about the safety factor. Encountering thieves and crooks along the way can be a concern if you are not used to an RV lifestyle and normally live in a suburban or metropolitan area.
However, to answer your question – is boondocking safe? The answer is yes. But only if you take the right precautions.
Here are a few myths about boondocking and why we think it’s ultimately safe:
- If you’re RV Boondocking, your vehicle is much less appealing to a thief than a permanent settlement. Burglars are more likely to rob your home which houses expensive jewelry and appliances than RVs that rarely contain any valuable items.
- When you are boondocking, you are basically traveling around in your house that has wheels. Hence, in case of any emergencies or unprecedented situations that threaten your safety, you can just drive away and find a better spot.
- Most criminals and crooks are opportunists who prowl in areas where you can find a maximum opportunity with minimal risks. They are most likely target an urban and populous area or a permanent residence than a movable vehicle in the middle of nowhere.
With all of that said, it is still always a smart idea to be prepared in case of any adverse or extreme situation. A few safety measures to keep in mind before planning your boondocking trip are below:
- Carry a flashlight with excellent features. Make sure it is solid, heavy, and can be fitted with extra batteries at all times. If anything suspicious comes your way, you can switch it over to the strobe mode and use it as a weapon.
- Keep a foghorn or air horn with you at all times. Use it only when you are sure of any threat. Otherwise, the blaring noise could falsely alert a police van or distant neighborhoods, creating chaos.
- Most RV locks have the same locks that can be opened with a specific type of key. Hence, it is best advised to change your locks if safety is a concern.
- Do not invite complete strangers to your rig. If you get creepy vibes from anyone in your camping ground, relocate to a different and safer spot.
- Always be aware of your exact location and be sure to capture your campsite coordinates via a GPS receiver. Even better, almost all smartphones allow you to “drop a pin” or share your location. Take advantage of that, and share your location with a friend or family so they are always aware of where you are.
- You should always park where you can get good cell-phone reception. This comes in handy when you need to make an emergency phone call in unpredictable situations.
- Always keep your phone and keys next to your sleeping area, within your reach.
Is Boondocking Legal?
Yes, boondocking is legal. In fact, you would be surprised to know that boondocking is even encouraged if you occupy certain designated dispersed camping sites.
For RV boondocking, you can choose free public land to pull over and park your RV. For instance, there are a lot of free public lands and camping sites under the National Forest, Bureau of Land Management you can choose from.
If you are planning on boondocking in urban areas, you have the options of parking at Walmart, Cabellas, truck stops, rest stops, and even casino parking.
Worried About Sanitation? No Problem.
If you don’t have a problem with doing your business in the woods or under the wide, blue skies, you are sorted with boondocking! However, if you are a sanitation freak, it is best to carry your own toilet along with you in the RV.
There are several options such as folding toilets and portable bidet which covers your bathroom needs effortlessly, especially if you don’t have a toilet onboard. A few other elaborate options include disaster toilets and bucket toilets. Make sure you buy enough waste disposal bags in advance for waste collection, as well as to avoid any odors and spillage.
If you don’t plan to use the onboard water tanks, you have a few options. For cooking and cleaning purposes, you can carry a water jug and small, disposable plastic plates. If you require hot water, you can heat it in a pan or teapot at the campfire or RV stove. You can also make other sanitary essentials available such as portable sinks, which are often equipped with manual pumps and in-built water reservoirs.
Main Concerns with Boondocking and Ways to Combat Them
Tips on Water Conservation:
Water is one of the most limited resources available to all boondockers. Hence, you must go the extra mile in preserving it.
Here are a few tips you can try out for water conservation while RV boondocking:
- Use minimal water for cooking and cleaning: Try to prepare ‘one-pot’ meals and use disposable plastic or paper plates for eating. This way you can avoid the whole process of dishwashing which consumes buckets of water in general. Use anti-bacterial wipes for cleaning the kitchen after cooking. Or else, spray a paper cloth with cleaner or vinegar solution to clean up kitchen counters and utensils.
- Use bucket water for dishwashing: If you are eating from glass plates and dishes, make sure to wash them all together in a bucket full of water. Dump your pots and pans in the same water and clean them thoroughly, instead of changing water each time for a separate set of utensils.
