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9 Boondocking Rules You Should Never Break

If you’re tired of camping at sold-out campgrounds, you may want to give boondocking a try. However, keep these things in mind while out on your adventure. We’ve compiled some boondocking rules to help ensure you and those around you have a great time camping. Let’s take a look so you can start planning your next boondocking adventure.

What Is Boondocking?

When you hear an RVer talk about boondocking, they typically refer to camping on public lands.

Agencies like the Bureau of Land Management or the United States Forestry Service will manage these lands. You can find thousands of locations across the country for first-come, first-served, and free camping.

Understand that no two locations are the same. Some areas have space for multiple large RVs and have accessible roads for any rig to navigate, but this isn’t always the case.

You may come across locations with rough roads or require a vehicle with high clearance and four-wheel drive. You should research and scout out a campsite in advance when possible.

➡ New to this type of camping? Learn more about What Is Boondocking?

Is Boondocking Dangerous? 9 Frightening and Odd Boondocking Experiences In 5 Years Full-time RV Life

What You Should Know About Boondocking

Before you head out to enjoy some boondocking, know that this camping style isn’t the same as staying in an established campground. Some locations will have large areas, and campers can set up wherever there’s room. However, others have designated campsites.

One of the great things about boondocking is that you can find public land in remote locations. Instead of listening to the sounds of traffic or a factory nearby, you’ll likely enjoy the sounds of nature and silence at night. However, the remoteness may not provide great cell service to stay connected.

Most boondocking sites also don’t offer many amenities. You shouldn’t expect to have electricity, water, or sewer. You may get lucky to have a dumpster or pit toilets nearby, but that’s about as good as it gets.

➡ We’ve compiled 40 Boondocking Tips To Make Your Off-Grid Camping Better.

Boondocking set up in desert.
Boondocking can be freeing, but make sure to follow the unspoken rules of boondocking!

9 Boondocking Rules You Should Never Break

If you want to have a tremendous boondocking experience, here are nine rules you should never break. Let’s take a look!

1. Never Dump Your Waste Tanks on the Ground

Depending on how long you plan to boondock, your waste tanks may fill up. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your black or gray tanks; never dump them on public lands.

Doing so is harmful to the environment. Dumping your black water on the ground can make it very unsanitary and not fit for camping.

If you need to empty your tanks, you should come prepared with a plan. Find the nearest dump station to tow your RV to or take an RV portable waste tank. However, you plan to empty your tanks, make sure that you do it in a sanitary manner that doesn’t pose a risk for other campers or animals.

Truck and trailer set up in desert for boondocking.
Respect the public lands you’re on by not dumping your waste tanks on them while boondocking.

2. Don’t Block Someone Else’s View

If you camp in a location for the view, often others are there for the same reason. Keep this in mind before setting up your campsite. Others will likely not appreciate it if you block their view.

While it may feel tempting to squeeze into an area for the perfect scenery, you don’t want to ruin someone else’s experience. There’s plenty of nature for everyone to enjoy.

Pro Tip: Before hitting the road make sure to read up on these Important Things To Know Before Going Boondocking.

3. Don’t Invade Someone Else’s Space

Boondockers likely enjoy the ability to spread out. If they wanted to camp close to others, they’d probably have chosen a more established campground. Some boondocking sites have enough room for multiple campers. So while you may not be isolated from others, make sure you keep your space.

While you can set up camp in any spot, be mindful of the distance between you and others. You don’t want neighbors closer than they have to be, and they likely feel the same. This is a common event in boondocking and one of the most common rules boondockers break.

Van set up for boondocking at campsite.
Make sure to give fellow boondockers space to relax when setting up your site.

4. Don’t Run Your Generator 24/7 When Other Campers Are Around

Getting away from crowded campgrounds while camping also means getting away from the noise. Boondockers choose this style of camping to enjoy the quietness of the remote location. However, a noisy generator can quickly ruin the experience for those around you.

Afraid of annoying the neighbors? Check out the quietest RV generators – your boondocking friends will thank you.

If you plan to boondock regularly, consider investing in a power option that allows you to turn off the generator. This could mean upgrading your electrical system to better batteries or solar panels. Some RVers manage their power and use portable power stations to run items like TVs, coffee makers, or microwaves. 

Ultimate RV Off-Grid Solar System Build - 2760 Watts of Solar ☀️ 11Kwh Battery, on a 32' Fifth wheel

5. Don’t Make a New Campsite

If a boondocking location has designated campsites, you should not make a new one.

