What is Boondocking? Why It’s Better than Campgrounds & RV Parks

Lately, it seems that a lot of RVers are avoiding campgrounds and RV parks to go boondocking miles from civilization. Which leads to us to dive into finding out why has camping off grid become a better choice than parking in campgrounds and RV parks with hookups? What are they running or hiding from? And why are XGens and Millennials those who seek this kind of RVing over the Boomers?

After reading this, you’ll know why boondocking is a part of the RV lifestyle that has become excessively popular; especially amongst younger generations, solos, families and even those remote working.

What is it exactly that makes boondocking and camping off grid so attractive? What is the allure of traipsing off the beaten path to camp in the middle of nowhere in deserts, mountains and beaches miles from the nearest town?

Well, hold on tight because we’re going to show you why RVers prefer boondocking out there over staying at campgrounds and RV parks.

What is Boondocking? Why It’s Better than Campgrounds & RV Parks

Always On Liberty - Why RVers Boondock

This blog article contains affiliate links. We receive a small commission at no extra cost to you  so we can continue to create more helpful free content.

I admit, our first boondocking experience in our RV was absolute failure! Being so ill-prepared and inexperienced, that so-called “off grid adventure” turned into an awful disaster. We ran out of water and filled our gray tank by the end of the second day. And worse, we just couldn’t get the hang of dispersed camping in our fifth wheel in the bitter cold. We ran out of propane too! That was our first boondocking adventure from January of 2017. Were we to try it again? Well?

Fast forward five years later, we now are much better at using and conserving our resources. And, we can honestly say that we also appreciate what the attraction is to this kind of wild camping. Today, we can say that we absolutely love taking our RV in the middle of nowhere for reasons we’ll explain later. But, after calculating our time on the road and annual expenses, we’ve earned our bragging rights of saying we boondock about 80% of the time!

Since our very first cold, hungry and thirsty boondocking experience, we’ve learned, practiced, and now master this type of RV lifestyle to the point that we can do it with our eyes closed. And with that, we now help newer RVers see the attraction as well.

So, let’s fill up your RV water tank, empty the gray and black, and top off your propane. Let’s see why others, like ourselves, love boondocking so much.

What is BOONDOCKING?

Always On Liberty - Boondocking Fifth Wheel
Boondocking just outside of Joshua Tree National Park’s South Entrance – Always On Liberty©

You, no doubt, have heard that song, “Down in the Boondocks”. Merriam Webster dictionary defines boondocks as “a remote, thinly settled rural area” also known as, “the sticks”The song is sung from the perspective of a self-proclaimed “boy from down in the boondocks”. He sings of a girl who lives nearby, for whom he feels love and steals away with to a secluded area occasionally.

But also, it’s been said that the term boondock came from U.S. Soldiers who were serving in the Philippines during World War II. “Bundok” is for “mountain in Tagalog” which characterizes the area as being wild and rough.

Today, boondocking is also known as dry camping, wild camping, off grid camping or dispersed camping. RVers and campers seek these locations for a variety of reasons. While boondockers lose the convenience of full hookups at campgrounds (endless electricity, water, and sewer), the tradeoffs make up for those small inconveniences and sacrifices.

Is DISPERSED CAMPING the same thing as boondocking?

Always On Liberty - Boondocking in Desert
Boondocking in the desert at KOFA in Arizona – Always On Liberty©

Dispersed camping is the term given to camping in the United States on public land other than in designated campsites. This type of camping is most common through the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Forest Service (NFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). You can tent camp or park your RV pretty much in any area deemed for overnight camping.

Well, not so fast! Unfortunately, irresponsible campers have disregarded some popular camping sites. Therefore, the BLM and National Forest Service have stepped up to manage these public lands by creating designated dispersed camping areas.

So, before you start driving your RV down the dirt road and setting up camp, you need to visit the Ranger station to acquire a dispersed camping or backcountry permit. Realize some permits may be for short term camping while others may allow longer term dry camping.

Important to note, you need to stay away of day use areas. Those are not for overnight camping. Make certain you look for signs and maps. I promise, they WILL kick you out!

Is boondocking even LEGAL?

 

The main issue with some who boondock is they don’t do their homework in finding legal camping locations. Some land or property is subject to local ordinances that disallow RVs and/or camping. It is your responsibility to ensure camping is permitted. And we always recommend researching and getting permission to boondock anywhere; whether it’s signage, permissive information, getting a permit or asking the landowner. But, on a good note, there are places to take your RV camping. 

Before you get excited, know that boondocking does come with a set of rules when camping on public land as well as on regulated property. Unfortunately, there are some who fail to follow boondocking etiquette and laws of the land. Therefore, we all need to be proactive by reminding not only others, but ourselves, of those rules. Otherwise, we’ll ALL lose our camping privileges. And then, we’ll be forced back into campgrounds and stuff RV parks.

Read more: Boondocking Etiquette for Off Grid Camping

Where can I find PLACES to boondock?

