Tag Archives: Benchmark atlases

10 Fundamentals for Boondockers

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So you want to save money by camping in a place where you don’t have to pay? Perhaps you want to see natural beauty that might not be present in a private campground. Maybe you need a little more elbow room than you can get in a commercial RV park that’s more like an RV parking lot. For free camping in scenic locations with plenty of space between you and the next rig, you might want to try boondocking (also known as “dry camping” or “primitive camping”).

If you’ve never been boondocking before, it might seem complicated. Where can you camp legally and safely? How can you find the good spots? Should you stay in a town or venture into the wilderness? Have no fear! In this article, I’ll cover ten fundamentals of boondocking so you can make decisions about where to go. I’ll also give you suggestions that will help you have a great time once you get where you’re going.

#1 Before you head out, determine how long you want your boondocking experience to last. An overnight stop on the way to somewhere else will be different from a relaxing two-week stay in nature.

#2 For an overnight stay, decide on the town where you want to take a break and look into what businesses in the area allow overnight parking. Businesses to check into include Wal-Mart; truck stops (Flying J, Pilot, Love’s, TravelCenters of America, Petro, and Bosselman, plus independently owned truck stops); Bass Pro Shop; and Cracker Barrel. Always call a business ahead of time and ask if overnight parking is allowed. If you’re going to be told no, it’s better to know ahead of time than to wake up to a knock on your rig at 2am.

If you can’t find a business that will allow you to park overnight, check for free camping in town or county parks. I’ve camped for free at the county fairgrounds in Blue Earth, Minnesota and the town park in Vermillion, South Dakota.

If all else fails, look online or in your atlas (you are traveling with a paper atlas, right?) for highway or interstate rest areas. Some states have limits on how long folks are allowed to stay in rest areas (when I was traveling in California in 2012, it was eight hours), and there may be signs saying “No Camping” (which I interpret as “don’t pitch a tent”) but as their name states, rest areas are there so drivers can rest and avoid accidents from falling asleep at the wheel. (The Interstate Rest Areas website has a complete state-by-state breakdown of overnight parking rules.)

There are also apps available so you can find out on your phone what rests stops will fill your needs. The free USA Rest Stops app helps find rest stops on interstates as well as U.S. and state highways.

#3 If you’re staying in a business parking lot or at a rest area, know parking lot etiquette. Keep bodily fluids out of the parking lot. Keep your pet(s) under control and clean up after them. Dispose of trash properly. No yelling or honking in the middle of the night.

Most National Forests offer plenty of places for boondocking.

#4 For longer stays, do plenty of research before you set out. Read blog posts written by other boondockers. There’s lots of public land in the United States where people can camp for free. Look for Bureau of Land Management areas, Bureau of Reclamation land, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and Corps of Engineering land where boondocking is allowed.

Gazetteers show public land and the roads that will take you to remote, secluded locations. Benchmark Atlases show elevation, and DeLorme Atlas & Gazateers are also highly respected. 

#5 For both overnight and extended stays, the Free Campsites website is your best friend. This website allows you to search for free and cheap campsites by typing a location into a search bar. Once you have a list of camping areas near your destination, you can look at the details for each area. Folks who have actually camped in the area can leave reviews and photographs. Once you pick a spot, you can click on a “get directions” link which will take you directly to Google Maps to help you navigate to your destination. I’ve camped in free campgrounds across the United States that were found through Free Campsites; I can’t say enough good things about the website

#6 If you’re boondocking on public land, be prepared to have no amenities. Boondockers must be ready to provide their own electricity from solar panels or generators or to do without. Boondockers must carry in their own water for drinking and washing. Most boondocking areas offer no showers, no toilets (pit, flush, or otherwise), no dump stations, and no trashcans. Before you set out, prepare to take care of all your needs while on public land.

I left nothing but footprings.

#7 Practice “leave no trace” camping while on public land. Camp where others have camped before you, not on pristine land. Pick up your microtrash, and don’t leave trash in your fire ring. If you pack it in, be prepared to pack it out. Leave nothing but footprints.

#8 Research fire bans and fire permits while you’re still in civilization. If you plan to have a campfire, find out if it’s legal to do so before you get out of internet range. If you need a fire permit, get one before you go out into the wilderness. A ranger might not be sympathetic to ignorance of a fire ban or need for a fire permit while writing you a ticket for your illegal campfire.

#9 Don’t park too close to other boondockers. Give everyone plenty of elbow room, especially if you have pets or a generator you’re going to be running a lot. People go out into the wilderness for quiet and solitude, not to be under the armpit of another boondocker. If you’re scared to be out in nature alone, park where you can see other people without being right up on them.

#10 If you’re out in nature for an extended period of time, don’t forget to have fun. Watch a sunset. Take a walk. Relax and enjoy your free camping experience.

I took this photo while boondocking on public land.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, Week 2

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A lot happened during the second week of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, so you might want to get comfy before you start reading this post.

Week two of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous started with a seminar on Boondocking in the National Forest and on BLM Land.

What is Boondocking?

RVers tend to have different ideas of the definition of boondocking.

Some say that is strictly parking out in the “boonies” without electric, water, or sewer hook-ups. Others use a broader definition and don’t have the “boonies” requirement – simply parking anywhere without hook-ups (also know as “dry camping”) qualifies as boondocking.

(Thanks to http://www.rv-dreams.com/boondocking.html for the above info.)

