Boondocking 101: how, when and where to camp for free

If you are new to RV travel, boondocking might be an unfamiliar concept. But for those who have spent a while on the road, boondocking is part of life.

What is it?

Boondocking is free camping, generally out in the boondocks.  It’s usually in an undeveloped area or one without amenities such as sewer, water or electric hookups. The word might conjure up images of parking down a dark, forest road on open land — and that is what it’s sometimes like — but boondocking for RVers is just as often staying overnight in the parking lot of an RV-friendly business.

Where to stay for free

There are many places across the country that allow boondocking on public lands. A little bit of research will be required if you’re looking to park in a specific area or region. This site is a good resource. But boondocking doesn’t stop at wild, public lands. As any full-time RVer can attest, there are many businesses that allow overnight parking. Some Walmarts, Cracker Barrels and truck stops welcome RVs to park overnight. The Allstays app is an excellent resource when looking for a parking lot that allows overnight parking. Benefits to staying at these places include well-lit parking lots and sometimes wi-fi, such as is the case with certain Pilot Travel Centers.

When is a good time?

Boondocking is a convenient way to save money while you’re in between destinations. Rest stops, certain truck stops and even Walmart stores can easily be found off interstate exits, so it’s a convenient alternative to staying an an RV park for just one night. If you plan right you can also find a good boondocking area on public land that allows for longer stays — just make sure you have all the supplies you need for dry camping, including enough fuel for the generator running and plenty of fresh water in your water tank.

How do I go about it?

With just a little bit of research, you can find public lands that allow dry camping and boondocking. If you’re looking to stay overnight at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel, you should get permission from the manager first. The Allstays app is helpful for this because it includes notes from other users detailing whether a particular store has allowed overnight parking in the past. If looking for a truck stop, check for a Flying J or Pilot Travel Centers that has sites designated for overnight RV parking.

Do you have questions about boondocking or tips to share? Let us know in the comments or on FacebookTwitter or Instagram!