Boondocking Camping: What Is Boondocking RV?

Find out boondocking meaning, types of boondocking, boondocking RV characteristics, benefits and challenges of boondocking, survival and safe tips for boondocking. and places to boondock for free.

There are various camping styles you can practice and one of them is boondocking. However, the styles vary as some embrace more of traditional camping, others use more civilized means while some use a mixture of both traditional and civilized way of camping that uses more of technology.

So, what is boondocking? Boondocking is camping away from RV parks, or camper off grid. Often you camp without hookups and is free from hustle associated with civilization.

It involves pulling off the highway so that you can be able to stay in a locations that is free and have no facilities and you simply use the RV and survival tactics. In fact, sometimes boondocking is referred to as dry camping.

Some of the things you will get to learn in this guide include:

  • Types of Boondocking
  • Benefits of Boondocking
  • Considerations for Boondocking
  • RV Features Suitable for Boondocking
  • Challenges and Survival Tips for Boondocking
  • Places to boondock for FREE
  • How safe is boondocking
  • Ways to enhance safety when boondocking
  • RV boondocking Do’s and Dont’s (Video)

What Are the Types of Boondocking?

As an RVer, other that camping in an RV or tent camping you are likely to engage in boondocking even though most RVers do not know they are boondocking.

Boondocking camping has closely been related to pirate camping, primitive camping, free camping, dispersed camping, dry camping, Moochdocking and Wallydocking.

The main similarity of these types of camping is that the camping is free from water hookups, electricity, and sewer. Generally, the differences are quite slim.

However, the four main categories of boondocking include:

  1. Undeveloped/Primitive Campsite
  2. Developed Campsite
  3. Overnight Stay (Wallydocking, Moochdocking)
  4. Pirate Camping

Underdeveloped/Primitive Campsite Boondocking

Boondocking is done in an areas that is completely off-grid and you have to be self-reliant. Actually, primitive boondocking completely lacks camp hosts, hook-ups, or dump stations. Common place to do a primitive type of boondocking is on BLM land or United States Forest Service property.

Developed Campsite Boondocking/ Dry Camping

Some campsite are free but most charge a fee. Often, you simply reserve a spot to boondock overnight with no hookups to resources such as water, electricity, or sewer.

So you need to ensure you plan well for your night stay by prior charging your batteries, emptying your waste tank and refilling your water tanks.

Common places for developed campsite include state and national parks. The good thing about developed boondocking is that there is more privacy while you enjoy nature.

Overnight Stay Boondocking

Often, you reserves a place to boondock where you can have full access to hookups including water, sewer, and electricity. Common types of overnight boondocking types include Wallydocking and Moochdocking.

Wallydocking is where you simply get a place to park your RV such as in a Wallmart parking lot. Often, you may need a rest for a night, restock your supplies, or due to weather changes such as being too stormy and you cant move on to the next place among other reasons.

Moochdocking is where you decide to spend a night in a relative or a friends place who lives along that route for a night. Often, you tend to spend a night at the friend’s driveway.

Pirate Camping

Camping in urban areas is referred to as pirate or stealth camping. Often, pirate camping goes against the regulations of urban centers and may entail staying overnight in the parking spots or in the streets.

Heavy curtains helps create some form of darkness free from streetlights and you can comfortably sleep.

Pirate camping is beneficial in terms of assisting one to have a temporary stay while moving from one campsite to another, it cuts down cost of renting, and allows you to stay with your pets as some apartments may not allow pets.

Benefits of Boondocking

  • Live anywhere even in the streets
  • Easily explore new places
  • Experience staying in beautiful scenes even when no hookups are available
  • Enhance creativity since you have to figure out ways of getting things done
  • Live in nature free from modern life
  • Save expenses of hookups, amenities and lodging
  • Maximum outdoor fun
  • Freedom from rules and regulations

Considerations for Boondocking

Not everyone can engage in boondocking camping due to lack of some basic amenities such as sewer, water and electricity.

As a result, you may have to use the bush for washrooms, carry your drinking water or treat the available water, and basically stay free from electronics that must be plug in for them to operate.

As a result, boondocking as a way of lifestyle provides:

  1. A form of escapism from life stresses but you must be disciplined, determined and motivation for the camping to be a success.
  2. Cheaper form of life since the camping eliminates several expenses that is associated with modern way of camping.
  3. You have to be self-reliance and engage in hands on experience. Most repairs you will have to do manually and even improvise devices.
  4. No convenience especially when you are not prepared and you are a newbie in boondocking.

RV Features Suitable for Boondocking

Boondocking using and RV needs the right choice of RV. To be able to select the most suitable RV for boondocking, be sure to answer some of the following questions?

  • What comfort do you prefer?
  • How much are you comfortable to spend?
  • Where will be the camping?
  • What climate or weather seasons will you boondock?
  • What size of RV do you want?
  • How many people will accompany you to boondock?
  • Do you intend to have pets during the camping?

