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Boondocking: the buzzword in the RVing community that invokes mental images of picturesque campsites, epic sunsets, and the excitement of incredible RV campsites for zero dollars.
There’s so much to learn for newbies and it can feel overwhelming to even know where to start!
Despite what some people might say, you don’t need to be an expert and you don’t need to have the most expensive gear to get started with boondocking.
In this article, we've curated and organized the very best resources from RVers and boondocking experts about everything related to boondocking successfully. Now, you have everything you need to get started all in one place! Be sure to save this article for reference.
What Is Boondocking?
If you're new to the RV world, you might have heard the term and wondered about its meaning. A basic definition of boondocking is camping in an RV or other self-contained vehicle without electricity, sewer hookups, or fresh water. Usually when people talk about boondocking, they mean camping on remote public lands, but the term can also apply to RVers parking overnight without hookups on privately owned land, “dry” campsites, or even in parking lots.
Here are a few articles from experienced RVers and boondocking specialists that explain the term further, along with key things you should know!
- What Does Boondocking Mean? This article by Boondockers Bible explains what boondocking is and what it isn’t… and more importantly, why it’s awesome! This website is dedicated to all things boondocking.
- What Is Dry Camping? Dry Camping is another way to refer to boondocking. This article by Pelican explains what dry camping really is and shares some pros and cons to consider before you head out for the first time.
- What Is Boondocking? Campendium is a website and app designed to help RVers and campers find excellent campsites, and over the years they’ve built up a healthy database of great boondocking spots. Dispersed camping is yet another term used to describe boondocking, and this post by Campendium goes much more in depth about the subject. If you want to learn about all the types of boondocking, check this one out for sure!
There’s one thing for sure: boondocking is an awesome way to camp and RV for free. But it’s not something you can head out and do without preparation or proper gear! Although most RVs are designed to camp without hookups for a couple of days, there are many things you can do to make the experience more comfortable.
Preparing for Boondocking
There’s one thing for sure: boondocking is an awesome way to take a very cheap RV vacation or live in an RV full time nearly for free. But it’s not something you can head out and do without preparation or proper gear! Although most RVs are designed to camp without hookups for a couple of days, you'll quickly discover that using an RV without hookups isn't the same as having full hookups.
- Some of your lights and electrical outlets may not work
- You won't be able to run any appliances that draw a lot of power…such as an air conditioning unit
- You'll be limited as to the number of hot showers you can take and the number of times you can flush the toilet
That's why many RVers who plan to boondock on a regular basis end up investing in gear that helps make the experience more comfortable.
These articles are excellent examples of how to prepare for boondocking, whether it’s your first time out or your 20th.
Boondocking Solar and Power Needs
- How Much Battery Power for Boondocking Will I Need? This post by Boondockers Bible answers one of the biggest and most important questions about boondocking – the power situation.
Most RVs come with a house battery or two that runs your 12v or DC power system. Your 12v or DC power system runs many of the accessories and appliances in your RV like your lights, your refrigerator, and more. (Here's a great article that explains RV electrical systems in more detail). It’s important to understand what you can run on your RV batteries and what you can’t, and it’s also important to know how much power your items use. If you drain your batteries completely, you risk damaging them beyond repair. This article will help you understand boondocking battery basics.
- How to Conserve and Create Power When You’re RV Boondocking – This article on the Camping World blog aims to answer the question that arises when you realize you need to charge your RV batteries off-grid. In this interview with the Wendlands of the RV Lifestyle blog and YouTube, you learn some seriously helpful tips on conserving power while boondocking and how to get more power without hookups.
- RV Solar Power For Boondocking: Complete Beginners Guide – RV solar power is a technical and complicated topic. However, solar power is the best way to have power in your RV while boondocking. So a beginners' guide on the topic should be an essential read, and this article by Critical Cactus is a great place to start.
Water Conservation and Must-Have Boondocking Gear
- Water Saving Tips for Better Boondocking – Aside from generating and storing power, boondockers must also conserve water for the best boondocking experience. This article on RVShare shares some interesting and helpful tips for making the most out of your fresh water while off the grid.
- Must Have Boondocking Gear for Off-Grid RV Camping – Dan and Lisa Brown of Always on Liberty are no strangers to boondocking. This article on their website shares their favorite equipment for boondocking comfortably. From generators to solar and batteries and water and waste management, they thought of it all and shared it in this helpful post.
How to Find the Best Places to Boondock
Boondocking generally takes place on public lands across the country. Public lands are managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), the USFS, State Trust Lands, and more.
These articles share insider tips and tricks to find the best boondocking sites, no matter what kind of experience you’re looking for.
- Best Boondocking Apps and Websites for Amazing Free Camping – Tom and Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move are pretty much experts when it comes to boondocking. Their guide on the best websites and apps for finding great boondocking sites shows their expertise! This article has tips most people never even think of, so be sure to keep it handy for reference.
- How to Find Free Camping in the USA – This article from Parked in Paradise is a really in-depth guide to finding free camping in the US. It includes explanations on the different kinds of free camping and provides plenty of resources to start your own search.
- Free Camping on the Gulf Coast – If free camping right on the beach sounds like your thing, Texas is the best place to do it. Texas has thousands of miles of shoreline, and free beach camping abounds all along the Texas Gulf coast. This article by Make Like an Ape Man shares more about free beach camping in Texas and reviews and photos of some of the best Gulf beach boondocking sites.
