As full-time RVers, our preferred camping style is primarily boondocking. This term refers to free camping on public lands without hookups for electric, water, and sewer. Living off-grid was one of the major reasons we decided to pursue this lifestyle in the first place. For us, it is a peaceful and quiet way to live, and we enjoy it very much. However, we recognize that it comes with its own set of challenges, and some of those include where to boondock, how to boondock, and how to choose an ideal boondocking site.
WHY do we prefer boondocking?
We crave the wide-open spaces and feelings of silence and solitude to be found in wild places, rather than in campgrounds. This lead us out west, where the majority of the boondocking in the US is to be found. So far, our favorite boondocking states have been Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. (Read more about WHY we love boondocking).
HOW do you make the off-grid life work for you?
While planning for full-time travel, we anticipated that we would want to spend most of our time boondocking or dry camping. Knowing this, we made a few modifications to our rig which would make boondocking more comfortable and cost-effective for us, including solar panels and a composting toilet. (Read more about how to make the off-grid life work).
WHERE do you boondock?
We get this question a lot. We utilize several resources to find our boondocking sites, chiefly Campendium, freecampsites.net, the iOverlander app, and the AllStays app. Each of these provides an extensive list of sites in various areas, as well as details about each site. (I wrote a blog post discussing the pros and cons of each of these resources and how to use them to find the best boondocking sites, as well as a post on how to choose the best boondocking sites.)
While each of these resources can provide information on countless boondocking sites around the country (and beyond), not all boondocking sites are created equal. When selecting sites to stay at, we use several criteria to evaluate whether a site will both work for us and if it is somewhere that we want to stay. Here, I’ll highlight the factors we use when determining our favorite boondocking locations and why we may choose one spot over another.
Location is the primary factor we use to pick where we will stay, and I think this is true for all full-time RVers, regardless of their camping style. When selecting campsites, we naturally look in places that we are interested in visiting. We typically make a map of all the places we want to visit and then try to find a campsite that is nearby those places. For instance, we recently decided to see the five national parks in Utah during the month of March, so we began to research sites along the route to see these five parks. That gives us a starting point for where to begin our search for the perfect site.
Cell service is the most important factor which determines where we will boondock. We need connection to work, so it is not possible for us to stay anywhere without halfway decent reception. Unfortunately, the need for connection does eliminate a lot of great boondocking spots for us, but without our remote work, we would not be able to live this lifestyle at all.
Campendium typically has cell service information provided by other users, but occasionally we locate a site that seems great but has no connection info provided. If this is the case, or even if we just want to double check the connection info for a certain site, we use an app called “Coverage?” or a website called Open Signal. These apps allow the user to plug in the coordinates for a certain location and see the exact level of connection. They have been game-changing for us. (Learn more about how we garner cell reception in the wild).
Another important factor to consider is accessibility. This refers to the conditions of the roads that lead to boondocking sites. Most boondocking sites are accessed via a dirt road, and, while some of these are well-maintained, others can be rather sketchy. We drive a large class A motorhome which has surprisingly high clearance, but roads that are excessively rocky or graded are not possible for us. Campendium reviews usually mention road conditions, so we are able to read about the road situation before entering a new site.
In addition, we typically detach our tow vehicle from our RV at the beginning of the road and use that to scout out prospective sites. In all of our travels, we have only encountered a handful of roads impassable for us, but scouting helps us to know exactly what to expect before getting to our new site. It also gives us an opportunity to double check the cell coverage before arriving with the rig and needing to turn around.
Another factor we consider when choosing a site is the view provided. This is the main reason we boondock in the first place. Waking up in an amazing place and looking out our windows at mountains, desert, ocean, or forest is, for us, more preferable than waking up and looking outside at another RV. While this is not the most important factor in choosing a location, it is definitely something that we consider. For example, if we are considering two different boondocking spots in the same area, we will surely opt for the one with the better view.
This is a less important factor for us in choosing a site, but still, one that is of significance. Some boondocking locations are very popular, and, as a result, can be rather crowded, especially in the busier summer months. If we want to visit a specific area, and there are multiple sites to choose from, we always choose the less-crowded sites. It’s not that we hate other people, but rather that we enjoy the quietness and solitude that come with being surrounded by nature, with nothing but us, our home, and our pets around.
6. Proximity to Amenities
This is the least influential factor in choosing a boondocking site, but one that exists nonetheless. We have gotten very good at restocking all the necessary supplies and food before heading out to the wild, so we don’t usually need to be very close to a town. However, it is nice to be within 20-30 minutes of a town in case we need to mail something, get gas in our Jeep, or pick up some items we forgot at a grocery store. For these reasons, we try to be near at least a small town. While this is not always possible if we have the choice between a site that is a bit closer to town and a site that is a bit further away, we typically choose the closer site for convenience sake.
For us, boondocking is an incredibly enjoyable and relaxing way to spend our time on the road. Being immersed in the landscapes and locations in which we find ourselves can almost be said to have a “nature therapy” effect. We have had some of the best times parked in the most gorgeous places in almost complete solitude. If you are an RVer, whether a full-timer or a weekender, we encourage you to get out and try boondocking. You may even enjoy it as much as we do!
Do you enjoy boondocking? Is there a set of criteria you use to determine the ideal boondocking location? Feel free to share in the comments below!