What is Boondocking and How Can You Be Safe Doing It

Updated: Dec 1, 2019



RV boondocking is our favorite way to camp as well as how we afford the RV lifestyle full-time. We have been enjoying boondocking for two years now as we travel full time in our RV. It has allowed us to camp for free right outside National Parks, along scenic waterfronts, on the beach, in a canyon and more!


What is boondocking? For us, it’s camping out in nature without hookups. "Dry camping" or "dispersed camping" are other names you will often hear, referring to the same activity. These types of free RV camping sites are usually found on government land such as National Forests or Bureau of Land Management properties. We pay for the care of this land through our taxes so I suppose technically it is not "free". Either way you can go and camp on most of these lands for up to two weeks in each spot for free. These lands were designated specifically for public use. It is one of the true benefits as an American.


Beautiful sunset at a waterfront boondocking site

For some people, boondocking is any “free camping near me”. There are RVers who overnight at Walmarts or Cracker Barrels and even those who tailgate. There are lots of ways RVers enjoy free camping or boondocking. Just as there are all kinds of RVers there are all kinds of boondockers or those who like to camp for free.


The question many people have after asking themselves “What is boondocking?’ is whether or not RV boondocking is safe. We believe RV boondocking is safe and the facts support that. But there are things you can do to help ensure your safety as you are out there enjoying RV boondocking and free camping.


Because there are so many types of RVers and ways they camp for free or boondock I wanted to get a variety of insight on how those RVers are staying safe while boondocking. While many I asked on social media had answers like “get a dog” (we have cats) and “pack a gun” I knew there had to more one could do.


So here are some fellow RVers with some examples of the ways they stay safe while boondocking.



Cass- Solo Full-time RVer

Tails of Wanderlust

www.tailsofwanderlust.com


"Boondocking safety is something I was very worried about when starting out RVing as a full time solo female traveler. The thought of being completely alone in the middle of nowhere was quite intimidating. Thankfully along the way I have picked up tips from fellow campers and found tricks to help me feel safe.


Two items are physical products I purchased. The first was adding a motion sensor light above my doorway. This way if anything approaches my RV at night, the light will alert me. The second item I added to the RV is a can of bear spray. While camping up in Montana, I felt much safer walking around grizzly country with the spray. Knowing how powerful it is, I now store it by my RV door.


Another aspect that makes me feel safe is my dog, who is a German Shepherd mix. If anything comes within a certain distance of us or the RV, he quickly alerts me. Although we’ve never had any bad encounters, it’s just nice to know when a neighbor is approaching to say hi, so I can assess the situation before they arrive.


Hickory Enjoying the RV Boondocking Life

As for social media, I do post about my travels. However, my rule of thumb is to avoid posting my exact location while I am there. I typically wait a week or two before uploading photos. My exception to this rule is when I’m in a large group of people, or traveling a long distance and will be hundreds of miles from a location the next day.


The final piece to my boondocking preparations is researching a spot before I arrive. I rely on the Campendium app, and thoroughly read the reviews for each spot. Some reviews do outline that the RVers felt unsafe. That instantly sends me looking for another location.


Fellow RVers and travelers can also recommend spots where they had great experiences. Or if your schedules line up, boondocking with friends can provide a fun and safe community.

With some minor preparations and a bit of research, you can set yourself up for success while boondocking. Two years into full-timing, and boondocking is still my favorite way to camp!"



Boondocking on the Beach for Free

Dan & Lisa Brown - RV Couple

Always On Liberty

www.alwaysonliberty.com


"As former waterside Search and Rescue First Responders, we stressed the importance to boaters to always have a float plan. The plan gives your family a point of reference of where to search for you and/or your RV in case of emergency or loss of contact. Whether you're only going for an afternoon or a more lengthy excursion, your plan can be a lifesaver.


Now as RVers traveling landslide, it's equally important to have a similar plan each time you get in the driver's seat. And, as boondocking RVers, it's even more important if you're headed to remote areas.


A simple email, text or social media message to your loved one(s) alerting them with the following information can be crucial in case of emergency:


How many in your travel party

Departure location and coordinates

Route proposal

Destination location and coordinates

Estimated time of arrival

Duration of your stay"





Kimberly - RV Tailgater

RV Tailgate Life

www.rvtailgatelife.com


"As tailgaters, we take a different spin on boondocking. We are typically in cities, parking lots with others, and not so worried about not having cell phone coverage.


But lots of schools and stadiums are in areas of cities that we normally wouldn't go through, especially with a giant expensive RV. And some of these tailgating RVs are rolling mansions.


My best recommendation is to always trust your gut. And don't be afraid to call in backup.

If there are people that are pinging your danger radar, definitely keep an eye on them. Let other RVers near you know and tell them specifically what alerted you to them.


Since tailgating happens around events, there is usually a pretty good police presence around. Call them to do a drive through or to confront anyone that you see as a danger. They can remove them from a location without you needing to confront them directly.



For the most part, we don't have problems with crime beyond petty theft (a cooler will walk off, especially if it is loaded with cold beer - imagine that). But it is still wise to lock your stuff down and to pack up before leaving for a game. Especially a road game, as opposing fans may be more likely to do something than your home fans.


I also encourage you to leave your dash cam on. I can set mine so that it only records if there is movement in the field of view, so as to not waste the recording space. And while a camera won't stop someone from doing wrong, there will be video evidence that can be used to prosecute them. More information on my dash cam."




Emma Riggs- RVer

My Rig Adventures

www.myrigadventures.com


"The biggest tip I can give with staying safe while boondocking is to make sure you’ve got your resources sorted. Without the vital essentials for human survival, boondocking in the wilderness is not only stressful, but can become life-threatening.


Here are some essential resources to consider:




FOOD

Make sure you not only take enough food with you for your expected stay in the bush, but take extra. Sometimes we stumble across a really fantastic place and end up staying longer than expected. Other times, things just happen and you don’t end up leaving when you thought you wo