RV Park Owners Lobby to Abolish Boondocking

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RV Park Owners Lobby to Abolish Boondocking

It’s a tale as old as time. Business owners lobby governments to help increase their bottom line. This time RV park owners are trying to abolish free camping.

It’s happening in New Zealand. And it may be on it’s way to the USA.

American RV park owners have taken note. These business owners draw inspiration from across the globe, and now they’re lobbying local agencies to restrict free camping.

In this article, we’ll give you the details on boondocking, what’s happening in New Zealand, and how it will affect us in America.

Let’s dive in.

What is Boondocking?

If boondocking is a new term to you, here’s the basic definition.

Boondocking is free-camping that takes place on public lands. These areas usually have no amenities. This means campers must be responsible for their water, power, and waste management.

It’s important to note that these public lands are funded by tax-payers money. If you’re an American citizen, federal land is your land to enjoy (within the boundaries of the law). You’re, in fact, paying for it.

So, What’s Happening With New Zealand Boondocking?

In an article recently written by Nina Hindmarsh, RV park owners say boondocking is destroying their business.

The article quotes the owners:

“No matter how much we charge, we can’t compete with ‘free’,” said Karl Adams, the owner of Takaka Camping and Cabins.

In response, the local governing body closed the two nearby free campsites.

While the RV park owners are indeed delighted with this result, local restaurants and cafes think the restriction will seriously hinder their businesses.

Our hot take: if this precedent is adopted in American, we’re in big trouble as RVers.

What USA RV Park Owners Are Saying

This story was recently posted in a forum for RV park owners, and their response was frightening.

One of the forum members implored all the owners to speak up to local authorities to put an end to boondocking. Surprisingly, many RV park owners didn’t even know boondocking was a thing.

This exemplifies how out of touch many RV park operators are when it comes to the ever-evolving camping industry.

It’s surprising that any tax-paying American (RV park owner or not) would encourage the government to restrict access to public lands.

As an RVer, I’d rather boondock 6 days a week than camp in a crowded RV park.

Here’s the sad thing, RV park owners have already had limited success in restricting some forms of free camping already.

RV Park Owners Help End Overnight Parking

Over the last five years, many RV park owners have successfully lobbied the city-level government to forbid overnight parking at Walmart.

As a result, 1000s of Walmarts no longer offer overnight parking. Most of these restrictions are directly correlated to newly-written city government laws.

It seems that most RV parks would rather force RVers to pay for a few hours of sleep on a long travel day, than let them catch zzz’s in the Walmart parking lot.

Pro Tip: here are The Don’ts of Walmart Camping.

What Can You Do As An RVer?

There are a few things you can do as an RVer to help preserve the right to boondock.

First and foremost, join the Escapees RV Club. This club is one of the only organizations that lobbies for the rights of RVers in Washington D.C. and beyond.

The membership is about $50 a year and well worth it.

The Escapees have helped preserve voting rights for full-time RVers and advocated for more money for the National Park maintenance. 

Secondly, be a respectful camper and always practice “Leave No Trace.” 

RV parks will often cite that free campsites are being trashed. This is their backward way of closing down boondocking sites.

Don’t help them with this cause. Always leave a campsite better than you found it.

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

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!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

43 comments

    1. I agree with the right to boondock on Govt lands. As for cities banning overnight parking at Walmarts, I think the cities have the right to do this. Our city had to ban overnight parking in all our shopping centers’ parking lots because of all the homeless people. Our Walmart at one time had over 25 vehicles living in the parking lot. It was so bad I didn’t want to use the bathrooms in the store because I would walk in and people were bathing in them. And the trash was horrible. It was so bad the cleaning crew didn’t want to clean up human waste and needles. BTW, we have overnighted in Walmarts too.

      1. You seem to not be able to tell the difference between LIVING in a Walmart parking lot and spending a night or two there.

        And if there is a trash problem, that’s not because of people merely BEING there overnight; it’s because certain people are inconsiderate slobs. It’s not necessary to outlaw overnight parking; just outlaw the LITTERING! Don’t punish everybody for the bad behavior of a few.

