Questions We Ask While Boondocking

How it really feels to get away from it all.

Brooke & Buddy Baum Brooke & Buddy Baum  |  08.14.2017

As with many other new RVer challenges we’ve faced, I’m sure boondocking will soon be something we take on with confidence. However, for a girl who never went on camping trips growing up and watched too many scary movies, boondocking stirs up some mixed emotions in me.

On one hand, staying for free in a quiet, beautiful place is ideal. We can’t afford to pay $40 every night at RV parks and we never sleep well with cars whizzing around us at Walmart. As we’ve mentioned before, we love our Harvest Hosts membership for these reasons. But that isn’t always an option. So, we often end up dry camping on Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land, or the occasional random pull-off.

However, boondocking is a much more rugged way to camp. Truly getting away from it all can feel uncomfortable and we have struggled with that uncertainty at times. Here are a few of our common questions:

Should we be driving on this road?

I’ve noticed, especially with forest camping, that we rarely end up on a two-lane, smooth road. Usually it is 1.5-way at best, with low-hanging trees and enough bumps to scramble our eggs. The entire time I’m just praying another car doesn’t appear in front of us. How the heck will we let them by? I guess I’ll report back when it happens.

Are these coordinates wrong?

We haven’t worked up the nerve to just park along the side of the road, so we usually rely on the help of other RVers. Websites like Campendium.com and FreeCampsites.net have been a great resource for finding overnight options. However, the GPS coordinates aren’t always exact. There have been a few times that we end up driving around aimlessly until we find a “close enough” version of what we had set out for.

Is it really okay to park here?

Being new to boondocking, we always question if a ranger or police officer is going to come along and kick us out. We often don’t get completely settled in if this is a concern, in case we have to move. However, it is always nice when there is evidence of previous campers. A fire ring or tire marks always makes us feel a little more comfortable staying. And we’ve never been kicked out!

Will we get stuck?

We try to be cautious about this one and avoid parking in questionable spots. Sometimes Buddy will hop out and walk around the area to see how firm the ground is. Bigger RVs should be even more careful, especially if it has rained recently or is forecasted to. Making sure we are full on gas, liquid propane and water is also key – just in case we end up out there for more than just a night.

What if we need to call 911?

Every time we are out in the middle-of-nowhere, Buddy tells me that we are supposed to be able to call 911 with no signal. According to my research, this is kind of true – we can call, but there has to be some signal, from some provider in the area for it to go through. We haven’t had to test it yet, and hopefully never will. But we are really hoping for the best, since our bars disappear in most of the places we boondock. We also have walkie-talkies, so we can listen to the weather radio if we need to. And it is also helpful when my adventurous husband wants to go take night photos! “Please come back, I heard a noise. Over.”

Possible man-eating woodland beast.

What was that sound and does it want to kill me?

Although Buddy will let out a nervous laugh on occasion, this one is 99% me. We’ve all seen at least one crazy animal attack video. And, who can forget the scary movie about the couple trapped in the woods being stalked. During the day I’m fine, but once it gets dark every noise puts me on edge. However, since this is how we plan to travel most of the time, I’ve tried my best to put my far-fetched ideas of evil forest lurkers and ravenous animals at rest. And once I do, the experience is pretty magical.

Despite my irrational fears, why do I feel so relaxed?

It is really easy to freak yourself out when you are alone in the woods or open desert somewhere. This is especially true for people like me with overly imaginative brains and really good hearing. But, at some point, I always find myself unexpectedly at ease. The wind in the trees doesn’t put me on edge anymore, and it actually feels quite nice when it blows through the open windows. I’ll see fireflies and wild animals. And although it isn’t completely quiet, the forest sounds act as a type of white noise that helps lull me off to dreamland. Plus, we usually end up near some beautiful places.

After a few danger-free nights, I realized that boondocking is one of my favorite things to do. And really, it is no more dangerous than parking anywhere else. You just have to get out of your own head and be prepared for a little more of an off-grid experience.

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