By Erin Meredith
Boondocking? What and Why?
This is the most common question when people hear the word. You boondock? What’s boondock? Then the big question, WHY?!
I was once that person. I didn’t quite understand the appeal and the idea made me nervous. Let me tell you, I am now a believer and a lover of boondocking. So, what is boondocking? The term essentialy means camping without electricity or hook ups-dry camping in remote places on government land where allowed. From the middle of a field, base of a mountain, beach front property, forest and desert landscape, boondocking can be found all over the United States.
We began full-time RV living in June of 2017. With 3 boys and 2 large dogs, we set out in our 300 sq ft travel trailer to adventure. In our first 6 months of travel, we mostly stayed in RV parks, State Parks and did a bit of “mooch-docking”. (Moochdocking is staying in family and friends' yards and driveways). We were not sure how boondocking worked and where to even begin, so we only did a few nights in a few spots here and there. Each was for a night, maybe two, as we were not prepared or confident for more than that.
It wasn’t until this year that we felt like we conquered boondocking, and it has become our favorite form of camping. We had some amazing friends we met along the way that taught us so much. Here are a few tips and tricks we learned to be successful at boondocks.
How do we find these boondocking locations?
We most commonly use the Campendium app along with the AllStays app. These two apps have helped us tremendously when determining where we want to set up camp next. We typically look ahead to the next city we will head to and find any FREE or BLM land. BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management, which means it is government owned, public land. I love these apps because real users can add their images and their reviews. If it looked good, we made our way. There are typically signs posted on these lands once you find them. In most places, you can stay for up to 14 days, free of charge. There are all types of rigs camped out. We’ve seen people in tents and cars all the way to Class A motorhomes. They are generally safe, dispersed trailers in stunning locations.
What gear is necessary for boondocking stays?
First must have for. us, 7 gallon water containers. Because boondocking locations mean you won't have access to water or electric, you have to be prepared to have these sources independently. Water containers can be purchased at most camp stores, Wal-marts, and even Harbor Freight stores. This was key! As a family of 5, we can go through water quickly, and when boondocking we prepare to take a minimal amount of showers. We purchased three 7 gallon water containers and kept them in our truck. When we were in town, we would find a fresh water station (also found on the Campendium app) and refill them. This way, when the trailer water was low, we could put these into the fresh water tank in our trailer and have enough water for another few days. It was wonderful knowing we could refill our fresh water without having to hookup and move the entire trailer. Secondly, using less of our flatware saves on dishes. As much as I don’t like to create extra waste, boondocking is the one time we use paper plates and paper bowls. This saves on washing dishes which then saves on water and keeps your gray tank from filling too quickly. The third must have was a generator or solar. We turn on the generator for a few hours a day, mainly to charge up items such as the computer, iPads the kids used for school, cell phones, etc. At night we could run it to watch movies. I was surprised at how little we actually needed the generator. Unless we had work or school, the generator was off. We invested in a few solar panels to keep our battery charged throughout the day as well. These came in handy, and we hope to get a few more to install on the roof of our tiny traveling home in the next month. This would eliminate the need for the generator, most of the time.
Now that you have a few must haves, why is boondocking enjoyable? Let me tell you about the locations. We have never camped in more stunning landscapes than when we have boondocked. We’ve boondocked outside of Zion National Park under a blanket of stars, in the woods outside of Yellowstone with no one around but a few friendly cows. We’ve boondocked in a wash outside of Lake Havesu where we met so many other families who helped us love this type of camping. We also boondocked from California to New Mexico and right outside of Carlsbad Caverns. One of our most favorite boondocking experiences was Bolivar Flats, an open beach in Texas. To have the Gulf of Mexico right outside your door was something I couldn’t get enough of. Another reason we love boondocking is the space we get from other campers! Let’s be honest, staying in a RV Park with kids can be a little stressful. This lifestyle is not always family friendly. Many RV parks are full of retired couples who don’t want your kid riding bikes, screaming and playing right outside your door. We have found that boondocking has given us the ability to let our kids run free and wild, loud and outside, without the fear of ruining someone else's quiet afternoon.
There are always things to be aware of when boondocking, which are never far from our minds. We always make sure when we leave to explore that everything is locked up safe and tight and that we take our most important things with us when we leave. We also make sure our kids are aware of our surroundings. What animals and strange plants are lurking outside may vary from place to place. It’s important your kids know of the dangers. When we boondock, we typically do between 3-7 days in one spot. If we are moving from one boondocking spot to another, we will dump the tanks along the way at a Flying J or a rest stop that has RV dump. We will even do a night or two in an RV park to clean up, refill, refresh and head back out.
If you’re thinking about boondocking and not sure how it may be, just give it a try, and try it more than once. It took us a few times to get the hang of it, but now we love it. We can’t wait to find the next spot we will set up camp and explore, right outside our door.