The Art of Boondocking




Boondocking has different stories related to its origin but the most accepted origin is credited to American military men serving within the Philippines in the twentieth century. The word boondock is a Tagalog word for mountain, bundog. The servicemen started using the word to denote a rural or bushy location when they got home.

The recreational vehicle (RV) community started applying the word to describe camping in rural areas. For instance, if you are going fishing to a local national park in your truck camper, surviving effectively in the area without hookups is boondocking.

Boondocking which can also be referred to as dispersed camping, the art of driving your vehicle into the wilds and camping for free on public land. Boondocking can work for everyone particularly if your lifestyle entails being outdoors in peace, enjoying the quiet and beautiful natural scenes. It is an enjoyable experience to live completely on public lands like mountains, forests, and deserts without paying a penny for it.

Modern-day RV’s are comfortable and offer features suitable for boondocking. These features and available equipment include RV solar panels, large battery banks, wind and engine generators, microwave, ovens. RV’s are also well equipped with large freshwater and wastewater holding tanks, microwave ovens, large storage areas, swamp coolers, refrigerators and other gadgets.


Why you should Boondock;

Fun: You have the freedom to choose your desired natural location. You can decide to camp in forests, desert, mountains or along a beautiful beach.

Cost: Boondocking on public lands is usually free. Although, boondocking on some lands requires a fee. This fee is usually a very low price therefore, boondocking helps you save money.

Nature: It helps you discover the sites and scenes of nature. Boondocking helps you discover nature by providing a first-row seat to the nature show in contrast to a back row seat when staying in a crowded campground. If you are on public land and there are no signs of camping, go for boondocking.

Privacy: Boondocking provides the peace and serenity for the person. If you want to escape the noisy and crowded city, opt for it. It provides an enjoyable feeling in a quiet environment.

Healthy: Access to fresh air, the sounds of nature, and plenty of room to roam is beneficial to your health. Boondocking prevents overcrowding that is usually associated with campgrounds. This greatly reduces the spread of diseases too.

Environment: RV boondocking uses fewer resources than life in a fixed dwelling. The people tend to use less water and create less wastewater. An alternative source of energy like solar and wind is used for electricity. An effective propane heater is used to generate heat, and an energy efficient vent fan or swamp cooler is used for cooling. This helps our environment and reduces the depletion of ozone layer.


Sites for RV Boondocking;

They are a lot of campsites that are yet to be discovered on our public lands, from forests, mountains, deserts, or streams. Fortunately, these sites are yet to be developed, they are still the way mother nature created them.

When looking for RV boondocking campsites, it is best to stick to roads. When driving down a gravel or dirt road, you may regularly see turnouts in which others have camped earlier. It is advisable to stick to these established sites.


Best ways to find a site;

Here are some guidelines for locating fantastic boondocking campsites:

Mapping out the location: Good maps are important for boondocking. Benchmark and DeLorme provide great state atlases that usually show public lands. To get greater details along with a few back roads, use BLM and Forest Service maps. USGS topo maps are also useful in zeroing in on an area. Finally, to get a perfect lay of the land, Google Earth is used for satellite image viewing of the location. This software provides you with a bird’s eye view of the location by showing roads that may not be on your map, terrain features like a mountain in 3D. Also, Google Earth shows latitude and longitude, which can then be entered into your GPS, making navigation easy.

Public land office: Contacting the nearby public land office for information on boondocking in that area is essential. Many federal agencies cam as well have this information on their websites.


To avoid difficulties and getting lost, select a base camp. Further exploration of the area can then be done after you have chosen an easy to locate campsite. Explore the area ideally with a tow vehicle for potential boondocking sites. Side roads may also serve as a hint for where others have camped before. After which you then locate the perfect boondocking campground.

After getting a preferred boondocking campsite, there are also a few things to consider before bringing in the RV:

  • Presence or absence of low hanging branches and trees.
  • How reasonable is the site level?
  • Presence of any dead branches that stand a chance of falling during hind winds.
  • Relationship of trees to your RV solar panels, wind generator, internet service or satellite TV.
  • Drainage of the campsite and possibility of flooding.
  • The capability of orientating your RV in relation to the sun for solar panel output, optimal heating, and cooling.
  • If using a cell phone or mobile broadband internet, do you have service at the proposed site? Finding out you can’t call Uncle Ed after setting up camp is no fun.
  • And lastly, is how gorgeous the view is. However, this might not be important as such campsites are difficult to come by.


Tips for a great boondocking experience;

After choosing a suitable campsite, you will have to get well prepared before boondocking. At the very least, charge up your RV’s house batteries, fill up your freshwater tank and propane tanks. Also, make sure you empty your black water and grey water holding tanks. With the above tips, you will be good for some days especially if you properly conserve power.

