Are all boondockers dirty and smelly? Is cooking a pain in the butt when you are boondocking?
Does it take a lot of driving to find boondocking campsites? Is boondocking only for full-time RVers?
Subscribing to some of the commonly perpetuated boondocking myths out there can limit you to camping only in established campgrounds.
While it’s nice to have campground facilities once in a while, boondocking is a different experience entirely.
For the record, boondocking refers to camping without plugging into the ‘Big 3’ utilities that you will find in most campgrounds (water, sewer, and electric).
That’s it! There’s no requirement for the minimum number of days you must go between showers.
It’s not tough to cook high-quality meals when boondocking. And there are plenty of resources to help you find accessible boondocking sites in your area.
If you haven’t even given boondocking a second thought because you’ve heard a few negative rumors, this is your chance to learn what it is really all about.
In this guide, I will dispel common boondocking myths I’ve heard in my travels, as well as a few that I personally subscribed to before I gave it a try!
Myth #1: It’s Hard to Find Boondocking Spots
Eh! I could easily make the case that it is actually easier than ever. We have so many tools and resources for finding off-grid campsites that have never before existing in the history of humanity.
From apps like The Dyrt and iOverlander to websites like Freecampsites.net, there are entire databases dedicated to dispersed sites for boondocking.
Plus, it is not too tough to find information regarding boondocking areas managed by the likes of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
Myth #2: Boondocking Spots Are WAY Out There!
Eh, wrong again! I boondock camped 20 minutes outside of the city of Houston, Texas last week and 15 minutes from downtown Tallahassee, Florida just the other night.
Depending on the municipality, you may, of course, find boondocking near major urban areas more accepted in some places than others.
But you certainly don’t need to drive a long way to find a boondocking spot near you.
Myth #3: Boondocking Requires a 4×4 Vehicle
While it helps, it isn’t an absolute requirement. Having a four-wheel drive will certainly expand the number of boondocking spots that you can access, but there are plenty of off-grid camping areas that are accessible with two-wheel drive vehicles.
Just because you’ve found a boondocking site that is down a dirt road doesn’t mean you will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get there.
Plenty of dirt roads are tame enough to be passable with two-wheel drive.
Still, it pays to use caution when driving on any road that you are unfamiliar with. If you think it is worth stopping your car and evaluating the condition of the road ahead on foot, it probably is!
Myth #4: You Won’t Have Cell Service (or Internet)
Absolutely not true! As someone who works from the road, finding cell service is a must when I am boondocking.
It allows me to set up a mobile hotspot to check emails, research topics, and send deliverables when they are complete.
If you use some of those apps and websites I mentioned earlier (also check out Campendium), many reviewers note specific information about cell service (based on provider) in boondocking areas.
This allows you to plan to have cell service (or not) in advance of arriving at a boondocking site.
In addition, we have tools like cell signal boosters that can turn unusable service into functional service.
The weBoost is a tool that several of my boondocking friends have employed with success in their travels.
To be clear, we are talking CELLULAR INTERNET here. You probably won’t have WIFI at boondocking spots, but all you will need is a cell phone (with a proper data plan) to get Internet at remote boondocking locations.
Myth #5: You Are Limited To Short Stays
This myth is perpetuated by the notion that there’s nowhere to plug in to replenish water, power electronics, or dump sewage at boondocking sites.
Sure, if you don’t get clever and plan ahead, it’ll only take a few days for your RV’s tanks to fill up.
Fortunately, humans are extremely creative and inventive. We have created things like large plastic containers for storing water, batteries for storing electricity (and solar panels for recharging batteries), and composting toilets for reducing the need for waste disposal.
Employing some of these tools may require you to step out of your comfort zone if you are used to plugging in at modern RV parks.
But they are being employed right now to allow many boondockers to live for weeks (and even months) at off-grid camping sites.
Myth #6: Boondocking Sites Attract Unsavory Folks
This one is also false and, to some folks, it’s downright offensive. Just because you are looking for free places to boondock doesn’t mean you are an unsavory character.
