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Dear RVillage Expert: What are the dos and don’ts of boondocking? —Donya C.
No RV hookups, no neighbors, no pools, and no problems. Does this sound like the ideal camping scenario for you? Then you should try boondocking, or dispersed camping on public lands. This form of “wild” camping lets RVers escape crowded campgrounds, explore untouched lands, and camp at little to no cost. It’s the art of truly getting away from it all. And while it typically comes with certain benefits like privacy, unobstructed views of nature, and quiet campsites, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few rules and guidelines to follow along the way—no matter how off-the-grid you are.
Whether you’re a seasoned boondocker or are considering putting your rig and your primitive camping skills to the test, here are a few rules to keep in mind while you’re exploring public lands in your RV.
Don’t overstay. Even if there’s no camp host around to kick you out of your campsite, that doesn’t mean you should overstay your welcome on public lands. Obey signage and stay limits. Most public lands let you camp in one area anywhere from 14 to 28 days at a time, although some stay limits can be as short as 3 days. Know the amount of time you’re allotted and plan your stay by the rules.
Give neighbors room. Just like you, most people enjoy boondocking for the peace and quiet it offers compared to crowded campgrounds. So when you’re choosing the perfect site to set up your rig, be mindful of other campers. Every dispersed camping area will be different when it comes to the spacing between designated sites. Give others adequate space and privacy, and don’t obstruct others’ views whenever possible.
Clean up your space. Leave your space better than you found it. Abide by Leave No Trace principles, and ensure your campsite is ready for the next boondocker. If you find trash and debris left behind by someone else, be respectful to the land and dispose of it. You should also never dump your waste on public lands. Wait until you can find a dump station and properly empty your tanks. The more we work together to keep our public lands clean, the longer they’ll be around for all to enjoy.
Fire safety. Always adhere to campfire rules and burn bans. Use existing fire pit areas if possible so you’re not disrupting the land you’re on more than you have to. Be responsible when having a campfire at your site by distinguishing it properly and ensuring no trash is left in your pit when you leave.
Adhere to quiet hours. Just because you’re away from it all doesn’t give you the right to be as loud as you want. This means not running your generator all night as well. Some public lands will have signage for designated quiet hours, but if your site doesn’t, you should still be respectful and turn off generators and calm your campsite down from about 9 p.m. to 8 a.m., like you would at a campground.
No trailblazing. Exploring untouched, wild lands can be exciting, but keep in mind that you’re not there to uncover new frontiers or campsites. Stick to routes, sites, and boundaries already in place. Trailblazing can not only be dangerous, but it can be damaging to the natural ecosystems of the area. You should also always abide by speed limits and slow your roll when driving by other campers and wildlife.
Be prepared. Boondocking isn’t something you should do on a whim. More planning and preparation are needed for this type of off-grid camping. Ensuring that you and your rig are equipped with the gear and supplies needed for a successful trip is key. You can put yourself and others in danger by showing up unprepared.
Be respectful. One of the most important things you can remember when boondocking is respect. From the land you’re camping on to the wildlife living there, always have respect for the plants, people, animals, and landscapes you encounter during your boondocking excursions.