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Updated on June 6, 2010

By Joni Douglas

The joys of taking off in your RV and just driving wherever the road leads you, can certainly be exciting. Spending your summer traveling in your RV can be expensive but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune either.

For those who have never heard the phrase “boondocking ” before in the context of RVing, boondocking is camping free, or almost free. Parking your RV overnight in a Wal-Mart parking lot is boondocking, as well as staying at a truck stop or rest stop. Camping where RV hook-ups aren’t available, also known as dry camping is commonly referred to as boondocking.

Boondocking is making a big comeback, for RVers who want more adventure than the nearest RV Park. Relying totally on your RV and what you brought with you is all that is required for boondocking. Once you’ve mastered the technical end with your RV, such as added freshwater, planning for wastewater and the electrical or battery systems, you’re all set to go. Achieving independence from the electric box and water hookups at your RV Park can be simply a matter of adapting or changing existing habits.

There are beaches to stroll, desert sunsets to observe, thick and majestic forests to hike through plus a multitude of fish laden rivers and scenic inland lakes to explore. Boondocking will allow you the freedom to do it all from the comfort of your RV, complete with indoor plumbing, electricity and a comfortable dry bed. It’s the best way to explore this vast and beautiful country.

If you’ve never been boondocking before, you may want to start slowly by staying in a primitive campground. Try national parks and state parks that offer primitive campgrounds. This is a great way to start. If you have under estimated your water supply or you’re holding tank needs, these parks have water readily available and there is usually a dump site nearby. These parks may not be free but their rates are considerably less than normal campsites. State forest campgrounds are another great option. The camp sites are less developed and spaced farther apart usually with more trees and bushes surrounding the sites are a little more privacy.

U.S. National forests campsites would be the next step. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also has land for camping. These public lands are made available with semi developed campgrounds that you might find perfect for your boon docking needs. For others, who may want to venture farther into the backcountry, there are far more primitive and often quite remote sites available. In the national forests there are areas that are designated campsites however, by law; you are permitted to camp anywhere in a national forest as long as you can find a large enough space, don’t block roads and there are no signs prohibiting camping. Camping outside of the developed campground is also called disbursed camping. Keep in mind that there are no amenities such as trash collection, water pumps or toilets. The rule of thumb for dispersed camping is, you bring it in – you bring it out!

There are so many public land campgrounds in America. It would be impossible for you to visit all of them within your lifetime. Go exploring! Go camping!

You can find out more information on free campsites in America at freecampsites.

For information on state campgrounds, state parks and state forest campgrounds look online; just enter the name of the state where you want to stay. ‘’ then look for DNR or enter camping in the search box provided.

For federal sites try these:   

National Park Service      

National Forest Service  

Bureau of Land Management      

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


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    • Joni Douglas profile image

      Joni Douglas 6 years ago

      Thanks vinsanity. Although I have no doubt that it could get trying after a while, it sounds kind of exciting.

    • profile image

      vinsanity 6 years ago

      This is a great hub. My mother used to live in an RV when she was about 8 years old and her family would travel the U.S.!

    • Joni Douglas profile image

      Joni Douglas 7 years ago

      Smitty, yes, I've heard the term dispersed camping used. But if you were going camping as suggested above, wouldn't you rather use the word boondocking to describe what you were doing instead of dispersed camping? It even sounds like a lot more fun. There are boondocking sites set up to help people find good places to stay as well.

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      Smitty 7 years ago

      Great information, but I think it is "dispersed" camping.

    • Joni Douglas profile image

      Joni Douglas 7 years ago

      Nice to see you here JamaGenee. Thank you for reading and commenting. Those summer long trips sound wonderful. I think I could live in one all year too, just go and see America.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I'm one of those who'd never heard the term "boondocking" in relation to RVing until now. I did know, however, that Wal-Mart allows RVers to park overnight for free. This was a bit too primitive for friends who spent summers traveling the country pulling a fifth wheel (one that I could've happily lived in year round!). However, thanks to the internet, they were quite adept at finding lovely but inexpensive spots to park wherever they went.

      katiem2, if you ever do take the Route 66 tour, you'll rarely be disappointed at what you'll find along the way. Definitely a slice of American that shouldn't be missed!

    • Joni Douglas profile image

      Joni Douglas 7 years ago

      Thanks Katie. I love road trips too. Following old route 66 would be an ideal trip.

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      Joni, WOW I wanna go Boondocking. I had no idea what it meant and now am glad to have learned. I love road trips, I dream of taking the route 66 tour one fine day. Love the hub and rate it everything good. Peace :)

    • Joni Douglas profile image

      Joni Douglas 8 years ago

      I love camping wherever and whenever. Thanks for your comment.

    • TinaMarieTad profile image

      TinaMarieTad 8 years ago from Michigan

      Joni~ Great Hub once again! Wow, I have been boondocking before and loved it! Your article made me want to camp! Great article!