I Hate Paying for Camping and You Should Too
Five years ago I became a full time RV traveler. My wife and I decided it was time to experience freedom and live a more rewarding life.
Inspired by our friends who took a month long camping vacation to America’s most beautiful National Parks, the RV lifestyle called our names. However, at the time, we both worked sub-par jobs in the service industry.
We saved money, renovated a vintage camper trailer, and watched YouTube videos nightly to learn how to be frugal RVers. Finally, in the summer of 2015, we hit the road.
Our success was hanging on the hope that boondocking (free camping) would extend our finances until we could earn a living with remote work.
Free Camping is a Real Thing
You heard me right, free camping truly exists. Not only is it real, it’s quite often the best camping option.
During one of our nightly research sessions before we hit the road I heard someone mention “boondocking.” That specific video showed a campsite with amazing views and complete privacy.
Additionally, it was completely free of charge.
I immediately typed in the term “boondocking” in the YouTube browser and more videos popped up.
This was an epiphany moment.
As frugal RV campers, the notion that I didn’t have to pay $40/night for an RV park filled me with excitement (and hope)!
Is there a catch with Free Camping?
There is not a catch with free camping. Yes, there are rules (and they vary between locations), but not hidden fees.
Free camping usually takes place on public land. BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) is the most popular boondocking host. It can also happen in National Forests, Conservation Areas, County Lands and City Parks.
Stay limits vary. Most federal locations allow a 14 day stay. City & county lands typically have much shorter limits (1-3 days). There are no standard rules.
How Can You Find Free Camping?
Finding free camping can be challenging. We’ve created a step by step guide on how we research boondocking sites. If you’re wanting more instant gratification, we also created a list of the 20 Best Free Camping Sites in America.
It’s important to remember, boondocking is much more prevalent in the western half of America. It does exist on the east coast, but the individual campsites are more tightly positioned and harder to find.
Keep in mind – most free camping spots are located off the grid. This means access may be limited (especially if you’re in an RV).
For RVers – we use RV Trip Wizard for routing. It lets us input our unique RV specs and routes accordingly, avoiding tunnels or low hanging bridges.
Free Camping Isn’t Always Free
To get the most out of your free camping adventure, you need to be prepared to camp off-grid. This means you’ll have no amenities once you arrive to your free campsite.
Here’s the essential things you’ll need to consider:
- Fresh Water – this means drinking, cooking and bathing water
- Waste Water – you’ll have to be able to collect your waste water. It’s against the law to let it drain on the ground.
- Energy – if you want power, you’ll have to create it. You can do this with solar power or a gas-powered generator.
- Propane – this will help you cook and stay warm.
Additionally, federal lands are yours to use. You pay for them every time you pay federal taxes.
Take the leap and try camping for 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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