Boondocking a.k.a. Camping In The Boonies

What Is Boondocking?

Boondocking, Dry Camping, Dispersed Camping . . . camping in the boonies we used to call it when I was a kid. Back then, we did it in a tent. Now, most do it in an RV. And it's free or very cheap.

The word boondocking got it's origin from a Tagalog word, bundog, meaning mountain. Soldiers in World War II, stationed in the Phillipines, used it to describe a remote, rural or bushy area and when they came home it worked its way into American slang as 'the boonies'.

Now RVers have coined a derivation of it for camping in the boonies without the benefit of docking up to ongoing services such as running water, electricity, cable and the internet. Hence boondocking! Sometimes it is free camping but sometimes not.

What It Is Not

Here I'd like to make the distinction that if you are parked overnight in a Walmart, roadside rest area, truck stop or a friends driveway, that this is not camping, but simply overnighting.

The key to boondocking is that it's camping and usually done in rural and/or remote areas of the country like US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands located, mostly, in the Western USA. But there are other opportunities that can fit under this umbrella term.

Where To Do It?

Imperial Dam LTVA near the Colorado River in CA with Squaw Lake in view.Imperial Dam LTVA near the Colorado River in CA with Squaw Lake in view.
Hi Jolly BLM Campground, Quartzite, AZ with my van near the tree.Hi Jolly BLM Campground, Quartzite, AZ with my van near the tree.

Dry camping can be done on a lone site in the middle of a National Forest or National Wildlife Refuge, on a beach in Florida or Texas, on a mountain top in the Ozarks of Arkansas with no one else around or it can be done with hundreds of RV's in a Long Term Visitors Area (LTVA) of a Bureau of Land Management recreation area in Arizona, Nevada or California.

There are areas all over the country, off the beaten path, where dry or dispersed camping is a possibility. And in this age of information it's easier than ever to find them.

In other locales there are other options. All sorts of networks have popped up that offer connections to places to stay for free or little money. Boondockers Welcome is an international network of just such people who offer camping on their property for a specified period. And it is growing. Perhaps you'd like to be a part of it!

There are also forums you can join, as well, such as the VanDwellers group I joined on Yahoo Groups, where you can seek out info on dry camping in the area you are heading, or on any other pertinent topic you're interested in for that matter.

Why Do It?

Happily, you can go for months at a time and not pay for dry camping, especially out west on Federal and State lands. Two weeks here, six months there, keeps your gas costs in tow. So if a tight budget is your lot, boondocking is your answer.

But many do it because you can find yourself in a place of undisturbed beauty and peace, close to so many facets of nature. . . . the gurgle of a creek, flowers in bloom, mountain vistas, the wind in the trees, songbirds and other fauna.

And you can meet other adventurous spirits, hear there stories, and get to know them. And next thing you know you've found another wonderful place to head off to, maybe even with them!

Below I'm with a few new friends I met in Tucson, AZ at Snyder Hill BLM area. I met up with three of them in Sedona, AZ, where we camped at a trailhead, another possibility in the West for short term camping. To my surprise this one happened to be a landing zone for hot air balloon rides.

A fourth met up with us at Lake Powell where we camped on the beach in front of Lone Rock. It was an amazing trip. This is where I learned to kayak. And now my adventures have a new twist. I'm now the proud owner of Elie, a wonderful 10ft kayak I purchased at REI.

Trailhead camping outside Sedona AZTrailhead camping outside Sedona AZ
Beach camping at Lake PowellBeach camping at Lake Powell
Our view of Lone RockOur view of Lone Rock

How To Do It?

Now of course your RV has to be set up to dry camp, though most motorhomes would be fine for a few days until the coach batteries would need recharging. Don't worry, that is easier than it sounds for most RV's made out there. "Where there's a will there is a way” definitely applies here. I've seen every rig imaginable, and some not so imaginable, out here. Check out my RV Search page for the van camper approach I took and then how I solarized it to get me off the power grid.  But don't be limited. Figure out what's right for you.

What are your best boondocking experiences?

Do you have a great boondocking location, best practice, humorous or interesting story about boondocking? Why not give others the benefit of your experience!

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