- Limit your showers: If it sounds feasible, it would be great if you could go a day or two without showering. Baby-wipes come in handy for cleaning your hands and the rest of your body parts when you have to skip the shower. However, if you do plan on taking showers, make sure it’s not more than one time a day. Installing a shower-head with an on/off control valve is a clever strategy to preserve those gallons of water that would otherwise go to waste in between bathing and rinsing. This method is commonly known as the ‘navy shower’ among the RV communities.
- Avoid flushing unless compulsory: There is no need to waste gallons of water frivolously in flushing the toilet unless it is absolutely necessary. A few water-saving alternatives are:
– Install a gray water recycling system
– Install a composting toilet
– Make use of toilets in the vicinity or neighborhood areas
– Use a waste odor neutralizer
– Avoid flushing urine
– Finish your business out in the wild
Ways to Limit Trash Disposal
- Consume what you purchase: All the food and snacks that you buy for your RV adventure must be consumed at the right time. Otherwise, they will inevitably take up space, rot and produce waste that will be a hassle to dispose of. Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables as much as possible that come with minimal packaging and can be eaten quickly without leaving any chances of expiration and waste.
- Buy in bulk: Buy all your groceries and other daily items in bulk and store them in proper air-tight containers. This way, you will not need separate containers for each small perishable item and fill up your RV with useless boxes, packets, and containers for different goods.
- Use disposable materials: As much as possible, try to use disposable items. Whether they are disposable paper plates, cups or disposable waste bags, they are a great help in waste reduction.
- Use a compost bin: Get hold of a nice, high-quality and sturdy compost bin that can be used to dispose of all of your fruit and vegetable peelings and leftovers without generating any waste. Moreover, they are a great way of keeping any stinking smell or odor at bay from rotten food and groceries.
- Use campfire whenever necessary: Apart from compost bins, campfires also prove to be handy when it comes to tackling household waste. Excess cardboard, paper, fruits and vegetable scraps can be thrown into the fire, leaving you with a waste-free experience.
No Electrical Hook-ups? Go Solar.
Power while boondocking is a rare commodity, much like water. However, the power needed for boondocking is limited to two options – electric generator and solar power. You may have a mobile office set up in your RV, in which case you may need to have different gadgets at your disposal. This is where solar power makes a huge difference.
If you have a good solar power set up, then all of your power needs are covered. A full-blown solar power installation may be a little heavy on your pockets, but there are some systems that are not as expensive as you might think. Amazon actually has some awesome options. Our recommendations are below – they each have reviews of at least 4.5 stars out of 5!
Without any complicated electrical wiring, going solar lets you enjoy your off-grid life to the fullest.
So, How Do You Find Boondocking Spots?
So, at this point you’re absolutely sold on boondocking, right? Well, the next question you probably have is where. Luckily, many of the dispersed camping sites are FREE!
- Public Land: Most of the boondocking sites that are found in nature and wilderness are public lands. These are lands owned and managed by different government agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Services, and National Parks. There are a bunch of apps and government websites available online that can help you locate that perfect boondocking spot. Most of these sites come free of cost and encourage RVers to park in. For more details and info about these campsites, you can visit the US Forest Service official website or even lookup on Google Maps.
- Casino Parking Lots: Most casinos are stacked up beside the highways. This makes them easily accessible for RVs. These parking lots are enormous and have a lot of free space for boondocking. However, it is always best to ask for permission before pulling up for stay.
- Walmart Parking Lots: Walmart parking can be a great option for an overnight boondocking. It is not only free of cost but also allows you to load up on your groceries and supplies before you hit the road again. That said, just like casino parking, you need to be aware of the RV marking policies of the Walmart and ask for permission before parking you RV as not all Walmarts allow boondocking.
Why Should You Try Boondocking?
- You can seclude yourself from the hustle and bustle of the city, and settle in the peace and tranquility of nature
- You can explore into the wilderness and enjoy some fun-filled adventures and experiences of a lifetime
- Every morning, you can wake up to a different view of stunning landscapes and spectacular sceneries.
- You can enjoy the bliss of solitude or companionship if you are with a loved one
- Lastly, apart from the basic household expenses, boondocking in an RV under the stars that can be dirt cheap if you do it the right way
These are reason enough why you should want to get your boots together and start planning your boondocking escapade! Follow the above tips and procedures and get prepared to set off into the wild unknown, up close and personal with nature.