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Debunking Boondocking Myths, Part #1
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 a 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, websites 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 riskier 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 one of our trips, 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.

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

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Boondockers Welcome is a community of RVers that provide overnight stays with each other for free while traveling through an area. We help RVers to travel more economically and find options when campgrounds may be full. It’s a great and safe way to meet fellow RVers or for people curious about the RV lifestyle to learn from members, while also providing a safe place to park for one night or up to five nights.

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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!
  • GA Gypsies

    GA Gypsies   

    Good write up. Looking forward to the next one.
  • GA Gypsies

    GA Gypsies   

    This comment has been removed.

  • Patwoman

    Patwoman   

    I'll be traveling solo in a Class C. If I need to leave my boondocking site to run into town or some other jaunt, is it acceptable to put up a sign that says the spot is taken? I will most likely be in a very rural, secluded area; not a popular boondocking area. I would be certain not to leave on weekends or holidays. Thank you for any feedback!
    BWadmin

    BWadmin on 03/29/2021 8:45 p.m. moderator  

    That is not typical and will likely not be necessary if you aren't planning to park in a popular boondocking area. It is typical for RVers to move their RV during the day to explore, especially if they don't have a separate tow vehicle. Usually, you just plan to find another spot if your spot is taken. It does make for interesting camping as sometimes your spot the second night is better than your first night. :)
  • Slim55

    Slim55   

    Great first article. Prior to full-timing beginning early Jan 2020, I had limited experience with RVing, much less full-timing. Boondocking is my favorite due to the flexibility and privacy it offers and connection with nature. Yes, there is something wonderfully decadent about a 15 minute warm shower on ocassion, but give me the mountains or the desert and a short shower or sponge bath and I'm happy. Flexibility is required to fully embrace this lifestyle, whether it is dealing with varied BLM/USFS regulations or deciding to pull off the road because you're tired or see something to explore. Looking forward to the next tips
    BWadmin

    BWadmin on 03/29/2021 8:46 p.m. moderator  

    Completely agree, you do need to be flexible when it comes to boondocking (really when it comes to RVing in general!).
  • navretiree

    navretiree   

    Regarding Myth #5: using reasonable precautions, IMO boondocking is safer than a campground. I've only had two thing stolen before, both were in a RV Campgrounds. Sadly, one was my mountain bike that was locked to the bike rack on my rig (they cut the lock). Now I only park in campgrounds when necessary.
    BWadmin

    BWadmin on 03/30/2021 10:27 a.m. moderator  

    I'm sorry that happened to you! We also feel very safe when boondocking, it's a great option for RVers.
  • jennifer71

    jennifer71   

    I have loved being able to use noondockers welcome! Thank you for the awesome service. My main question is, when it says "generators ok" is it typically onboard generators??;;we have our Yamaha we being everywhere, but I'm not quite sure if they mean onboard generators, or any generators! Thank you
    BWadmin

    BWadmin on 06/30/2021 11:02 a.m. moderator  

    Hi! That will depend on the host location. Some will state that they only allow onboard generators in their House Rules. If it doesn't specify then they are likely ok with any generators. However, it's always best to ask the host.
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