Why so few RV boondockers?


By Bob Difley

difley-green-boondockWe boondockers find camping outside of campgrounds as normal and comfortable as the rest of our RV lifestyle. When we need to start looking for a campsite for the night, we start looking for side roads leading off into who-knows-where more often than we pull out a campground guide.

We plan our trip routes through national forests, along two-lane roads, over scenic byways, and across BLM land rather than head for popular areas along Interstate highways known to have lots of campgrounds and RV resorts.

In fact, less than 1 in 4 RVers boondock, preferring to stay in organized campgrounds. I’m not sure of the reason, but I would guess that it is for convenience. Why else would RVers prefer to pay their hard-earned money for an organized campground rather than stay at a free or cheap campsite? Or be shoehorned in with other campers when you could have lots of space and privacy instead? And why prefer a campground with the constant din of other campers, running vehicles, screaming kids, barking dogs, and late-night 20-something partiers around a campfire–when you could have peace and quiet and solitude and a view of Mother Nature?

One other reason, I suppose, is that most RVers are sociable types and like meeting other campers and being part of a campout community. And the amenities, like access to a swimming lake with a lifeguard to watch the kids, park campfire programs with entertaining Ranger talks, RV resorts with Wi-Fi, cable TV, heated swimming pools, hot tubs, recreation rooms with programs, games, TV, and potlucks, proximity to cities, restaurants, golf courses, shopping — oh, and electric, sewer and water hookups.

Staying in campgrounds is much more convenient, also, and they are easier to find than boondocking spots. You can locate them in campground guides and online, along main roads and highways, with signs for easy access in and out, have hook-ups so you don’t have to monitor your state of battery charge and your water and waste tanks, and you don’t have to drive down a dirt road and get your rig dusty.

These conveniences and amenities must be more important to most RVers than the physical open space, private campsites with few if any neighbors nearby, scenic settings with long views, star-filled skies not dimmed by campground lights, access to hiking trails and wild areas, the sound of rustling leaves or a babbling brook instead of vehicles, kids and dogs, and little or no cost that boondockers value.

Or is boondocking in the wilds — not including dry-camping at a Walmart — just too much of an unknown, alien to most RVers’ normal way of camping, or does camping out in a natural environment not appeal to them? Not that I would like all RVers to suddenly discover boondocking and I find all my favorite places occupied.

Why do you boondock — or not boondock?

You can find Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle.



25 Thoughts to “Why so few RV boondockers?”

  1. Rod & Lisa

    Living in upstate NY there just aren’t many options of boondocking in the northeast that we can drive our 35′ motorhome with towed. West of the Mississippi River we love the experience of boondocking.

  2. Marcel Ethier

    Contrary to popular opinion, I believe boondocking is not cheap. I have a 32″ 5th wheel, no generator, no solar panels, 43 fresh water, 38 grey and 38 black. If I wanted to boondock, I would have to purchase a generator, solar panels, a honey wagon and a large capacity water container. DW likes her A/C and I don’t see any solar power system running one for 8 hours. We also like to shower frequently, meeting new people, going to dances and activities. Parked in the middle of nowhere, doing service runs every 3 or 4 days, limited activity, contemplating your navel for a whole winter is not for us. It would cost us too much to outfit our rig even for a week’s outing.

  3. Eric

    Still looking for a book on boondocking locations on the CA, OR, WA coastlines?

    1. RV Staff

      Thanks for writing, Eric. I asked BoondockBob (Difley), our boondocking guru, if he had any tips for you. He suggested that you do a Google search for “RV boondocking locations Oregon (or Washington or California) coast” and that there are lots of listings to look at. And don’t forget to check out his RVing/boondocking e-books on Amazon Kindle. Good luck! And have fun boondocking! —Diane at RVtravel.com

  4. Walt

    I would love to boondock more, but my wife is averse to taking our 35-foot Class A more than a mile or so off of paved roads. We also aren’t able to venture far outside of our home area, which limits our options a bit more. We also still need to bite the bullet and add solar so we don’t have to rely completely on our generator. Someday, I hope we can and will do more boondocking.

  5. Andrew Silver

    I love boondocking – but unfortunately my wife doesn’t feel safe and the possibility of being a target. We have 2 young children with us. So I try to find places that are a compromise so she feels comfortable but we still get some of the boondock experience.

  6. Lee Ensminger

    We don’t boondock with our 38′ DP. It just isn’t suitable for that kind of camping. However, we also travel with a 24′ TT and are interested in using it to boondock. I have set up 200 watts of solar, a 250AH AGM battery and a 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter, which supplements our Honda EU3000is. We have boondocked in the Kaibab National Forest for a week at a time with great success. However, when on the road, we will stop at rest areas, Walmarts or Flying J/Pilots simply because I respect private property too much to risk attempting to boondock on what might turn out to be someone’s private woods. We’re still working on learning how to find places to overnight as we travel without using campgrounds, and so far, not comfortable doing it.

  7. livingboondockingmexico

    We prefer to boondock both here in Mexico as well as the U.S. and on a long trip two years ago, in Canada. We like the freedom, the adventure, the unknown. We’ve never had a problem, been refused a spot and in Mexico boondocking is much easier. Lots of places to stay. IN the U.S. the western states with forest service, BLM, COE, and more. Multiple websites have boondocking sites that have been rated by posters.

  8. Andy M.

    I guess the reason I don’t boondock is because I really don’t know how. i.e., how do I use my lites,fridge, ,furnace, coffee maker , etc. without running down the battery..I tried it a couple of times, but didn’t use anything and just parked my rig and enjoyed the outdoors, but at nite just went to bed in the dark without heat or cooking or a cup of coffee.. I guess this sounds pretty silly, but this is why I’m hesitant to boondocking. Any comments
    would be appreciated. Andy in Colo.