The more you camp, I think the more you’ll find that campers anywhere are, for the most part, wonderful people.
Just the other day, I met a father-son mobile mechanic duo traveling the country and providing their services to needy motorists while boondocking in the evenings.
A few days before that I met an amazing young couple living full-time in a converted school bus.
I’ve had countless other interactions with fellow off-grid campers in my travels and each one has left me with new recommendations or tidbits on what to expect on the road ahead.
Myth #7: You’ll Feel Powerless!
Well, your source of personal power is a topic for a whole different blog, but you don’t have to worry about being without power when boondocking.
In fact, some of the best boondocking sites out there even offer free electricity.
While that is more the exception than the rule, it’s not hard to bring your own source of power for boondock camping.
That could be in the form of a portable generator, a Jackery Portable Power Station, solar panels, and a lithium-ion battery, or even smaller battery banks that are popular for backpacking.
Don’t forget that your vehicle can also be a source of power if you are careful about it.
While you don’t want to drain your vehicle’s battery, it can safely be used to recharge certain electronics while the engine is running.
Myth #8: boondocking Is Unsafe
Unfortunately, it’s the bad stories that reach our ears. We never hear about the time someone went boondocking alone and everything went…right! We only hear stories about vehicles getting broken into, possessions being stolen, and people being hurt or worse…yeah.
Again, if you’re reading this blog at night, the odds are pretty good that there are hundreds if not thousands of people out there boondocking right now.
You’ll probably never hear about 99.9999999% of them because everything goes right. You’ll only hear about the 0.0000001% that end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Statistically speaking, it is probably more likely for something bad to happen to you while driving on the main highway before you turn down that dirt road to find your boondocking spot for the night.
But, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. For me, I adhere to the following three recommendations:
- Lock as much as possible (vehicle, camper shell, bike rack hitch pin, Thule carrier, kayak to rack, etc.)
- Trust your gut. If I get a bad feeling about a fellow camper, I’ll move on (especially if we are the only two boondockers in a spot)
- Put everything away at night. The less you leave out, the less can be stolen.
Myth #9: It’s Boring
Hardly! The whole point of boondocking is that it allows for true freedom. Once you have your spot, you are free to do anything you like.
Want to sit and catch up on that book you’ve been dying to finish? Easy.
Dying to see the view from the top of that hill over yonder? Lock up and go check it out.
Feel like challenging your neighbors to a friendly game of Spike Ball? Just gotta find where the heck I stashed that game when I hit the road.
The possibilities really are endless. Plus, the challenge of finding a new boondocking site every night can be an adventure in and of itself.
But I know that it can be difficult to leave the comfort of your regular routine.
So, here are a few ideas that might help:
Myth #10: Boondocking is Lonely
Okay, I have to admit that this one can sometimes be true. When I first left Austin and encountered the reality that I wasn’t sharing this time on the road with anyone, I was overcome with loneliness.
To be honest, I was leaving my brother and I always have a hard time saying goodbye to family.
That said, that first night was actually the only night that I have camped with nobody else around so far.
Every day, I find solace in interactions with strangers on the road. Whether that’s getting recommendations for campsites or natural attractions on the road ahead or just with an employee at a local supermarket.
But this lifestyle has brought forth other opportunities that I didn’t expect. I am fortunate to have family and friends that live all over the United States.
So, I’ve begun to reach out to let them know I will be in their reason. For instance, I just enjoyed a morning paddle and overnight stay with an uncle that I hadn’t seen in probably close to 25 years!
For the solo boondocker, planning a stay with friends and/or family is a great way to break up the solitude of being on the road. Honestly, though, the camping community is alive and vibrant.
You will meet cool people everywhere you go and share stories from the road. The good news is that there are actually online communities and forums that you can join as well.
For instance, the Escapees RV Club is one of the oldest RV communities online.
They provide numerous resources for RVers and boondockers and they even host annual events where you can meet other like-minded travelers.
Myth #11: Boondockers Only Eat Freeze-Dried Foods
Contrary to recent human mythology, cooking doesn’t have to be a hassle when you are boondocking.