Boondocking sites are first-come, first-served. If you can’t find one available, you’ll need to find another location. Making your own campsite is unacceptable and can get you in trouble with the agency that manages it.

Agencies often make campsites in a way to avoid damaging the land’s resources. Their main priority is protecting the land and maintaining the environment. If people start destroying areas by creating new sites, boondocking sites may be shut down.

Truck camper parked in desert.
Boondocking sites are first-come, first-served. If there is no space left, don’t make yourself a new campsite.

6. Don’t Make a New Firepit

Many of these campsites will have fire pits if the management agency allows fires. You should not make a new firepit to have a fire. You may not be allowed to have a fire at that site if no pit is present.

Even if a campsite has a fire pit, ensure you know of any local fire bans in effect. If rangers catch you with a fire during a ban, your free boondocking site could turn into a costly camping trip.

Pro Tip: Interested in buying an RV to take boondocking? We uncovered What Is the Best RV for Boondocking?

7. Don’t Leave Anything Behind

Pack it in and pack it out is the general rule boondockers follow. This means anything you bring with you, you should take with you when you leave. 

Before leaving, you should inspect your campsite to ensure you haven’t left anything behind. This means trash, camping gear, and clothes. Doing so can help you avoid leaving behind important items and ensure that future campers arrive at a pristine site.

Many agencies have closed access to public lands for camping for this reason. Some campers leave large amounts of trash behind and destroy the land. So make sure you clean up after yourself and avoid any more public lands from closing.

Red trailer parked in between trees for boondocking.
Remember to Leave No Trace when boondocking.

8. Don’t Let Your Dog Roam Unleashed When Other Campers Are Present

Your dog may also enjoy how boondocking can provide lots of room to run around. However, other campers may not.

Having a dog roaming around a camping area may make other boondockers feel uncomfortable. Even though you camp in a remote location, you must still follow any local leash laws.

Additionally, while it may be forgivable for your dog to do its business in the wilderness, you should make sure to clean up any messes it leaves around the campsite. The next person to camp there shouldn’t find piles of dog poop.

Pick up after your pet. Packing out what you pack in often includes waste, both human and animal.

camping limit for public land boondocking rule
Public lands have stay limits that must be obeyed.

9. Don’t Overstay Stay Limits

Many boondocking sites enforce stay limits. This ensures that others get a chance to enjoy the campsite and give the land a chance to heal. 

Some boondockers set up camp with no plan of moving along and make it their primary residence. This can become unsanitary and lead to the destruction of the land and surrounding vegetation.

Many stay limits are for 14 days, but some more popular sites may have shorter limits. Be aware of the requirements once you’ve reached the stay limit for a location. Some areas simply state you must move a certain amount of feet, but it may be in terms of miles.

Best Boondocking Spot! (Hungry Horse Resivoir) - Vlog 66

Rule Breakers Get Boondocking Sites Closed Down

Like many instances in life, the rule-breakers ruin it for others. Those who follow the rules don’t leave trash behind and destroy the land. Don’t be afraid to report misconduct and violators to authorities. 

Everyone has the responsibility to take care of our public lands for future generations to enjoy.

What rule do you see boondockers breaking the most? Leave us a comment below!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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Jon C York

Sunday 12th of December 2021

I met you guys right after your bikes were stolen. It was at a RV park in northern CA. Enjoyed the time we spent together and have been following you since. Enjoy your adventures. I too, have had a few "interesting" boondocking experiences. Keep on keeping on.

Mortons on the Move

Sunday 12th of December 2021

Good to hear from you! Glad to hear you've been following along and enjoying our content. Happy Trails! :)

Rick McHarg

Friday 19th of November 2021

Hi there Tom nd Caitlin! Rick McHarg here. Signed up for your newsletter after Dad Eric told me about the magazine and becoming an enterprise -- Congratulations, it's fabulous. I just got through the boondoggling rules and I must say many of your rules are similar to those we have in boating: Don't anchor close to someone, Don't run your Genny 24/7, don't clobber the waterways, don't be noisy, exhibit common sense regarding pets (although easier aboard), Mind your wake (speed). Your Dad also told me about your project for the solar self sufficient RV. In the recreational boat industry we have people venturing into electric power self sufficiency . I'm sure there is much technology crossover.

Keep up the good work; we're watching. We might get down to Fla sometime this winter...

Mortons on the Move

Friday 7th of January 2022

Thank you, Rick!

Dave Lewis

Friday 19th of November 2021

Thanks for the nine boondocking tips.