Full-Time Boondocking

Life Off the Grid: A Comprehensive Guide to Boondocking


Ah, the great outdoors! The call of the wild is impossible to resist, especially for us campers and RV enthusiasts. There’s nothing quite like waking up to a glorious sunrise over a mountain range or the tranquil sounds of a forest, miles away from civilization. And that, dear reader, is where boondocking comes in.

Understanding Boondocking

To truly grasp the concept of boondocking, you need to understand its essence. The term “boondocking” originated from the American term “boondocks,” which refers to a remote, often rural, area. When you apply this term to the realm of camping, it captures the idea of breaking away from traditional, designated camping spots to venture into the less-trodden, more remote regions.

Boondocking, therefore, involves camping in remote locations, often without the convenience of utilities such as electricity, water, and sewer hookups that you would typically find at a developed campground. But, it’s this very element of self-sufficiency and getting back to basics that makes boondocking appealing to many. It’s about being one with nature, surrounded by solitude and serenity, away from the typical crowds and noise of popular campgrounds.

Often, boondocking is free, providing an affordable way to travel and explore new places. This is an added bonus for budget-conscious travelers, but it’s worth noting that just because it’s free, it doesn’t mean it comes without responsibilities. Boondockers are expected to be respectful of the environment, abide by any regulations of the land they are on, and leave the location as they found it, or in better condition.

Also known as dry camping, wild camping, or dispersed camping, boondocking is a unique form of travel that requires planning, preparation, and a spirit of adventure. Whether you’re setting up camp in a forest, at the beach, or in a desert, the ethos of boondocking remains the same: minimal impact, maximum respect for the environment, and a deep appreciation for the natural beauty that surrounds you.

Essential Gear for Boondocking

Heading out into the wild without the right equipment can quickly turn an exciting adventure into a tricky situation. Having the essential gear for boondocking not only ensures a more comfortable experience but also prepares you for unexpected circumstances. When you’re miles away from the nearest store, being self-sufficient is the key.

Firstly, a dependable source of power is a must. This usually comes in the form of solar panels or a generator. Solar panels are a favorite among many boondockers due to their silent, clean energy generation. A good setup can power your appliances and devices throughout the day, and stored energy can be used at night. If you’re opting for a generator, ensure it’s capable of running your essential appliances and that it’s fuel-efficient.

Next, your water system needs careful attention. A large fresh water tank is crucial for boondocking. In addition, consider investing in a quality water filtration system for use with found water sources, and always carry extra jugs for emergencies.

Your RV or camper kitchen should be equipped with reliable cooking gear. Portable stoves and BBQ grills are popular choices. Don’t forget to bring ample propane or charcoal.

Keeping perishable food cool can be a challenge while boondocking. A good quality cooler or a powered refrigerator will solve this problem. Choose a model that suits your energy setup and capacity needs.

For sleeping arrangements, aside from your RV or camper bed, a sturdy, comfortable camping cot can be a lifesaver, especially in warmer weather when you might prefer to sleep outside.

A well-stocked first-aid kit is a non-negotiable essential. Include basic medicines, bandages, antiseptics, a snake bite kit, and any personal medication you might need.

On the tech side, a GPS and a good-quality, topographic map are crucial for finding your way around in remote areas where cell service might be unreliable.

Remember, boondocking is about being resourceful and adaptable. Equip yourself with the right tools, but also remember to pack light. The less you have to carry, the easier your journey will be. Just make sure everything you do carry counts. Happy boondocking!

Planning Your Boondocking Adventure

Just as with any trip, preparation is key when it comes to boondocking. This isn’t your typical campground experience, and it’s not as simple as just pulling up to a site, plugging into a power source, and hooking up to a water supply. Planning a boondocking adventure requires careful consideration of several factors.

To start, finding the perfect boondocking location is a significant part of the planning process. This may be in a remote desert, a peaceful forest, or near a serene lake. It all depends on what type of environment you’re comfortable in and what kind of experience you’re seeking. There are several online resources and apps like AllStays, Campendium, and the US Forest Service’s website that provide extensive lists of potential boondocking spots. These resources provide user reviews, GPS coordinates, and information about road conditions, cell service, and more.

Consider the size and capabilities of your RV or campervan when selecting a location. Not all remote locations are easily accessible, particularly for larger vehicles. Check the road conditions beforehand and consider the terrain. You certainly wouldn’t want to get stuck on a steep, narrow road in the middle of nowhere!

Moreover, while boondocking often means escaping from the hustle and bustle, you do need to think about proximity to basic services. Check how far the nearest town or service station is. This is important not just for refueling or restocking supplies, but also for emergencies.