        Also it seems a little hypocritical to support the outlawing of overnight parking at Walmart while admitting you’ve done it yourself.

  1. wow this world never ceases to amaze and horrify me, freedom for me but not for thee, this is so sad on so many fronts, a business is there to serve customers not customers serve the business, if a business cant compete wiht free let them offer things that make the cost worthwhile, not everyone can afford to pay camping fees hence why many live intheir vans/cars/rvs. what they are basically saying is pass a law for us discriminating poor people, or thrifty people or free people., if this is what they want to do they deserve to go out of business nad let someone take it over who can do something with it without needing a taxpayer subside/regulation

  2. As a former campground owner ( now retired). Traveling 6 months a year with solar system and doing some boonedocking.
    I can understand the owners side of it. I can also understand the rvers side of it.
    The Rvers agruement is very simple. They better guarantee the rver a site. Where are we suppose to stay if the campground is full?

    1. So true Mr. Bauman, there have been times we spent hours trying to hunt down a camp ground that wasn’t filled to capacity and would have appreciated an overnight spot at Walmart, but most said “no overnighting”! They have grown tired of cleaning up after the slobs and homeless, so the rest of us who are responsible people and leave our spot clean have to suffer for their these rude and inconsiderent folks. We end up driving while tired or stay in a public rest stop (not the safest place) or a truck stop to catch a few hours of sleep.
      RV parks are showing their greed as they begin to lobby to take our rights away from boondocking on “the peoples land” that we pay for through our taxes! Most of them have more business than they can take care of, yet have no respect for the people they turn away due to being full for the night, they don’t care if we have a place to lay our head just as long as they have a full house and I for one am angry! I guarantee I will do my best and I hope other campers will as well, to find out which parks are trying to take our right to boondock and you can bet they will never get my business again!
      We campers are an industrious group and have our ways to find out this information and pass it along to fellow campers and boycott those greedy parks!
      Beware rv parks, you pull this kind of stunt and it will hurt your business more than it will help you!

    2. Not only guarantee a site, but one that’s affordable. $70 a night might be ok if on vacation and going back to work. It’s not ok when retired on a more or usually less fixed income. So these ahole RV park owners are basically saying camping should only be for the rich.
      Besides which boondocking allows me to be further away from people, especially important during Covid. With the stupid governor of CA shutdown I had to leave a good campground far away from the next campers and go to an RV park where I could spit on the trailer next to me. Some safety in that!

  3. Most campground are full in the summer with multiple day users. So where do they expect us to rest overnight. Besides some of the best sights and enjoyments happen at night such as star photography. Can’t do that in a lit up camp site.

  4. Free isn’t the only reason RVer’s choose to boondock rv park owners. RV parks are crowded and loud and you might as well stay in a hotel if you want to hear screaming kids, and loud disrespectful neighbors. But please, go ahead, after all it’s all about your business. Nothing to do with our need to get away and enjoy piece and quiet.

  5. Paying State & Federal taxes should allow tax payers certain rights on State & Federal land. Charge a reasonable entry fee, hook-up and even water/electric fee but not rental fee for parking.

  6. Thank you again for your very informative blog. My husband and I have been traveling around the country as part timers but would love to stay out for even longer periods of time. If we have to pay for every night camping this would not be possible. We prefer to stay in State and National Parks but sometimes these places are expensive. So we really appreciate free places to stay. We have definitely stayed away from private campgrounds as they are not the kind of camping experience we want. The sites are usually too close together and the so-called amenities are not what we are interested in preferring a more natural environment. We hope to explore more boondocking options now that we have the app freecampsites.net and of course your recommendations which are invaluable. I sincerely hope the rv camp owners do not succeed in their plot to ban boondocking especially out West. I agree these National lands belong to the people and should be enjoyed by everyone while we can. Every day the natural environment is being threatened by climate change and greedy profiteers who do not cherish the earth. Take care and let’s hope for a brighter 2021 for everyone.

