What Is Boondocking In An Rv? Full Guide

white rv going boondocking

Boondocking is the practice of traveling off-the-grid for extended periods of time, using nothing but solar power, water filtration (such as reverse osmosis), and an array of gadgets to charge phones, computers, and other electronics. The term comes from boondocking being a popular pastime among RVers on long road trips. It's also known as free camping, self-reliance, and sustainability.

The idea of boondocking is not new. Back in the 1980s, when gas prices spiked, people started boondocking, avoiding high gas prices to keep their costs down and save money. But, boondocking is easier said than done; most places didn't have hookups or were a hassle to find, especially if they were remote.

These days, however, technology has advanced to make boondocking much easier. You no longer need a specific destination to go boondocking; you can just take yourself anywhere you want and use public utilities like power, water, and phone service. So what's stopping you? Below we walk you through the basics of boondocking, step by step.

Why Should I Boondock?

boondocking van

There are many reasons to boondock, and they all vary depending on your priorities, budget, lifestyle, and experience level.

For example: If you're a beginner who wants to learn about boondocking before taking the plunge, then you may want to get some experience first. If you're looking for maximum convenience and minimal effort, then opting for a cabin on wheels might be best for you. And if you love the great outdoors, boondocking could be the perfect way to enjoy nature while saving on gas and electricity bills.

Wilderness: When boondocking in the wilderness, you'll likely encounter bugs, animals, weather conditions, and other challenges. However, you'll also get to explore beautiful natural landscapes, meet interesting people, and build lasting memories.

Campgrounds: On the other hand, boondocking at a park or campground offers conveniences like flush toilets, showers, laundry facilities, swimming pools, playgrounds, and Wi-Fi access. But it's also a lot safer. The downside is that these sites tend to fill up fast, and you won't always have the option to pitch your tent.

Cost: One of the biggest reasons people boondock is to save money. Depending on where you decide to boondock, the cost can vary widely. For example, boondocking in the backcountry is typically cheaper than camping at a campground. But if you opt for boondocking at a local park, you'll save money compared to staying at a hotel.

If you don't care how much you spend, then you can simply drive around until you find a spot that looks good to you. If you prefer to stick to a fixed budget, here are a few tips to help you figure out how much you should spend on boondocking:

Look online for detailed travel blogs and forums - These sites often share information on average costs for boondocking in various locations, including the average number of miles per gallon. Use those numbers to determine where you could save the most.

Take note of the price of your current lodging - If you know how much you would normally spend sleeping at hotels, motels, or hostels, then divide that amount by your expected average cost per night for boondocking. That gives you a rough estimate of how much you'd need to save to boondock.

Use a tool like TripAdvisor to look up nearby accommodations - See how much the place charges for nightly rates, compare them to the estimated cost of boondocking, and narrow down your search accordingly.

 

The Advantages of Boondocking:

  • Free camping - Most people dream about being able to camp out freely without worrying about where their tent will land them. Of course, you'll have to make sure you have everything you need before setting off, but once you get going, all you have to do is pack up and go! You're free to set up camp wherever you want, whenever you want. In fact, this can even save money if you choose to travel with only what you absolutely require.
  • No electricity bills - Many places charge outrageous fees for power usage at campsites, while others don't even provide any facilities to keep things running smoothly. Boondocking means no electricity bills! Just find a spot that's safe to drive your car, unplug some appliances (like TVs), and enjoy the quietness of the night around you.
  • Freedom of movement- You're free to move around as much as you want, whenever you wish. There are no rules or restrictions as to when you should leave and return to your campsite. The freedom to explore your surroundings is what makes boondocking great.
  • Self-sufficiency - It may seem scary to think about not having access to anything, but taking away those worries gives you time to focus on yourself instead. Once you start feeling self-sufficient, you'll realize you've gained a lot.
  • Save money - If you plan well ahead, boondocking saves you money. If you're planning to stay at a certain place for a few days or months, then you might consider renting a cabin or booking a room. But if you just need somewhere to sleep for the night, why pay for something that isn't useful?
  • Stay in touch with nature - There's nothing quite like waking up early and sitting outside looking at the view, especially if you live near a lake, sea, marsh, or forest. When you're surrounded by these natural wonders, it brings you closer to the world around you. These sights will help you feel less stressed and ready for the day. After spending your whole day relaxing, you'll definitely look forward to returning home after dark.
  • Reduce pollution - A lot of people travel long distances for work and school, causing traffic jams and carbon emissions along the way. By doing so, you contribute to environmental problems. On boondocking trips, however, you won't have to worry about driving long distances. So, you can reduce harmful emissions from vehicles and take care of the environment at the same time.
  • Freedom From Distractions - Our brains work best when we're not distracted by email, phone calls, news alerts, etc. Boondocking gives us time to focus on what matters most, spending time with each other.
  • Adventure - Sometimes you need to get off the beaten path and explore different places. When boondocking, you're free to do just that. In fact, sometimes boondocking is the adventure.

