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Boondocking 101 for Summer Camping

Summertime is the peak season for camping, but unfortunately, this also means that campgrounds and RV parks are often overbooked. If you’re finding it difficult to get a campsite this summer, don’t despair — summer boondocking may be an option.

Boondocking is camping without any amenities, so you’ll need to be prepared with everything you need before hitting the road. But if you’re up for the challenge, boondocking can be a great way to get away from it all and enjoy some peaceful solitude in nature.

Check out these tips for getting started with boondocking this summer.

Are Campgrounds Overbooked?

It’s summertime, and for many people, that means loading up the RV and heading out to the nearest campground. However, with more people hitting the road, campgrounds are starting to feel a bit crowded. In fact, some popular destinations are starting to feel like mini-cities, with RVs parked bumper-to-bumper. It’s harder than ever to find an available campsite.

While this can be a bit of a downer, it’s important to remember that there are still plenty of places to enjoy some peace and quiet. For example, boondocking, camping in undeveloped areas, is a great way to escape the crowds.

Have You Considered Boondocking as an Alternative to Campgrounds?

Many RVers get used to having easy access to amenities when they have a campsite with full hook-ups (electricity, water, and sewage). Boondocking, however, requires a better understanding of your rig. You need to understand how your power system works, what your propane does and doesn’t facilitate, and how to manage your water usage, holding tanks, and trash.

However, boondocking can be a great alternative to campgrounds if you’re willing to invest some time into learning about your rig’s systems. Don’t let the learning curve deter you. Managing freshwater is primarily a matter of being more judicious in your water usage. Managing your tanks is just about knowing how much they hold and how long you can go before emptying them.

As for batteries, many times, you can get all the electricity you need from solar panels or a generator. Your vehicle might even charge your batteries as you drive. And you can use propane to power things like the refrigerator, stove, and furnace. 

Winnebago RV boondocking in the desert
Can’t find an available campsite? Go boondocking instead!

What Is Boondocking? 

Boondocking is camping in a remote area without hookups for water, sewer, or electricity. It’s also known as dry camping or dispersed camping.

Some boondockers will boondock for a night or two, while others will boondock for weeks or even months at a time. Many boondockers prefer to boondock in national forests or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. These locations typically offer more solitude than developed campgrounds.

When boondocking, campers must be completely self-sufficient. Summer boondocking can get hot, so it is important to have enough water. Plus boondockers must come prepared with food as well as a way to dispose of waste. Because boondockers can’t rely on hookups, they must have a way to generate their own power. They can do this with a generator and/or solar panels.

Despite the challenges, boondocking is a great way to enjoy the beauty of nature without the crowds. Be sure to always follow the Leave No Trace principles when boondocking. Essentially, this boils down to leaving the area better than you found it.

Pro Tip: Use these 22 RV Boondocking Tips on your next free camping adventure.

How Do You Find Boondocking Locations? 

You can usually boondock on public lands, such as national forests and BLM land. Boondocking is allowed for a certain number of days, after which you must move to a different location. The stay limit is usually posted somewhere near the site. If it isn’t, do your best to find out the limit and follow it. Stay limits generally range from three to 14 days. Stays beyond 14 days are rare.

The Bureau of Land Management is an extremely useful resource for finding boondocking on public lands. They also provide loads of other relevant information. Don’t forget to check in with your local forest service or BLM office. They often have very good up-to-date information on different areas, road conditions, or other things to be aware of. 

Most boondockers also use an arsenal of apps and other websites to scout boondocking locations. Apps such as Campendium, Allstays Camp & RV, and iOverlander, as well as websites like the BLM site,, and others, identify locations, have detailed information, and provide user reviews of boondocking sites. There are also membership programs, such as Boondockers Welcome, which aren’t free but provide access to many boondocking sites.

Truck camper boondocking in the desert
Each US state offers many amazing free boondocking spots.

What Is the Best State for Boondocking? 

This is a difficult question to answer. The western half of the United States is loaded with states that have a tremendous amount of boondocking or dispersed camping. The most popular are Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and California. Although for summer boondocking, these states can be exceptionally hot.

Arizona is a boondocking haven, particularly attracting snowbirds in the winter. This southwestern state has an overabundance of BLM land with sites that range from Saguaro-cactus-covered deserts to a petrified forest to the Grand Canyon.

California also has a lot of public lands with popular destinations such as Joshua Tree and the Alabama Hills. Colorado also boasts a wealth of boondocking destinations surrounded by majestic mountains, particularly in the western half of the state. Utah is home to numerous national parks and lots of dispersed camping.

Most states west of the Mississippi have a large number of public lands. States like Montana, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico are also abundant with boondocking destinations.

Is Boondocking Safe?

Boondocking can be safe if you follow some basic precautions. First, ensure you have a good map of the area and know how to find your way back to the main road.

Second, boondock only in areas where it’s legal to do so. Many public lands (whether federal or state-managed) have designated boondocking areas. Be sure to research the rules before setting up camp.

Third, always bring plenty of food and water with you, as boondocking sites are often far from civilization. Also, follow the Leave No Trace principles of leaving the area better than you found it. This includes having a plan to store your trash and sewage until you can dispose of them properly.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be mindful of your surroundings. This means being aware of who and what is around you at all times. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t stay in a location where you don’t feel safe. Make sure someone knows where you’re going and that you have equipment that keeps you connected to a cell signal in case of an emergency.

Motorcoach parked in desert while boondocking
When done correctly, boondocking is a safe free camping option.

How Do I Boondock Across America?

Most anyone can boondock across America. Bigger rigs, such as Class A motorhomes, can often find it more challenging than smaller rigs to locate accessible boondocking. However, it can be done. Also, some states are more boondocking friendly than others.

There are numerous ways to research good boondocking sites across the country this summer. The most important thing to do is check for limitations in areas you’re scouting. This way, you don’t get there and unexpectedly find that your rig isn’t compatible with the site.

Many apps and websites have user reviews that share real-world experiences. These may also offer up-to-date information about road conditions, weather, and cell reception.

It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan. Some boondocking sites won’t have much detailed information available. It’s good to be flexible if something prevents you from staying at your first choice.

Can You Leave Your Trailer When Boondocking?

At most boondocking sites, you can leave your trailer or RV unattended when going out exploring or on a supply run. It’s rare for someone to break into an unattended RV, but it can and does happen.

Again, be mindful of your surroundings. If there’s someone you trust nearby or if someone in your party can remain behind, that’s the best way to make sure no one messes with your camp or rig. However, with proper scouting, boondocking is generally safe.

Pro Tip: Learn more about how to Safely Leave Your RV When Boondocking.

Is Boondocking Worth It?

With campgrounds becoming ever-more crowded, prices shooting through the roof, and many beautiful public lands at the ready, summer boondocking is well worth the effort. It may take a little more planning and a fair amount of flexibility, but for those who are happy being self-sufficient, it can be a rewarding way to see the United States.

Many more campsite options are available when you add boondocking to your search. This offers a glimmer of hope for a summer that looks overcrowded and limiting at first glance. So put the above tips and strategies to work for you, and get out there for a glorious summer of camping fun!

What are your boondocking tips and tricks? Tell us your secrets in the comments!

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