RV Vacationers: Do Yourself a Favor, Discover Free Camping
Welcome to the summer of RV vacations.
Today the Wall Street Journal published their take on summer RV-travel. Earlier in the week, the Washington Post, New York Times, Forbes, and Business Insider wrote about the upcoming RV boom.
As full-time Airstream RVers, my wife and I have been enjoying life on the road since 2015. It’s fantastic to hear about more Americans interested in RV vacations.
We have one secret to tell you – discover the joys of free camping!
Today we’re filling you in on all the details of RV free-camping and letting you know the best places to do it.
We implore you to take this to heart and share it with your fellow citizens. Not only is free camping easy on the wallet, it’s quite often the best camping you’ll find.
Let’s dive in!
What is Free Camping in an RV?
In the context of RV vacations, free camping is pretty self-explanatory. It’s camping that doesn’t cost a dime (except for when you pay federal taxes).
The government owns a lot of land. In fact, it has land set aside for you to go camping on from Maine to Florida to California to Oregon.
In addition to federal land, state and local governments across America occasionally provide free camping spots as well. While these campsites are less prevalent, they’re usually closer to town and are designed to increase tourism.
Here are a few examples of land where you can find free camping:
- BLM Land
- National Forests
- National Grasslands
- Federal Conservation Areas
- County Parks
- City Parks
Free Camping is Different from Overnight Parking
Overnight parking is a valuable resource when you’re traveling across the USA. But don’t mistake it for free camping.
Overnight parking happens at:
- Rest Stops
- Cracker Barrel
- Truck Stops
The main difference between free camping and overnight parking is that the latter is super short-term.
It would be best if you didn’t stay at an overnight parking spot for more than 12 hours.
How to Find Free Camping for your RV Vacation?
Finding free camping isn’t hard. But, it helps if you have the right tools.
Our favorite tool for finding free camping is Campendium. It has a mobile app and website version.
PRO TIP: In this article, we walk you through, step by step, how to find the best RV free camping spot on Campendium.
Keep in mind, reading the reviews for a free campsite is the best form of research. It’ll help you understand if your RV will be able to access the campsite.
How to Prepare for Free Camping in an RV?
Free camping in an RV doesn’t cost money, but the gear that makes it comfortable does.
There are three main components to consider when free camping in an RV:
- Power: Free camping is off-grid, which is excellent, but you’ll need to supply your own power. Using a generator is the easiest way. Solar panels are a quiet, though less powerful option. A combo of both is how we do it.
- Water: Your RV has a freshwater tank. Make sure this is full before getting off-grid. We recommend carrying a few extra gallons of drinking water just in case.
- Waste: You RV also have waste tanks. These tanks collect your grey (dishwater) and black (sewer) water. Once the tank is full, you’ll have to break camp an empty at one of these locations.
As you can see, your RV is probably 95% ready to go camping already. These three issues require just a little foresight.
If cell connectivity is essential, we recommend buying a cell booster before hitting the road.
Rules To Follow When RV Free Camping
If you want to try free camping during your RV vacation this summer, here are the common rules to follow.
- Make sure you’re on legal land (if you follow the GPS coordinates for verified sites, you should be fine)
- Pack in, pack out. This means don’t leave trash behind.
- Leave it nicer than you found it. Unfortunately, many people don’t practice “pack in, pack out” – we like to clean up the sites to make sure people can keep using them.
- Don’t dump your waste tanks on the ground.
- Don’t camp too close to your neighbor. Free camping sites don’t always have defined spaces.
The Best Free Campsites in America
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy). You should give it a try! A matter of fact, these free campsites are yours.
Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
Here’s our list of the 20 Best Free Campsites in the USA.
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6 months of each year I’m on the road and always boondocking. In RV parks you’re too close together for me! Strangely enough when I’ve used the coordinates to try to find a place they’ve often been off, but if I follow the directions they get me to the right place. So I just follow directions now. One time the coordinates were off by 30 miles! Every time I find a spot I save it in my stand alone GPS for future ease of returning. So I have a whole lot of them!!