Have you just found out about a growing trend, called full-time RV boondocking?
What is Boondocking?
Boondocking, is definitely a funny word! It refers to camping in an RV out in the boondocks. RV is the slang term for a recreational vehicle. That could be a motorhome, such as a Winnebago, a trailer, a truck camper, or a van conversion.
Urban Stealth Camping
There is a sub-category of boondocking called urban stealth camping, popular with van dwellers. These people manage to live within cities, in their vans, rent free. Urban stealth camping, and van dwelling, seems to be a somewhat complicated business. For example, issues such as how to build a livable van, while maintaining an ordinary appearance. Or how to darken the windows, so you can remain undetected at night, are top priorities for urban van dwellers. There is also a science for finding the best safe places to park, and remain undetected.
What Does it Take to Boondock?
But back to full time RV boondocking; this generally involves living in your RV, usually in the national forests, or on BLM land. Of course, if you want to live as a digital nomad, making a living online, you will need to be within 4G cell range, and have a carrier with good coverage. Most full time RV boondockers use Verizon or AT&T in the United States. If you like solitude and nature, this might be a lifestyle you would enjoy.
While it may be free to camp, this RV lifestyle will take some cash to get going. First and foremost, you will need a decent RV. A good used motorhome can go for at least $20,000. Furthermore, a good used trailer can cost $7,000 or more, plus you will need a good pickup truck or SUV to tow it. Then you will also need to install solar panels, and the charge controllers and inverters. Most fulltime RVers have at least 300-400W of solar. Ideally, you should also have a good gas or diesel generator, which can cost $1,000 or more.
Do Your Research
You will also need to spend a few months researching the subject. First, you will need to decide which type of RV is for you. These break down into two general types; towables and motorized. Towables are trailers, and motorized are motorhomes, and there are several sub-types within these 2 general categories. So first of all, you will need to decide on what your personal preferences and limitations are, and what type of RV will be best for you.
Some things to consider are, where do you want to live? If you plan on staying mainly in state and national parks, a Class A, B, or C motorhome may be right for you. These are very comfortable to live in, but can not go deep off road. Motorhomes a decent dirt road, they are not 4×4, and don’t have a high clearance. An advantage to a Class A or Class C motorhome is, they have a larger amount of storage, a bigger refirgerator, and larger holding tanks, allowing you to stay in one location for weeks.
Many fulltime RVers, especially singles, who like to go deeper off the main road, prefer a 4×4 truck, pulling a small travel trailer with a high clearance. Or a truck camper on a large, 4×4 truck. These will get you over the ruts and rocks on a dirt track into the boonies. However, they have much smaller refrigerators, holding tanks and storage, so you will not be able to stay as long in one place.
Are There Limitations to the Boondocking Life?
Overall, the fulltime RV boondocking lifestyle is a versatile way to live! There are limitations though, such as, the availability of the internet through your cell service provider, if you need to stay online. Also, the accessibility of good areas to camp may be limited. The opportunities for boondocking West of the Rockies are many. This is because most of the good free areas are in the western United States, with very few options back East, or near large cities. Consequently, those tied to the large, urban metro areas, urban stealth camping in a van may be a better choice for fulltime RV living. Another consideration will be a realistic look at how you may earn a living, and if you need to stay in a certain area of the country to do so.
Before you hit the road, it’s also a good idea to be prepared with some places to go, and a means to get there. Old fashioned paper maps still have a place in the RV lifestyle, and a GPS unit is a must. Your smartphone may function as a GPS unit, but consider whether or not it will function without a cell signal. Another good thing to have, is the Mountain Directory.
It’s a good idea to become familiar with websites like Campendium.com and FreeCampsites.net. These will not only have the GPS coordinates for places to boondock, but also reviews of the area. Read these reviews carefully, and be honest with yourself, regarding if it will be appropriate for your RV. There may be length limits, such as 25′. If your motorhome or trailer + truck is 30′, it may not be a good idea to go there. There may also be comments, such as, “the road in is really rutted, need a high clearance”. If you end up with expensive repairs on your RV, due to carelessness, it was not “free camping”!