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Traveling in an RV is all about freedom — hitting the open road to explore wonders off the beaten path. And what’s one way to truly take the road less traveled? Two words — RV boondocking.
Boondocking is camping without all the amenities, and it can be a cost-effective and fun way to travel in an RV. Sure, it’s a little intimidating at first, but with this guide, you can choose the best RV for boondocking and confidently hit the road.
What is Boondocking?
Boondocking in an RV is self-sufficient camping, meaning having no access to water, sewer, or electrical hookups. This can mean parking your rig in the backcountry or pulling over to spend the night at a rest stop or parking lot.
If you’re considering an extended road trip, boondocking is a great way to save some money and allows for more freedom in your route planning. You won’t need to make reservations, and you can go nearly anywhere.
Is RV Boondocking Even Legal?
While setting up camp in the middle of nowhere (or in the middle of a city) might feel suspect, it’s actually encouraged by state and local governments. Those who are willing to go without amenities reduce overcrowding at RV parks and developed campgrounds. Thankfully, there are several places to spend the night without paying a dime. We’ll cover how to boondock in an RV and where you can stay below.
Is It Safe To Go RV Boondocking?
Just like any other camping trip, safety is a key factor to consider. Since many of the locations you’ll find yourself setting up camp don’t often have someone regularly overseeing them, you may be wondering just how safe it is to boondock in an RV. Boondocking in your RV is just as safe as tent camping, if not more. With the option to lock your door at night, you’ll have added protection during this camping experience.
How To Boondock in an RV
As you prepare for your RV boondocking adventure, there are a few steps you can take to ensure a smooth trip!
1. Choose a Time and Location
The first step is to decide when and where you’re going! This will determine the type of supplies you need, where you’ll pick up your RV, and what activities you’ll have access to during your trip. We’ll cover the best locations for boondocking in your RV in the next section.
2. Check the Weather
As you narrow down your time and location, keep an eye on the weather map. Inclement weather may hinder your camping experience and cause safety issues during your stay. If you notice the potential for dangerous weather, you may want to choose a new location or postpone your trip.
3. Rent a Quality RV
After you’ve selected your location, you can search for nearby RV rental locations. Cruise America offers pick-up and drop-off locations across the U.S. Our quality RV rentals are a top choice for a boondocking trip anywhere in the country. Find our nearest location to your trip and make traveling easy!
4. Stock Up On Supplies
Once you’ve picked up your RV, it’s time to stock it with all the supplies you’ll need. Create a checklist full of extra batteries, plenty of food, layers for every weather, and more. Check and double-check your list to make sure you have the essentials. We’ll outline the absolute must-haves you need for your RV boondocking trip later on.
5. Complete Final Checks
Just before you pile in the RV and head out onto the open road, complete final checks. Make sure your tank is full, your batteries are fully charged, and you have everything you need. The last thing you want is to set up camp and realize you forget essential supplies.
6. Hit the Road!
And with that, it’s time for your adventure! Cruise down the road in your RV rental and make all new memories as you boondock in your RV.
Where To Go RV Boondocking
Photo Credit: Instagram User @koupleofkorsys
Let’s book your trip! Before you hit the road, you need to know where you’re headed. There are a few places you can stay during your RV boondocking trip, including:
Many businesses permit RV boondocking in their parking lots, including Walmart, Cracker Barrel, Cabela’s, and Camping World. Call the store manager before your arrival, though, as some states don’t allow overnight camping in parking lots. They may have specific sign-in procedures and parking areas designated for RV travelers. It’s also a good idea to spend some money at these businesses, so it’s worth their while to continue offering this service.
National Forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Areas
National Forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands are generally open to RV campers so long as you can find a level spot to park off of the main road. Some areas have “no camping” signs up, but it’s legal to camp for at least a few days if you don’t spot one. Get yourself a detailed federal lands map as it’s sometimes difficult to know who owns the land you’re trying to camp on. These federal lands are also much more common in the western half of the U.S.
Usually, the goal of boondocking is to avoid RV parks and campgrounds, but you can save a little money by staying in a hookup-free site. You’ll still have access to the bathrooms and water spigots, just as you would with tent camping.
How Long Can You Boondock in an RV?
You know where to go and what to do, but how long can you boondock in an RV? Some national forests and BLM areas allow boondockers to stay up to 14 days. Others will place a limit to typically under a week. Designated campsites and parking lots will likely have stricter guidelines about how long you can stay. Wherever you choose, you’ll want to verify how long you can boondock in your RV and plan accordingly.
Keep in mind that this timeline is based on how prepared you are. If you come equipped with extra batteries and enough supplies, a 14-day trip may be feasible. We’ll cover the essential RV boondocking supplies that you’ll want to add to your packing list below.
Essential Supplies for RV Boondocking
Simplicity is the name of the game when RV boondocking, but there are a few important items that will make your trip a lot more comfortable and safe.
- Water Jugs: H2O is in short supply when you’re camping outside the RV parks. While you can go a few days without a shower or washing dishes, it’s always a good idea to keep a jug or two of drinking water.
- 12v Fans: Without electrical hookups, you won’t be using your RV’s air conditioner. However, you can keep cool with a couple of 12v fans that run off the same batteries as your RV’s lighting system.
- Propane Space Heater: If you thought boondocking was only for the summertime, think again! Cold weather boondocking can be great fun, but using your RV’s heater will quickly drain the tanks. Using a small space heater keeps specific areas warm without burning through so much fuel.
- Composting Toilet: RV toilets are a resource hog. When boondocking for several days, the water tank runs dry, and the sewage tank fills up. A composting toilet will keep your waste sanitary and scent-free.
- First Aid Kit: Boondocking can take your RV rental into remote territory, which means you might be far from medical attention. A simple kit filled with a variety of bandages, sterilizing solutions, and a few tools, like tweezers and scissors, should be more than enough.
- Power Banks: You might be going off the grid hookup-wise, but you’ll still want to make use of your phone, e-reader, or handheld gaming system. A power bank with enough capacity for several charging cycles should keep all your electronics up and running.
- Cell Signal Booster: This one’s a necessity if you’re camping far from civilization. Having a couple of extra bars can be a lifesaver should there be an emergency.
Stock up on these items and do a final walk-through of your RV before you begin your road trip!
Adventuring in a Cruise America RV
Some of the best boondocking RVs are at Cruise America; our RV rentals come in a variety of styles with the amenities you need for a successful trip. Our rental process is simple, and you can tailor it to fit your trip’s needs, whether it be a simple weekend trip or a long-term excursion.
Think you’re ready for a boondocking RV adventure? Book a Cruise America RV today!