Beginner’s Guide to Boondocking

If you haven’t gone boondocking in your RV, you’re missing one of the best elements of RV life. Campgrounds are fun, filled with interesting people, but sometimes it’s wonderful to get away from the madding crowd—up close and personal with nature. Fresh air, birds, and the wind in the pines. Squirrels chittering. Heaven!

Boondocking is also called “dry camping,” but most RVers just say “boondocking.” There are several types of boondocking. In the traditional sense, boondocking is parking where there are no hookups.

You carry everything: power, water, supplies. Being environmentally responsible, not dumping black water in inappropriate places, leaving trash, or burning down the forest, is essential. RVers, however, are well known for their environmental sensitivity. “Leave no tracks” is a hallmark of the best RVers.

With some preparation and education, boondocking is fun and a whole new kind of adventure:  the essence of self-reliance, freedom, and peace, surrounded by beauty—and the comforts of home. Plus, sometimes, it’s the only way you can get to some of the best boating lakes or off-road trails.

Let’s cover the basics of what you need to know to start boondocking.

Types of Boondocking

The basic three types of boondocking are generally defined by location:

  1. Overnighting

Overnighting—sometimes called “Wallydocking” because it makes use of Wal-mart’s offer to let RVers park there overnight. (It is a good idea to check with the store first.) This gives you options when plans are foiled by weather or—whatever. Sometimes you park in a friend’s driveway. Some RVers call that “moochdocking”—which really isn’t accurate. Your friends know you’re there.

  1. Developed Campgrounds

This is camping in a developed campground—usually national forest or park—where campgrounds may have picnic tables and fireplaces, and perhaps outhouses, but not electricity or water hookups. You may have access to a water faucet, but no hookups.

These campgrounds may also have noise restrictions, such as when you can run a generator, but also may have designated dump stations. This is kind of a step between Wallydocking and Type Three.

  1. Undeveloped Camping

Undeveloped (primitive) campground. Or even no campground. Forest Service and BLM lands offer the best primitive campgrounds. Check out the US Forest Service for destinations and the Bureau of Land Management, primarily located in the western U.S. Keep in mind that some of these areas will have sign-ins, registration, or ask for a small fee and occasionally in some parts of these lands, any kind of camping is illegal.

What to Bear in Mind when Preparing your First Boondocking Trip

Primitive campgrounds require the most planning and many boondockers carry some additional equipment that might be helpful: solar panels, a generator, extra batteries, etc. If you’ve planned well for a primitive campground, you’re pretty much covered with types one and two as well!

Water conservation is the most problematic, and requires the most planning and restraint. Power can be supplemented with a generator of other tools. Water is a bit more limited.

Additional five-gallon containers can be filled at every opportunity. Dishwashing water and shower water can be collected and used for flushing the toilet. A composting toilet further reduces the need for water.

Other boondockers love sharing their experiences and many have developed their own solutions and tips. For example, the Drivinandvibin site shares advice and tips from Kyle and Olivia based on their seven years of RV living.

Additional Resources

Mali Mish Boondocking (excellent all-round information)

RV Tech Library Boondocking

What the Heck Is Boondocking? (video)

Boondocking + Technology

Boondocking is typically “off the grid” and in very isolated areas cell phone coverage is iffy at best. RVers do have options. Check the very useful Mobile Internet Resource Center for connection options. Recently Starlink has developed Internet connection for moving vehicles.

An abundance of apps, many of which allow for offline usage, will help you plan. Your problem will probably be which ones to choose. The Getaway Couple site provides good descriptions of a considerable number of useful apps.

When you take a break at Mountainbound Custom Storage and RV Park you will be making friends with other RVers as well having a reliable Internet connection to use for planning your next—or first!—boondocking excursion. Nearby is Mountain Home, great for resupply. On Mountainbound site, you’ll find everything you need for a relaxing, entertaining break from travel. How better to prepare for that boondock adventure?

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