- 11 Free Camping In Arizona Spots You’ll Love – The desert southwest is undoubtedly one of the best places for boondocking. The mild winters and epic sunsets paired with over 12 million acres of BLM land make Arizona the perfect place for free RV camping. This article by Drivin’ & Vibin’ shares some of the most beautiful boondocking spots in the Grand Canyon state.
Where to Find Free Overnight RV Parking
Boondocking on public lands isn't the only way to find free overnight RV Parking. There are many resources available to help you find a place that's legal and free to sleep overnight.
Some department stores like Walmart, Cabelas, Camping World, Lowes, and more allow RVers to park for free overnight. This is usually done with an ‘unwritten rule' that you would do a bit of shopping in the store as a thank you. Not all stores or cities allow this, so the best way to find out is to call stores along your route and find out.
- Allstays ONP is a paid app for finding Walmarts that allow overnight parking.
- Casino Camper helps you find free overnight parking in casino parking lots.
If sleeping in parking lots isn't your thing, there are other options available like Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome.
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that allows you free camping at over 1,600 locations in the US including wineries, breweries, farms, museums, and more. This is a yearly membership but camping is free for all members. Visit Harvest Hosts here to learn more.
Boondockers Welcome is another camping membership that connects RVers with property owners for free camping on private property. Think of it like an AirBnB for RVers and property owners. Boondockers Welcome is a yearly membership, but all members get access to hosts for totally free camping. Also, Boondockers Welcome members qualify for a discount on a Harvest Hosts membership, so it might be worth getting both! Learn more about Boondockers Welcome here.
Tips for Boondocking
For some people, boondocking is a fun weekend getaway or something they do a few times a year. For others, it’s an entire full-time lifestyle.
These articles have the best boondocking tips we could find for beginner boondockers, experienced boondockers, and big rig boondockers.
- Baby Steps to Boondocking: Tips for Beginner Boondockers – Boondocking is intimidating for first-timers. The best way to get started with dry camping is with baby steps, and this article on Camping World outlines the process in great detail.
- 40 RV Boondocking Tips to Make Your Off-Grid Camping Better – The Mortons are boondocking experts, so who better than them to share some of the best tips about boondocking that you’ll ever find? Every tip on this list is helpful, so keep this article handy for reference.
- The Best Boondocking Tips for a Big RV – Boondocking with a big RV might seem daunting. There are a few considerations big rig RVers need to consider when boondocking like site size, accessibility, and more. This article from Rae and Jason of Getaway Couple shares some excellent tips on boondocking in a big rig. They’ve been doing it for years in a 42’ fifth wheel, so they know a thing or two!
- How to Stay Cool While RVing (Even When You Don't Have Power) – In our article about beating the heat while RVing, we touch on some ideas for keeping the inside of an RV cool that don't rely on air conditioning, allowing you to save precious electricity.
Boondocking Etiquette for Responsible Dry Camping
- Boondocking Etiquette for Off-Grid Camping – Just because boondocking isn’t at a campground doesn’t mean there aren’t rules you should be mindful of. The unwritten rules of boondocking are referred to as boondocking etiquette. Check out this article by Always on Liberty for some guidelines for being a respectful and responsible boondocker.
- RVers Boondocking Policy – Escapees RV Club has a long history of advocating for RVers. Part of that includes RVer education, like the RVers Boondocking Policy. This policy outlines RV etiquette in an attempt to educate RVers on the best practices to ensure these free camping areas stay open for everyone to enjoy. This comes with a handy free download of 5 steps to responsible boondocking.
Ultimate Guides to Boondocking
Boondocking is a big topic, and luckily there are many people who do it successfully and share their tips and expertise with us online. From articles to YouTube videos to online courses, there are almost endless opportunities for you to learn more about the art of boondocking. Here are some of the best resources online.
- Everything You Need to Know to Go RV Boondocking – Parked in Paradise consistently creates epic content related to RVing, camping, and van life. This ultimate guide to RV boondocking is no different! If you’re looking for an overview of literally everything you need to know for boondocking, this post has it; the title is accurate!
- The Ultimate Guide to Boondocking – This ultimate guide to boondocking from Togo RV is jam-packed with information about water, power, internet, and more.
- Off-Grid RV: A Technical Guide to Self-Sufficient Boondocking – This Kindle ebook on Amazon covers a lot of technical topics related to boondocking. Topics include electrical systems, boondocking locations, boondocking gear, and much more.
Online Boondocking Course: Boondocking 101 on RV Life Masterclass
Do you want an educational online course to teach you everything you need to know about boondocking all in one place? The Boondocking 101 course is for you!
This course curriculum includes several different lessons all about boondocking in one convenient online platform.
Sections and lessons within the course include:
- What is Boondocking? An overview to the lifestyle
- Preparing Your RV For Boondocking
- Finding the Best Boondocking Spots
- Safety While Boondocking
- Boondocking With Pets
- Putting it All Together
If you like to source your own information, you totally can! But if you like learning new things in an educational way, taking an online course like Boondocking 101 is a great way to get all the knowledge you need to get started.
Boondock With Confidence with These Boondocking Resources
With the articles contained in this post, you’ll be able to go from boondocking-clueless to boondocking pro in no time!
These resources are great primers for every topic you need to know about as it relates to off-grid camping and becoming more self-sufficient as an RVer.
Boondocking is not only a great way to save money while RVing, it’s also the best way to see some of the most beautiful locations around the country! Do yourself a favor and try it out as soon as you get a chance.