Always On Liberty - Big Bend National Park
Boondocking at one of the few dry camping spots in Big Bend National Park. You must to apply for a backcountry dispersed camping permit in person at the Ranger Station at Panther Junction. – Always On Liberty©

Where you want to boondock will depend on your interests and type of environment you’re looking for.

For example, if you are towing a Jeep or pulling with a four wheel drive truck, you may want to boondock out in the desert on public land where lots of off roading trails call your name. But if instead, you enjoy fishing, kayaking and paddle boarding, then finding a great camping spot near a lake or on a river may be your forte. And if you’re a sun bunny, there’s places on the beach where you can wake up with the sun and sleep under the stars while the waves sooth your soul.

If you want to boondock with other families, you can network with and camp with other RVing families without worrying about waking up grouchy neighbors in a campground.

One of the best ways to find great places to boondock is through networking and word of mouth; especially with like-minded and campers with the same size or type of RV. Because not every boondocking location is the same.

Other than networking and word of mouth, other ways to find great boondocking sites are through online resources and apps. Two of our favorites are FreeCampsites and Campendium. Two other boondocking site locators are iOverlander and Ultimate Campgrounds. Oh, there are plenty other resources out there. You just have to find which one fits your niche and your boondocking expectations.

Is boondocking SAFE?

Always On Liberty - Boondocking in the Desert with Friends
Boondocking with friends. Safety in numbers. – Always On Liberty©

While nowhere is guaranteed to be safe by any means, in my opinion, we are actually less apt to experience violent crime, theft or harassment. As responsible campers, we tend to keep to ourselves and try not to interfere with or engage with other boondockers unless we know them or we feel comfortable meeting.

I will say though, just be aware of your surroundings just as you would in an RV park or campground. Don’t leave your expensive portable generators, coolers and bicycles out unattended. But for the most part, 99% of other boondockers are respectful and responsible. But, if you do feel a little squeamish about being out there alone, perhaps check out our Lifesaving RV Safety Tips to Keep You Safe on the Road.

Now, let’s see what those reasons why RVers may choose boondocking over campgrounds and RV parks!

Free Million Dollar VIEWS

Always On Liberty - Boondocking at Lone Rock on Lake Powell
Boondocking at Lone Rock on Lake Powell, Arizona – Always On Liberty©

I can tell you one of the main reasons we boondock are the incredible million dollar views. If you’ve been following our adventures, you’ve probably seen the many beautiful photos showing our temporary backyards with beautiful sunrises and sunsets in the mountains, amongst tall cacti and ocotillos in the desert, and other beautiful natural landscapes.

Nothing compares to waking up to a beautiful unobstructed sunrise to greet the day. Or winding down for the day with a five o’clock somewhere watching the sky turn into a brilliant kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and yellows.

But the real treat is sitting out in total darkness in the middle of nowhere. There’s such a deep satisfaction of sitting out under the desert sky’s umbrella of a zillion stars! There’s rarely any light pollution out there to ruin searching for the Milky Way or identifying constellations. You don’t get that in campgrounds or RV parks unless you’re in a designated dark sky community.

Read More: How and Where to Find Dark Sky Camping Locations

Getting in touch with NATURE

Camping under the Stars and Milky Way

I know from our perspective, the chaos of city life grates on us. So quite literally, we head for the hills to get away from it all. And honestly speaking, dealing with mass amounts of society kills our spirit and well-being.

RVers who boondock will tell you that getting in touch with nature is one of the prime reasons for escaping the tumultuous campground living. It’s good for the heart and soul. It’s wondrous to sit out listening and watching the distant elk or observing even small birds prey upon whatever they could snatch for dinner instead of listening to screaming kids all day or watching golf carts constantly zooming by.

Appreciating our RESOURCES

Boondocking - Solar and Energy Management System

In the past couple years, we’ve mastered everything it takes to successfully boondock off the grid from supply management, meal planning,  conserving water and managing electric usage  are just to name a few. 

And because of that, we’ve realized how wasteful we use to be with our precious resources we took for granted (water, electricity, and trash). No longer do we allow the water to run out of the faucet unnecessarily. And, since we’re accustomed to using our RV batteries, we are more in tune with turning off unnecessary lights and appliances. We can honestly say that we’ve lessened our carbon footprint about 50% by boondocking vs. being hooked up to utilities.

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

Always On Liberty - Battle Born Lithium Batteries Banner Ad

Enjoy the PEACE and QUIET

There once was a day when we loved going to the big cities to attend like professional sports games, concerts and bustling shopping malls. However, now we enjoy more serene natural settings with fewer distractions and noise. We’d rather sit in our camp chairs outside listening to the birds and howling coyotes yelping in the distance. We’ve found our anxiety levels have pretty much disappeared completely. We are much more at peace and we seem to argue less!

Always On Liberty - Big Bend National Park

Those like-minded boondockers like us are more mindful of noise. We prefer not to fire up our generators. In fact, Boondocking actually encouraged us to install our solar panels and lithium batteries provide amazing opportunity to live off the grid more quietly.

