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Debunking Boondocking Myths, Part #1

This is the first in a three-part series of debunking myths about boondocking. If you've thought you didn't have what it took to boondock in your rig, read along and you might be surprised!

Myth #1: It’s free and you get what you pay for.

That’s only true if you actually want the amenities that a paid-for campground or RV park offers.

But there’s another difference between campgrounds and boondocking that we, like many RVers, enjoy even more than saving money.

This is boondocking.

This is the view from our patio doors when we boondock:

This is the view from our patio doors in a typical $30.00 per night campsite:

Myth #2:  If too many people use the best legal boondocking spots on public lands, they'll close them down.

We’ve been boondocking on America’s public lands for 18 years – mainly in National Forests and BLM land in the southwest. We’ve found hundreds of great boondocking sites and have returned to them time and time again. Over the years, we’ve seen the rules change so that overnight parking is now prohibited – but only at a handful (maybe 5 or 6) of those spots. In every case, we suspect one of two reasons for the policy change:

  1. Repeated abuse by campers who ignore fire regulations and stay limits, dump garbage, or engage in other illegal activities.

  2. Pressure from private interests, especially in popular tourist areas. A prime example is the recent change in Coconino National Forest near Sedona, AZ.  (This is my presumption; official representatives would not provide a reason when asked.)

Myth #3: You can’t find legal boondocking in populated states like Florida. 

You can. As this youtube video from SimplyRVing shows, you just need to look a little harder.

While the most populated states may not have options on public land, web sites like Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts give RVers more opportunities than ever to boondock on private land.

Myth #4: You’re not going to feel safe if you’re boondocking.

Perhaps. But, in most cases there’s a cure for that. It involves 3 steps:

  1. Hearing about other's experiences and taking comfort in their recommendations. 

  2. Experiencing boondocking in remote locations first hand without incidence. 

  3. Thinking rationally about your fears and what really is behind them.

Like everyone new to boondocking, when we started our biggest fear was the unknown. I’ve been debunking this myth and offering common sense advice for your boondocking safety for over 10 years now at frugal-rv-travel.com.

Myth #5: Leaving your rig unattended is more risky than in a campground.

First of all, most thieves are lazy. They want easy, sure opportunities and aren’t likely to drive down a remote dirt road just in case they may come across an unattended RV. Most people would think nothing of building an expensive home or cottage in a remote area, where thieves can stalk the place to figure out when the occupants are likely to be absent. Why be afraid to leave an RV in a similar location?

Although the majority of campers are honest nice people, even if we're camped in a "secured" campground with other campers all around, it doesn't mean there isn't a thief amongst us or that we're safe from a break-in or robbery.

In many boondocking situations, there are other RVers set up at a respectful distance but within view, willing to keep an eye on any activity near each other’s rig. In a crowded campground there can be so much activity that it may not be noticeable when someone who doesn’t belong there is too close to your unit.

Myth #6: You’ll need to spend quite a lot of money to equip your RV for boondocking. It’s costly to add solar, a generator, or both.

Almost all RVs are built for boondocking – camping without hookups – for at least a day or two at a time. Longer if you can conserve your resources. If RVs were built to only use campgrounds with hookups, manufacturers could cut a lot of corners (something we know they’re good at) by not including holding tanks, a 12-volt system, propane appliances, deep cycle house batteries, and built in generators).  

We’ve managed to enjoy extended boondocking numerous times for 5 to 6 days at a time without solar or a generator. Yes, we had to conserve power and water to do it, but it was not a real hardship and certainly far from impossible.  

Technological advances have increased solar options in the last few years, while at the same time reducing the cost. For out last trip, we built our own small portable solar panel for less than $200.  It gave us the extra juice we needed (mostly just to keep my laptop charged so I could blog). Entry level portable generators are available at a similar cost. If you’re serious about extended boondocking, you’ll probably want to spend more. In that case, the sky’s the limit. If you do decide to invest in solar, before you buy, I highly recommend you first invest some time to read https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/.  

Solar Bob and I have never met and I get no compensation for recommending his site but I’ve been thanked more often for recommending that link than for any other boondocking advice I’ve given out over the past 10 years.

Check back soon for Part 2, dispelling more boondocking myths.

Comments

  • kabloonie

    kabloonie  

    I am glad I joined Boondockers Welcome. It is a positive force for protecting high quality camping. This was an excellent article... ...except for point #2. Have you never seen a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM)? Some of them only allow dispersed camping on a tiny fraction of the roads. The worst I know of is the Cibola in New Mexico. The Santa Fe is not much better. You haven't noticed how little dispersed camping is still allowed on BLM lands near over-crowded Moab, UT? The trend in over-crowded Colorado is to only allow dispersed camping in DESIGNATED sites. Think about the implications: a few years ago you could dispersed camp just about along any road, for 14 days, for a certain distance away from the road UNLESS a sign specifically PROHIBITED it. Now you are prevented from dispersed camping UNLESS a sign specifically ALLOWS it.
  • nevotheeb

    nevotheeb  

    Excellent advice. I look forward to the next myth-debunking blog post!
  • junaguetter

    junaguetter  

    Great info & I already looked up handybobsolar's blog. I'm also looking forward to part 2!
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