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The Don’ts of Boondocking | 10 Rules to Follow for RV Campers

The Don’ts of Boondocking | 10 Rules to Follow for RV Campers

Boondocking is one of the best types of RV camping! If you’re unfamiliar with the term, boondocking (typically) means camping off grid on public land, free of charge, with no services provided.

For RV campers, boondocking is the best way to experience freedom while still having the self-contained amenities of your RV.

However, even with boondocking, there are certain rules you should never break. Today we’re exploring the “10 Don’ts of Boondocking.”

Let’s dive in.


1. Don’t Park Too Close

This rule is one of the most important to follow…and the most often broken rule on the list. If you pull up to a boondocking spot, it’s essential not to set up camp too close to your neighbor.

Here’s the problem – “too close” is a very relative term. In the wide open desert of Arizona (where boondocking is prevalent), 200 feet is an appropriate distance. Yet, 30 feet apart at North Creek near Zion National Park could be considered appropriate.

You must use your best judgement with each unique boondocking spot. However, always err on the side of caution.

PRO TIP: If you arrive to a spacious site and only one other camper is there, park even further away from the sole camper. “Safety in numbers” is never an idea you should impose on an unsuspecting camper.

2. Don’t Stay If You Feel Unsafe

Always follow your gut! If you don’t feel safe (or if you get bad vibes) upon arriving to a boondocking site, it’s time to give Plan B a try.

We do this type of camping to feel free. Carrying the burden of unease if far from the freedom we desire.

Your safety (and feeling of safety) is more important than a boondocking site.

rv boondocking

3. Don’t Create a New Campsite

This rule is self explanatory, but bears repeating. If you’re boondocking in an RV, you should only camp in established campsites.

Tent campers have a lot more freedom with trail blazing sites. RVs on the other hand definitely “leave a trace” when trail blazing!

We’ve seen many free campsites become permanently shut down from mis-use.

4. Don’t Overstay Your Welcome

Almost every boondocking site has stay limits (Slab City is the only one we know of with no limits).

BLM land typically allows 14 consecutive days of boondocking at a single location. State & county sites typically allow 7 days.

Even if there’s no camp host enforcing the stay limits, you shouldn’t over stay your welcome. This is another popular reason boondocking sites get closed for good.

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5. Don’t Freestyle Your Way There

Let’s get one thing straight – boondocking sites are out in the boonies. If you haven’t researched your travel route, you could be in a world of pain.

There may be no way to turn around. There may be low hanging bridges. Worst of all, your RV may not fit in the site once you arrive.

We recommend RV Trip Wizard for RV routing. You can input your RV size and travel preferences, and RV Trip Wizard will route you safely to your destination.

We also recommend researching and reading reviews for your specific boondocking destination. YouTube is full of video tours that can give you a good idea if you’ll fit.

6. Don’t Attract Wildlife

Be bear aware! Camping in bear country is always a little terrifying to us. Don’t leave food outside of your RV. You should also carry bear spray with you. If you bought a can years ago, check the expiration date to see if it’s still potent.

bear aware

7. Don’t Run Your Generator All Night

We are generator advocates, even with 640w of solar (here’s our 7 reasons you might not need solar power). If you get a week of clouds, the generator can top off your batteries pretty quickly.

With that said, don’t run your generator all night. In fact, follow the standard 8 to 8 quiet hours.

The only time it’s acceptable to run your generator all night is if there’s not another soul within a mile of you. Even if that’s the case, I’m sure the wildlife will be annoyed.

8. Don’t Dump Your Tanks on the Ground

Who would dump their black tank on the ground?! Despite obvious reasons not to do this, every year there are reports of it happening.

There’s a little more “grey area” when it comes to grey water. However, if the law says don’t do it – we encourage you to follow the law.

9. Don’t Litter, Ever

Here’s another easy rule to understand. If you want a boondocking site closed for good, littering is the quickest path there.

We think “leaving a site better than when you arrived” is the best rule to follow.

Arriving to an epic boondocking site, littered with trash, really stinks!

free boondocking

10. Don’t Come Unprepared

Coming prepared will help you follow every previous rule with ease. Here’s a quick list of things you should bring:

  1. Water: Arrive with a full fresh water tank. At the very least, bring multiple jugs of drinking water. Potable water can be challenging to access when boondocking.
  2. Electricity: Know your power needs. Solar or generator, make sure you can stay charged.
  3. Trash Bags: Bring a couple trash bags with you. If you have extra bags, pick up the campsite and leave it better than you found it!
  4. Bathroom: While some boondocking sites have a vault toilet, always come prepared with another option.
  5. Additional Comforts: Sunglasses, sun block, bug spray, maps, hammock, pocket knife, binoculars, umbrellas, first aid kit.

The Best FREE Camping in the 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.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! Simply enter your email below.

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  1. Bob says:

    Regarding littering. Throughout the SW this is prevalent. People who read your post probably don’t litter, like I dont. The trash people probably won’t be reading this. Why people try to burn bottles and cans in the fire pit is beyond me. Yes. They are ruining it for the rest of us by getting area shut down. Then they complain because they dont understand why. No doubt these would be the neighbors with yards full of trash.
    I dont pick up their trash. First, In a class b I hardly have room for mine. Second, where would I get rid of it? Dump a dozen bags at walmart and yet another Walmart will ban overnight because of misuse.
    Just one more human problem for which I dont have a solution.

  2. We recently explored Redington Pass Road from Tucson to San Manual, Arizona in our Jeep. Both ends near each city was packed with Boondocking sites. As we explored some of them we saw beer cans, water bottles, trash of every description, bullet holes through virtually every sign we saw. It was shameful. It’s no wonder the forest service is closing dispersed camping in some areas. Haul your crap out people! It is not a big deal to take a bag of garbage with you.

  3. We take our trash with us and at our next gas stop we ask if we could dump a bag of trash. I have never been turned down.

  4. denx7d says:

    I do as I learned in the Boy Scouts, leave it cleaner than you found it. Within reason of course. I have a couple of “pickers” that make grabbing even cig buts and gum wrappers easy WITHOUT having to bend over or touch stuff.