RoadTrip America

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RVing with Alice and Jaimie

The Wilderness Experience...In An RV!
Boondocking Etiquette
by Jaimie Hall

Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak
Boondocking in Quartzsite, Arizona

Solar water heaters
George Bruzenak
Boondocking solar water heaters

Solar oven
George Bruzenak
Boondocking gear: Solar oven

Boondocking in a national forest
"primitive" campsite in a national forest

"Boondocking" means camping in your RV with no hookups. There are two types of boondocking. One type is parking in more out-of-the-way places, usually for several days or even an extended period of time. Public lands offer many opportunities for boondocking.

The other type of boondocking is often referred to as "blacktop boondocking," that is when you camp overnight on a Wal-Mart or shopping center parking lot or in a truck stop. Some call it dry camping since you are not in the "boonies." RVers choose to spend the night on parking lots because of convenience-they don't have to drive miles off the highway to a campground. Other RVers boondock because of budget reasons; they can't see paying $20 or more a night to stay in an RV park when they are traveling from point A to point B and won't be using the amenities the park has to offer. Whichever type of boondocker you are, these guidelines will help you (and your neighbors) have a better experience.



When we think of regular boondocking, we think more of camping in wilderness areas, often on public lands. Campgrounds in public lands generally do not provide hookups. The USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also allow camping outside their designated campgrounds. In some places, it is called "dispersed camping."

Serious boondockers modify their RVs so they can take advantage of free camping in pretty places. Solar panels and an inverter keep batteries charged. A catalytic or ceramic heater is more efficient than the regular RV heater and doesn't draw down the battery. Boondockers may have a Blue Boy®, a portable waste holding tank, so they can take blackwater into a dump. They carry water jugs to haul water to their fresh water tank. Boondockers learn how to conserve both power and water so they can extend their stays and may even use solar ovens for cooking and heat water with the sun. (To learn more about how to boondock effectively, see "Boondocking Basics" by Paul Bernhagen on this page from the Inland NW Airstream Club.)

Most campers are here for a wilderness experience; they enjoy the peace and quiet. Following these guidelines will help all enjoy their stay as well as protect the environment.

RV groups meeting on public lands should choose an area large enough to accommodate their group without damaging the environment and should respect the rights of nearby campers that are not part of the group. They should also educate their members, who may never have boondocked before, on ways to extend their battery power without constantly running their generators and on ways to conserve water.

For many RVers, boondocking is the true RV experience. The ability to camp without hookups is one of the advantages of RV ownership; you can camp free of charge and use the systems that were designed to be self-contained. Using courtesy and common sense can make your boondocking experience-whether on blacktop or in the wilderness-a good one for you and other RVers.

Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak
(Links updated 12/6/21, RTA)

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