The Disadvantages of Boondocking:

  • Lack of Privacy - When people know where you are, they may try to contact you or bother you.
  • Limited Storage Space - Since you're not staying in a house or apartment, you won't have much room for things you own.
  • Cold Weather - In winter, you'll probably need heating system, and if you don't have a heater, you'll suffer cold weather.
  • Noise - Boondocking comes with noise. Motorcycles revving their engines are annoying. Wind blowing through trees makes noise. People talking loudly nearby can disturb you.
  • Boondocking makes cleaning hard - Cleanliness is next to godliness when boondocking. You'll always have to deal with dirt, grime, bugs, and odors. Use natural ingredients for disinfecting items where possible.
  • Lack of Services - Most services, you can only get at cities, such as grocery stores, hospitals, restaurants, etc.

Things needed for boondocking in an rv

boondocking van

Water

Water is necessary at all times, even in the desert. If you have any concerns about the quality of water in the area where you plan to camp, make sure to filter the water before drinking. Always boil water when you are not planning on using it right away.

Tent

You may think tents are unnecessary, but they are actually quite helpful especially when you are having problems finding places to stay near water sources. Tents allow you and your friends to use minimal amounts of space and still protect you from the elements.

First-aid kit

It's always best to be prepared when traveling to ensure that you are ready for anything. Pack a first aid kit with basic supplies like bandages, antiseptic cream, pain relievers, and cold/flu medication. Make sure to pack clothing that is suitable for the weather conditions.

Sleeping bag

Sleeping bags need to be able to keep you warm at night while sleeping. A good sleeping bag should have padding around the sides to create a barrier between you and the cold ground. You want to make sure that you don't get cold feet and leave your bag.

Towels

When camping, towels are very handy and can be used for everything from wiping down tables to drying yourself after taking a shower. You can either bring your own towels or buy cheap ones from the store before you head out.

Stove/fire

If you plan on making meals while camping, a stove is a necessary item. When cooking food over fire, you need to make sure you use a non-flammable fuel.

Flashlight

A flashlight is useful for finding items around the campsite, outside, and also inside. A strong flashlight can be used to stay awake until morning when you plan on waking up early for sunrise hikes.

Fire starter kit

When starting a campfire, you will need some kind of fire starter kit. There are several types including dry chemical type kits and ferro rods. Dry chemical kits are often easier to carry than ferro rods.

Waterproof matches

Matches are an absolute necessity to any camping trip. These matches should be waterproof and dryer resistant to ensure they won't break in the rain or snow. If you're planning on using firewood, make sure to bring plenty along with you.

Waterproof Bag

Waterproof bags store everything from clothing to toiletries. Look for bags that resist getting wet and tear easily. When purchasing a bag, make sure that you match the size of your items to the bag. For example, if you're buying a small bag for storing clothes, don't buy a large bag for storage.

