How to transition from hook-ups to boondocking

I often receive questions from new RVers wanting to try boondocking and are looking for easy ways to get started. One asked for a map of boondocking locations, another for a tour guide that would take would-be boondockers on a boondocking camping trip. To take the mystery out of boondocking for those who haven’t tried it, I would suggest another approach.

First, consider the term boondocking itself. The difference between boondocking and dry-camping, is where you do it. You are dry-camping in a Wal-mart or Crackle Barrel parking lot, or any other location or event where hook-ups are not available. You are boondocking when you are dry-camping out in the boonies, away from civilization, services, walk-to restaurants, a water supply or dump station, and probably cell phone service.

So logically to practice boondocking, and to get your feet wet, try dry-camping first, in a location where if you have questions or problems, help is close by. As you gain confidence, you move further and further from services and help, into more remote, pristine, solitary, and wonderfully isolated private campsites you can give your own name to, with no neighbors except for the nighttime coyote serenade and a sky full of the undiminished Milky Way.

These are the steps, from just feeling comfortable without hook-ups to “coyote camping”:

  • Wal-mart, Crackle Barrel, K-Mart, parking lots. Primitive campgrounds with designated campsites, dump and water fill stations, like the Forest Service, BLM, State Parks, and some National Parks and Monuments where there are no hookups.
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) [1], designated camping areas with hosts, dump station, water fill, and trash containers, but with no designated campsites, where you can stay up close to the entrance and help, or retreat further back where it is less crowded.
  • Dispersed camping areas that are designated camping areas but have no services or host and you have to leave the area for dumping, filling water tank, or getting help. Find locations at BLM and Forest Service offices.
  • Open land camping. The BLM and Forest Service [1] permit camping (boondocking) any where unless expressly prohibited by signs or fenced off. You can follow any dirt road or old logging road and camp anywhere where you can get off the road so as not to impede any traffic–even if there isn’t any. This is where you find those secret places you can call your own and is the most extreme–and arguably the most satisfying–form of boondocking.

My new boondocking eBook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, will show you in more detail how to start and perfect the boondocking experience.


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