Catch up on SLEEP

Speaking of quiet, boondocking affords us better night’s sleep and awesome mid-day naps because there are no constant barking dogs, lawn mowers and weedwackers, traffic noise or trains and airports. Seriously, it’s so quiet you can actually nap standing up! 

Saving MONEY

Always On Liberty - Money

Honestly, boondocking is not totally cost prohibitive. However, it can save boondockers a ton of money. While there still are dump fees, charges for potable water, and fuel for your RV generator. We sometimes may need a extra diesel to drive a little further to pick up groceries and empty our tanks. However, we save an estimated $300-600 a month boondocking depending on location. So, saving money is a big player in why we enjoy boondocking in our RV.

Read More: Money Saving RV Travel Tips: How to Cut Costs on the Road

Catching up on REMOTE WORK

Most RVing boondockers we know still work on the road. And camping off grid allows them great views to inspire them to work because there are no distractions (other than those beautiful views). I can say that I actually get more work done out there than being tethered to a campground electric pedestal. 

The same goes for Dan and his outside chores and mechanical modifications and upgrades. He’s not interrupted or distracted like he is while we’re parked in busy campgrounds or RV parks.

Better CONNECTIVITY

Always On Liberty - Connectivity

One would think that the closer we are to the busy metropolitan areas, our WiFi signals would be zooming, right? Well, not necessarily. If we’re packed in tight at an RV park or highly populated area, we find certain times of the day or night, our WiFi drops to a slow crawl or it’s practically useless. We are all vying for the same tower signal whether it’s for remote work, streaming and surfing the web or uploading videos.

Since there’s more peeps out there on the road working remotely like us, connectivity is a serious concern at RV parks, resorts and campgrounds. So, believe it or not, a lot of us literally head for the hills to get better cell and Wifi signals. Of course, we do our diligent research to make sure we’re going to an area that even has connectivity. This is why we love to use Campendium as one of our main free camping locators because this crowd-sourcing venue shares cell provider signal strengths.

That said, if there isn’t a decent signal, we’ll head for a  local library, coffee shop or even a business parking lot to take care of business, upload or download what we need. Just make certain you have a VPN when using public Wifi.

Read more: FREE WiFi for Digital Nomads and Remote Work

Meeting up with like-minded RVing FRIENDS

Always On Liberty - Boondocking friends
Boondocking with our friends Matt and Diana from Adventurous Way at Saddle Mountain in Arizona

Want to know the absolute best part of why we prefer boondocking? Camping with friends! We’ve met some of the best people on the road. A lot of us will boondock near near each other, not only for companionship, but also, safety in numbers. And if we ever need a hand in an install, RV upgrade, modification or even to just borrow a tool, our fellow boondockers are usually friendly to help.

Here’s the thing, boondocking is a no-judgement zone. We don’t gawk at our weird clothing or a shirt we wore two days ago. We understand and embrace the boondocking lifestyle and all that it presents. 

Read more: 8 Ways to Make Friends on the Road

Outdoor RECREATION & ACTIVITIES

Always On Liberty - Hiking right outside our RV door
While we were boondocking at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, we hiked up Palm Canyon literally right outside our door. – Always On Liberty©

There’s nothing like stepping outside your RV to greet the mountains with some onsite hiking! Or, go off roading, Jeepin’ and four wheeling on the OHV trails. But, if you’re into rockhounding, the desert southwest has treasures right at your feet. And, it goes without saying that there’s plenty of room for the kids to run around and ride their bikes up and down the dirt road without much worry.

Read more: Hiking for Beginners: Novice Hiking Tips Before Hitting the Trails

Breathe in FRESH AIR

Boondocking allows us something we can’t get parked in a city or at a campground. That is fresh air! Because at a campground or RV park, you’ll oftentimes get a nasty whiff of sewer. Or, sometimes smelling some of the things they cook outside makes me think it’s some 10-day old road kill. 

Wrapping up why RVers prefer BOONDOCKING

Always On Liberty - Boondocking in the Desert Southwest
Dispersed camping off the grid in the desert southwest – Always On Liberty©

So, now you know why our public lands, BLM and forest lands are becoming popular to RVers and campers as opposed to staying in RV parks and campgrounds. Each RVer or camper has their own reasons why they enjoy camping off the grid and these are the most popular.

It’s kind of funny. While people shuck out tons of cash for their vacations in the mountains, rivers, lakes and the ocean, we’re doing it everyday!

Read More: Free Camping Isn’t Really FREE! Boondocking Costs MONEY!

Always On Liberty - Boondockers Welcome Banner Ad

Learn more about BOONDOCKING:

Prepare your RV for Boondocking Off the Grid

Absolute Must-Have RV Boondocking Gear

How to Succeed at RV Boondocking

How to Conserve Water While Boondocking

Extra Water Storage for Boondocking & Camping

Where to Find RV Dump Stations and Potable Water

How to Empty Your Black Tank Without Moving Your RV

Camping and Boondocking Etiquette

Always On Liberty - Why RVers are Boondocking

AMAZON DISCLAIMER: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Amazon RV Parts Accessories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *