Being a person that likes daily showers and wearing relatively clean clothes, boondocking (defined as RVing with no hook-ups) didn’t sound like it would be in my wheelhouse. Oh, sure, I can do a day here and there when we find a wonderful Harvest Host site or need to stop at Cracker Barrel on our way to the next campground. But to purposefully travel down a dirt road to find a remote site and live for a week or more, that might be pushing it! However, after several boondocking experiences, I have come to realize it is my favorite kind of RVing. After a week boondocking with some friends near Durango, I realized that it was really not hard and showers can be over-rated. The advantages of getting to stay out in a remote area makes it really worth trying. And I have to say, I am getting much better at using less water and still feeling clean!
Boondocking Reason #1 – The Beauty
Do you want a beautiful view while sipping your morning coffee? Nothing beats boondocking to offer you plenty of natural views for your morning or evening sips. Whether you like mountains, trees, or the beach, you can find a spot that offers you a gorgeous view. And when you pictured RVing, isn’t that what you had in mind? Being able to open your curtain to a gorgeous view, not another RV?
We have stayed in a forest surrounded by trees within view of mountains, near a lake with a gorgeous sunset, and in the desert with an incredible view of the red rocks of Sedona. Friends have found places with a view of the beach; while others a view of the Grand Tetons. While nearby campgrounds might offer similar views, they are rarely as unobstructed and wide as when we boondock.
Not only were we able to find a great view, but with no hookups or campground standards, we could turn the rig to take advantage of the view so we could enjoy it out our windows and from our outdoor living area.
Boondocking Reason #2 – Privacy
Most of the time, boondocking means getting away from civilization since you are usually on BLM or National Forest Land. You might have to travel further to visit sights or the grocery store, but the tradeoff is spectacular natural surroundings, true peace and quiet, and sometimes a random encounter with wild animals or grazing cows (we seem to find places where ranchers are allowed to use). Boondocking is great for those times when you want to get away from it all. Then when you want some comforts of towns like a brewery or store, you can plan your day for a trip in.
Most locations offer wide open spaces so your nearest neighbor might not be visible, but a few are smaller and more crowded. We stayed at a well-known site, Snider’s Hill near Tucson that had lots of rigs and vans, clearly visible since there were only a few cactus. But even then, we had plenty of room and rigs were further away than the average campground. Everyone tends to stick to themselves unless you offer a warm welcome. For the solo traveler, these spots can be a great place to make new friends.
Boondocking Reason #3 – Only Neighbors You Want
Boondocking sights also tend to have wide spots where you can gather with friends and create your own campground. You might have to look a bit harder to find one large enough but they exist. It is so nice to be able to gather with friends and be as close as you want to be instead of adhering to the random assignment of a campground.
In Colorado, we had enough room at one site that we had a van, several RVs and folks in tents. Plus another solo traveler that joined us but stayed a bit away from the group and we had plenty of room. When you wanted to play, there was always someone up for an adventure while others worked or relaxed. In the evening, we could have a potluck dinner, games and music with no quiet hour or neighbors to worry us.
Boondocking Reason #4 – It’s FREE
Dispersed camping areas, another name for boondocking, are usually in National Forests or on Bureau of Land Management property and are totally free. The areas are usually marked with signs on where you can and can’t camp or watch for cleared areas with a campfire pit. This is a great indicator that it is a good place for a RV. Also pay attention to signage at the entrance to the area in case there are fire bans or other alerts.
These areas are remote with little daily supervision so signage should be heeded. It might be free but if you disregard the rules or stay past your maximum, the fines can be hefty. Typically, you can stay a maximum of 14 days on BLM and National Lands. After that, you are required to find a new spot at least 25 miles away and cannot return for to the previous spot for 28 days. However, always confirm the rules so you are not caught by surprise.
There are recreational areas and state campgrounds that charge a small fee even for dry camping and have more of a campground feel with closer neighbors. This is not what we are calling boondocking, but can be nice options with pretty environments. One of my favorite was an area near Grand Lake, CO. Gorgeous area and so wooded that we could hear but not see our neighbors.
Boondocking Reason #5 – No Reservations, Late Checkout
You might not be able to stay longer than 14 days, but you can leave anytime you want on that last day. This is heaven for us as we are not early risers and tend to work full workdays so it is nice to take our time packing up and moving out. Of course, with no hoses to mess with, packing up tends to be easier too!
And we don’t have to mess with making reservations which means we can travel with more flexibility. We typically boondock then stay at a campground to empty and fill tanks, plus do laundry. However, since we are more flexible we can visit campgrounds mid-week and can work around their openings. An important consideration as campgrounds seem to be filling faster.
Boondocking Reason #6 – Oh, the Stars
This goes along with reason #1 Beauty, but deserves its own callout. Most of these sites are remote and away from town so the skies are darker. These brilliant displays are amazing to watch and enjoy. And again, isn’t that why we love RVing to see those things we couldn’t back home!
What are you waiting for?
Boondocking offers you a great opportunity to see wonderful sights and enjoy this incredible land. That said, you might need to prepare a bit more than your normal RV trip and definitely want to practice Leave No Trace practices so that others can enjoy these sights for years to come.
We love boondocking and highly recommend you try it. First try a long weekend since you will unlikely run out of water over three days, then as you learn your limits, you can lengthen your stays. We have gone as long as twelve days before the need to empty tanks became unavoidable. Hopefully, we can get even better and last the full allowed 14 days.
For more information on boondocking, we invite you to check out our series with boondocking experts, Ken & April Pishna. And if you prefer to try it first with friends, we would be happy to show you the ropes in the fall. After our Camp Carpe Diem weekend in Ouray we will be boondocking nearby and invite attendees who wish to join us to come along. We would be happy to show you how to best find your spot and “do” boondocking.
Drivin and Vibin – They are in LOVE with boondocking and have the guides to prove it.
The Dyrt – a great resource for finding dispersed camping sites and more