The science (and art) of finding boondocking campsites

Here are questions from two readers of RVtravel.com about boondocking. 

Hi Bob,
Thanks for the great advice on locating boondocking spots. One question though. How did you know where to stop and start exploring in the first place? Are there signs or did you do a general search of the area online or through other means before you got there? Thanks. —Bill

Hey Bob,
My question is similar to Bill’s. I don’t seem to be able to find places. Most of the directories give too little info on the property. I don’t want to head down a road only to not be able to turn around. I also have a travel trailer so it’s more complicated to drop the trailer and head off exploring. We live on the East Coast and I find very few prospects for boondocking with our 25′ TT. Any suggestions? —Rob

Hi Bill and Rob,

Boondocking in a National Forest

Good questions and not easy to answer because of location differences and other variables. There are two developments since I started boondocking more than 25 years ago, however, that make finding boondocking spots easier to find. The first was the creation of many website forums where RVers discuss and ask questions about boondocking possibilities in specific areas. To find them, enter “RV boondocking forums” in your favorite search engine and you will find lots of information. The second is to use a free software program called Google Earth that will enable you to view possible boondocking spots from above. You can learn how to use Google Earth in this YouTube video by RVtravel.com writer Dave Helgeson.

You can also visit the regional or local Forest Service (FS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office in the area where you hope to boondock and ask for maps and information to “dispersed camping” areas. This information is usually kept below the counters.

Additional tips:

  • Keep a record of all the boondocking campsites you find – even if you don’t stay – for when you pass through again.
  • Talk to other boondockers about places they’ve been and campsites they’ve found.
  • Stay in a designated FS or BLM campground the first night and explore by tow or bicycle and ask of camp hosts for nearby boondocking campsites.
  • Visit the Forest Camping website to find FS campgrounds and locations of National Forests around the country.
  • Collect maps (either paper or online) of all the public lands where you travel. There will likely be boondocking campsites there and you can mark them on your maps as you find them.
  • Travel to the Western states for your boondocking trips on the West’s vast public lands. According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. government owns nearly half the land in the 11 coterminous western states, as well as more than 60 percent of Alaska. But in the rest of the country, only 4 percent of the land is federally held.

Read more about boondocking at my BoondockBob’s Blog.
Check out my Kindle e-books about boondocking at Amazon.

Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) gmail.com .

##RVT841

 

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4 Thoughts to “The science (and art) of finding boondocking campsites”

  1. Steve, Kamloops, BC

    Now that was an education. Good thing iPad has “look up” for definitions. Coterminous, the word used in “additional tips” above is a new one on me. So which are the 11 states?

    1. RV Staff

      Ha ha! I guess you and I are the only ones who didn’t know that term and had to look it up, Steve. (No one else has asked.) One synonym is “contiguous,” which probably more people are familiar with. (I almost switched it but decided to leave “coterminous” in there. Can’t say we don’t try to educate our readers. 😉 ) Here are the states: California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Here’s a link to an article from the Congressional Research Service on “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data,” which I think is where that fact (and term) originated for this article: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42346.pdf — just in case you want to learn even more on this subject. Lots of interesting information. Thanks for asking. 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

      1. Mike Sokol

        Wow, I didn’t know what Coterminous meant either. And I had 12 years of parochial schooling with a LOT of grammar and writing. Now I need to use it in conversation at least 3 times today.

  2. Bill

    Thanks for the info Bob. Much appreciated.

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