If you are boondocking in an RV, you will still have full use of all the regular kitchen appliances you’d use in an RV park.
You’ll just have to be more mindful of your propane and electricity consumption, depending on how long you want to stay.
Even truck campers and van lifers can enjoy cooking while camping off-grid. My personal setup involves a three-burner Primus stove powered by small green propane bottles.
I prefer a cast-iron skillet for most of my cooking, but I also have a large pot for soups and pasta as well as a small pot for boiling water for coffee in the morning.
The real key to eating well on the road is food storage. So, here are a few things I recommend:
I want to expand on this last point. One of my favorite parts of cooking is experimenting with new dishes.
But we all need the staples that we can throw together quickly. For me, it’s tacos.
With my veggies pre-chopped, it doesn’t take me much more than 20 minutes to cook and season them, add some sausage or beans, warm up tortillas, and BAM! Dinner is served!
Myth #12: Boondockers Don’t Shower
Poppycock! Even most campers that don’t have showers in their RVs or trailers will stop in a state park or RV campground once a week for a hot shower. But that’s not your only option.
I picked up a seven-gallon RoadShower 7G and strapped it to the roof rack of my truck for boondock showering.
It heats up in direct sunlight and gets up to 85-100 degrees so I can enjoy warm showers in the evenings.
If you don’t want to get something quite that big, there are also solar shower bags out there made for single use.
They still need 4-6 hours to warm up, but they can roll up and pack away neatly once your shower is done.
There are also portable showers that plug into propane-powered water heaters for boondocking.
These are great for winter boondocking or if you travel in places that frequently see overcast skies.
Myth #13: Boondocking Is (Or Isn’t) Illegal
Allow me to explain. There are certainly cases in which boondocking can be illegal. And there are certainly cases where it is perfectly legal. It all depends on where you are and who is “managing” that land.
Obviously, trespassing on private property is illegal. If you turn down a remote dirt road and immediately see ‘No Trespassing’ signs, I’d suggest turning around and finding another spot to camp.
When it comes to land management, federal, state, and local management agencies all tend to have different regulations for the areas that they manage.
In many cases, boondocking is prohibited because they are trying to protect or rehabilitate a sensitve environment.
In other cases, however, municipalities will have their own reasons for discouraging free camping on non-designated sites.
All this means for you is that you need to plan ahead and do your homework on the regulations in the places you hope to camp.
This is largely true of boondocking in general, but it’s extra important when it comes to picking campsites.
Being familiar with local regulations will always help you remain on the right side of the law when boondocking.
Myth #14: You Have To Commit to It Full-Time
This might be the biggest myth of them all. Boondocking simply means camping without the use of shore power, a city water connection, and a sewer hookup.
It doesn’t mean that you live in some super isolated place far away from the constraints and amenities of modern society.
Of course, that is totally possible if it is the experience you are looking for. But boondocking simply means camping in a fully self-contained fashion. It has no strict time length (minimum or maximum) associated with it.
Now, some full-time boondockers get this notion in their heads that you’re not doing it “right” if you’re not doing it full-time.
I say that’s hogwash! Everyone’s notion of what is “right” for their boondocking setup is different.
So, don’t shy away from boondocking if you think it means you have to give up all the creature comforts of your residential home. There’s plenty of grey area to explore between those extremes!
On a final note, I want to mention that it is truly a blessing to have free camping areas at our disposal.
If we don’t treat these areas with respect and take care of them, we provide added incentives for policymakers to take them away.
It is my belief that we absolutely need wild places where we can unplug from modern life and plug into nature.
The more we respect nature when we get to these places, the more likely they are to remain accessible for boondockers.
So, please practice the simple rule of leaving places better than you found them. Not only should you leave no trace, but it doesn’t hurt to take a second to walk around and pick up a few pieces of trash leftover from previous campers.
I hope that you have enjoyed my efforts to dispel some of these misguided boondocking myths.
If you have any other myths or resources that you think boondockers should be aware of, all of us at RVing Know How would love to hear from you!