boondocking - free dry camping - homemade truck camper - awesome sunset

Wanna stop spending all your "rent money" on campsites? Then learn how to Boondock!

"Boondocking" basically refers to camping long-term completely off the grid without external power, gas, waste, and water hookups.

Thousands of people everywhere are boondocking right now. Many are far out of your sight, enjoying the wilderness, like a pioneer. Others are doing it right under your nose, living quiet lives in and out of their tiny-home vehicles, driving off whenever they see fit.

While urban boondocking seems to be a decaying art form as cities crack down on "overnighting" (even making a dent on Walmart's long-time encouragement of 24-hr RV parking), the American West still has thousands of square miles of scarcely explored public wilderness that can be camped absolutely freely, as your public right.

If you have an RV or vehicle suitable for conversion, you too can be a boondocker, and finally stop paying "double rent" on both your stationary home and your mobile one.

To make it work, you'll likely need to upgrade your systems -- (I highly recommend solar power) -- And believe it or not, it's possible to do the upgrade for about the same as a month's "rent" at a campsite -- and after that... years of "free" power!

Of course, the other task is to adjust your lifestyle towards conserving more electricity, water, and other forms of energy that we take for granted in our first-world lifestyles... but I'll just assume that you found this website precisely because that's what you're interested in! šŸ™‚

free camping blm and national forest land

Is your budget feeling a bit stretched by the high cost of long-term camping?

Then you may be surprised to find out that there are huge areas of the American West where you can simply pull off the road and camp for free. And when I say "huge," I mean HUGE!

All you have to do is look at your map to find areas marked as National Forest or BLM land, and you'll see that they literally are everywhere. These lands are owned by the Federal Government. (BLM stands for the Bureau of Land Management). And you have the right as a citizen to politely pull off the road and set up camp, so long as there isn't some local ordinance against it. It really is that easy.

Public lands held by the National Forest Servi...

Public lands held by the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in the Western US. Data from http://www.wildlandfire.com/docs/2007/western-states-data-public-land.htm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of the cheap and free campgrounds listed on FreeCampsites.Net are within BLM or National Forest lands. Some are hardly more than a picnic bench and a fire ring, and maybe an "iron ranger" box for you to honorably deposit your small camp fee. Many more, though, are completely primitive sites with maybe a fire ring and a signpost, OR... nothing at all but an obvious clearing where others have camped. But the simple fact is, that if are a self-sufficient boondocker, you don't need to spend any time at all researching official campsites. You can simply drive into a pretty area, find a spot you like, and camp as long as you like.

There is usually just one rule that you should check on, and that is the one about the "dispersed camping" time limit. Typically the rule is that you can't spend more than 14 days in a row in the same spot. After 14 days you'll need to drive to a different location at least 30 miles away until a certain amount of time has passed (usually 14-76 days) before you can return.

Note: Some experienced boondockers will tell you that the farther you get off the beaten path, the less likely a ranger will even know you're camping out there. While it's cool to know that one could actually get away with a much longer stay, I prefer to keep to the "honor code". (And after 1-2 weeks, I tend to get excited to check out new areas anyway!)

Continue Reading: How To Find Dispersed Camping Sites

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free campsites

Question 1: How much are you paying to camp?

Question 2: Has it been worth it, or are you looking for a cheaper way?

Don't get me wrong... Paid campsites definitely offer some familiar conveniences to new or occasional campers or those who want their RV lifestyle to resemble a "rustic resort"...

But I'm guessing since you landed on this page that like many long-term or full-time campers, you're getting tired of the expense.

Considering that even if you're able to find an under-$25/day long-term campground, you're still looking at a monthly budget that resembles renting a room in the city. If you can afford it, that's one thing. But if you're trying to stretch a small fixed income, the monetary outlay -- not to mention other inconveniences of sharing an popular campground with city-folk -- must be starting to wear on your patience!

Did you know that it's completely possible to camp for free?

It's true! There are tons of free campsites, along with many under $12. Many of them are on public land, and they vary in the type and amount of "hookups" (approaching NONE)... but they're totally free to use.

Here's an example of a free campsite:

Chiriaco Summit - Chiriaco Summit, California
(1 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5, rated)

A free dry camping area behind the General Patton Museum. No facilities at campsites. Fuel, gift shop, post office, mini-mart, and restaurant nearby. Check out the website for more services and facilities. Look for sign "Free Dry Camping" at east edge of museum parking lot directing you to camping area behind museum. Multiple camp sites areas along several east-west dirt roads. Dirt roads OK for cars/RVs. Some freeway noise, but site is out of sight of service road....

build-simple-truck-camper

Free campsite near Flagstaff, AZ

Here's a $6/night campsite:

Corn Springs Campground - Desert Center, California
(7 votes, average: 3.29 out of 5, rated)
Camping Fee: $6/night. Nine camp sites including one group site is available with tables, grills, potable water, and shade ramadas. Handicap accessible vaulted toilets are also available in this campground. The 10 miles of gravel road to the springs from I-10 is very rough: average speed about 12 MPH. The Corn Springs Campground is located deep in a canyon of the Chuckwalla Mountains, and is situated by a stand of more than 60 native California fan palms. This oasis supports abundant wildlife and is an important stopping place for migratory birds. Corn Springs was a major occupation site of prehistoric Native American Indian groups....

If you hadn't already gathered as much, these listings are reproduced from an online directory chock full of cheap and free camp grounds.

It's called: FreeCampsites.Net

boondocking - free dry camping - homemade truck camper - awesome sunset

Free campsite in Cottonwood, AZ

Most of the cheap and free sites are in the scenic wilderness of the Desert Southwest of California and Arizona, which respectively have 218 and 124 listings apiece. Most other states have between 10 and 40 $11/day and under sites listed. Many also accept the usual discounts.

So if the thought of giving your a shot at casual or long-term "boondocking" is sounding appealing, check out the directory, and see how much "rent money" you can begin saving every month, while seeing a bit more of the country you may have been missing all this time!


build-a-truck-bed-camper-cheap

Free campsite in Sedona, AZ


UPDATE: Over the past months full-timing in the Southwest USA, I've personally gotten A TON of great leads on FreeCampsites.net. But over timeĀ I've noticed that the sites listed tend towards the "standard" sites that anyone can find, if you just go to the local forest ranger's office. What you won't tend to find listed there are THE BEST Free Camping Sites in an area, simply because regulars aren't likely to advertise their favorite boondocking camps for the whole internet!





If you're interested in a list of personal Top Free CampsitesĀ in AZ, NM, TX, UT, CA, and NV
-- including favorite destinations like the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Sedona -- you'll want to check out this collection of Free Campsite guides from Frugal Shunpikers:

books - free campsites sedona zion grand canyon