What is Freedom Camping?

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

What is Freedom Camping?

The RV is fueled up and ready to roll. The family is buckled in and raring to get on the road. But where, exactly, are you going? 

What is your ultimate goal for your camping adventure?

Do you want to pull into a crowded, tightly packed RV park? Or would you like to taste a little freedom.

Today we’re talking about freedom camping. It’s a real thing and we think you should try it.

Let’s dive in.

What is Freedom Camping? 

Freedom camping is a common term in New Zealand referring to camping in an RV, tent, or van on public lands for free.

In the U.S., it is more commonly referred to as boondocking or wild camping. Dispersed camping is a name tent campers use for it.

Whatever you call it, freedom camping can be an exhilarating experience, if prepared for properly and enjoyed responsibly. 

What You Will Need for Freedom Camping

The most important thing to remember when preparing for freedom camping is that you will likely be far away from amenities. Don’t expect access to drinking water, toilets, showers, and electrical hookups.

You’ll have to bring fresh water with you (and conserve that water). This includes find alternative ways to stay clean. And you’ll need to utilize solar panels or generators for any of your power needs. You could even use a solar generator!

Along with those necessities, be sure to stock your camper with the appropriate styles of culinary desires that match your cooking tools. 

If you have the ever-popular Instant Pot, be sure you have the power to use it. And if you plan on cooking on the fire, check for fire restrictions to ensure you can actually have a campfire.

Those are just a few suggestions for what you’ll need when freedom camping.

Most importantly, you’ll need to be self-sufficient. Make a list and check it twice.

Consider adding an emergency battery charger, an air compressor, extra water, battery-powered lanterns, extra food that doesn’t require cooking or only requires hot water. 

As your freedom camping adventures become more frequent, you’ll realize you actually need less than you think.

Responsible Freedom Camping

Freedom camping may be free, but it is not free of responsibilities. 

In fact, you need to be more diligent with everything you do while freedom camping than you would while camping in an RV park. Mother Nature relies on each of us to do our part to keep her clean.

And when we park on public lands, also known as BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, we need to be aware of how we treat these magnificent free camping sites.

If we don’t, free camping could soon become a thing of the past.

In fact, here’s a recent example of public lands that closed due to misuse.

The best way to be responsible freedom campers is to follow the Leave No Trace Principles (LNT). Knowing the seven LNT principles will not only help you become a better camper, it will also set examples for others around you to do the same.

Plan ahead and prepare. 

Bring everything you need and let someone know where you are.

Travel and camp on durable surfaces. You may find signs telling you where to camp; follow them.  Don’t trample plants and vegetation, and camp where others have camped.

Dispose of waste properly. 

This is also often referred to as pack it in, pack it out.

You brought it. You take it out.

If you leave your trash for others to deal with, wildlife gets into it, wind blows it away and ultimately, we will lose our free camping lands.

Pro Tip: Here’s the legality of dumping your RV grey water on the ground.

Leave what you find. 

Take only photographs; leave only footprints. Don’t pick the flowers or hack away at the trees. They are what brings the beauty to the area.  Leave it for others to enjoy.

Unless it’s trash. 

Pick that up and take it with you. Feel free to bring a trash bag with you on your hikes, and pick up the trash you see.  Yes, we get it; it’s not your trash, but it is your responsibility to help keep the area you are camping in clean and beautiful for the next guests that arrive after you.

Minimize campfire impacts. 

Know the restrictions if there are any and follow them. Put campfires dead out.

You don’t want to be on the news for starting the next big forest fire!

Respect wildlife. 

Don’t feed wildlife, pick up your trash and put your food away and keep a safe distance.

Bears will invade your RV is the opportunity presents itself.

Be considerate of other visitors. 

Be aware of when your generator is on, how loud you are around the campfire at night, what your dogs are up to. etc.  Say hi. Most likely, these fellow campers have the same goal as you…enjoying nature.

There’s also a general rule of thumb when you prepare to leave your freedom camping site, and one that can work miracles for Mother Nature’s beauty: leave a campsite better and cleaner than how you found it.

How to Find Free Campsites

Speaking of finding free campsites, we’ve got a few recommendations for you to make your search for free campsites an enjoyable experience, instead of something that stresses you out and sends you to an RV park instead.

There are apps for that. 

Smartphones opened up a brand new world of communication. With apps that allow you to specify exactly what you’re looking for in freedom camping, including road conditions, amenities (if any), reviews from others campers and so much more, you’ll wonder how you ever did this before technology.

Try out Campendium, Allstays, iOverlander, to name just a few.

Join social media groups. 

In a world that is constantly connected to everyone, you’ll be sure to find a group on social media outlets that fit your needs. From freedom camping to off-roading, you’ll get advice from like-minded travelers.

Visit local BLM/Forest Service and Visitor/Tourism offices. 

Talking to people instead of using apps sometimes can lead to hidden gems. So don’t be afraid to stop at a local BLM or tourism board. 

They are usually quite happy to direct you to places to camp. And many of these aren’t known to the general population, making your free camping even more special.

Get recommendations from friends. 

Many people have gone freedom camping before you.  Ask a friend for where they have been.  It’s always nice to know ahead of time what you’re in for.

But take their advice with a grain of salt.  One person’s worst place could be another person’s favorite place.

Here’s our 5 worst freedom camping spots.

Tips for Freedom Camping

Here are a few more tips to follow to make your freedom camping experience the most enjoyable. The number one tip being: Be Flexible!

Even if you have read the reviews, gotten the recommendation from your closest friend and done your research, be prepared to not get what you thought you would get.

If you are flexible, your camping trip can still be the exhilarating one you set out to experience. When you are flexible, you’re more able to find the positive in almost any situation.

When it comes time to find a free campsite, you’re most likely going to end up on a dirt road with limited access. Traveling during the day can eliminate a lot of stress and hassle. You can see what you’re getting into.

Trust your gut.  If something doesn’t feel right, find another place that gives you the good vibes instead of the heebie-jeebies.

Read the signs and follow the rules. Nothing ruins a free campsite more than when you end up having to pay for it because you received a fine from a park ranger.

Yes, believe it or not, there are park rangers and law enforcement presence at most freedom camping sites. So, be kind.

They are there for your safety.

Be kind to your fellow campers, too. While most people are also trying to be responsible and kind campers, some aren’t. It might just be your kindness that flips the switch for them.

Pro Tip: Here’s our hot take about the safety of camping in the boonies.

Freedom Camping: Stories to Tell; Not Nightmares to  Live Through

Whatever you call freedom camping, make it an adventure to remember.

Yes, freedom camping is free, but it is not free of responsibility. If you take the time to understand responsible freedom camping, your experience should be free of horrific nightmares and full of wonderful stories.

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:

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