However, if you want to go the extra mile in boondocking, to maximize your camping experience and increase your stay. There are a few things you should do:

Battery Power:

Keeping your batteries charged is the most difficult challenge when boondocking. The best available solution is to effectively conserve battery power. You can upgrade to efficient LED light to effectively save power. Turning off devices and appliances that create phantom loads can save power. Such appliances include TVs, satellite receivers, microwave ovens, stereos, and security systems. For devices that shouldn’t be turned off, it is advisable to limit their usage. For instance, only keep a light source on if you are using it and ideally only one light source at a time. Highly efficient LED lights should be used in place of incandescent lights. A propane heater which consumes little amount of energy and also more efficient should be used for generating it. However, the room should be well ventilated to prevent propane pollution from occurring.

The methods for recharging your batteries while boondocking include:

  • Solar Panels– This is the best means of charging your batteries. It is completely automatic, safe, silent, and great for your batteries. The initial cost for a solar panel may be high but it is worth the penny paid for it in the long run.
  • Wind Generator: It is a great alternative to solar power. Wind energy can be effectively used to charge batteries. However, the spinning blades produce noise.
  • Generator: This helps to supply power to your converter/charger for battery charging. The disadvantages include the noise, air pollution from fumes, fuel expenses. Additionally, the fun wilderness experience an be ruined.



The average water by city inhabitants is about 70 gallons a day. You might have to reduce water usage considering the fact that RVs only contain about 30 to 90 gallons of water. To help reduce water issues, you may bring extra water along in water bladders. Fortunately, RV showers and toilets don’t use large amounts of water like residential units do, greatly helping in conserving water. However, there are other ways to conserve even more water.

  • Water Usage: Effectively use the water and do not let it go unused. Avoid running the faucet the entire time while washing hands or brushing teeth. When waiting for water to get hot, use a container to capture the cold water for other uses.
  • Navy Showers: This involves turning on the shower to wet your body, turning it off while you soap up, and then turning it on again to rinse. Installation of an on/off valve on the shower ease this procedure. A low flow model shower can also be used to conserve more water for other uses.
  • Knobs: Label each cold or hot knob to make it easier to get the right temperature subsequent times.
  • Solar camp shower: Using a shower camp shower filled from a nearby stream helps conserve water.
  • Toilet: Avoid using a lot of water to flush the toilet. Instead, use a spray bottle for the last rinse of the toilet seat.
  • Dishwashing– Use paper towels to wipe dishes off before washing. Then, heat up a little water in a pan, and then wash the dishes out of this pan. Finally, rinse in another pan or bowl of cold water. Pour water outside when done, preferably on a plant.
  • Hand sanitizer: Clean hands with hand sanitizers instead of water to reduce water usage.



Adhering to the above guidelines can help cut down on the amount of water going into your tanks thereby conserving water. A few boondocking experience will give you a hint of how quickly black and grey tanks fill up. However, to prevent you from having to run for a dump station, there are some things you could do. Things like putting used toilet paper in a paper bag to reduce the amount of waste entering your black water tank. Also, shower outside with a solar camp shower. Additionally, you can practice keeping a jug of water outside for washing of face and hands.

Propane: This extraordinary gas makes a lot of your RV’s comfortable. It makes cooking, heating, baking, refrigeration, and warm showers easy. To avoid emptying your tanks quickly, limit the times you use run your RV’s furnace for heating. The use of a catalytic heater will help increase the temperature and also would not run down your batteries like a forced-air furnace. Also, these heaters do not have vents so there is a need for ventilation. You can also bring an extra propane cylinder for camping if possible. With experience, you will quickly learn how long your propane supply will last. Barbecuing, cooking over a campfire with an iron cookware, and setting your water heater to pilot mode helps conserve propane. Also, you can put on the water heater for about 10 minutes before you bathe, and then turn it off for the rest of the day.

Boondocking Can Be Enjoyable

Boondocking is a fun and low-cost activity, and also easy on the environment. Using only a fraction of the water an everyday city dweller uses, creating far less wastewater, and using much less electricity. Coupled to the fact that most of the electricity comes from solar or wind power, boondocking is green living. You can also limit your effect on the environment by practicing stealth camping, removing all trash and camping equipments helps the campsite maintains its natural beauty. Camp at least 100 feet away from a water source, like a river or lake. Also, avoiding washing or dumping dishwater into a nearby water source and always use a biodegradable soap when washing. Avoid deforestation of trees by using dead woods for campfires.

Try boondocking today, take care of our environments for future generations’ enjoyment today!!!


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