Whistle

Whistles are great tools to signal your location and call for help. Signal your location by blowing it continuously. Make sure the whistling sound isn't distracting to others. If you do need to call for help, blow the whistle only once or twice before stopping. After calling for help, wait until someone responds before blowing again.

Keep the tanks clean

Keeping  a tank  means make sure they aren't clogged with dirt. Use a sponge and wash away any excess mud or debris from the bottom of the tanks.

Bring along food

There's nothing worse than being out in the middle of nowhere that runs out of toilet paper and other basic supplies. So always bring some sort of food and a cooler with ice packs just in case.

A good supply of food is absolutely necessary if you are going to be out in the wilderness for extended periods of time. Bring along plenty of fruits and vegetables including bananas, oranges, apples, grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, etc... You should also bring nuts, seeds, granola bars, and maybe some beef jerky.

Pack extra clothes

You never know when you'll need them, or what kind of weather you're going to encounter. You might even want to pack a spare pair of pants, shirt, socks and underwear if possible.

Get a solar charger

If you don't already have one, get yourself a solar charger. These chargers cost anywhere from $100-200. If you have money to burn, go ahead and buy a decent quality one. But if you can't afford that, then at least grab a cheapie off eBay.

Bring a generator

A camping generator is a portable generator designed specifically for use while camping. These generators provide power to small appliances and lights for when electricity isn't available at camp sites. There are many reasons why you would want to bring a camping generator with you to camp. Here are some pros and cons of bringing a camping generator along with you on your camping trip.

Pros: A good camping generator provides enough power to run many different devices including: small appliances, stoves/ovens, lanterns, lighting systems, computers, tablets, phones, and toys. You don't need any type of outlet to charge these devices; they just plug directly into the generator itself, making them perfect for charging electronics.

Cons: A bad camping generator may not provide enough power to run all of these devices. It's possible that you could have trouble using your device if the generator doesn't provide enough volts (battery charger voltage). Your batteries might not last long either. If the generator doesn't provide the right amount of amps (current), then you won't get the right amount of output current from your device. This can cause inconvenience if you're trying to charge a battery-operated device, since it takes longer than normal.

Boondocking Vs Paid Campgrounds

Boondocking

The term boondocking originated from the fact that many RVers prefer to travel without having to pay for a campsite at each location they visit. Most often, these people take advantage of free spots along the side of roads, but also use private land or even public lands if no one else is using them. When planning a trip, boondocking may be appealing because it gives you the freedom to choose where you want to stay. However, because boondocking doesn’t cost anything, some travelers end up spending little or nothing each day, while others end up spending more than budgeted due to unforeseen circumstances.

Paid Campgrounds

Paid camping is defined simply as a camping spot with a full-time electrical connection to run appliances. These spots range from RV sites to tent sites, and may be owned by commercial operations or private individuals.

Camping On Private Land

 The legality of camping on private land varies widely across the country. In some states, such as California and Washington, public land is available for camping without paying fees or obtaining permits. However, many private landowners are not allowed to allow camping on their property unless they pay a fee or obtain permission. Check local laws before pitching your tent on private land.

Self-contained Dry Camping

 Self contained dry camping refers to the practice of sleeping in a tent without using any kind of water supply. It involves having enough supplies to survive for at least three days without access to outside drinking water. These supplies may include food, shelter, and gear. You may use these items to make your own water, if necessary.

Best Boondocking Tips

Plan ahead

If you have an idea of where you're going to boondock, make sure not to get stuck too far away from civilization. You don't want to run out of gas just a few miles away from a town. If you try to stop somewhere near a city without knowing what you'll be doing, you'll probably end up spending money on hotels instead of food. Make sure to have enough cash to buy groceries if you need to.

Fuel up first

You may need to fill up before you leave since you won't know how much fuel you'll use until you actually start using it. Gas stations are expensive though; so, if possible, plan to fill up whenever gas prices drop. Otherwise, find a cheap alternative like filling up at fast-food restaurants or convenience stores.

Fire Pits

Fire pits are also called fire rings. Using a fire pit to cook over an open flame adds a unique level of warmth to your campsite. You can build your own fire pit or purchase pre-made ones from hardware stores. Most fire pits have built-in grills for cooking food.

Bring lots of snacks

Don't bring a lot of junk food. Your body needs to focus on getting rid of whatever you ate while you were driving. That means no candy bars! Instead, pack a cooler full of fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, and lean meats like venison jerky. Also, bring a small amount of alcohol because it helps prevent dehydration.

Stay off social media

While you're boondocking, turn off your phone. Don't post anything about your trip on Instagram right after you've left. Why? Because people who follow you online tend to think you're still there. This could lead to a lot of comments from people wondering where you went. Plus, it may cause them to wonder whether or not they should go boondocking themselves. Social media posts can also attract unwanted attention from law enforcement or land owners. So, it's best to avoid posting anything about your trip until you're ready to move again. In fact, you might consider changing your profile picture to something else.

Keep your trash clean

Don't leave any garbage in your vehicle. While it doesn't seem like a big deal, it attracts raccoons and bears. And, if bears do happen to visit, they could become aggressive. This is especially true during the winter months.

Pack plenty of water

Bringing your own drink containers is a great way to save money on gas and avoid wasting plastic bottles. However, it's important to remember that drinking water and gasoline aren't synonymous. If you plan on staying in a location for several days or weeks, you should definitely bring enough water to last that long.

Always test your waters before taking a dip

Be sure to check the depth of the water and look for potential hazards. Do not drink the water if you suspect it contains harmful bacteria. If in doubt, boil it for five minutes.

Consider bringing a pair of binoculars

These are great to use when you're searching for wildlife or birds.

Bring a camera

While photography isn't your primary purpose for being out there, it can definitely prove useful later down the road. Photography can serve as a memory keeper and record your experiences.

Bring a book

Reading provides a distraction from the harsh surroundings and helps pass the time. Many books are available for free on Amazon. There are even audio books for those seeking something different.

How do I find places to stay?

You can either start looking for a place right away or wait until you are near your destination. Either way, you'll probably want to search online using sites like Airbnb and Craigslist. Not only will you get the best price, but you'll also meet lots of interesting folks who are traveling the same route as you!

Which state should I visit?

There are several states where you're likely to encounter less expensive campgrounds than elsewhere. In fact, Nevada and Oregon offer some of the cheapest camping options in all of America. To figure out which ones might work for you, head over to our State-by-State Listing page.

Is it legal?

If you're just starting to look around for a spot to park and rest overnight, then it may not matter. However, once you've started boondocking, you'd be wise to research the local laws. There are plenty of states that allow for the practice, but others view it differently. So, make sure you're aware of what the rules are in your area.

How does boondocking affect my insurance coverage?

Insurance companies often have special policies for boaters and RV drivers, including specific limits on the mileage covered. Most policies won't cover you unless you're parked on private property; however, you could try contacting your carrier directly to ask whether their coverage stands while you are boondocking.

Many people might overlook this step in preparing for boondocking in their rv, but it is a step that is very important.

Are there any regulations?

Some states require that you pay a fee to use public parks and campsites. Fortunately, these fees are pretty low and most places are happy to accept them. Check your own state's website or contact the local parks department for specifics.

Which types of rvs are best for boondocking?

There are many different types of vehicles that can be used as rvs. It all comes down to how many amenities you want to have and how much money you are willing to spend.

Motorhome or Class a rv

Motorhomes are luxurious and spacious RVs that often have full kitchens, satellite television, and even bathrooms! They are also known to have more stability than popups. Most motorhomes are sold through travel agencies and dealers who specialize in selling high-end vehicles. A class a rv is one of the most expensive types of rvs on the market.

Camper van

Camper vans are smaller RVs than popups or motorhomes, but offer similar amenities. They are less expensive than popups and motorhomes but slightly larger than regular campers. You'll find them especially useful for families with children.

