Boondocking or dry camping is one of our favorite ways to camp. No reservations, no hookups to deal with, just pure freedom and we have boondocked all over the world. However, not all boondocking spots are perfect and we have learned when to move on.
To help you have a good experience, we’re sharing some boondocking red flags to keep in mind so you can move on quickly from undesireable spots and stay safe. We want to help you enjoy boondocking for years to come.
Let’s take a look at what boondocking is and how to know which spots are best.
What Is Boondocking?
Boondocking is camping without electricity, water, or sewer hookups and with no amenities. Sometimes its called dry camping or wild camping depending on where you go.
Essentially it’s off-grid camping in an RV. There are no public toilets, showers, or other amenities that you would find in a campground when boondocking. You will need to bring your own water, power yourself, and collect your sewage for later disposal.
This may not sound great to some, but we encourage everyone to try it out as campers are designed for it.
New to boondocking? Start here.
Can You Boondock Anywhere?
People typically boondock on dispersed public land, such as BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land or crown land in Canada. The name boondocking comes from being “out in the boondocks.”
You can dry camp in a parking lot, in a friend’s driveway, or in other areas that lack hookups if it has access to a toilet or shower as well.
Pro Tip: Improve your boondocking game with these 40 RV Boondocking Tips To Make Your Off-Grid Camping Better.
Is Boondocking Safe?
Boondocking is generally safe, but anytime you’re camping off-grid, always be aware of the environment and other people. Taking basic safety precautions will help you relax and enjoy your time.
First, let someone know where you’re boondocking and for how long. And write down local emergency numbers in case you need them–you might not have internet access to look them up.
Second, lock your RV and vehicle. Even if it doesn’t look like there’s anyone around, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Your valuables can be more vulnerable when you’re camping alone than in a campground with lots of witnesses.
Finally, if you’re particularly concerned about your safety, you might consider a self-defense weapon. We recommend carrying bear or pepper spray.
Here is a silly video we put together for Halloween one year telling some of our boondocking stories. We wanted this to be scary, but most of our experiences have been fantastic.
5 Boondocking Red Flags Telling You to Move On
The key to keeping yourself and your RV safe when boondocking is knowing what the red flags are. Learn these five warning signs that it’s time to move on from the boondocking spot you’ve chosen.
1. Weather Can Ruin Boondocking
Watch the weather forecast when you’re boondocking. The elements can ruin your camping trip if you don’t plan ahead. For example, if you’re staying in a windy area and the forecast calls for high winds, you might end up with a sleepless night. Or, if it’s dusty and windy, it’ll be challenging to spend time outdoors.
Checking for rain or snow is also important when boondocking. If the ground you’re camping in is below water level, the chances that it will get muddy after a rainfall are more significant. The last thing you want is to get stuck in the middle of nowhere.
2. Unstable Terrain Can Get You Stuck
Boondocking on unstable terrain is a bad idea whether rain is in the forecast or not. If there’s any chance you could get stuck, take it as a red flag and move on.
Also, be on the lookout for rough roads. If going over rocks or through mud isn’t your RV’s strong suit, turn around. We also recommend looking at the impressions of other tire tracks when you pull in to see how other boondockers faired in the area.
You can find boondocking spots on beaches in places like the Texas coast. While this seems like a dream, soft and sandy ground can be a nightmare for RVers. Scout out the beach before attempting to drive on it with your rig to determine if it’s appropriate for your setup.
3. Unruly or Loud Neighbors Can Disrupt Your Peace
People typically boondock to get away from it all, including people. However, popular boondocking areas can get busy. And unruly, loud, or drunk neighbors can be a nuisance and disrupt your peace.
If your neighbors are annoying you, call it a boondocking red flag and move on. You’ll just get more frustrated as time goes on, so we recommend you leave to find another spot at the first sign of disruptive neighbors. And refrain from confronting your neighbors at risk of escalating an uncomfortable situation.
4. Trash Everywhere
The unfortunate part of free boondocking spots is that some people don’t practice the “leave no trace” rule. This is highly disappointing, and some public lands have shut down boondocking because of the trash people leave behind.
Trash not only ruins your peaceful view but also harms the environment. If you stop at a boondocking spot where there’s trash everywhere, move on. This likely isn’t a place you want to camp. Alternatively, you can be a good samaritan and pick up some trash during your stay.
5. Listen to Your Gut
Listening to your gut is very important when boondocking. We recommend moving on if you have a bad feeling, bad vibe, yellow flag, or red flag. Even if you can’t explain when your gut tells you to move on, it’s better to be safe now than sorry later.
Pro Tip: Make sure you and your boondocking neighbors have positive experiences with these 9 Boondocking Rules You Should Never Break.
Boondocking Can Be Great, If You Watch for the Signs
Boondocking is a lot of fun. Many RVers boondock 50-100% of the time they go camping. We highly recommend trying it to see if it’s for you. And if you watch for the red flags we mentioned, you’ll surely have a great time.
Websites and apps like Campendium are an excellent way to find boondocking spots throughout the country. Read reviews and ask around to discover the best places to camp for free.
Have you ever tried boondocking? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
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Sunday 30th of January 2022
Great advice as always. Thanks, Mortons
Sunday 26th of December 2021
Regarding #4, trash: Or, just clean up the site. This makes it better for you, the next person, and helps keep public lands open. Of course the amount of trash can be overwhelming; in that case maybe it's time to organize a clean-up with friends or a club.
Mortons on the Move
Friday 7th of January 2022
Great point! Thank you!