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What is Boondocking? And is it Legal

Boondocking is an off-the-grid camping experience that is perfect for RVers looking to escape the crowds, get closer to nature, and explore new and beautiful destinations. Boondocking is also known as dry docking or wild docking because it means camping without being connected to water, electric, or sewer facilities that camping grounds and RV parks offer.



In many ways, Boondocking is a more simplified, freer form of RV camping. You don't have to worry about making reservations at RV parks or campgrounds. You don't have to plan your trips down to the tee and simply let the road take you where it may.


But does boondocking mean you can park your RV just anywhere? What RV accessories and upgrades do you need to be able to boondock successfully? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more.


Types of Boondocking

Boondocking isn't just for RVers looking for adventure. In fact, every full-time RVer might have to boondock at least once in their life. Imagine being stuck in a heavy thunderstorm and not being able to reach an RV park, you'll be forced to park at the nearest truck stop, visitor center, trailhead, motel, or IHOP to wait out the storm. That is just one of the ways boondocking helps make life easier for RVers.



Here is a list of different types of boondocking.


Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping means parking your RV outside a designated campground or RV park but on land that allows boondocking. For example, The National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Department of Fish and Wildlife allow RVers to camp on some of the lands they manage. Dispersed camping is a great option for RVers who want to be closer to nature and away from campground crowds.


Designated Dispersed Camping

A lot of dispersed camping areas are now transitioning to designated dispersed camping grounds. This is because of all the traffic the camping areas were getting and the consequent overcrowding, damage to natural resources, unattended campfires, trash, negative wildlife interactions, and more.


Areas like Toppings Lake near Grand Teton and Crested Butte in Colorado now have designated campsites where RVers can park and camp. This is still an off-the-grid experience since there is no access to any amenities but RVers cannot just park anywhere on the land.


Wallydocking

If you're an RVer, you must have spent at least one night camped in the parking lot of a Walmart. Walmarts across the country allow RVers to park their vehicles for up to 24 hours in their parking lot. Wallydocking is a great way to break long journeys, you can park at a Walmart overnight on your way to your campground. It is also a good option to weather out unexpected delays, extreme weather, RV malfunctions, and more.


Moochdocking

Imagine stopping over at a relative or friend's house on your way to a campground. You catch up, have some drinks, and lose track of time. When this happens, you can easily spend the night in your RV, parked outside your friend's or relative's house. RVers like to call this moochdocking and it is more common than you think.

Note: In some states, moochdocking is considered illegal, so check beforehand to avoid any trouble.


Dry Camping on a Campground

If you're trying your hand out at boondocking and are unsure if the experience is right for you, then dry camping on a developed campground is your best bet. A lot of developed campgrounds have some designated spaces for people who don't want to use the electric, water, or sewer facilities. These spaces cost a lot less and while you still have access to some basic amenities like a water spigot, dump stations, and public toilets, there are no hook-ups.


You can find dry camping sites in national parks as well that offer a unique boondocking experience, especially for newbies to the RV lifestyle.


Is Boondocking Legal?

The short answer is Yes, boondocking is legal. However, where you boondock is important. For example, boondocking within city limits is generally considered illegal. Every locality, state park, or federal agency has its own rules for boondocking so make sure to do your homework before you start camping.



Costs of Boondocking

While a lot of RVers choose to boondock because it costs a lot less than parking at campgrounds, it isn't completely free. Here are some of the costs to keep in mind:

  • Campsite Fees: While dry camping and wild docking on public land are normally free, some designated campsites can charge a small fee for parking. Dry camping on developed campgrounds will cost you some money. You might also need to pay extra for using services like dump stations.

  • Fuel and Propane Costs: Not being connected to electricity means you will need to run your generator to power your RV. You would need power for cooking and heating so make sure you keep propane and fuel prices in mind when you plan your boondocking adventure.

  • RV Upgrades: Living off-the-grid means you need to upgrade your RV to support that lifestyle. You'll need to install upgrades like composting toilet, freshwater tank, solar panels, and more. RV accessories like keyless door locks, door sunshades, skylight insulators, windshield cover, and more are also essential when boondocking.



Preparing for Your First Boondocking Adventure

Ready to live off-the-grid? Here are some tips and tricks to help you along the way:

  • Make sure to check the boondocking laws of a state before you plan your trip

  • There are many apps and services that can help you find possible locations for boondocking

  • Pack enough supplies to last you through the trip, you might not have access to a lot of amenities

  • Make sure your freshwater tank is full and your external batteries are fully charged

  • Don't forget to carry supplies for road safety

  • Be mindful of campsite regulations and etiquette

  • Be prepared for the unexpected!


The Last Word

Boondocking is a camping experience like no other. If you chose the RV lifestyle for its freedom and excitement, then you will love boondocking. Just make sure you follow basic RV camping etiquette while camping and that you do not disturb the natural beauty you are there to admire. Happy boondocking!


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