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BLM Camping, Let’s Talk About It

BLM camping was one of the best-kept secrets for several decades. However, because of their growing popularity, we’ve seen numerous camping spots face severe restrictions or shut down entirely. It’s putting some RVers and adventures in a bind.

Today, we’re looking at why it’s important to talk about BLM camping and what happens when we don’t. Let’s get started!

What Is BLM Camping?

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a federal land management agency that provides oversight for over 247 million acres of public land. Much of these lands are for recreational purposes, including camping. Whether you’re planning to camp in a tent, RV, or under the stars, there are some incredible spots for BLM camping.

There are two primary types of BLM camping. The first type is camping in one of the developed BLM campgrounds. These are similar to what you’d expect to see from a state or national park campground. Amenities and fees will vary based on the location. Many campgrounds are first-come, first-served, but some take reservations through the system.

The second primary type of BLM camping is dispersed camping. This is a no-frills style of camping where adventurers are entirely self-sufficient. Campers will need to protect the lands by disposing of their hazardous materials, sewage, and trash accumulated during their stay.

Many BLM camping areas that allow dispersed camping will allow campers to stay up to 14 days. But, this can vary based on the location. Some locations may require a camping permit, but many don’t.

Couple sitting at a campfire in BLM forest
Camp in your car, tent, or RV on BLM land.

Is BLM Camping Free?

Staying in established BLM campgrounds will likely come with a fee. However, if you’re planning to do BLM camping in a dispersed campsite, these often have no cost.

When there’s a cost, this typically means purchasing a use permit that helps BLM officials track who’s using the lands for management purposes. Because you can often stay upwards of 14 days, this can be a tremendous way to save money and avoid expensive campground reservation fees.

Can You Camp Anywhere on BLM Land?

Just because a BLM area allows camping doesn’t mean you can camp just anywhere. BLM officials request that campers pick locations that do “not conflict with other authorized uses or in areas posted ‘closed to camping.”Or choose an area that adversely affects wildlife species or natural resources.”

The job of the BLM is to protect the land and ensure it’s available for future generations to enjoy. If everyone ran out and created a campsite on BLM land, the land would suffer tremendous destruction each camping season.

If you’re planning to go on BLM land, ensure you’re only setting up camp in spots designated for camping.

Car and two tents set up for free camping next to mountains
Most BLM dispersed camping spots are free for you to enjoy.

Why It’s Important to Talk About BLM Camping

There are several reasons why we think it’s important for us to talk about BLM camping. Let’s start looking at this valuable type of camping that can benefit us all.

It’s Inexpensive

Camping on BLM land is a cost-effective way to enjoy various types of camping. Many areas designated for BLM camping are available at no cost to campers. Even those that require adventurers to purchase a camping permit are exponentially cheaper than even the cheapest reservation. These permits are often only a few bucks and can provide a camper up to 14 days of camping.

Everything is becoming more and more expensive these days. We should take advantage of every great opportunity to save a few bucks, including when camping. The massive potential savings is one of the primary reasons many choose BLM lands as their go-to place for camping adventures.

Anyone Can Enjoy It

Because the lands managed by the BLM are public lands, they’re available to anyone. You don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars annually to camp. However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, which applies to BLM camping.

The BLM is a government agency. This means they receive their funding directly from the federal government. So, as long as you’re paying your taxes, you contribute to these lands. Consider it one of the many perks of living in the land of the free and home of the brave.

Pro Tip: Unsure if BLM camping is right for you? Check out these 5 Reasons to Avoid BLM Camping.

Bad Apples Are Ruining It

It saddens us to see BLM agencies beyond frustrated with a few campers who are the bad apples of the bunch. These guests are not only leaving trash and human waste behind but also destroying the land by creating unauthorized campsites. Every time we turn around, one of our favorite BLM camping locations restricts the area to day-use only and prohibits overnight camping. We’re seeing campsite closures in Colorado and Nevada and massive changes in California

It Could Go Away

The purpose of the BLM is to ensure the longevity of the land and its resources. When campers choose not to respect the land and are destroying it, the government officials have no choice but to get involved. This typically results in restrictions or closures to give the land time to heal and repair itself.

There’s no guarantee that any area will always be available. Everyone is responsible for doing their best to take care of lands and leave them better than they found. It can take years for BLM agencies to fix damages caused by careless campers.

Don’t think that it will always be available just because it’s public-use land.

Woman watching sunrise on BLM land
Always leave your BLM campsite in better condition than you found it.

How to Enjoy BLM Camping Responsibly

If you want to camp on BLM land responsibly, there are a few things you should be doing each time you camp. Let’s look at how you can enjoy BLM camping while camping responsibly.

Leave No Trace

When you leave a campsite on BLM land, it should always look better than when you found it. Make sure you walk around the campsite and pick up any trash you can find. It doesn’t matter if it’s yours; help it find a trash can. Leaving no trace means there should be no obvious signs you were there.

This is a general policy you should follow no matter where you’re camping. A responsible camper minimizes the amount of damage they cause to the campsite and cleans up after themselves. This helps ensure campsites remain available for many years to come.

Pro Tip: Respecting the land where you’re camping is crucial! Learn more about Why RVers Must Leave No Trace?

Respect Others

There’s not much worse than a rude and inconsiderate camping neighbor. Make sure you keep the volume down and stay out of neighboring campsites. Showing respect to those around you can help ensure everyone has a fantastic time while camping. You don’t want your loud generator, 70s rock music, or late-night laughter to ruin somebody else’s trip.

If you’re enjoying dispersed camping, make sure you’re giving plenty of space between you and any others looking for a spot to camp. Don’t set up next to another camper unless you know them. BLM camping allows campers more space and privacy, which appeals to many campers.

Obey Stay Limits

Stay limits are often very difficult for local officials to enforce. There’s typically much more land than officials could ever patrol. Just because you may be able to get by without getting caught for a bit doesn’t mean you should. Stay limits ensure everyone gets a chance to enjoy an area and gives the land a chance to heal.

Observing stay limits also gives everyone a chance to enjoy an area. Some locations have limited amounts of camping options, but crowds flock to them anyway. During peak seasons, we’ve seen some public lands with shorter stay limits (five days). This helps ensure more people have the opportunity to use the land and enjoy it.

Enjoy BLM Camping Responsibly

If you’re planning to give BLM camping a try, do so responsibly. Take care of the land and always follow all of the posted rules. Government officials have a reason for creating rules and regulations. It’s typically to take care of the land or ensure all guests have a great time. So don’t ruin the land or the experiences of others while enjoying some BLM camping. You can make plenty of priceless memories without causing destruction or damage to public lands.

Have you ever camped on BLM land? Tell us in the comments!

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! 

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