Tag: Free Boondocking

Boondocking: The Three Big Dos and Don’ts

Do you dream of taking your RV, Van, Motorhome, or Trailer off grid to enjoy America’s beautiful National Forests? If so, there are a few things you’ll need to know before heading out for boondocking. 

I have three Do’s and three Don’ts that every Boondocker needs to know for to enjoy fun and safe dispersed camping on our public lands. 

My goal as a full-time RVer is to camp as remotely as possible where I can mingle with the birds, the trees, and wildlife. I love to explore national forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands where I can find the absolute best, most remote, and beautiful camping spots. I’ve been doing this since 2016 and I’ve learned a lot. I want to share what I’ve learned so you can get out and enjoy your public lands with confidence.

First, let’s review where you can boondock or dry camp. 

free boondocking

Where can you Boondock for FREE?

We, in the United States, are fortunate to have an abundance of Public Lands. Nearly every state has National Forests and/or Bureau of Land Management (deserts) lands. Most federal public lands allow dispersed camping, which is the official term for Boondocking or dry camping that you’ll see when visiting their websites. Other federal and state agencies that often allow dispersed camping are:

  • Wildlife Management Areas
  • Wildlife Refuges
  • Water Districts (in certain areas, usually the southeast)
  • Utility Districts (land for recreation)

IMPORTANT: You will want to check the area you’re visiting and review their website since every agency has slightly different rules and regulations. Even when visiting BLM lands and National Forests in the same state, different regions can have different rules. So always check before camping

How Long Can I Stay?

Generally, you are allowed to stay for 14 consecutive days before you have to move. Remember, there will also be a certain period of time you have to remain gone before returning to the area to camp again. Check the website, stop by the regional office or download a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) before heading out to make sure you’re obeying all the rules! Now, let’s talk about the three big Do’s when boondocking.

boondocking dos

The Three Do’s of Boondocking

#1 DO: Know what areas are designated for camping and what might be off-limits. Most National Forest district offices have maps (MVUMs) showing what roads are legal for automobiles. This is to help minimize human impact and conserve our public lands for future generations. I like to make sure I’m making the smallest impact on the wilderness. This means I follow the rules. I stay on designated roads and leave no trace. So before you go into any public land for boondocking, check the website or the district office to make sure you know and follow the rules.

#2 DO: Obey all No Trespassing signs. Yes, you will sometimes see these signs within public lands. Private property may have been established and grandfathered in before the area became public lands. Respect those signs and respect people’s private property. You don’t want to get a knock on the door in the middle of the night, or worse, get intimidated by locals who might be mad about you being on their land.

#3 DO: Leave NO trace and pack out what you pack in. That means taking all your garbage with you. Do not leave your garbage behind, and that includes gray water. Don’t leave your mess for somebody else to clean up. Leave only footprints/tire tracks behind. Don’t drive over vegetation, cut down trees, or brush or dig ditches to level out your vehicle. . Don’t feed the wildlife!!! Do not throw food scraps outside. It attracts bears (and a fed bear is a dead bear) and it makes wildlife reliant on humans for food. If it isn’t found naturally in the environment, don’t leave it in the wilderness.

boondocking do not do

The Three Big DON’Ts While Boondocking

#1 DON’T block dirt roads with your RV. You might be driving around in the wilderness, as I’ve done, for miles and haven’t seen another person for hours and you can’t find a place to camp. You finally settle on blocking a tiny little dirt road that looks like it hasn’t been used in 15 years. But I promise you, inevitably somebody is going to come along and need to get by. Instead, pull off on the side of the road. Be parked out of the way, so anyone wanting to get by on that road can get by.  TIP: Try to get to a spot early enough in the day so you aren’t so exhausted you make an unsafe choice on where you camp. When we are tired, we aren’t thinking clearly. I’ve learned this the hard way.

#2 Don’t dump your gray water! Your RV holds at least 20 to 30 gallons of wastewater. It’s not natural to the environment. It may not cause catastrophic harm but it is changing the ecosystem. So no, you cannot dump your gray water even if you use natural soaps. Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap isn’t natural to any forest ecosystem, so leave it in your tank.

#2 Don’t rely on a cellphone signal for navigation. Oftentimes, you may start with a really strong cell signal, and then suddenly it can drop off. If staying in touch is a concern for you, I recommend getting a personal location device. I have a SPOT. I can push a button and it notifies search-and-rescue or my emergency contact with a GPS coordinate. So if personal safety is a concern for you, consider a personal locator.

Go Old School- Use a Paper Map

You might always want to have a paper map with you. You can’t always rely on your cell phone to navigate out or into a place without a cell signal, so it’s a good idea to have a backup. Whether that’s downloading maps on your computer or phone before you go exploring so that you can have them offline when you need them.

Another option is to have a device that will allow you to have WiFi no matter where you go. Check out my video below on getting Starlink.

In the end, Enjoy Nature!

I hope these tips help you get out and enjoy boondocking. Remember to have fun, explore, be adventurous, and respect the land. Go out and have a great time living close to nature, and enjoy the sounds, sights, and smells. For me, that’s what boondocking and dry camping in an RV is all about.

Until next time, Be Happy, Be Free, and Be Kind!

Other helpful links for RV Living:
Should you live in a Van or RV?
How to Drive an RV on Washboard Roads
Stealth Camping near Denver & Unique Camping Spot Finder!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel by clicking the icon above for more RV Life How-To and Not Tos.