  7. As RV owners and former business owners we understand both sides of this issue. However, in recent years we have found RV parks to be more crowded as sites are squeezed in to increase profits and less about spaciousness between the units. The last park we stayed at had doubled their nightly rates from a year ago and renovated to decrease the size of the sites. At night we were subjected to the snoring of the adjacent rig. Time to Boondocks

  8. People and business and our govt need to realize and understand that govt is NOT and should NOT be responsible for a business’s profitability or lack there of. It sounds like some campground owners are looking for an excuse and a few handout. Make the necessary upgrades to your campground. Stop charging an arm and a leg for a site. Possibly have a handful of boondocking sites at a significantly reduced fee to accommodate overnight guests.

  9. Cynical as I am I’ve said for years that if businesses had their way they would get a law passed that if we didn’t willingly give them our money they would have the right to raid our bank accounts. There seems to be an attitude that our money really belongs to business owners.
    News flash to RV parks. While I do camp at both private and free places if such a law ever managed to pass I would simply stop camping and hope everyone would putting these assholes completely out of business!

  10. At commercial RV parks —- One overnight stay — Site w/o any hookups $10 – $20. No electrical. Water and dump at a central site optional—-Additional $10.

  11. Well now, that makes sense….smh…campgrounds are often filled to capacity, especially since the Pandemic….so, they want more campers in their over saturated campgrounds? And, let’s face it, they have brought (campers boondocking) upon themselves with the ridiculous fees, treatment to people who just want to ” get away from it all”. I’d sure like a list of the campgrounds who are fighting against us boondocking…so we can out the word out, and boycott them.

  12. Thinking cap in place….what if they park in the lot provided at the entrance and walk in returning at dusk…solution reduce the water pressure on your Bidet…..

  13. They don’t even have space for all of us, so how exactly is that going to work?? I’ve seen multiple articles and mini-docuseries pointing out that there are not enough RV Parks to handle the boom in RVing, especially among millennials. And what about those cafe owners and restaurants who rely on us coming in to use WiFi and eat? Some people can be so selfish….

  14. End “Free” camping on public lands. It will never happen. It’s really not free anyway, we all pay through taxes. What really needs to be scrutinized is the subsidies ranchers get for grazing their livestock on our public lands. Matter of fact, if you are one of the fortunate ones that owns property bordering public lands be aware of an antiquated law. Ranchers graze their livestock as a commercial business on our public lands. They pay pennies per acre in lease agreements to the government. Yet, as a neighboring private property the laws are such that it is my responsibility to maintain fencing to keep livestock out of my property. So I guess it means another subsidy paid by me to the ranchers for their commercial gain. If there were no commercial grazing I wouldn’t need to pay for and maintain 2 miles of 5 strand wire barbed fence for the rancher. Sad but true.

  15. Use you imagination. I’ve overnighted in out-of-business parking lots, bank parking on a Saturday night when they will be closed the next day. Law enforcement in a larger city is too busy with real crime. If your RV is clean and neat they aren’t going to bother.

  16. What happens when they put a swimming pool next to the ocean and say free swimming is ruining their business?? People camped for free long before they paid to.. It sounds more like a case of poor business planning. Call it a fail and move on. SMH

    1. RV parks have their place but a lot of boondockers just don’t enjoy the caged HOA vibe and would rather give up the rig than pay to be wedged in between a bunch of partying weekenders or a seasonal who monitors every time your dog farts. That’s just not camping or the point for most of us.