Camper

Campers are relatively simple RVs that offer basic amenities and are meant to serve as temporary housing rather than long term residences. They aren't built for heavy duty use, but are excellent for short trips and weekend getaways. Depending on how big they are, they can sleep anywhere between two and ten people.

Travel trailer

Travel trailers are the smallest of the RVs mentioned here, and are simply used for overnight stays. They tend to be more compact than camper vans and popups, and are generally lighter. Travel trailers have little room inside, so you won't have many options for storage.

4x4

If you want a comfortable RV that can handle rough terrain then a 4x4 is definitely the way to go! These vehicles have four-wheel drive and are able to get around just about any terrain. Many people use it as their primary vehicle due to its versatility and comfort since they don't have to worry about driving up and down stairs or having to deal with steep inclines and declines. If you want a truck that can do it all, then a 4x4 might be perfect for you.

Fifth wheel

A fifth wheel is a type of recreational vehicle (RV) that has no engine, only a small diesel engine that powers a generator to provide electricity. As well as being good for getting away from it all while still having power, these are great for camping at campgrounds or RV parks. A lot of them have storage space, making them ideal for storing extra gear or luggage.

Popup camper trailer

Popup camper trailers are lightweight models that are designed to give travelers the comforts of home without breaking the bank. These trailers fold up easily, making them easier to take with you if you're planning on traveling. While they may not be as stable as a traditional RV, they are much more affordable!

Water Purification Tips

There are two methods of purifying water. Boiling requires cooking food over direct flames, which can damage the environment. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation kills bacteria and viruses. UV radiation does not work well with saltwater, since salt causes the cells to become opaque and block the rays. Chemical treatment uses chemicals that kill pathogens and leave no harmful residue behind. Chemicals can cause issues if ingested, so you may want to consider purifying your water beforehand. You can buy chemical-free filters that purify water and can be used just about anywhere.

How Long Can You Boondock In An Rv?

You are allowed to boondock as long as possible. However, this wi;; depemd on the location you choose. Some boondocking locations only allow a certain amount of time for boondockers to stay in consecutive days, while others have no limit.

A lot of people think they'll just stay put at their campsites for the whole season, but chances are it won't be the case. There are many reasons why you might need to move around once you're settled in. Maybe you've got a job interview coming up, maybe you want to explore the area around you for fun, or perhaps you just need to go back home for awhile. Whatever the reason, if you plan on boondocking in an RV, make certain it's big enough to accommodate all these things. Also, consider adding some extra space between yourself and your neighbors. It's not always easy to hear what someone else is doing, especially if it happens to be loud, late at night, or during the winter months, but sometimes you don't have any choice but to listen. Of course, the best way to avoid getting into situations like that is to choose your boondocking destination wisely.

The first thing to do is figure out how much time you'd like to spend boondocking. Is it going to be for weeks? Months? Years? Once you know where you'd like to settle down, start looking for places to park that RV. Ideally, find somewhere that's close to water and electricity, both of which will help reduce running costs. Look for spots that offer privacy and quiet, making sure to check out local rules about noise levels. Finally, you should pick a spot that offers a good view of the surrounding area (this may not matter if you already live near a beautiful park).

Next, let's talk about fuel. This is a personal preference, but I prefer camping with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) instead of propane.

Is Boondocking Safe?

Yes, absolutely!

Boondocking means getting away from civilization and going off-the-grid. You're not alone out there if you're boondocking. There are many others who have done the same thing. If you get lost or stranded in a remote area, people are more than likely to help you, especially if you ask nicely.

However, not everyone is thinking about the safety of others. So, you should be very attentive and keep an eye open for anyone or anything that is suspicious.



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Conclusion

Make time to enjoy nature while hiking around. Take pictures, go bird watching, take selfies, whatever you can think of. Just enjoy the moment, that's what it's all about.

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