While there are no written rules, we have found over campfire conversation, there are some agreed-upon norms for boondocking.
What is Boondocking?
Boondocking is camping without hooking up to water, electricity, or sewer. The first time we tried it in Lake Holloman (read more about it here) I had no idea how much I would end up preferring it to RV parks. We can stay for weeks at a time, out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded completely by nature. Not only do we get to explore less popular spaces, but we also save a ton of money on RV park fees.
We enjoy boondocking so much that we have installed solar on our rig so we don’t have to rely on the generator for our power. Stay tuned for more about our solar installation. If you are learning about solar and interested in making the switch, we explained all the solar components in this blog.
Boondocking on Public Land
- You are not in an RV park so there is no need to park close to your neighbor as if you are.
- Just because others are parked close together, doesn’t mean that’s the norm. There is a good chance those people know each other!
- Spots are not saved. If you were there the night before, that doesn’t guarantee you a spot tonight. Unless, of course, you have made friends with the neighbors and they park their trucks like a-holes to save you a spot.
- One evening a couple came back to camp and were angry that other campers had “taken their spot.”
- We have also seen campers put up barriers around their rig to keep others away.
- If your new neighbors are outside, strike up a conversation. You never know who you are going to meet. Or at least, smile and wave as you walk by.
- Lance and I were outside working on something, and a woman rolled in. We greeted her and she asked where she should park. This was a very nice gesture on her part and we told her that anyplace she wants to go is fine. She ended up joining us for campfires every night we were there!
- Keep your noise to a minimum. The people around you came out to experience nature not your music, generator or yapping dogs. Not everybody is going to love your karaoke rendition of Sweet Caroline at midnight. If we need to run a generator we try to do it after 8 am and before 10 pm.
- Use existing roads and clean up after yourself. You are nature’s guest; leave no trace. Pick up after yourself and your pet. We also always try to pick up trash we find while we’re out hiking.
- Drive slowly to keep the dust down. Your neighbors will be thankful they don’t have to dust every day!
- Know the rules about firewood. Some places don’t allow you to bring your own wood in and if firewood collection is often prohibited. Make sure to read the signs on your way in. Many public lands will have a bulletin board area with rules and notices near the entrance.
- On the same token, know current fire regulations. During the dry summer months, bun bans can be in effect.
- Propane fire pits are a fantastic alternative to the real thing.
- Know the stay limits. Many of the public lands have a stay length limits. They are usually around 14 days. There will also be other restrictions, such as how many days you need to be off the land or how many miles away you need to travel before returning.
DO I EVEN NEED TO SAY THIS?
- Wait for an actual dump station to empty your black tank.
- There are alternatives like this one for black or gray water.
- If you do have a campfire, do so in a contained area, and for the love of god PUT IT OUT when you’re done.
- If staying at a business, like Walmart or Cracker Barrel, make a purchase from the business as a thank you. We have found it helpful to call the business ahead of time just to make sure it’s ok to park overnight.
- If you are staying at a casino, join the players club. Often, they will load your card with free play just for signing up. If you’re a Veteran, you will often get extra perks.
- Don’t set up camp; keep your chairs, outdoor carpet, and BBQ stowed. You’re only staying a night and remember, you are parking, not camping. There is a debate on whether or not it’s “acceptable” to put your slides out or not. We can (mostly) access what we need with the slide in, so when blacktop boondocking we will choose to leave it in.
- If you do put down your jacks, make sure to put blocks under them so they don’t damage the blacktop.
- Try to park as far away from the doors as possible. This way you’re not impeding business or taking up the good parking spaces
I am not posting these etiquette tips because I’m a boondocking elitist. To me, it is common courtesy and a great way to make new friends. We have met some of our favorite traveling buddies while boondocking.
These are a few sites we use to find boondocking spots. If you sign up using the links, we get a little bit of a kickback.
Many sites are shutting down because people are overstaying the limits and destroying nature. Please treat these sites as you would your own home so we can continue to enjoy them for years to come. What boondocking etiquette do you follow? Let us know in the comments below.