  17. I feel that consumers have forgotten the art of Bargaining! And that by doing so your voting with your wallet. This is why I haven’t upgraded to a camper simply sleep in my truck. As you cannot really tell I’m overnight parking. And I rarely stay in the same spot more than 2 nights. I also search craigslist for people who offer up their driveway or a part of their yard to park on. I have had alot off success doing this. I even offer my road front to people looking to stay for cheap for $15 a night on Airbnb
    And craigslist in Sarasota Fl. And maybe thats whats to come of it. If Park owners want to stifle boondockers fight back and help end their greed by offering your driveway or yard space it may not be ideal but if it helps fight greedy RV park lobbies why not! Another example of voting with your wallet is home internet service providers
    Now want to cap your home internet data to something like1.2 terabytes this would never work for a small family
    Never mind a large one or a single couple who Remotely work for a living or if you enjoy video gaming which has gone mostly streaming now. I have been paying for internet for 30 yrs. Now they wanna cap it to charge me more of course a grand scheme to get into your wallet. Its unlimited internet or nothing for me. Oh and by the way the best out there is Google fiber unlimited and gigabit speeds for like 80 a month request them on their site and give the likes of your local cable company some competition! Cable internet can’t match fiber speeds. And Google fiber even puts Verizon fiber to shame.

  18. Your article’s theme is that there is a move on the part of all governments to end free camping on public lands, but you don’t cite any examples. Walmarts and similar venues have been made off limits by local ordinances, but they aren’t public lands. Maybe what you were trying to say is that public lands have been made off limits for boondocking in New Zealand and it’s coming this way?

  19. We as tax payers pay for the free lands and the right to use them. If you own a campground and can’t figure out a way to make money, find another profession. Why should boondockers be punished and forced to stay in cramped crappy campgrounds with screaming kids, barking dogs, loud drunks and obnoxious people. That’s one of the main reason to boondock to enjoy the peace and quiet. Yes free has a lot to do with it. Know your customer demographics as a campground owner, it’s not boondockers, cater to them and you can make money. Leave the rest of us the hell alone. Forcing a law so you remove an option and cut down on competition is never good for any business. That just allows campground owners to run crappy campgrounds filled to the brim with people because they have no other options. Figure out your business differentiators and market them. Everyone wants easy and free now a days, that’s not how life works.

  20. We’ve been RVing for 20 yrs. You used to be able to call a week or 2 in advance to get a site in an RV park with no problem. Now we have to book sometimes over a year in advance if they will let us. So I don’t know why they are whining. And with some parks charging $120+ a night boondocking sounds pretty good. Also, we tow a 20′ enclosed trailer behind our 40′ RV and a lot of RV parks can’t accommodate us.

  21. Really needed, paying $60-80 for 9 hours to sleep is stupid. I don’t want to use the pool, the wifi, or any thing else, just elect and water.

  22. Well we can certianly start a campaign to boycott any and all RV Parks that think their entitled to our money by forcing us to pay!!!! THIS IS TOTAL BS. I almost never ever wish to stay in a park, its not camping and feels like a damm subdivision with lots of rules

  23. The park owners have no side in this. People buy RVs to travel around as they want to, not so that RV park owners can make money off them. We enjoy going to nice RV parks (my husband actually works for Sun Communities), but we also like to stay overnight in parking lots or truck stops for a few hours of shuteye while traveling. Some RV park owners are becoming snobby about which RVs they will allow, and I’m tired of hearing them complain.

  24. Why don’t the rv parks manage their properties better instead of trying to force us to participate in their crap holes 🤔

  25. I would love a list of American RV park owners that have lobbied for to abolish free camping…..so I can avoid their campgrounds.

  26. Boondocking is part of MY TAXES I AS EVERYONE PAYS FOR IT. IF YOU TAKE THAT AWAY RETURN THE PORTION OF MY TAXES BACK. THIS BUTT HOLE IS MAD BECAUSE MAYBE HIS HIS PLACE US A DUMP, and no one wants to stay there . Or maybe his prices are to high. .???? I love boondocking the freedom of peace with nature. There are things to watch out for as stealing of your rig, but you need to have security, cameras, etc. For your protection at all times.gun also..pick a spot, set up, clean before you leave ,enjoy boondocking.

