Nothing beats the freedom of the open road, except camping for free.
Free camping also known as “boondocking,” is one of the truest joys of RVing.
“Wait, what?” You ask, “You can camp for free?” Yes, yes you can (and it’s easier to find than you might think).
When my husband and I started dreaming about RVing, we didn’t even know that free camping was a thing, much less how to find awesome campsites for boondocking. We were intimidated at first to go “off-the-grid,” but learned that with a little research and good planning, it wasn’t scary at all. In fact, boondocking is totally liberating!
What is Boondocking?
Boondocking is less predictable than traditional camping at an RV park, where you generally know what to expect. Think “go-with-the-flow” because you may not know exactly where to park or even what’s there when you arrive. Also, preparation is key as you’ll be without hook-ups, like electric, water, and sewer when boondocking. You are dependent on your own power and water (this is also referred to as dry-camping), but you’ll have the ultimate freedom of choosing when, where, and how remote you want to camp.
I can hear you already packing for an early morning departure!
How do you find awesome campsites for boondocking?
Boondocking is a bit of an art, and can take some practice before you’re a “pro.” These resources should help you find awesome boondocking locations, while also helping you become more confident in the free camping experience.
1. Use Websites and Apps
When we started boondocking we learned of websites and apps to help us find awesome spots.
This mobile-friendly website enables you to search for various camping options, including land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), national forests, and even traditional campsites. There, you will find reviews and often a breakdown of features, like cell coverage. The details are only as strong as user input, so you may not find comprehensive information on every location. It’s a great practice to leave a review of your experience so that others can plan based on information that you provide.
In addition to finding boondocking locations, this paid app offers a broad range of information on many topics. You can find tips on everything from money saving ideas to winterizing your RV.
2. Follow other RVers online
If you didn’t already know, there are a plethora of blogs and YouTube channels specific to RVing. Some of these specialize in different aspects of RVing, like van-life, or you guessed it—boondocking. One RV couple called Driving’ and Vibin’ produces video and blog content on Boondocking and free camping. You’ll find information on their favorite places and what to expect from the location.
We found out about this amazing boondocking spot, Upper Teton View, in the Grand Tetons, by following RVChickadee who posted it on her Facebook page.
3. Strike out on your own using map technology
If you consider yourself a real pioneer, and want to take it up a notch, then finding your own locations to boondock is another option. Free and legal camping is available on BLM land and throughout the national forest. If you are savvy enough with Google maps, you can look for places in advance and scope out a site. Of course you never know if someone will already be there, so be sure to arrive early and allow enough time if you have to find a new spot.
Sometimes signal strength won’t be strong enough to rely on a mobile technology. You have to be prepared to search if you are looking for the perfect spot. Remember to be flexible, it’s about the journey not the destination, right?
The resources listed above are primarily for free camping. There are however a couple of additional low-cost boondocking options, like Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome. Each offers a different type of boondocking experience for an annual membership fee. Harvest Hosts are typically wineries or ranches, and Boondockers Welcome is a listing of individuals who have offered up land on their property. These are usually one-two night stays, and while not free, both are very low cost options.
Boondocking is a wonderful, freeing experience. Think about it—didn’t you get into RVing because of the excitement of new experiences? That’s what boondocking is all about.
So try out these resources, make a list of the places that appeal to you, and go rock that boondock!