Mr. B talked primarily about dispersed camping on public land, including National Forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, Corps of Engineers land, wildlife refuges, and some state owned lands. He gave tips for finding free dispersed camping on public land using atlases, maps, gazetteers, and phone apps. The smartphone app folks at the RTR were talking about is US Public Lands. (See Mr. B’s review of it  about a third of the way down the page.) Mr. B also recommended DeLorme atlases and gazetteers,  and Benchmark atlases.

Many people  spend much of their time boondocking on public land. There are usually 14 day (or less) limits on camping in such areas. In some places the 14 day camping limit is strictly enforced, while in other areas enforcement is lax. It should also be noted that it is illegal to reside on public land, but that such land is open to the public for recreation.

At the end of the presentation, I was talking to two young women, when a third woman walked up and asked if I had a list of blogs that had been mentioned during the women’s meeting. One of the young women piped up that Silly, a woman attending the RTR, had gone around and taken photos of “everyone’s rig” and had posted those photos online. She went on to say that Silly wanted each of us to tag the photo of our rig and add a link to our blogs. I said, “She did what?” I was hoping I had misunderstood what had been said. But no, no misunderstanding. These women seemed to think it was perfectly ok for Silly to have gone around photographing rigs without permission. They assured me that no license plates were shown.

I was shortly marching to Silly’s camp. I was very calm when I walked up, but the look on my face must have been hellfire and brimstone, because the look on her face was nervous fear. In a low, even voice, I said, “I heard you took photos of everyone’s rig and posted them on the internet.” She answered nervously that she had just posted them on Facebook. She immediately followed with an offer to remove photos of my rig. I told her I would appreciate it if she didn’t post any pictures of me or my van anywhere on the internet. Then I left.

Maybe I should have told her that she had no right to come into my camp while I wasn’t there and take photos without permission. Maybe I should have told her that not everyone wants photos of their life plastered all over the internet. Maybe I should have told her a lot of things, but I only told her not to post photos of me and my stuff.

As soon as I saw (the Divine) Miss M, I explained to her all that had happened. She was none too please.

Later that day, I heard Mr. B politely ask Miss M if he could take some photos of her rig. She said yes, then told him what was ok to photograph and what she didn’t want him to take pictures of.

He came over to my van next and politely asked if he could take photos of my van. I thanked him for asking, but told him I’d rather if he didn’t. I then told him about Silly taking photos of rigs without permission and posting the photos on Facebook. He said that at one of the first RTRs, someone had taken photos of rigs and posted them online. One of the women attending the RTR was being stalked, and the stalker recognized her van from the photo online and came out to the gathering to hassle her. It seems like that would be a good lesson in why it’s a bad idea to post pictures without permission!

Tuesday was also open house day. On this day, folks were invited to go around and look at how others had set up their living space. My van and I had a handful of visitors.

The seminar on Wednesday was on stealth parking in the city. It more accurately could have been called stealth parking and sleeping in the city because it was primarily about sleeping in a van and not getting caught. I’ve been living in vans on and off  (mostly on) for five years, so I already knew most of what was covered. There’s also quite a bit of information about stealth parking on the Cheap RV Living website.

Wednesday was also the day of the potato bake! Ms. Dee and her husband M provided baked potatoes for the 70+ rubber tramps who wanted to gather and eat together. Everyone was asked to bring a topping for the potatoes, so we were able to dress our potatoes with quite a variety of yummies, from cheese to bacon bits to green chile salsa. Again, it was nice to have an activity around which to socialize. Thanks again to Ms. Dee and M for hosting this fun meal.

(I had forgotten when the potato bake was held and had to ask my RTR lady friends for help. Thanks to Mr. Jay for looking it up and to Lady Nell for emailing the info right out to me.)

Thursday’s seminar was on work-camping. Mr. B talked mostly about working as a camp host, but also touched on getting a job in a small town with a big tourist season, such as Jackson, Wyoming. He mentioned the sugar beet harvest in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana, but didn’t have many details about this work. Folks who’d been part of the Amazon.com Camperforce spoke about their experiences. (A couple of folks had great experiences, but a woman who’d worked in the Camperforce in a different state had a terrible experience.) At the end of the seminar, a fellow talked about his life as a traveling poker dealer.

I skipped Friday’s seminar on budgeting to go into Quartzsite.

On Saturday I went into Quartzsite and checked out the Big Tent.

I got back on Saturday just in time for the soup dinner. The soup dinner was set up like the chili dinner, where everybody was asked to chip in a can of soup to toss into the pot. Big thanks to The Cook who stepped in again and organized his small but hard-working crew to make several pots of really delicious soup. I remember there was a potato-leek soup and a very nice vegetarian option, which is what I ate. I don’t remember what the other choices were.

On Sunday morning, Mr. B talked about state residency for folks living full time on the road, as well as how those folks can receive mail. I’ve mostly got those things figured out, but I attended so I’ll have some ideas if my situation changes.

On Sunday afternoon was the second women’s meeting.

There was nothing scheduled for Monday morning, but Mr. B added in a “philosophical discussion” about the lies rubber tramps sometimes have to tell in order to live the way we do. I decided not to attend because I wasn’t all that interested in a philosophical discussion and because I suspected some of what I would hear would piss me off. I think I ended up going into town that day.

And then the RTR was over! Just like that!

Read about my first week at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous