PROS & CONS: Rubber Tramp Rendezvous | 2020 Update
The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Quartzsite AZ is the largest, free nomadic gathering in the USA. In recent years it’s gained enough popularity for the New York Times to dub it “The Real Burning Man.”
However, when the national press catches onto wonderful (free) events, demise comes creeping ’round the corner. We’ve visited the “RTR” (this is how the community refers to it) since 2016 and have witnessed its massive growth first hand.
Today we’ll be sharing the PROS & CONS of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and also provide you with the event details.
Let’s dive in!
What is the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous?
To be more precise, the RTR is a two week event that traditionally takes place in the Quartzsite AZ desert in January. The schedule is packed full of educational seminars and community building events for frugal nomads. Here’s a few of the “sample schedule events” you’ll find at RTR:
- Solar Cooking Class
- First Aid for Nomads
- Boondocking Seminar
- Stealth Parking Seminar
- Burning Van Campfire
Since its inception, admission to the event has been free. Attendees are instructed to register if they want to camp onsite.
Who’s In Charge of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous?
The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous was created by Bob Wells, an iconic van dweller who’s YouTube channel has over 340k subscribers. The “Home on Wheels Alliance” is the non-profit group that oversees the event.
Onsite, the attendees are primarily “self policed.” If an issue arrises, the BLM Rangers have jurisdiction. This means you may be asked to leave or ticketed if you break the established rules.
Who’s Allowed at Rubber Tramp Rendezvous?
Everyone is welcome to attend RTR.
More specifically, people often ask if RTR welcomes RVers and people who aren’t nomads. The answer, again, is yes.
Van dwellers are the most prevalent demographic at the RTR. However, the RTR attendees share a common mindset rather than travel style. Anyone with a nomadic spirit, especially those who live frugally, will find like minded attendees at the event.
PROS & CONS of Rubber Tramp Rendezvous
Without any further ado, let’s discuss the pros & cons of RTR. These are obviously based on personal preference, but we’ll keep them as objective as possible.
With each passing year, the nuances of the event change. Even since 2016 the RTR has morphed from “indie” into “established.” These pros & cons are in reference to the 2020 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and what you can expect.
#1 PRO: Bob Wells the Founder
Bob Wells is an icon in American nomadism. He’s earned that status by relentlessly providing valuable resources to van dwellers for free.
During the welcome session of the 2016 RTR, the very first thing Wells spoke about was nearby resources for van dwellers in need. I’m not talking about “where to find fresh water”, he lead those in need to nearby food pantries and facilities to access the internet.
Wells is very much in tune with those nomads who’ve been pushed into nomadic life due to financial troubles. He never looks down upon fellow nomads and has spent many years lending a helping hand.
#2 CON: The Massive Crowd
Each year the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous grows exponentially. Five years ago, when we first visited, the welcome meeting was around 200 attendees strong. This year you’ll probably see 200 rigs arrive within the first hour of “opening the gates”… a day prior to the welcome session.
In 2018 the New York Times said 3,000 nomads attended the event. We’ve heard the 2019 numbers exceeded 5,000 attendees.
Campsites are often crowded, loud and (at times) full of drama.
We enjoy camping with our friends…but camping with 5,000 other nomads isn’t our idea of relaxing.
#3 PRO: Community
While the massive crowd can be intimidating and less than ideal for camping, the RTR community is an awesome resource. Connecting with like minded nomads is the best part of life on the road.
The community at RTR is kind and generous. Attendees are often seen helping each other install solar panels, cooking community meals and hanging out around a campfire.
If you’re unable to attend the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, you can get a sense of the community on the Cheap RV Living Forum.
#4 CON: Quartzsite AZ
Quartzsite AZ is great for one thing: free camping. Otherwise, this desert town doesn’t have much to offer…and having visited Quartzsite for 5 years in a row, we should know!
You can read our 7 Reasons Quartzsite is a Bust if you want to know the deets.
To sum up why Quartzsite is lackluster, here’s a few bullet points:
- Minimal Grocery Options: You can buy dry food pretty easily in Quartzsite, but fresh produce (or god forbid, free range eggs) is hard to come by.
- Cellular Internet: Good luck getting cellular internet during the RTR. The towers in Quartzsite aren’t meant to handle the huge crowds that flock in every January.
- Trash Disposal: Keep trash to minimum because it’s hard to find dumpsters to dispose of it.
#5 PRO: Price
Free is awesome! Many kudos to Bob Wells for keeping this event free of charge. An easy way to control the crowds would be to charge an entry fee. However, Wells knows this would be in contradiction to the spirit of the event.
#6 CON: Time Management
When attending the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous you’ll need a strategy. Decide whether you want to socialize or learn.
Both are possible, but you’ll definitely want to acquaint yourself with the schedule before arriving. Every day of the event contains multiple seminars for van dwellers and frugal nomads.
We recommend that first time attendees go to as many seminars as you can. The information you’ll receive is very valuable. If this is your second time to attend, the event is all about community and socializing!
#7 PRO & CON: Rules at Rubber Tramp Rendezvous
The RTR isn’t what it used to be. Previously, just a few years ago, the whole event was self-policed. The attendees were respectful and didn’t require outside policing.
That isn’t the way RTR is anymore.
Each year as the event grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to have set rules and consequences for those who don’t abide.
This isn’t a bad thing…but it is a bummer. That’s why we call it a pro & a con. Yes, we wish the RTR was a small event like the first year we attended. However, we enjoy that so many nomads attend and build community through its current reach.
Here’s Bob Wells explaining the rules at last year’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous:
Trip Planning to Rubber Tramp Rendezvous with Your RV
Quartzsite and its surrounding areas are very accessible for all size RVs. The challenging part…routing your journey to this off-grid, rural location.
We use RV Trip Wizard to plan our routes. It allows us to enter our RV specs, ideal travel style and budget. With that info RV Trip Wizard helps us create the ideal plan.
For those of you in large RVs, this tool will help you avoid low hanging bridges, steep mountain passes and tunnels.
The Best Free Camping in the Entire USA
We love camping across this amazing country. And, we really love it when its free. Here’s our list of the 20 Best Free Campsites in the USA.
If you haven’t tried free camping before, also known as boondocking, take a look at our beginners guide to boondocking filled with everything you need to know to get started.
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