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Boondocking Confessions

Boondocking Confessions

If you’ve ever dreamed of being an avid boondocker, camping in your RV way out in the middle of nowhere, you’re not alone. Boondocking has been gaining popularity in recent years because the secret is getting out.

The lifestyle can become somewhat of an addiction as you develop your skills and test your limits.

As avid boondockers, we have a few confessions to make!

Let’s get started!

What Is Boondocking? 

Boondocking is an RV camping style where campers have no power, water, or sewer connections. It also means camping outside of an established campground. Some of the best boondocking locations are lands managed by federal or state land management agencies.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service manages public-use lands. While these lands may have established roads and campsites, they’re typically free or require a budget-friendly permit.

Boondocking is gaining popularity as more and more RVers are looking to escape crowded campgrounds. Camping in a secluded environment away from crowds and in the middle of nature is freeing.

What boondocking lacks in amenities, it quickly makes up for it when it comes to the true camping vibe.

Can You Boondock Full Time? 

Many RVers boondock nearly 100% of the time. It may take gear and planning, but it can definitely be done. It may even be easier than you think!

You’ll need to be completely self-sufficient when you’re boondocking. That means you’ll need a way to generate your own power, fill up your water tank, and a way to dump your tanks when they’re full.

As you gain full-time boondocking experience, you’ll gain many tools and pieces of technology to make the lifestyle easier.

While you can boondock full time, you’ll still need to move. You can’t stay in the same place forever. Most boondocking sites have some limitations regarding how many days you can visit, and some also have regulations for how far you have to move once you’ve reached the stay limit.

RV boondocking in the desert.
Boondocking can be a fun yet challenging camping adventure.

How Many Days Can You Boondock?

Most boondocking sites have stay limits that are seven to 14 days. Some public lands change their stay limits depending on the season. Bridger-Teton National Forest shortens their stay limits from 14 to five consecutive days during peak season in some of its busiest districts.

Once you have reached the stay limit, you can move to another boondocking site. It’s essential to take note of how far you must move.

Some stay limits are for an entire forest or district, but some say you have to move a certain number of feet. You can boondock for as many days as you’d like, as long as you’re following the stay limit regulations.

Pro Tip: Make boondocking easier with these 22 RV Boondocking Tips for 2022!

Confessions Of What It’s Really Like To Boondock

If you wonder what life is like boondocking full time, we’re about to spill the beans. We’ve got the good, the bad, and the ugly for you today. Let’s take a look!

Benefits of Full-Time or “most of the time” Boondocking

While campgrounds and RV parks can offer many amenities, they can’t typically provide space. Boondocking can give you what feels like an infinite amount of space.

There are thousands of campsites across the country, some of which are in extremely remote locations. Instead of being packed like sardines in a campground or RV park, you can often find boondocking sites where there’s not a soul for miles.

Not only will you have space, but you also get privacy. With no one around for a considerable amount of distance, you don’t have to worry about a neighbor’s barking dog or their loud music. It might surprise you how quiet it can get at night in some of these remote locations. 

Another benefit of boondocking is that many of the best boondocking sites don’t cost a penny. If you’re traveling in your RV full-time, you can easily spend several hundred dollars each month on campsite fees.

Boondocking can allow you to drastically cut your budget each month and spend more money on boondocking gear!

Disadvantages of Avid Boondocking

While you may dream of boondocking, it’s not always perfect. When you’re regularly boondocking, you have to worry about things like finding water, creating your power, and getting your mail.

Not every day is going to be like the pictures you see on social media where you watch an epic sunset over the mountains in your remote boondocking site.

When you’re boondocking, you also have to be concerned about your safety. Some boondocking sites can be extremely remote.

You’ll want a plan for how you’ll protect yourself and your fellow campers if someone comes into your site looking for trouble. It’s better to have the plan in advance than to figure it out during a chaotic situation.

Full-time boondocking is hard. It takes effort to plan when you’ll dump your tanks and where you’ll fill them up. It takes a lot of effort to ration your water usage to avoid running out of water. Lack of preparation can be dangerous when boondocking in remote locations.

Keep in Mind: There are pros and cons to boondocking. Before you go make sure you know these 5 Reasons to Avoid RV Boondocking.

RV boondocking in the desert.
Keep in mind being a pro boondocker takes time and practice.

Common Boondocking Mistakes

A common boondocking mistake that many newbies make is not researching sites adequately. Especially if you’re towing a large RV, you don’t want to get yourself into a dicey situation. So use tools like Campendium and iOverlander to adequately research a possible boondocking site.

You can also use the satellite view of Google Maps or Apple Maps to check out the area. Getting yourself stuck can be highly frustrating and dangerous for you and your RV.

Another mistake many make is parking their heavy truck or RV on soft dirt. Even slightly soft ground can be troubling for a heavy RV. The tires can quickly sink into the ground and cause the RV to be stuck.

Some RVers have even had to call a tow truck to use a winch to get them, and their vehicle unstuck. If that’s the case, the free campsite just became an extremely expensive free campsite.

Another mistake that many boondockers make is underestimating how much water and power they use. It’s best to keep your boondocking trips short until you gain experience.

