RV Boondocking: 8 Essential Tips for Newbies

RV boondocking tips

Here are 8 RV boondocking tips you will find invaluable!

RV boondocking; the sense of solitude, the vast natural vistas, and it’s free! It will be just you, the sky, the mountains, the birds, the trees, and your RV, with a real kitchen, a full bathroom, and a queen size bed!

RV boondocking may be more popular than ever, but you may be wondering, how do I begin? With some thoughtful preparation, anyone who loves nature and serenity can go boondocking.

Any Size RV Can Boondock

There’s a false notion that only a small, lite trailer, or a small motorhome with good ground clearance, can go boondocking. It’s true that a 45′ motorhome will not be able to boondock in the same spots as a 4X4 truck camper, but those with a 45′ Motorhomes can boondock, particularly in places like Quartzsite, which is wide open and flat. If you have a larger RV, particularly a motorhome, you may have the most success boondocking in the winter, in all the popular “Snowbird” desert areas, and also, high desert and grassland areas. The trickiest boondocking will be in the heavily forested areas; while attractive and alluring, a deep, dense forest may only be accessible with a 4X4 truck camper, or a small, lightweight trailer, pulled by a 4X4 truck. Know your limitations.

Boondocking Tip: Scouting Ahead

Boondocking takes some preparation, for it to be safe. Before you drive down a narrow forest service road, it is best to scout ahead, either in your truck, SUV, tow car or even on a bicycle or on foot. Discovering that you have no place to turn your motorhome around after you’ve already driven miles down a road, can be a very bad situation. It’s best to find a safe place to leave the RV, such as an RV park, and scout the boondocking area you wish to explore. Take your GPS unit, and mark down the coordinates of all the suitable spots you find. It is also a good idea to check the cell service and make notes of that too. Keep all your coordinates and boondocking notes in a journal or notebook, for future reference.

Boondocking Tip: Conserving Water

Water may be the #1 thing that could limit your ability to boondock. Running out of freshwater is usually the thing that sends a boondocker back to a campground. Tips from seasoned boondockers concerning water conservation include: taking short showers, only every few days, using baby wipes for everyday bathing, using hand sanitizer for hand washing, use dishwater to flush the toilet, use paper plates, and burn them in a campfire, and drain off water from your gray tank, to put the campfire out. When you do run out of freshwater, know where to refill your tank. Strive to make the freshwater last as long as your black tank, there is usually freshwater at the dump station.

Boondocking Tip: Etiquette

There are a few common-sense rules of boondocking courtesy. Be respectful of your boondocking neighbors; don’t be a “camp invader”, respect their “space”. Don’t park too close to another boondocker. Don’t blast your music, or host a rowdy campfire until the wee hours of the morning. Another common infraction of boondocking etiquette is running your generator for long periods of time, especially at night. If you can possibly afford it, install silent solar panels. You’ll be glad you did.

Always, leave your boondocking spot clean! Pack it in, pack it out! Before you even head out on your first boondocking trip, you need to devise a strategy for your garbage; you will need to store your trash somewhere and take it with you when you leave. You may put it in the back of the tow car, or an outside compartment. Wherever you store the trash, make sure it is not accessible to wild animals! Bears and coyotes may be the first to come to mind, but rodents and insects can be attracted to trash, and find their way into your rig.

It’s best to reduce the potential trash load before you even head out. Buy things like eggs and milk in paper cartons, not plastic. Paper can be burned in a campfire, or easily torn or crushed. Buy pre-cooked meats, or cook meat before you leave for the boonies; cooking meat over an open fire is definitely primal, but the packaging can attract predators, and washing up after raw meat can take a lot of water. Just as you should know where to get fresh water and where to dump your black and gray tanks, you also need to know where to get rid of your trash.

Boondocking Tip: Know the Local Regulations

Sometimes, it’s hard to know where it’s allowed to boondock, and where’s it’s not. The easiest way is to check in with the local rangers. All BLM lands and national forests have districts. An internet search will locate the district office. These offices often have land use maps available, and the rangers can advise you about the roads and areas that are good for camping.

Boondocking Tip: Be Respectful of Wildlife

Remember, you are in their world! Use common sense to avoid any unpleasant encounters with wildlife. Once again, keep your camp clean; leaving food and trash out may attract wildlife, and don’t leave food scraps in the campfire. If wildlife does approach your campsite, be cautious. Photograph wildlife from a safe distance, and be aware of warning signs. If an animal becomes agitated, you are too close.

Boondocking Tip: Campsite Security

Most boondockers say they feel safer camping out in the wilderness than they do living in a city. But you should take a few precautions. Don’t leave out expensive items unattended; stash your fishing pole, your bike, gas grill, generator, etc. when you’re out hiking, or away from camp. You can also carry some type of personal safety, such as a can of bear spray, or even a firearm (if you’re camping in another state, be sure to know the local regulations for firearms). You may also want to stay within cell phone range, in case you need to call out in an emergency.

Another danger to consider is wildfires and other forms of extreme weather. Keeping a weather radio at hand, and staying within 4G range, so you can keep up to date online, is another recommended safety precaution.

Boondocking Tip: Prepare for Emergencies

Bring a well-stocked first aid kit, some basic tools, and emergency roadside equipment. You can also bring along a portable shovel, water purification filters, and freeze-dried emergency food.

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