Managing power, water, and waste is another crucial consideration in your planning process. Research solar power options if you don’t have it already, get a good idea of your water needs and how to minimize usage, and understand how and where you can responsibly dispose of waste.

Remember, successful boondocking is all about respect – for the environment, local communities, and other boondockers. By taking the time to plan and prepare thoroughly, you can ensure your boondocking adventure is a positive experience for you and leaves no negative impact on the places you visit

Living Off-Grid: Power, Water and Waste Management

Living off-grid while boondocking is one of the most appealing aspects of the experience, but it also presents unique challenges. Unlike traditional campgrounds, boondocking locations do not offer water, electricity, or sewage hookups. This means you’ll need to come prepared to be self-sufficient.

Starting with power, there are several ways you can maintain electricity while boondocking. The most popular and environmentally friendly method is to use solar panels. These can be installed on the roof of your RV or campervan and can provide enough power for your basic needs, including lighting, charging electronic devices, and running small appliances. It’s essential to be mindful of your power usage, especially on cloudy days when solar power generation might be lower.

Next is water management, which is arguably one of the most critical aspects of boondocking. You need to have enough fresh water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and washing dishes. On top of that, you have to be mindful of how quickly your greywater tank (where your sink and shower water goes) can fill up. Consider taking navy showers (short showers where you turn off the water while lathering up), using paper plates to minimize dishwashing, and being mindful of your overall water consumption.

Lastly, waste management is a significant part of off-grid living that many people may overlook. It’s important to remember that whatever you bring in, you should take out, and this includes your waste. RVs and campervans typically have a blackwater tank for toilet waste. You’ll need to know how to safely and responsibly empty these tanks at an appropriate dump station, which you can find at some gas stations, RV parks, or dedicated wastewater facilities.

In all these areas, conservation is key. Be mindful of your consumption and try to minimize it as much as possible. The goal of boondocking is to enjoy nature while leaving as little impact as possible, and effective management of your power, water, and waste is an essential part of achieving that goal.

Safety Considerations while Boondocking

One of the most important things to remember while boondocking is safety. Without the conveniences and securities that come with traditional campgrounds or RV parks, you’ll need to be more self-reliant. But don’t let that intimidate you – with some forethought and preparation, you can mitigate many of the potential risks.

First, consider where you’re boondocking. While it’s crucial to find a spot that’s legal to camp in, you also want to make sure it’s safe. This means avoiding areas with high crime rates or known for wildlife hazards. Use online resources, local knowledge, and your own intuition to assess a site’s safety before setting up camp.

In terms of wildlife, it’s essential to remember that when you’re boondocking, you’re in their territory. Keep your campsite clean, secure your food and trash, and maintain a respectful distance from any animals you might see. It might be exciting to spot a bear or a coyote, but they can pose a threat if they associate your camp with an easy meal.


Next, take precautions to protect your own health. This means packing a well-stocked first-aid kit and knowing how to use it. Remember, in a remote boondocking location, emergency medical help could be hours away. Take precautions to avoid injury, such as being careful when hiking, chopping firewood, or doing any other potentially hazardous activities.

Also, bear in mind that you may not always have reliable cell service while boondocking. Inform someone of your travel plans before you go, especially if you’re heading into a particularly remote area. Consider investing in a satellite messenger or emergency beacon if you plan to boondock regularly in remote locations.

Lastly, don’t neglect your RV or campervan’s safety. Regular maintenance checks are key to preventing breakdowns and other issues while you’re on the road. Before heading out, check your tires, brakes, engine, and other vital parts of your vehicle.

Safety may not be the most exciting part of boondocking, but it’s absolutely essential. Remember, the goal is to have fun and enjoy nature – and that’s much easier to do when you know you’ve taken steps to keep yourself and your travel companions safe.

Legal Aspects of Boondocking

While the freedom and adventure of boondocking can feel limitless, it’s essential to understand and respect the legal aspects involved. Laws regarding camping on public lands can vary greatly depending on the specific agency that manages the area. It’s your responsibility as a boondocker to know these laws and abide by them.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and National Park Service (NPS) manage most public lands in the United States, each with their own set of regulations. For instance, BLM land is typically the most relaxed when it comes to boondocking, often allowing free camping for up to 14 days in a 28-day period. On the other hand, the rules can be stricter in National Forests, and even stricter in National Parks, which usually only allow camping in designated campgrounds.

To be sure you’re on the right side of the law, research the specific regulations of the area you plan to camp in. Websites of the relevant federal agencies or local ranger stations can provide useful information. Mobile applications and online forums for boondockers are also valuable resources.

When it comes to private lands, remember that you need explicit permission from the owner to camp there. Trespassing on private property is illegal and can lead to hefty fines or other penalties. In some cases, landowners might allow boondocking for a fee or a friendly request, but you should never assume this is the case.