Learning to conserve water and power is essential for a successful boondocking trip. Failure to do so will leave you with no water for cooking, showering, or drinking. Using more power than you realize can cause you to drain your battery bank and possibly ruin your batteries.

Why People Quit Full-Time (or Most Time) Boondocking

Many people throw in the towel when it comes to full-time boondocking because it’s hard. Having to constantly think about your tank levels and where you’ll be able to empty them can be frustrating.

Some also don’t like packing up and moving every couple of weeks. While it can be a magical lifestyle, it can certainly be challenging. 

Many full-time boondockers will join discount clubs and other campground memberships to take a break from boondocking. Memberships like Thousand Trails can allow RVers to save a generous amount of money and live a hybrid RV lifestyle of camping in campgrounds and boondocking.

Is Being an Avid Boondocker Worth It?

Being an avid boondocker is a wonderful way to RV. It allows you to grow your skills and be self-sufficient. You get to experience some of the most epic landscapes in the country without anyone else around. You can enjoy billions of stars without light pollution and connect with the rawness of untouched lands.

However, while we think the lifestyle is worth it, we recognize it’s not for everyone. Some people like to RV with full hook-ups and lots of amenities. It just means more room for us to spread out while boondocking!

Would you prefer to boondock full-time if you could? Drop a comment below!

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:

Elaine Aracri

Saturday 29th of January 2022

I'm really interested in free camping in a tent, in the US

sdw

Saturday 29th of January 2022

You didn't mention that a lot of "out in the middle of nowhere" places don't have phone coverage. So if you have any mechanical problem your pretty much walking for help. Problems like vehicle battery going dead. Alternator, water pump, starter and many more. Not to mention the tank gauges in most RVs are very inaccurate. When your black water tank says it's at 2/3 full and you think you've got several more flushes, it might actually be just short of the full sensor and you've only got one more flush to send it to the tank full mark. Finding dump stations near that out of the way place could be 50 miles away. (been there done that) Solar (I have 7 100 watt solar panels on my rig) doesn't always get you charged up. If it's cloudy, raining all day, or your camped where trees prevent you from getting sun all day, will require you to have a generator also. And propane is another factor depending on your rig. Also it's wise to carry a gun.

Mary Hill-Stone

Friday 28th of January 2022

We are still learning about our new to us MH with residential fridge. No solar yet but the battery power doesn’t seem to be utilized as is necessary. Getting a new remote control for the inverter and hopefully that will help. Otherwise we like to hybridize our camping style using all the options. We have 1000 trails for free hookups and meeting new friends. But really prefer COE, state and national parks. Our 38’ MH is too big for some so we scout out NF or BLM ahead while in the towed adventure car. Once we get the power problems resolved we will feel the freedom of going wherever we like.

Emma

Friday 28th of January 2022

Good article!

We primarily boondock in our non-RV lifted 4x4 Sprinter van. Ten days even with a few trips to civilization for supplies is the absolute max for us.

We are able to get to pretty remote areas, often at high altitude. Too often we see RVs in precarious situations especially on forest service roads that are far too narrow and frankly dangerous for them and those they meet.

Do your homework, get familiar with reading and interpreting topo maps and the area. We spend days researching and planning.

We have encountered trailers and 5th wheels on extremely tight single lane switchbacks and because we are the only ones able to backup, we’ve backed. up surprisingly long distances before finding a place to pull off. I can’t even imagine the stress of getting a too big rig through.

Most of these roads are heavily washboarded as well and rattle the ever lovin’ out of you and your vehicles and trailers. There’s often snow still blocking roads into July in the Intermountain West. After the snow melts there’s mud season, a month of mud and deep is in DEEP puddles that can rock or break your world. RVs and trailers should not attempt. And far too many do.

Professional extraction and blocked road are the consequence. Use the right vehicle for the job. These areas are meant for tent camping and lifted 4x4s.

Bob

Friday 28th of January 2022

@Emma, with a class b I too have had to be the one to back up up. Can't believe people with 8' wide trailers go on these roads. I'm only 6'6" and at times feel too big.

Charles C Cookston

Friday 28th of January 2022

I have camped for decades but mostly state parks. Newly retired we have a 34' class A with 2,000 watts of solar, pulling a toad. We like areas with trees and rivers so we look at the eastern half of the US. We have monitored our water consumption and have 5-7 days of water and sewer capacity. The rig is 28,000 pounds. Fears: can we get the 12' 6" tall rig into BLM land, and will the sites support our weight. Plan: Stay in BLM land Wednesday through Sunday. Go to state park Monday and Tuesday to dump and refill and use electric to do laundry. Question: is there a complete list of Federal, BLM and city sites? I don't mind paying <$20 per night if the area has a sewer dump and water spickets. Currently I do internet searches to find Free land near parks where I can pay for camping and then drive the toad to the Free land to case the joint. Suggestions appreciated. PS we read your daily blog. Very interesting.

Captain Quirk

Sunday 13th of February 2022

@Charles C Cookston -- "We have monitored our water consumption and have 5-7 days of water and sewer capacity."

How big are your tanks?

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