Boondocking etiquette is similar to camping etiquette. The only difference is boondocking generally is a term that applies to RVs and campers. As we’ve experienced through the years, there is a huge disconnect between how RVers should act . And, the things you should never do when camping off grid or in dispersed camping areas to protect the environment, wildlife and other campers.
But, through many years of boondocking and camping off grid, we’re noticing that respect of the environment, wildlife and each other has definitely taken a back seat.
So, we’ve put together a boondocking etiquette guide that lays the ground rules of camping responsibility, good stewardship and manners.
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Boondocking Etiquette for Off Grid RV Camping
Distance Yourself from Other Campers
People go boondocking to escape the chaos of urban life and sometimes society. They want to enjoy the full essence of being outdoors in the natural environment. And that’s why it’s so important to respect each other’s space. Unfortunately though, some newbie boondockers don’t seem to understand the concept and camp too close to other campers.
In other words, even if park your RV even for an overnight, don’t park or setup camp so close to other campers. Give them and yourself plenty of room for privacy and to enjoy the wide open space.
A good rule of thumb when choosing your campsite is to park your RV at least 100 yards from other campers and RVs.
And since we’re on the subject, have you ever shown up at an event and scored a front row seat? Your tenacity and punctuality gave you privilege of getting the best view. The same principle applies to boondocking etiquette.
RVs who arrive before you may position their RVs to enjoy unobstructed views of the sunset, mountains or the beautiful shoreline without sitting right on top of it.
And yes, while you should be able to park freely wherever you want on public land, it’s pretty crappy to park a big honkin’ RV that blocks the amazing view from other campers who were already there.
The unwritten rule of boondocking etiquette is the first to arrive gets the best view and don’t park so close to each other (unless you’re in a group).
Keep Down the Noise
Off grid camping and boondocking oftentimes brings out campers who think they own the whole place. In fact, we’ve experienced everything from listening to obnoxiously loud contractor generators to inebriated people howling at the moon and partying ’til the cows come home. Let’s not forget the screaming kids and barking dogs
And, if you bring your big motorized toys. such as ADV’s, ATV’s and RZRs, keep a respectful distance from other RVs. No one wants to hear constant revving engine noise (or be bothered by unnecessary dust).
Oh, and without sounding like I’m repeating myself, please leave your contractor grade generator at home. While they may be cheaper, they’re way too loud and teeth-gritting obnoxious.
PRO TIP: Before heading out to boondock with your generator, read Generator Usage: Operating Tips and Rules for RVs.
Respect Quiet Hours
As we noted above, we all get vie for the peace and quiet that we don’t get in busy campgrounds or RV parks. When it’s time for lights out, it’s important to honor and respect quiet hours.
The purpose of quiet hours is so everyone can enjoy the serene ambiance of the environment. One of the best things about boondocking is getting to listen to the wind whistle through the trees and trilling songbirds. Or, hearing the distant coyotes or trickling waters of nearby streams.
I’m sure you wouldn’t enjoy another boondocker letting their loud generator or partying it up past those quiet hours while you’re trying to enjoy a quiet evening under the stars or around the campfire.
So, as another fellow boondocking, please respect your fellow campers by keeping noise to a minimum during quiet hours which are usually from 10:00-11:00 pm to 7:00-8:00 am.
PRO TIP: Check out how we configured our Winnebago View to boondock off grid: Winnebago View Solar Upgrades & Lithium Battery Replacements.
Turn off your lights
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 and enjoy stargazing.
No cutting or removing trees and brush
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.
Practice campfire safety
Speaking of campfires; always check in with the Park Ranger for burn status and campfire 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.
A few campfire safety rules:
- 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
PRO TIP: Before even lighting a match, go over these Campfire Safety Tips with everyone in your camping party; kids included!
Follow Pet Etiquette
We get it! Your pup or kitty wants to run loose and explore the wild. However, when boondocking or camping off grid, we are also cohabitating with wildlife. Pet owners need to respect that we’re their guests. Pet etiquette while camping in wild is not only to protect the wildlife and environment but also, your pets.
Some basic camping pet etiquette rules to follow when boondocking or camping off grid:
- 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
Leave No Trace
Always follow the Leave No Trace principle when you’re boondocking or camping off grid. It’s important to take everything you bring.
Before leaving your campsite, you should police your camping area for bottle caps, plastic, napkins or tissues, soda cans, etc. Even if you find something you didn’t bring, take it anyways. Also, do not leave anything in the fire ring; including food or meat bones. They only attract animals or could very well hurt the next boondockers who may have a dog.
Anything unnatural upsets the ecosystem and wildlife who live there. And never deface, destroy or damage anything. Be good stewards of the the land and all that lives there so we can continue to enjoy boondocking.
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.
Adhere to camping term limits
Camping limits are put into place for two reasons. First, it’s to dissuade people from living permanently on any property; including federal, state, county or even private property. Second, camping limits are to enable everyone a chance to enjoy camping on our public lands.
A lot of locations are posted with a sign. And others may be posted 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.
Final thoughts on boondocking etiquette
So, that wraps up our guide to the do’s and don’t’s of off grid camping and boondocking. It’s important to realize that camping in the wild isn’t all about us. We’re enjoying the freedom to enjoy our public lands and those who allow us to camp on their property. Therefore, we need to follow just a few simple rules of camping to ensure we don’t lose that privilege. Camping is all about respect, discipline and being good stewards of the environment.
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