-Introduction to Boondocking–
We are aggressive boodockers and have boondocked in the Northwest, Southwest, Alaska, Canada, even in very urban areas such as Los Angeles. Have had little to no hassle doing this and have been asked repeatedly to explain how it is that we have safely and successfully boondocked almost every day since we started RVing a few years and more than 40,000 miles ago.
Last summer while we were in Alaska, we met a lovely couple from the Netherlands. They were excellent boondockers and shared some of their boondocking tips with us saying they never had any problems boondocking in the US, something they had been doing every summer for years.
RVers boondock for many reasons and/or a combination of reasons. Some of the reasons are: …the freedom to stop along a lovely stream or near a meadow and enjoy the area, frequently being the only ones there. …the price is right for the budget conscience hoi polloi. …the convenience of just pulling off the road when we’re tired along with the feeling of no pressure to find a “campground”. …the convenience of stopping in or near an area we want to explore.
In our case, we have more of a desire to travel than money so whatever we save by low cost or free boondocking we spend on supplies and gas in the local economy we are visiting. Boondocking has turned out to be serendipitous for us as it has taken us to some beautiful, remote locations that we might never have seen had we been tied to staying only in campgrounds.
Today we are boondocked near the Mexico boarder crossing, nearby (closer to the boarder) is a campground that charges X amount of $/night and lots of folks choose the campground over free boondocking. Of course, at the campground there are numerous nice amenities but since we’re comfortable where we are, we are more drawn to directing the money toward this summers travel fund than we are to nice amenities. When you travel as much as we do, even an inexpensive campground site say $20/night times 365 nights would put a big dent in our travel budget. Perhaps, when we travel less often we might make some modifications to our boondocking practice. For now though, this is quite workable.
Yikes! There’s lots of controversy among RVers over the definition of boondocking. Um, not too surprised are you? We’re living in a time of an inability to agree on much of anything and many folks with absolute opinions on a definition for various ways of boondocking find that others also with an absolute opinion on a definition for various ways of boondocking, differ. Actually we’re not too interested in this hair-splitting, we define boondocking for us as staying most anywhere with no hook-ups. We use “boondock” as a generic term (though at times we have used other labels as well). We came to our definition of boondocking early on in our RVing life the first time we stayed in an Escapees Campground long ago. Where in the campground did we stay? In the Boondock Section, of course. Yep, in a section of a campground with no hook-ups = “boondocking” to the Escapees Club Campgrounds. Now we know of the hue and cry that can and most likely will be heard from of those saying that is “dry camping” or some other distinction but we’re not too interested in these definitions. Let the “nattering nabobs of negativism” (remember him? V P Spiro Agnew?) take umbrage. If they want to describe boondocking differently, fine with us. We’re mostly interested in staying in our RV where it is free or almost free and off the grid and that, to us, is boondocking. A pretty place is our first choice but if that is not available we’re usually just looking for a place to stop driving for the evening/night.
We’re fairly self-sufficient and we don’t feel so threatened that we feel a need to be armed. The truth is, we don’t believe we could kill someone for taking something of ours and we refuse to get into a verbal sparing match with those folks who feel a need to be armed. This is how we feel about it and if someone feels differently, that is their choice. We try to be fully aware of our surroundings and avoid staying anywhere that seems dicey. If we feel uneasy, as we did in the Slabs in California recently, we just drive to another place to boondock.
We live fulltime in our motor home that is fully self contained so when we stop somewhere…we are home. We don’t have to leave the RV and use public facilities and we usually don’t. Our windows are darkened so we can see outside and outside folks can not see in during the day except through the windshield which is immediately curtained upon stopping. We close all the shades at night so we are not “on display” when the interior lights are on, back-lighting us. Then, because we’re home where ever we are, we do our thing such as work on the internet, read a book, watch a TED talk, cook something interesting, etc.
Are we just lucky that we have never had a problem? We also never had a problem all the years we lived in a “house”. We don’t think we’re so brave or lucky and, of course, don’t think we’re so smart that nothing could ever happen to us. Things happen to lots of folks in lots of places. As for having terrible trouble in your RV, we know of NO ONE who actually has had folks trying to “do them in” while they were boondocking in their RV. We’ve heard stories of “someone who heard something truly terrible” but they’re never specific and these have not been verifiable incidents so far.
We’ve found that almost everyone that says boondocking is too unsafe are the same folks that do not boondock. Everyone has a comfort level they do not want to exceed, if you think it is too risky it is better not to do it.
-How to choose a boondock site–
In our many months of careful research prior to going fulltime, we came across some excellent advice about boondocking in Tioga George’s RVing blog. His writings on boondocking were born out of actually boondocking almost every day for years. His advice about boondocking seemed sensible and easy to follow. He was very budget conscious and could not afford campgrounds nightly and still travel. Though this was written years ago, we find most of his advice on the matter to be timeless and we draw on it to make our boondocking decisions. http://vagabonders-supreme.net/BoondockingDayCamping.htm
We use the previous link when we want to stay somewhere for a while and explore the area during the day. As for choosing an overnight spot the link that follows is very helpful; http://vagabonders-supreme.net/BoondockingNiteCamping.htm
. Works for us every time. If you are new to boondocking and want to be as successful as Tioga George was at boondocking, you will want to read and follow some of his sage advice at these two links.
NOTE: the National Forrest Service is more restrictive on “dispersed camping” these days. Stop at the local Forrest Service office for where it is OK to boondock.
-Essentials for boondocking–
Likely your RV is already set-up for some boondocking. Most RVs have self-contained resources such as a fresh water tank (you will want it full), holding tanks for black and gray water (empty is better), a refrigerator that runs on propane, a full propane tank, a gas stove top or a grill if you want to prepare hot food and an energy source. Your energy source can be batteries recharged by a generator (if the generator is freestanding and will need gas other than your RV gas tank…bring some gas) and/or solar panels for 12 volt current. You can get 120 volts AC from your batteries if you have an inverter. Being very frugal with all these resources will determine how many days in a row you can boondock somewhere.
To test to see how well and long your set-up will work off the grid, just disconnect from the grid while in a campground or in a “sticks and bricks” driveway and when the need to hook back up occurs, the grid is handy. This method of being off the grid with nearby grid options is an easy, low stress way to see what you “need” for comfort while boondocking. Really these are personal decisions based on your “needs” and how much time you are likely to want to spend boondocking. An occasional free overnight boondocker requires one set-up, a frequent long-term boondocker requires a different set-up. Before a lot of money is spent for boondocking preparation, it is a good idea to try it and see if you like it and whether you need more “stuff” to last longer, etc.
To boondock in tight or rough spots a smaller, more rugged RV is helpful though we have bounced down very rough roads and found rather large RVs (both motorhomes and 5th Wheels) in some of the most rugged, remote locations. So a smaller, more rugged RV is handy but is not a requirement for the more adventurous boondocker.
-Boondocking site resources–
Your fellow RVers are frequently very good resources for boondocking sites.
One of the best and most complete resource is available from Days End and is organized by Guy Gibson. You must be a member of the Escapees RV Club to join Days End but this inexpensive organization has a lot of merit.
There are many other resources for boondocking sites and a google search as well as reading RV forums and RV blogs on the internet will help with finding them. We just did a quick Google search and got 10+ pages of information!
As for us, we occasionally use Days End but we’re frequently on the move and only have a general destination in mind. So when we’re tired of driving we just find a convenient place to stop.