One of the many joys of boondocking is the feeling of being a guest in nature. Remember, with that privilege comes the responsibility to respect the laws, the land, and other people’s rights. Doing so ensures that these areas will remain available for boondocking for years to come.

Boondocking Etiquette

When boondocking, it’s crucial to remember that we are guests in nature’s home. We should always aim to minimize our impact, respect local communities, and ensure our activities don’t spoil the experience for others. Boondocking etiquette involves several key principles, which, if followed, help maintain the beauty of the environment and the freedom of boondocking for everyone.

One of the most significant rules of boondocking etiquette is following the “Leave No Trace” principles. This set of guidelines encourages outdoor visitors to leave the environment as they found it or even better. Dispose of your waste properly, take all your belongings when you leave, respect wildlife by observing from a distance, and avoid damaging live trees and plants.

Quiet hours are typically between 10 PM and 6 AM and should be respected. Keep noise to a minimum, especially during these hours, to ensure a peaceful experience for everyone. If you’re using a generator, be mindful of the noise and exhaust it produces.

It’s also important to consider your location and neighbors when setting up your camp. Avoid crowding other boondockers—choose a spot at a respectful distance if possible. Privacy and peace are a part of the appeal of boondocking.

Also, respect the local community. If you’re near a town or private properties, remember that you’re a visitor in their community. Be respectful of local norms and customs, shop local when you can, and avoid overstaying your welcome.

One of the beauties of boondocking is the community it fosters. Sharing the unspoken bond of the love for freedom, nature, and simple living is an enriching experience. It’s a golden opportunity to meet like-minded people and create a culture of respect, sustainability, and adventure. Following these etiquette rules, we can ensure that boondocking remains a viable and joyful experience for future generations.


As we conclude this comprehensive guide to boondocking, we want to emphasize that while this mode of travel and living offers a taste of true freedom and a closer connection to nature, it comes with its own set of challenges. From outfitting your RV with essential gear to planning your adventures, navigating off-grid living situations, understanding safety and legal aspects, and following proper boondocking etiquette, there’s a lot that goes into making this lifestyle work.

However, the rewards are undoubtedly worth the efforts. When you wake up to a sunrise over a remote mountain range or fall asleep to the sounds of a gently flowing river nearby, you’ll understand the allure of this lifestyle. Boondocking gives us a unique opportunity to tread lightly on our planet, to experience the tranquil solitude that’s increasingly rare in our busy world, and to truly appreciate the simple things in life.

Remember, every boondocking experience can be a learning curve. There may be hiccups along the way, but with time, you’ll find your rhythm and establish your unique style of boondocking. By being resourceful, respectful, and willing to adapt, you can truly embrace the beauty of life off the grid.

As we venture out into the wild, let’s remember to cherish the beauty around us and preserve it for the generations to come. Happy boondocking, and here’s to the many adventures that await on the open road!

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Frequently Asked Questions

This lifestyle, naturally, provokes a lot of questions. That’s why we’ve expanded our FAQ section to answer some of the most common queries we receive from readers about boondocking.

  • Is boondocking legal? This largely depends on the location. It’s generally legal on most Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Forest Service lands in the U.S., but the rules can vary. Always make sure to check the local regulations of the area you’re planning to stay in.
  • How do I find good boondocking spots? There are several resources available, including apps, websites, and forums where fellow boondockers share their favourite spots. A little research can go a long way in finding that perfect place to set up camp.
  • Can any RV or camper be used for boondocking? Yes, but some are more suited than others. Ideally, your vehicle should be self-contained and have a good battery system, fresh water storage, and waste disposal facilities. Solar panels are also very helpful for power generation.
  • What should I do with waste while boondocking? Respect for the environment is key when boondocking. Never dump black water (sewage) on the ground. Use compostable materials where possible, and always dispose of your waste responsibly.
  • Do I need a special insurance for boondocking? Standard RV insurance should cover you, but it’s always a good idea to check your policy or consult with your provider. In some remote areas, it could be beneficial to have additional coverage such as roadside assistance.
  • Is it safe to boondock alone? This largely depends on the location and your personal comfort level. Many boondockers travel alone and have wonderful experiences. However, always make sure to let someone know where you are and check in regularly.
  • How do I conserve water while boondocking? Water conservation is vital when boondocking. Plan your usage, consider taking navy showers (wet, turn off water, soap up, rinse), use biodegradable wipes for cleaning, and always carry extra water.

Remember, the joy of boondocking is in discovering and learning new things as you go. Embrace the spirit of adventure, and you’ll find your boondocking experiences to be truly rewarding.