What Is Cowboy Camping: Ditch Your RV and Embrace Nature

By Kyle & Olivia Brady | Founders of Drivin' & Vibin' | We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.

What Is Cowboy Camping: Ditch Your RV and Embrace Nature

Have you ever heard of cowboy camping? If you’re an RV owner, the idea might be intimidating. However, we always think its fun to give new things a try.

Let us warn you; cowboy camping isn’t for everyone.

It’ll get you close to nature, be easy on your wallet, and most likely leave you with a sense of freedom.

Let’s dive in.

So, What Is Cowboy Camping

Cowboy camping is sleeping on the ground with no shelter overhead. This means no RV, no tent, to bug net and no tarp.

The one exception to ‘no shelter’ is a sleeping bag. You don’t have to rough it completely!

Cowboy camping dates back to the dawn of humanity. However, more recently, it has its roots in the westward exploration of America between the 1600s and 1800s.

The Resurgence of Cowboy Camping

Whether you blame it on the hipsters or the need to reconnect with nature in this technological age, cowboy camping is seeing a resurgence.

Modern versions of this camping take place at the numerous free camping spots across the USA. Campers pack up their cars, drive into the boonies and hike into camp. 

While the American west is a traditional backdrop for this type of camping, it now takes place from coast to coast.

Cons of Cowboy Camping

The apparent cons of cowboy camping is your exposure to the elements. Rain, sleet, snow, and hail will surely make you uncomfortable. Likewise, high temps and direct sun will bake your skin!

Cowboy camping is not recommended for:

  1. Elderly
  2. Out of shape
  3. People sensitive to sun exposure
  4. People sensitive to bugs and wildlife

Pros of Cowboy Camping

I wouldn’t say the pros outweigh the cons, but cowboy camping can give you a unique experience.

  1. Connection to nature
  2. Re-live American history
  3. Unique friend or family bonding
  4. Pushing your limits

The Best Place for Cowboy Camping is Dispersed Free Campsites

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.

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

3 comments

  1. Used to do that as a kid. Had a good quarter horse. Periodically (in the summer) we take a little 10 mile trip from Hot Springs SD out to a artesian well in the Southern edge of the Black Hills. I carried (OK actually ‘Baldy” was doing the carrying) a blanket roll, some food in the saddle bags, a Boy Scout jackknife, some waterproofed matches, and a Boy Scout pot and pan set. We spend a couple of days out at Cascade Springs and then meander bask to town. Pretty much “Cowboy” camping I suppose.

    While stationed in Mississippi I often led Civil Air Patrol “Ranger Teams” (ground search and rescue teams) in backpack “camping trips” into the wilder areas of far Southern Mississippi on three day ‘bivouacs” where we practiced movement through adverse terrain (Southern swamps, and some densely grown Southern wildland forests) culminating in “crash site surveillance” training for three days at a time after reaching our simulated crash site.
    Then packing back out. (Leave NO trace.) Of course we slept in/under what we carried, rain or shine. I think that qualified too.

    Then there was simple backpack camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota with my wife and both teen aged daughters. That probably qualified too. Much more relaxed than the aforementioned training bivouacs.

    But now I’m older (76) and the bed in the 5th wheel is quite attractive to both my Lady and myself in the evening.. ………………………

    That all said, I’d still like to hike out a ways and simply bed down once in a while…………… Dave J

  2. Even when young I had the sense to use a tent! Many critters love to help themselves to your heat. This include ticks who while you are sleeping will crawl in and suck the blood they need to reproduce and possibly give you lymes disease or worse anaplasmosis! Not for me!

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