If you’ve spent more than a few minutes in the RVing scene, chances are, you’ve heard of the term “boondocking” before. It’s a common word in the RV community that’s not so easily understandable for “civilians”. So what is boondocking? Dry camping, free camping or wild camping…what do these words really mean? Let’s find out!
What is Boondocking?
Boondocking can mean different things to different people, depending on who you ask. A quick internet search would tell you that it can be as simple as dry camping in a developed campground, parking downtown on the side of the road, staying overnight at a rest stop or simply camping without any hookups—electricity, water or sewer system—anywhere, regardless of the location.
So boondocking and dry camping are almost always interchangeable, except that some people make a distinction in that boondocking is done in the boonies while dry camping is done both in the boonies and in urban or developed sites. Think of it as boondocking in the wilds and dry camping at Walmarts.
To make things simpler, we use the term “boondocking” in the broadest sense and completely interchangeable with dry camping—simply parking your RV or travel trailer—in a legal and public place 😉—without any hookups. This means being able to park almost anywhere, and for free!
Free camping and wild camping are both fancier terms for boondocking. Here’s a bonus: wallydocking—boondocking/dry camping at a Walmart.
Why Do People Boondock?
There are lots of reasons why people choose boondocking over the convenience of RV parks and campgrounds.
Low/zero cost – instead of spending $300 paying $20 a night for a 15-night stay, how about paying $0? That’s $300 more that can go to your groceries or fuel tank.
Location – explore old mining camps, ghost towns, obscure places, and remote geographical locations! There will definitely be no hookups in these places. It’s the really fun part of boondocking.
Peace and quiet – some campgrounds do get pretty crowded and noisy, especially during the holiday season. Want some peace and quiet? Just set up camp away from the crowd—problem solved!
Scenery and solitude – you won’t have to look at your neighbor’s slideout, no powerlines, and no bathroom buildings, just pure scenery. No people too, so you can pretend that the world is ending and you’re the last humans on earth. 😆
Stargazing – the best stargazing experiences we’ve ever had were out there in the boondocks. There’s no light pollution and the stars can be seen so clearly at night.
Convenience – when boondocking, there’s no need to make reservations, there are no check-in/out times and no rushing around to make it. If a spot wasn’t as nice as you thought, you can just up and leave and find a better one. You can also stay longer than intended if a spot turns out to be unexpectedly lovely.
Traveling with pets – there are no pet restrictions when boondocking and as long as the place is safe for dogs to roam, you can just open the door in the morning and let them out.
Boondocking Tips and Tricks
-A bucket in the shower will be handy when catching excess water, which can then be used to flush the toilet.
-Dishwashing should be done just once per day. Also, wiping down dirty dishes with paper towels before washing will allow you to use much less water.
-While in a campground with hookups, pre-wash all your fruits and vegetables while there’s still water to save for your boondocking venture later.
-Set-up a system for tracking your water usage, such as post-its stuck to the side of your water tank. This will allow you to gauge if you’re using too much water and estimate how much is left so you can make adjustments to your usage, if necessary.
-Pre-cook meals for less preparation and cooking. Also, cooking with gas equals less electricity/generator usage and less noise.
-Refrain from using the microwave or TV as they consume lots of power. Limit the use of lights or unnecessary electrical items.
-When in hot climes, opening the windows at night will let the cool breeze in and help cool down the RV. If you need to use the air conditioner, don’t use it continuously. Try putting it on for a few minutes, then replacing it with a fan.
-Send your location coordinates to a family member or friends so someone at least knows where you are.
-Check for sufficient cellular or internet coverage. Walk or drive around to determine where the connection is strongest and make a note of it.
-Don’t leave trash and food lying about outside your camp that can attract wildlife.
-Get a dog.
-When boondocking for the first time, try it out in a setting where you feel safe and have access to hookups and the essentials, just in case you forgot something. We have a list of urban boondocking spaces where you can start small.
Must-Haves (in addition to the necessities)
Just to be clear, in order to go boondocking effectively, you must prepare the following: full fresh water tank, emptied gray and black water tanks, refilled propane, and fully-charged batteries.
That said, these are our must-haves for an uber-comfortable wild camping adventure:
Portable generator with built-in inverter – aside from water, power is a total necessity when boondocking. Choose a quiet, energy-efficient generator. One with a built-in inverter is preferable so you can safely charge sensitive electronic devices like phones, tablets, and laptops.
Vent fans – fans are lifesavers in hot weather because when boondocking, you’ll need to conserve as much battery as you can.
Extra drinking water – it always pays to be prepared and having an extra security padding for your water supply is always comforting.
Now that you know what boondocking is, are you ready for your own experience? Or you may have done it before without even realizing it!
Have we covered everything you wanted to know about boondocking? Is there something else you wanted to know about this wonderful RVing practice? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to drop us a comment below.