Key RV Features to Look for

1.Four-Wheel Drive

A four-wheel drive RV enables you easily penetrate remote regions whose roads are likely to be in a poor condition. Besides, it is easy to get out the vehicle from mud when you are using a four-wheel drive in case you get stuck.

2. Source of power

Since you are using an RV you ought to consider where you will get power for devices such as lights, fridge, and other electronics. Since you will be traversing remove places then you can have a generator on board.

3. Trailer length

Unless you are very experience, long trailers are much harder to drive especially when it comes to maneuver sharp bends, narrow roads, park, and reverse the vehicle.

Besides, stability issue can be a concern for long trailers which may be swayed off in the instance the trailer traverses an uneven ground.

4. Water and food storage

The RV should have enough space to store basic essentials such as water and food. Food that need to be stored in cold temperatures should be stored in a freezer also you can use a portable cooler.

Always have some portable water filtration, purification, and treatment essentials in handy when camping just in case you run out of water in your RV.

5. Weather changes

Use meteorological updates on the weather in the area you intend to do camping. It is because you need to have proper insulation in the instance it is too cold.

You can consider having a portable AC and heating unit such that you can be able to control the climate conditions in your RV.

6. Buying options

The best option method to buy an RV is to use cash. However, sometimes you may not have enough money. Thus, you may decide to do credits.

Although you will still own your RV it is worth noting that purchasing on credit and higher purchase always attract high interest. You end up paying more than you could have paid when doing cash.

Besides buying options can be new or used RV. Both options are good depending with your budget and the amenities you desire to have.

Furthermore, it is not a must you use an RV for camping but instead if you already have a van of your own, you can easily make it an RV since you are doing boondocking that does not need a lot of amenities. 

7. RV Size

Depending on the number of people who will be attending the boondocking camping, the size of RV will be chosen. The larger the space the more the comfort and flexibility. However, even small RV allows you to enjoy a minimalist lifestyle while on the camp.

As a newbie, going for smaller RV would advise people following reasons;

  • They are easy to drive and maneuver in bends
  • It is easy to park even in reverse
  • They have a higher demand in terms of reselling as a second-hand
  • The running cost of small RVs are much cheaper than larger RVs.
  • Boondocking for short period of time is much convenient when you use smaller RV
  • Extra-space can be created by extending the area by using shades such as RV awnings, and tents

Challenges and Survival Tips for Boondocking

In any outdoor activity, challenges exists but we ought to overcome them. However, selecting a suitable place for boondocking is crucial and the following should be considered 

  • The camping place should be easily accessible to roads
  • The direction of the wind  should be friendly and not blow off your gear
  • The place should be safe 
  • A place that is well known among other RVers is a good choice since you will likely have company to enhance the overall experience and share ideas.
  • Consider the possible dangers such as falling rocks timber and extremes light exposure

Survival tactics when boondocking include:

Google Map

Make good use of a Google Map when choosing the most suitable place for boondocking because it will give you an idea of the terrain to expect.

Suitable Places to Boondock

Common website for people used to find the best place to boondock include freecampsites and compendium but it depends with the place you are. Boondocking with like-minded people is fun.

Weather Predictions

Follow the metrological prediction because it will help you prepare for the weather based on the weather forecast for area


Always have some extra water bottles, water treatment, and water sieves just in case you need to use water you found in the place.

Changing Campsite

Sometimes you may wish to change your camping location or explore new places without too much spending if need be. You can find a place where you can spend for free such as a construction site, hospitals, marinas, big stores such Walmart, empty truck slots and beaches.


Easy to cook food and long shell food will reduce the frequency of cooking and give you more time to explore nature.


Manage trash while boondocking using trash bags. Also, once you remove an item use the original packaging to put the trash.

Managing Extreme Weather

When the environmental temperature is extremely cold simply move to warmer places to enjoy

If the area is too windy such that your comfort is being compromised, then consider comping in a place that has a shelter.

Do not get bored when boondocking. Get more tips on exciting activities and event you can engage in when camping.

Places to Boondock for Free

In most places expecially when you are in town you will be required to pay for parking and even an overnight stay. However, some places can offer free parking and occupancy that you can consider using for free boondocking.

The places include:

National Forests

As long as you park in the right parking lot, you can have fun boondocking in the forest and enjoy nature


If you are lucky to find a free parking lot, a motel/hotel can be a great place for boondocking since parking is free. Be sure to be on the lookout to prevent your RV being towed.

Visitors Centers

Parking places that is reserved for visitors is more likely to be empty especially at night when the visitor has left. Besides enjoying boondocking you can have access to washrooms at the visitor’s centers

Apartment Complexes

It is not a guarantee but you can find a good apartment complex to boondock. Although an overnight stay may be interrupted whenever the management does maintenance at night as most maintenance service are schedule at night.

Trail Heads

Trails are commonly used for an overnight backpacking trips. Consequently, you can enjoy a free parking in one of the trails.

Walmart Parking Lots

Once you get a free parking lot, any Walmart Store allows you to part up to 24 hours as you restock your supplies. Some stores require you seek permission for overnight stay before blindly parking your trailer. Learn more on what stores allow free overnight parking.

Hospital Parking Lot.

Enter as a visitor or someone taking a patient to hospital. Select a good place to park and sleep. However, there are things you must know before sleeping in car in a hospital parking lot.


Some are free while others you camp at a fee. USA Campgrounds near me are a great place for boondocking.

Other Places

Depending with the management you may have parking for free or at a small fee in these places

  • QFC
  • Marriot Inn
  • 24 Hour Grocery Stores
  • Target
  • IHOP
  • Dennys
  • Cabella


It is illegal to sleep in McDonald’s parking lot. The stores policy does not allow overnight parking and sleeping in the parking lot.

How safe is boondocking

Generally, in comparison to safety issues of home and RVers it is more likely for one to be a victim of crime or theft when home rather than when using an RV.

It’s not that RV camping are free from crimes but the cases are minimal and rarely occur. That doesn’t mean you take for granted safety concerns.

Whenever you are travelling a remote place or somewhere you have never gone to safety should come first. No need to leave home happily only to end up being a victim of safety crime that you could have prevented.

Justification For Boondocking Safety

Three common reasons that can justify that boondocking or generally RV camping is safe include:

1.Minimalistic RV lifestyle

Actually, since space is of essence in an RV you are less likely to carry too much valuables while on the move. Unlike a residential home where you have several electronics and valuables that could attract burglars since its plenty and of value.

In an RV mostly you only have what you need and that is a basic need commodity item that could be less attractive to thefts.

2.Public Places

Most camping is done in public places where there is lots of movement that even deter vandalism. Unlike living in remote homes where most of the time its family and farm animals where attack can likely occur.

3. Opportunist Nature of Criminals

Maximum opportunity with minimal risks is the motivation factor for criminals. For instance urban places with too much population and perhaps valuables can be a great place for criminals.

However, it is unrealistic for a criminal to try miles away to attack a person boondocking, since you often boondock far away from home, if lucky to find one and often have nothing to still. That can’t happen. It means boondocking is generally safe.

Ways to Enhance Your Safety While Boondocking


Print out a sticker showing you have an alarm system and a dog inside your rig. Actually, you should install an alarm such as a 12 volt alarm in the RV.

Besides, if you love pets a dog is simply a natural alarm that can deter criminals from attacking you.


While out camping, do not live like you exist alone in the bush. Talk with your neighbors. You may note sharing experiences could help you make informed decisions concerning your safety. Besides, you reduce your fear of boondocking even as a first timer.

Solo Boondocking

Despite being one, create an illusion that you are not boondocking solo. Get two chairs, and extra-large men’s shoes and place outside. Get a large dog dish as well and place it strategically outside the RV door. The sight would deter burglars if any for fear of unknown.


You may wish to boondock in a remote place. However, if possible park your RV where cellphone network is accessible. You may need to use your cellphone to make a call or send message during emergencies.

Feeling Unsafe to Boondock

Its human nature especially when you are a first timer. When you feel so, park your RV ready to take off. Like, have the jacks up, all awnings in, and RV ready to roll so that you can easily jump in cockpit and drive away at any instance of emergency run away.

Know Your Location

Thanks to technology. Even when you are new in a place, geographical coordinates can describe your precise location. Be sure to capture the coordinates of the campsite using your GPS such that you can share to first responders in times of emergency.

Inspect the Surroundings

You can park your RV out of view of in view based on what your instincts tells you it is safe to do so.

Panic Button

A wireless remote key fob can be a good safety tool that you should have it in handy. In case of an emergency, pressing the panic button would trigger the honking horn to make noise and flashlights that can be seen from miles away. Even attackers would be scared and run away.

Spot Messenger

You may have a cellphone yes but a spot messenger enhances communication between your loved ones and you. You can let them know where you have camped.

Besides, your family can call 911 on your behalf if they notice something unusual in your communication. Keep communicating.


It is optional to carry one but about half of RVers own a firearm to protect themselves. However, be sure to be licensed to possess a firearm. It is because there are several reasons that can trigger a random inspection by police without search warrant.

If they find you illegally own the firearm then you will be in big trouble and your camping will entirely be ruined. Comply with the law if you have to own a firearm.

RV Boondocking Do’s and Don’ts (Video)

It is important to be familiar with do’s and don’ts when boondocking to enhance your camping experience. Watch this video for more insights on boondocking from experienced RVers

RV boondocking tips | Boondocking do’s and don’ts

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