3 Types of Boondocking Every RVer Should Know About 51854

Boondocking, free camping, wild camping. No matter what you call it, boondocking is a fact of RV travel. Many people associate boondocking with camping out in the wild on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Some might even think of it as more of a vanlifer thing to do.

Actually, there are different types of boondocking. If you plan on buying an RV or traveling by RV, you’ll most certainly find yourself boondocking at some point.

What is Boondocking?

Boondocking means RVing without water, electric, or sewer hook-ups.

Before we jump into the types of boondocking, let’s take one step back and take a look at what boondocking is.

Boondocking is a term used by RVers to describe RVing without being connected to water, electric, or sewer. Because you’re not connected to any services it’s also called dry camping. Other terms you might see that all refer to boondocking are free camping and wild camping.

One thing that doesn’t form any part of the definition of boondocking is the location of your RV. This is where we get the different types of boondocking.

Boondocking Type 1: The Overnight Stay

An overnight stay at Walmart isn't a very glamorous type of boondocking stay, but it's still boondocking.

This type of boondocking is boondocking at it’s simplest. Some people dislike the idea of camping at RV parks and swear by boondocking somewhere off the beaten path. Some people much rather camp at RV parks with the convenience of water, electric and sewer hookups.

Whether you fall into either category or somewhere in between, you’ll likely run into an instance where you’ll boondock at least for one night.

Wallydocking

One of the most common examples of the overnight boondock stay is a night spent at a Walmart parking lot while on your way to your campsite. It’s important to know how to boondock because there will almost certainly come a time, as an RVer, when you’ll stay at a Walmart.

Some RVers plan overnight Walmart stays along a route, but even those that don’t may find themselves needing to stay at a Walmart at some point. It’s best to be comfortable boondocking even if it’s not you’re RV travel preference. Wallydocking, as many avid RVers call boondocking at Walmart, can become necessary due to unforeseen circumstances.

The most common of these is the weather. Windy, stormy, or snowy conditions can all wreak havoc on even the best-laid RV plans. You may need to stop and wait out bad weather at a Walmart, even if you have campground reservations waiting for you at your destination.

Moochdocking

Another common example of the overnight boondock stay is a quick visit to a friend or relative along your travel route. You meet up, spend the day reminiscing, and before you know it, it’s gotten pretty late.

At that point, it’s not uncommon to spend the night in your RV in your friend’s driveway. As an RVer, you might hear this referred to as moochdocking.

Boondocking Type 2: Developed Campground, No Hook-Ups

This campsite in one of Quebec's national parks is in a developed campground, but has no hook-ups, so you're boondocking.

It’s actually possible to be boondocking with reservations and while paying a fee for your stay. Not all boondocking is free of charge.

RVing at developed campgrounds can still be boondocking. It’s not uncommon to find campgrounds, even private campgrounds, offering RV campsites without any hook-ups.

You can usually reserve these for a reduced nightly fee, but you’re just paying for the spot (and use of any amenities the campground may have, like a pool) because you won’t have electric, water, or sewer hook-ups.

Since you’ll likely stay longer than just overnight at a developed campground, you’ll need to plan ahead a little more than for an overnight stay. Make sure your house batteries are charged and your fresh water tank is full.

In a developed campground you’ll probably have access to a water spigot, but it’s still a good idea to go with a full fresh water tank. You’ll also be able to run your generator. But, to account for later check-in times, quiet hours, and generator restrictions, it’s a good idea to arrive with your house batteries charged.

When boondocking, you usually make sure your grey and black tanks have been emptied, but developed campgrounds often have dump stations so you might be okay either way.

You’ll also find developed campgrounds with no hook-ups at national and state parks. These campgrounds can do a better job of providing privacy and immersion in nature. Out of the different types of boondocking, this type gives you a little more nature without missing out on some of the comforts of developed campgrounds.