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DISCLAIMER: Carolyn’s RV Life and Carolyn Higgins share her experiences, thoughts, opinions and ideas in this blog post and on this website for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, instruction or guidance. Viewers/Readers should consult with professionals before pursing any actions or behaviors exhibited in this video. Carolyn’s RV Life or Carolyn Higgins cannot be held liable in the event of any accident or injury that may occur as a result of application of procedures and information provided in this video.

Finding Free Campsites Tips

Viewers on my YouTube channel ask me all the time, how I find the Most AMAZING FREE campsites for boondocking in my Class C RV. Below, I’m going to share with you my best tips and secrets for how I find free campsites for boondocking locations using my favorite apps.  So let’s talk about Boondocking.

What is Boondocking?

Boondocking simply means “dry-camping” outside of a formal campground. It’s formally called “Dispersed Camping”.  There are no services! No toilets, garbage service, water, or electrical hookups. Just you and nature! While it feels wild and free there are some rules and regulations, so be sure to check with the Public Land Agency you’re visiting before camping anywhere.

Free Campsites for boondocking

The Best Websites for Free Boondocking Campsites

So, let’s jump right into the tips and what I use for finding free campsites.  I have two favorite websites:

  1. http://Freecampsites.net 
  2. http://Campendium.com

These two websites are invaluable to my RV Life! You plug in the city or town you’re in or simply use your current location’s GPS coordinates and it will show you places that other boondockers have reported.  Here’s why I love these resources:

  1. Each provides great detailed information about the sites they list.
  2. They tell you conditions and what size rig it would accommodate.
  3. They often tell you if there’s a cell signal and which carriers pick up service.
  4. Most sites are reviewed by others, which is invaluable!

In most cases, I already know if I can get there with my 25ft Class C RV before I arrive.   

Next, let’s talk about other tools I use for finding my own special boondocking spots!

Apps for Free Campsites

Are there Apps for finding my own Boondocking off The Beaten Path??

“Is there an app for that?” is probably the first thing you think or say when someone says you should try something new. The answer is YES, of course, there are Apps for going off the beaten path ad exploring public lands on your own! Here are a few of my favorite apps that are available for Androids, iPhones/iPads, and Google devices.

Free Apps and Tools for Going Off the Beaten Path

  1. Google Earth & Google Maps (Free Apple App Store & Android Google Play Store): Google Maps with Satellite view is my FAVORITE App! If you want to avoid crowded sites and like exploring remote places, you’ll love using Google Satellite View for boondocking. I can use Google Maps to virtually explore National Forests, Deserts (BLM), and other Public Lands for potential camping spots away from the crowds. Then, I can use Google’s Satellite layer to explore an area further by zooming in on the map. It’s the perfect tool because it allows me to can get right down to the road and see any openings for camping. So for me in Class C RV, being able to see the road is really important and it gives me a good idea of whether or not I would be able to drive the roads.
  2. FreeRoam (Free Apple App Store & Android Google Play Store): This app will help you find campgrounds, boondocking, and RV Parks. There is a filter setting for things like the weather, safety, crowdedness, cell signal, and more. You can also find nearby dump sites, fresh water, groceries, propane, and more. You can even find routes around low clearances! There is a lot of detail with this app than can help you plan routes and make the most of your next campout.

Purchased Apps and Membership Websites for Finding Free Campsites

Now a few tips on apps that you will need to purchase for finding free campsites.

  1. US Public Lands App ($2.99 Apple App Store & Android Google Play Store): This app will show you an overlay map of public lands around you. It will show you the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service, National Park Service, Army Corp of Engineers, and more. Moreover, you never have to guess where one boundary begins and one ends.
  2. Boondocker’s Welcome & Harvest Hosts App (The App is Free Apple App Store and Android Google Play Store): Boondockers Welcome (boondockerswelcome.com) and their app, Harvest Hosts, are great for escaping crowded campgrounds and instead of finding a private spot to camp that is provided by a host. The annual membership fee is $50 and the app (Harvest Hosts) is free to download. What you get in return is access to over 2900 Host locations across the country on private property to boondock for free. You must have a self-contained RV that can dry camp for as long as your stay. This is not for tent camping or vans. Travel Trailers, motorhomes, and truck campers are allowed.
Free Campsite Tips

Ready, Set, Let’s Camp!

I hope these resources help you find some amazing boondocking spots this spring and summer.  If you’ve never tried boondocking, I hope you will give these resources a try and go explore our beautiful country! Get out there and travel the unknown roads and live adventurously! I’ve listed more apps and vids, below. As always…be HAPPY, be FREE, be KIND.

Helpful Vids & Links:

How to Drive an RV on Mountain Roads Without Killing Your Brakes

Remote Boondocking in a 29′ Class C RV

Easily Share Your Location with Family and Friends with Google Maps

BEST Tires for Boondocking RV Life

My Favorite Free RV Camping Spots

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel by clicking the icon above for more RV Life How-To and Not Tos.

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DISCLAIMER: Carolyn’s RV Life and Carolyn Higgins share her experiences, thoughts, opinions and ideas in this blog post and on this website for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, instruction or guidance. Viewers/Readers should consult with professionals before pursing any actions or behaviors exhibited in this video. Carolyn’s RV Life or Carolyn Higgins cannot be held liable in the event of any accident or injury that may occur as a result of application of procedures and information provided in this video.