Our first RV was a travel trailer we bought for an extended sabbatical where we traveled and visited the National Parks west of Denver. During that trip, we stayed in established campgrounds and RV parks, averaging around $30 per night to camp. As we approached our decision to retire early and live full time in The Bago, we knew we would have to stretch our budget and lower our per night camping average.
Thankfully, one of our preferred ways to camp is free camping, also known as boondocking. Don’t get us wrong, we love a full hook-up campsite, but when you’re watching your monthly spend, free is a huge budget saver. We’ve learned that we appreciate the balance. Boondocking feels more like camping to us and we love spending time away from crowds on undeveloped land. It also allows us to appreciate a luxurious few days at an RV park with full hook up, laundry and maybe even a pool and spa.
Here’s how we find our boodocking spots:
Campendium is definitely our go-to site for free camping. The founders are full-time, working RVers who love to boondock. Many of the reviews are written by similar folks who leave details on getting into remote sites, site size, road conditions, Internet connectivity, amenities and local attractions. The interface is well designed and it’s easy to filter by free. You can also add spots to your Favorites to save for later. They also have an iOS app, with android coming soon.
Freecampsites is not quite as user friendly as Campendium, but still a useful place to look. Sometimes the reviews lack photos and details on things like what kind of rig can fit.
Rockhouse Road, Borrego Springs, California. Located in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
The satellite view on Google Maps is great for previewing spots and roads into them. Sometimes you can even see RVs. There also seems to be an increasing number of reviews for sites. The street view, if available, can be very handy to preview the roads in. For example, this one in Saddle Mountain outside of Tonopah, Arizona. Note that many of the public land management agencies label boondocking as dispersed camping.
Public Land Management Websites
These agencies include the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service, Forest Service, and individual states. As an example, Googling “Joshua Tree dispersed camping” returns a handy guide with a couple of options on this site.
These offices are great sources of information with maps and brochures. We’ve also found rangers to be amazing sources of information.
Klondike Bluffs outside of Moab, Utah.
Say what you will about social media, but when we see pictures of a great camping spot, an interesting landmark or even an awesome meal, we’ll often reach out to whomever posted to get more information about the spot and make a note of it for later. (Read more on using Instagram as a resource here).
And then, of course, there is just good old fashioned driving around! What better way to find a camp site than having a look around for yourself? We love scoping out spots with our Jeep where we can boondock in our Winnebago Journey.
These are our resources. How do you find your boondocking spots?