Boondocking Type 3: Undeveloped Campsite

Boondocking at an undeveloped campsite requires the most planning, but can completely immerse you in nature.

Boondocking in an undeveloped campsite, or primitive campsite, is what comes to mind for most people when they think of boondocking.

It’s also the kind of boondocking that beginner RVers are most nervous about because there are no services of any kind. You won’t find any hook-ups, camp hosts, or dump stations. With this type of boondocking, you’re completely off-grid and you need to be entirely self-reliant.

You’ll usually find undeveloped campsites on United States Forest Service (USFS) property or BLM land. Often only a marker or an old fire ring are your indicators for a spot to camp in.

Although this type of boondocking requires the most planning and a high level of comfort using your RV without hook-ups, it can be the most rewarding. Sometimes, these type of sites place you beneath the milky way surrounded by mountains. If you’re lucky, you might even have the whole place to yourself.


There are different types of boondocking, even though the kind that comes to mind for most people is off-grid in an undeveloped campsite. What are your thoughts and experiences boondocking? Leave a comment below!

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Nadia Bajuelo Contributor
Nadia hit the road full-time in an RV with her husband, Jon, and their 2 dogs. She dreams of traveling the world, creating content that inspires, and hugging a koala bear. She’s been an educator and a marketer for a Fortune 500 company. These days, she works as a content creator and marketing strategist from the road. She writes for various blogs and magazines, also documenting her adventures with Jon at their blog RoamingRemodelers. Until she finds that koala to hug, she’s happy boondocking, visiting indie bookstores along the way, and drinking as much tea as possible.
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12 Comments

  1. We find ourselves boondocking when we want to do longer days driving and we don’t want to pay for a campsite when we will be pulling in late and leaving pretty early the next morning. We hate to spend the campsite money if we are only there for a few hours just to sleep. You can always run your generator all night in truck stops and most Walmart’s. The more nights you can boondock free the money saved adds up over a two or three week vacation. Truck stops are a little less quit sometimes because the trucks run all night also. Run your radio with easy listening music all night and it will cover up the outside noise. Most of the rest stops say no over night staying. We have never had a problem but we get in late and leave early and for only one night. Don’t over due your stay in rest stops. I don’t really think they push this no overnight staying rule very much. They would rather you stay over night in a rest stop than make you drive on the freeway when you are tired. Daaa. If you are planning on a rest stop over night you should get in there before dark. Once it gets dark, they fill up fast.

    1. Even better than the radio is to use a white noise machine (walmart sells them), or just download a white noise app. Dont forget sleep eye masks, too.

  2. As always please pick up your trash. Do not litter. And don’t overstay your welcome. Boondocking places are great and can be beautiful. “Please take out what you bring in”

    1. Hey Joe,

      You’ll need to find an RV dump station close to your campsite that will allow you to empty your tanks. rvdumpsites.net and rvdumps.com both have interactive maps that make finding a station easy.

      1. Thank you. I figured that was the answer, was pretty obvious but I got the information I needed with the websites. Thank you for taking time to answer.

    2. Buy a WCT waterless composting toilet like Natures Head, no black water ever again! Or a HD airtight container, double bag your waste, close it and then dump all bags into larger bag and dump at a truck stop dumpster. Easy, cheap. They make a HD beverage cooler $48 @ walmart. Seals airtight, right size, use double stick tape on bag then pull off and tie off when you finish your business. When sealed it doesnt look like a toilet, I use as a chair, holds maybe 200 lb person. the WCT runs about $1000… great one, but you can pay thousands for some. Natures Head for $1000 will outlive you and made in USA!

  3. FYI, Kansas has rest areas w/RV drive thru loops, h2o, & dump stations-all free across the state! Modern public restrooms at them too.

  4. S Sergent
    Interested in boon-docking off the grid ! Looking at using 4 Solar panels at 400 W per panel would I have to increase my inverter size I’m thinking about 200 W inverter has anyone ever done this?

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