    1. Russ De Maris


      If you use our search box and enter “boondock” you’ll get a lot of information that may help you. When you get to the bottom of the page, click on the link for “older posts” as one page doesn’t cover all that we’ve posted on this topic.

      Russ, rvtravel.com staff.

  9. Billy bob

    It’s all a function of adventure. Embrace it.

  10. Dawn

    My husband and I have been boondocking in Anza Borego and south of Joshua Tree. We managed to get our trailer stuck in the sand each time (truck isn’t 4WD)! Managed to have folks with 4WD pull us out each time, and found more stable places to park. Really love the space, quiet and night stars! Will get some heavy tread tracks and hopefully next time will be able to get ourselves out. I can understand the desire to not pull a trailer down a forest road….

  11. Glenn J

    When I was a young man, I and my family lived in Western Canada and camped deep in the wilderness. Now that I live in the USA, and am in my seventies, I am truly afraid of camping in remote spots. There’s lots of bad guys around, and I am simply unable to look after me and mine if confronted. Also, I can no longer walk a few miles to civilization if something happens. This is not a reflection on the USA, but the realities of the times we live in and the age I have become.

  12. Jim L

    We prefer to Boondock if possible. We had a 28 foot 5th wheel that we sold and bought a 30 foot class C because we feel less intimidated to take that Forest Service Road. We flat pull a Jeep Wrangler that can be disconnected in about two minutes.

  13. Sue and Jim

    We have been traveling around North America in moderately large 5th-wheels for 13 years. The first 10 years were extended traveling 8-9 months of the year. The last 3 years have been full-time RVing. Before we sold our house and had more discretionary income we did a lot of boondocking in national forests and BLM land, mostly out West (AZ, NM, TX, UT, WY, MT, AK, etc.). We have 480 watts of solar, a powerful (and quiet) generator, a good system for filling water tanks, etc. However, as we’ve gotten older and have less physical strength — and no longer have house expenses — we now mostly “camp” in military, private, or public RV parks with spacious sites, full hookups, cable, and strong enough internet connections for free or our private WiFi. We loved the boondocking experiences we had, almost all very positive, but we’ve grown accustomed to an easier lifestyle now . . .

  14. Greg Illes

    I think that littleleftie has identified one of the major reasons folks don’t even TRY to boondock. It’s just too much of a dark mystery. Unknowns are challenging and exciting to some people, and off-putting to others.

    One more factor that I’ve heard (from the editor of a famous online RV newsletter) is boredom. It doesn’t affect me, but apparently those wide open spaces are just not stimulating enough for yet another breed of RVer.

    Like other walks of life, there’s a LOT of diversity amongst us road-travelers. Viva la difference, eh?

  15. Sam

    I can see how going down a dirt road with a towable or a large RV would be a problem for most people…myself included. You just don’t know how difficult it will be to turn around or what condition the road will be around the next turn.
    I don’t think I would boondock with anything other than a pickup camper or van. And the prospect of accidentally camping on private property is a problem also. No one wants a knock on their door in the evening by some annoyed rancher.

  16. ShannonP

    Love to boondock but driving a trailer down an unknown forest road can be scary. We always fear that we’ll drive somewhere and then be unable to turnaround. We’re learning to use boondock-friendly resources to plan our adventures and are getter braver each time we head out

  17. Don V

    I would love to do it but my wife Refuses! She is new to RVing but I grew up doing it. I’m hoping that if I can do one or two nights in some beautiful boondocking spots, she might change her mind.

    1. ed smith

      Try Quartzsite or the Imperial Dam area for starters

  18. chris p hemstead

    Boondocking gets me away from people and all their noise…and campfires.

    As mentioned, the danger is not getting into a place, it’s getting out. Today, with Google maps and the Escapees’ “Day’s End” publication, I have a good idea of boondocking spots before I get there. I will not drive down an unknown dirt road with a large 5er in tow.

    Probably one reason for more folks not doing this is that it’s a lot more work than full hookups.

  19. Robbie

    Boondocking is easy if you spend the time to research your destination. There are so many resources on the internet, unimaginable how anyone can say they can’t find the right place. We feel more secure boondocking than being in any RV park. We see very few people where we boondock, and the chances of the “bad guy” being in these remote places is less than him being at the RV park or in a Walmart parking lot. We’ll take the stars, peace and quiet, and the beauty of the outdoors to any RV park, anytime.

  20. Tommy Molnar

    I have to say, we are dedicated boondockers. Since we live in Nevada, boondocking is a ‘way of life’ for us. We’ve had good luck booning in Idaho and Utah too. Even Oregon has given us some great spots.

    I installed a 375 watt solar system on our roof and it takes care of all our power needs. It’s just nice to set up in a great spot and kick back. We have a 2500 watt inverter installed as well.

    We have found some really great ‘spots’ where we were just going to spend the night and ended up staying several days. Every so often we have to find someplace to dump our tanks and re-load our fresh water tanks, and even then we’ve found places to do that free as well. We mark those places in our GPS!

  21. littleleftie

    Our reason for not boondocking more is that we feel uncomfortable with the “fear of the unknown”. Not being in a familiar environment, not knowing if it will be a safe spot, not knowing if it is allowed….all factor in for us.
    Call us chicken, but we feel more comfortable at a Flying J or a Walmart than random boondocking. However, if it would be boondocking in an area like the desert (which we have yet to explore), where it is commonly known to be acceptable, that might prove different for us.

  22. Pete D

    We love to boondock but don’t many times because we are afraid of getting into places we can’t easily get out of. I would dread having to back my trailer two mikes down the road if I can’t find a turn around. I guess that is my biggest deturant. Heading off down a dirt road you are not familiar with can lead to some dangerous situations. We did that a couple of times.

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