  27. I think this is much ado about nothing – I read the NZ article and it sounds like there were a lot of issues with those free camps. There are still plenty of free camps in NZ and that is unlikely to change. I wish the authors had spent more time discussing what RV campgrounds are saying. They only had 6 very short paragraphs regarding US RV park owners and nothing specific.

    BML camping isn’t going away, I spend a lot of time in Anza Borrego and there a very few RV parks in the 600k acres, most of it is all dispersed camping. I don’t own an RV and have never stayed in an RV park – I have a Toyota Tacoma with an Alu-Cab Camper (very lightweight and simple set-up) and free camping throughout the US is here to stay.

  28. I wholeheartedly agree on the age limit set by some rv park owners. I, am one who has a like new older rv. Nothing wrong with that at all. I enjoy the debt free lifestyle, which gives me the freedom to do what I want. I have met some of the most genuine people in 2 million dollar Millennium coaches as well. Had the best campfire discussions with them, as well as people in a truck camper. We are all in this to enjoy life, each other, and get away from the hustle and bustle of life. Its just too bad that there are many campground owners jumping on the bandwagon milking us trying to enjoy ourselves for every dime they can.

  29. Yes, you might as well. We have a right to camp on public lands as we pay taxes. RV business just want to capitalize on their over priced junkie properties and if they by chance are taking care of their property then they charge you $1000 dollars a month or some high price for a night when you might as well stay home. The sites are on top of one another. Boondocking is for people who want to be one with nature not to be on top of another camper Camping . I will fight this tell I die.

  30. All of that is the fault of the owners or renters of the property. If Walmart or any other property owner had the backbone they could stop the homeless and anybody that stays for more than one night. The management just doesn’t want to do it.

  31. Setting up in a parking lot or a RV Park, is a long way from camping when you have to pay $50.00 per night for the privilege to listen to your neighbor 5 feet from you. Camping is getting away from your neighbors and stores so that you can enjoy a few minutes or days of solitude. Trees, mountains, deserts, lakes, rivers, and ocean come to mind with the word camping. Boondocking is the way many choose to camp and for some business to try to stop us from enjoying our life is totally un-American. There is a simple little saying that goes: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. RV Parks are WAY TOO EXPENSIVE. Drop your prices and maybe you will get a little more business.

  32. Banning because of homeless people. A bandaid to the problem. This didn’t get rid of homeless people, did it? Of course this isn’t just Walmarts problem so maybe you want them in your backyard. No I know this would be a NIMBY problem. It seems the haves just want the not haves to conveniently, poof, disappear. Well, with Covid we’re going to have a lot more homeless and someone has to deal with it. But cities that close overnight stays because of homeless people are deluding themselves. The homeless aren’t going to disappear.
    As far as trash, with your thinking nearly every public campground would have to close. I hate to say it but it seems that humans have devolved to litter bugs. The one that always gets me for stupidity is throwing cans and bottles in fire pits. They don’t burn stupid! I retired 15 years ago and have camped thousands of times, now full time in my RV. The only campgrounds I have ever found to be completely clean are the ones with campground host, who clean up after the litter bugs. Just as I had to clean up areas when a National Park Ranger in Yosemite.

  33. This is my first response to such nonsense. I’d happily pay an annual subscription for an app that would give me an updated list of every park with a current owner who is attempting this angle. I would avoid their park/s and inform my fellow campers of who they are. I like putting money in the pockets of people who provide a service to me and actually care if they accomplish said service. If a park owner is actually lobbying to stop these kind of overnight stops, rest assured the have zero care for you or me. They want money and control. Once upon a time this kind of strong arm behavior would have been seen as criminal. And no excuse for the Walmart’s or other stores who don’t get the law involved when people abuse the “overnight” stay and effectively move in. The stores and parking are private property and have zoning and usage permits. There are locations that see a huge amount of overnight parking (and subsequent revenue) due to their proximity to highways. They also have cameras and security like every other major shopping store. Hire an extra person to monitor the overnighters with all the extra revenue. It will keep order, create a job and give the store a reputation as a safe and clean stop for drivers.

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