Boondocking Etiquette for Off Grid Camping

Boondocking etiquette is the same as camping etiquette. There are certain rules campers need to follow when camping off grid or dispersed camping areas out of respect of the environment, wildlife and of course, other campers. So, we’ve put together a boondocking etiquette guide that lays the ground rules of camping responsibility, good stewardship and manners.
Boondocking Etiquette for Off Grid Camping

Since we’ve been boondocking periodically for over a year now, we’ve become more appreciative and better stewards of the natural surroundings, land, properties where we boondock. We try to remember that our journey and destinations aren’t just about us.

Keep your distance from other campers

The primary principle of boondocking and camping off grid is to get away from the noise, chaotic city life, and from society in general. Understanding others are opting for the same purpose, it’s important to respect each other’s space.

So, don’t park or setup your camp so close to each other. Park your RV or camp at least a couple hundred yards from other campers and RVs.

Don’t block the view 

Boondocking Etiquette - Don't Block Views

Aren’t front row seats are awesome? But they are no longer awesome when a camper comes and sets up camp right in front of your view.

The unwritten rule of boondocking is the first RV that arrives and sets up camp gets the best view.

Just like at the movies, it’s totally discourteous and disrespectful to set up your campsite blocking the view of others who are already there.

Campers who have arrived before you may have positioned their RVs, tents and campsites to enjoy unobstructed views of the sunset, mountains or the beautiful shoreline without sitting right on top of it. Please respect the first come, first serve camping ethic.

Respect quiet hours

Boondocking Sunset View

Off grid camping and boondocking oftentimes brings out campers who think the whole desert is theirs’. Hence, why they blast their music, run their contractor grade generator at night, or howl at the moon and party ’til the cows come home.

One of the beauties of boondocking off grid is getting to listen to the wind whistle through the trees and trilling songbirds. It’s also about hearing the distant coyotes or trickling waters of nearby streams.

So, please respect your fellow off grid campers by keeping noise to a minimum. Respect evening quiet hours (8:00 am – 11:00 pm). Leave your contractor generator at home and invest either in solar and lithium batteries or a much quieter inverter generator.

Motocamping - Desert ADV and ATV Riders

And, if you bring your big toys. such as ADV’s, ATV’s and RZRs, keep a respectful distance from other RVs. No one wants to listen to constant engine noise or be bothered by unnecessary dust.

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Turn off your lights

William Trinkle Photography - Fifth Wheel RV Milky Way
Photo contributed by William Trinkle Photography

There is nothing more magical than sitting in total darkness in the desert to look up at the stars or enjoying the ambiance of a campfire.

If you’re within close proximity of other off grid campers, minimize or turn off all of your outside lights. Also, pull your window shades to avoid inside light peeking through the windows.

In other words, be mindful of light pollution. Campers and those boondocking off grid do so to get away from the bright city lights.

No cutting or removing trees and brush

Always On Liberty - Boondocking Off Grid Camping

Did you know that it’s against the law to remove live and even dead trees and scrubs from National public lands? By clearing or taking them displaces wildlife habitats but also interrupts the ecosystem.

So, bring your own firewood from a nearby location to where you’re going to boondock or camp. Just remember to not cross state lines with firewood as that brings potential of spreading uninvited diseases and insects.

If you really enjoy the campfire ambiance, look into a propane fire pit as they burn cleaner and you won’t need to be looking for firewood or brush to burn.

Read more: Top Portable Fire Pits for RVs and Camping

Practice campfire safety 

Boondocking Campfire

Speaking of campfires; always check in with the Park Ranger for burn status and permits for the area you wish to camp in. Especially in dry areas, one simple spark can result in the loss of many acres of forest and people’s homes or businesses.

Here’s a few campfire safety rules to abide by:

      • Burn only native wood
      • Respect and adhere to burn bans
      • Do not bring construction wood material
      • Skip burning pallets as they leave nails and screws
      • Never construction wood material; especially chemically treated wood
      • Do not burn plastics, glass or any other foreign matter that is not natural wood

Read more: 10 Campfire Safety Tips

Practice good pet etiquette

When you are boondocking or camping off grid, appreciate that you are also living in the wild and cohabitating with wildlife. We are in their house and  technically, their guests. That means our pets are guests as well.

Here are some basic camping pet etiquette rules to abide by at all times:

      • Keep your pets on a leash or contained in a secure play yard
      • Never allow them to chase, threaten or interact with any wildlife
      • Avoid interactions with wildlife as they (or your pet) may expose them to disease, stress or lure them from their habitats
      • Always pick up your dog or cat’s poop
      • Do not allow your dog to bark unnecessarily
      • Never leave your dog or cat outside without supervision
Photo contributed by William Trinkle Photography

Read More: Campground Pet Etiquette: Camping Rules for Dogs and Cats

Leave No Trace 

Take everything you bring. Before you leave your campsite, police your site and camping area for bottle caps, plastic, napkins or tissues, soda cans, etc. even if they’re not ours. We understand anything unnatural upsets the ecosystem and wildlife who live there. We also do not deface, destroy or damage anything (like someone else did in the photo below).

Be good stewards of the the land and all that lives there.

Joshua Tree BLM vandalism
We found this vandalism on BLM land near Joshua Tree National Park in California.

Read more about LEAVE NO TRACE: Pack in Pack Out Rules of Camping

Respect your neighbors

There is an unwritten rule ‘whoever arrives first dictates the atmosphere’. If we arrive near an area of dirt bikes and ATV’s, we expect it to be loud(er) so we opt for another area. We still try to be mindful that we’re not the only ones out there enjoying true freedom. We hope ATV/ADV and RZR operators are mindful when also parking within earshot of others; not only for noise but dust as well.

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Adhere to camping term limits

Camping term limits are put into place for two reasons. First, it’s to dissuade people from living permanently in one location. And second, it’s to give everyone a chance to enjoy camping on our public lands.

Some locations are posted while others may be dictated in a brochure or website of the dispersed camping location. It’s best to check in with the Ranger to find out if there are term limits and if you need to apply for a camping permit.

Boondocking etiquette wrap up

In closing, if you’ve never boondocked before, you don’t know what you’re missing. Dare to take your RV, camper or tent and find a good spot under the big sky and embrace the environment. Just remember though, we are just one teensy bit of existence. We need to coexist and be respectful to all that surrounds us.

As you are probably already aware, our camping privileges can be revoked at anytime if we don’t take care of our public lands and anywhere for that matter. It’s all about respect, discipline and being good stewards of the environment.

So, that wraps up our guide to the dos and don’ts of off grid camping and boondocking. We hope you find them helpful and good rules to remember each time you head out on our public lands.


Always On Liberty Boondocking Etiquette

More articles on boondocking and camping:

How to Prepare your RV for Boondocking Off the Grid

Must-Have Boondocking Gear for Off Grid RV Camping

5 Reasons Why We Enjoy RV Boondocking

How to Succeed at RV Boondocking

How to Conserve Water While Boondocking in Your RV

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