Boondocking, free camping, wild camping. No matter what you call it, boondocking is a huge part 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 something only “vanlifers” do.
Actually, there are several different types of boondocking. If you plan on buying an RV (new or used) or traveling by RV (whether in a custom Happier Camper or used travel trailer), you’ll most certainly find yourself boondocking at some point. Curious? Learn how to boondock in an RV.
What is Boondocking?
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 (if you have all these connections, this is considered “full hook-ups”). 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
This type of boondocking is boondocking at its 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 full 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.
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–Wallydocking. 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 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.
Another common example of an 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
It’s actually possible to be boondocking with reservations 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, because 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 freshwater 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 freshwater 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 parks 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 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 types 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 about boondocking? Leave a comment below! Looking to sell or trade-in your current RV? Visit your local Camping World to make it happen.
Also, please check with the store manager before setting up. It is a courtesy step and there may be specific places that the manager would like you to set up and parts of the parking lot that the manager does not want you to occupy.
First time RVer here… I read a lot about places to park your RV – campgrounds, boondocking, friends driveways, walmart, etc. but I wonder where you CANNOT park it. Obviously, not on posted private property but should I be aware of any other places where I will be trespassing?
RV safety: for those that didn’t have built in generators and or use external crate style generators- how do you secure your generator against theft? Chains can be broken, locks can be cut with bolt cutters, and I have yet to figure out a way to make a bolt secured to where a good set of tools can’t remove it…
we are moving from CA to Rehoboth MA. Why: family 😉 To protect our 2 large dogs and 3 small cats, we will not fly. We have rented a Cruise America RV 25′. Leaving January 5, because house closed, house waiting on other end, moving truck going, we’re following. Hard to believe. I intend to go southern route, Hwy 40 at best, 10 if needed. connect to I:95 up to Mass. Got weather apps. Will wait out any major storms. Reservations at next stop, 350 mi per day, Read a lot and watched on line RV ledgends on U Tube, Thank You all for sharing. Wish us luck. First time RV. 🙂 Any comments welcome lolol
Len & Deb
Wild camping, in an RV. You have to be joking. Wild camping in Africa under a tarp in a sleeping bag now you can call that wild. RVs are just mobile homes.
Total beginner to RV experience right here. This article was extremely enlightening and exactly what I was looking for, some good definitions around Boondocking. thank you for writing this article!!
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?
What’s the best rig for boondocking?
FYI, Kansas has rest areas w/RV drive thru loops, h2o, & dump stations-all free across the state! Modern public restrooms at them too.
I have seen a lot of articles on boondocking and am eager to try it. Where do you dump grey and black water.
Wilderness or primitive camping is cheap and has drinking water and outhouses. Often fire pits and picnic tables.
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”
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.
Also check out boondockerswelcome.com
This is a great tip Stephen!
Use an app like RV Parky to help find places to stay. It will tell you which Walmart stores allow overnight stays and which do not. Don’t forget about Cracker Barrel restaurants. They have RV/Bus parking spots and allow overnight stays (plus, you can have a nice dinner after a long day’s drive or a nice breakfast before getting on the road with no clean-up.
There are lots of places where you rig might be too long, but it really depends on the location and your individual RV. Wherever you go, I say to just double check you’ll be good ahead of time.
A good cable lock such as one by Kryptonite locked to the tongue of the trailer or any other welded, sturdy part that can’t be unbolted. The lock won’t stop a determined thief. Locks keep honest people that way. You could say the same thing about leaving your RV and going touring. The door lock isn’t going to stop a determined thief. The key is to make it so that it takes time and effort to remove. If you are not an easy target, a thief will likely bypass your setup for one that isn’t locked. The more time it would take to defeat means the more possibility a thief would get caught, so it is a deterrent.
You do not need full sun to charge solar panels. Lol. Wow.. we have 4 solar panels. As long as it’s day time there are ALWAYS sun rays… it can be cloudy alllllll day everyday, & your solar panels still get charged. We also ran an ice cream truck business for years & had solar panels running the freezers .. Thats so ridiculous , but we have a 4,000 watt inverter
teardrop campers ez set up and ez pull can even pull it with what you own.
It takes a certain kind of individual (s) to go “boondocking”. Running your generator al l night long doesn’t work well, getting up in the middle of the night to recharge the batteries isn’t fun either. And if you are just traveling point to point, most RV sites aren’t right next to the highway you are traveling on, just to mention a few of the inconveniences.
Hey Fred, everyone has their own style. That’s what makes camping and RVing so special!
Think about it…..200 watts is the power of 2 100 watt light bulbs….. is pretty small inverter. I would recommend looking up more info on power. 200 watts might work but time has to be on your side. Then remember, while waiting for the panels, you need full sun (think Arizona/Florida vs. cloudy days in the N.E.)
Needless to say, I never invested in solar ; – )
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!
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.
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.
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.