Sometimes you just need to take a break and get away. It can be healing for the mind, body and soul to escape from the grind of everyday life and experience the cornucopia of natural beauty and culture available just outside your back door. That’s why you bought an RV after all, right?
You have the urge to get away, but perhaps life got in the way and you just didn’t plan ahead. Or perhaps everything is already booked for months. The other problem is that it can get a little expensive. When you get that longing to abscond, but reservation restrictions and budget constraints are a concern, there’s still a way – maybe even a better way – to dodge the big city. Embark on a new adventure and discover off-the-grid camping!
Dispersed camping (also called boondocking or dry camping) is an inexpensive alternative to an RV park or campground. You can camp for free in many places, or for a very nominal fee. Beware, though, with dispersed camping, you are truly in the middle of nowhere and on your own. Like, in the boondocks! A genuine get-away-from-it-all experience. Think primitive camping in an RV!
With true boondocking, you will have an undesignated, unmarked campsite. Nothing more. No amenities. No drinking water, no sewer, no electric hook ups, and probably no internet or phone service. But, there are also no crowds and no worries! Solitude – complete and utter aloneness with just you or you and your loved ones and nature and wildlife. Welcome to Paradise!
You will need to supply everything yourself and most importantly, leave NO trace. If you pack it in, you must pack it out. No dump stations, either, so you’ll have to – ahemmm – bury your waste at least 6” underground if you are away from your RV (or hit the nearest dump station after your trip). While a stream or body of water may be nearby, make sure to boil or filter before drinking it. And if you plan on fishing or hunting for your food, check to see if a license and/or permit is required. Be sure to pack extra food, water and emergency supplies (and tools) just to be on the safe side. And don’t forget the bug spray! You’ll want to avoid ticks, flies, mosquitos, chiggers, etc. And snakes. Definitely, you’ll want to avoid the snakes!
The bonus of boondocking, besides the seclusion and low cost factor, is that you will get to truly appreciate nature while enjoying the freedom from (most) rules and restrictions. The US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Army Corps of Engineers manage vast tracts of public land, many of which allow dispersed camping. You can also check out Recreation.Gov and Campendium for more terrific low cost and/or free locations and ideas. No reservations can be made, so everything is on a first come, first served basis. Have a backup plan, just in case. Also have a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) handy so you’ll know which roads and trails are open to motorized travel (that changes frequently).
A few things to know before you head out off the grid:
- Stop by the ranger’s office to inquire about dispersed camping and any rules or regulations they might have. Pick up a map.
- Many areas don’t allow ground fires; be sure to check the rules first. Some areas require a fire permit. Always observe fire restrictions.
- Stay in a site that already has a campfire ring or other evidence of being a campsite, and don’t build a new one.
- Pack out the trash you create (and don’t leave it in the fire ring). Pack in, pack out.
- Bury any human waste under at least 6″ of dirt (or pack it out with you). Or stop by a local dump station on your way out (many rest areas have them). So much easier in an RV!
- Enjoy a stay of 14 days or less and then move on, though some sites now allow a 28 day stay.
- Many areas restrict camping to no more than 300 feet from a designated road and not within 200 feet of any water source.
- Most areas are dog friendly, though the pet must be under your control at all times.
- Respect the locals (that means the wildlife)! Remember that you are in their territory. Don’t leave food or trash where the smell might attract wildlife and keep food scraps out of the campfire. If you want to photograph wildlife, do so from a safe distance and watch for warning signs that they are agitated or annoyed by you.
- Practice LEAVE NO TRACE principles. When you leave, there should be no trace you were ever there.
You’ll also want to be sure your vehicle is in tip-top condition before heading out. Spending the night on the road (or atop a highway overpass) because you failed to properly maintain your vehicle doesn’t really make for a great boondocking experience! Call Laszlo at Quality RV Solutions (817-764-1363) to schedule time to let he and his team give your vehicle a once-over and thumbs-up.
While dispersed camping is not for everyone, it can be one of the most fulfilling and satisfying experiences. Take the time to do your research beforehand and be ready for a new adventure. Abundant opportunities and experiences await off the grid. Go ahead – take the road less traveled! Sometimes that makes all the difference. At least that’s what Robert Frost said!
Oh, and don’t forget to share your experiences and pictures with us. We love to live vicariously through you!