Boondocking, free camping, wild camping. No matter what you call it, boondocking is a fact of RV travel. Many people associate boondocking with camping out in the wild on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Some might even think of it as more of a van lifer thing to do.
Actually, there are different types of boondocking. If you plan on buying an RV or traveling by RV, you’ll most certainly find yourself boondocking at some point.
What Is Boondocking?
Before we jump into the types of boondocking, let’s take one step back and take a look at what boondocking is.
Boondocking is a term used by RVers to describe RVing without being connected to water, electric hookup, or sewer. Because you’re not connected to any services it’s also called dry camping. Other terms you might see that all refer to boondocking are free camping and wild camping.
One thing that doesn’t form any part of the definition of boondocking is the location of your RV. This is where we get the different types of boondocking.
Boondocking Type 1: The Overnight Stay
This type of boondocking is boondocking at its simplest. Some people dislike the idea of camping at RV parks and swear by boondocking somewhere off the beaten path. Some people much rather camp at RV parks with the convenience of water, electric hookup, and sewer hookups.
Whether you fall into either category or somewhere in between, you’ll likely run into an instance where you’ll boondock at least for one night.
One of the most common examples of the overnight boondock stay is a night spent at a Walmart parking lot while on your way to your campsite. It’s important to know how to boondock because there will almost certainly come a time, as an RVer, when you’ll stay at a Walmart.
Some RVers plan overnight Walmart stays along a route, but even those that don’t may find themselves needing to stay at a Walmart at some point. It’s best to be comfortable boondocking even if it’s not you’re RV travel preference. Wallydocking, as many avid RVers call boondocking at Walmart, can become necessary due to unforeseen circumstances.
The most common of these is the weather. Windy, stormy, or snowy conditions can all wreak havoc on even the best-laid RV plans. You may need to stop and wait out bad weather at a Walmart, even if you have campground reservations waiting for you at your destination.
Another common example of an overnight boondock stay is a quick visit to a friend or relative along your travel route. You meet up, spend the day reminiscing, and before you know it, it’s gotten pretty late.
At that point, it’s not uncommon to spend the night in your RV in your friend’s driveway. As an RVer, you might hear this referred to as moochdocking.
Boondocking Type 2: Developed Campground, No Hook-Ups
It’s actually possible to be boondocking with reservations and while paying a fee for your stay. Not all boondocking is free of charge.
RVing at developed campgrounds can still be boondocking. It’s not uncommon to find campgrounds, even private campgrounds, offering RV campsites without any hook-ups.
You can usually reserve these for a reduced nightly fee, but you’re just paying for the spot (and use of any amenities the campground may have, like a pool) because you won’t have electric, water, or sewer hook-ups.
Since you’ll likely stay longer than just overnight at a developed campground, you’ll need to plan ahead a little more than for an overnight stay. Make sure your house batteries are charged and your freshwater tank is full.
In a developed campground you’ll probably have access to a water spigot, but it’s still a good idea to go with a full freshwater tank. You’ll also be able to run your generator. But, to account for later check-in times, quiet hours, and generator restrictions, it’s a good idea to arrive with your house batteries charged.
When boondocking, you usually make sure your grey and black tanks have been emptied, but developed campgrounds often have dump stations so you might be okay either way.
You’ll also find developed campgrounds with no hook-ups at national and state parks. These campgrounds can do a better job of providing privacy and immersion in nature. Out of the different types of boondocking, this type gives you a little more nature without missing out on some of the comforts of developed campgrounds.
Boondocking Type 3: Undeveloped Campsite
Boondocking in an undeveloped campsite, or primitive campsite, is what comes to mind for most people when they think of boondocking.
It’s also the kind of boondocking that beginner RVers are most nervous about because there are no services of any kind. You won’t find any hook-ups, camp hosts, or dump stations. With this type of boondocking, you’re completely off-grid and you need to be entirely self-reliant.
You’ll usually find undeveloped campsites on United States Forest Service (USFS) property or BLM land. Often only a marker or an old fire ring are your indicators for a spot to camp in.
Although this type of boondocking requires the most planning and a high level of comfort using your RV without hook-ups, it can be the most rewarding. Sometimes, these types of sites place you beneath the milky way surrounded by mountains. If you’re lucky, you might even have the whole place to yourself.