Urban Boondocking: The Ultimate Guide


The Ultimate Guide to Urban Boondocking. 

Boondocking has become a ubiquitous sight in most urban areas, especially in the US and Europe.

For some, this conventional take on traditional camping is a result of necessity.

Constructions on the road, inclement weather, and accidents on the way are some of the reasons why some people resort to boondocking.

On the other hand, it is a way of life for many people, especially the young. 

A typical boondocking is done in an RV, a Winnebago, a caravan, or even a car.

But with the rise of the tiny house movement, it is not uncommon to see a tiny house boondocking in different parts of the world.

However, it is a lifestyle that is typical to developed countries. 

What is urban boondocking? 

Urban boondocking literally means camping out in your car by the campgrounds or other urban areas.

The most common places for boondocking in the United States include shopping mall car parks, commercial parking lots, truck stops, and trailheads.  

Campers do not have access to the main sources of electricity, water lines, and sewer hookups.

This is also why boondocking is also called dry camping, free camping, wild camping, dispersed camping, and blacktop boondocks. 

The term boondocking seems to have originated from bundog, which is a Tagalog (Filipino) word and roughly translates to a mountain.

During the Second World War, the US soldiers stationed in the Philippines used the term to identify bushy rural areas.

When they returned to the US, boonies was the loose term that became commonly used, and it stuck.  

What are the different types of boondocking? 

Experienced campers will understand that there are different types of boondocking.

However, if you are new to this exciting way of life, all types of camping can look the same.

In this section, I will explain the different types of boondocking.  

Wallydocking. 

Parking lots of Walmart have become a favorite of many campers looking for an overnight stay.

Boondocking at a Walmart is so common that it even has a name, Wallydocking.  

Some campers deliberately plan for an overnight stay in one of America’s most popular chain of stores.

On the other hand, some campers and RVers are forced to stay in one of Walmart’s parking lots due to unforeseen circumstances.

Even if you don’t commit to an overnight stay, instances of bad weather can force you to wait it out.  

Moochdocking. 

This is another type of boondocking where you stay over at a relative’s or friend’s place en-route to your destination.

Moochdocking is when you park your RV in the driveway that belongs to a family member or a friend.  

Some Home Owner Associations have rules against having an RV parked on the street so be sure to know the rules and regulations where you are staying.

Blacktop boondocking. 

Camping with your RV in rest areas and parking lots is called blacktop boondocking.

These areas are typically limited to overnight stays, and you might also need to seek permission.

Blacktop boondocking is allowed in many states throughout the United States.  

Boondocking on developed campgrounds. 

Another type of boondocking that is common is in developed campgrounds. These campgrounds can be private or public properties.

In most cases, you will have to make a reservation to boondock with your RV.  

Boondocking on developed campgrounds is not limited to an overnight stay, and it is also common in countries outside the United States.

In this type of boondocking, you may not have access to amenities. However, you might have access to a water spigot and a pool in some cases.  

Boondocking on undeveloped campsites.  

This type of boondocking is common in places such as the campsites owned by the United States Forest Service.

There are no hookups and no services in this type of boondocking.  

Boondocking on undeveloped campsites is best suited for seasoned campers and RVers because you will be completely off-grid.

This type of boondocking is not recommended for you if this is your first time camping in an RV or any type of mobile home.  

What are the best places for urban boondocking in the United States? 

If you live in the United States or you are passing through this great country in your RV, you might be looking for the best place to boondock.

Well, I’ve got you covered.  

Below are some of the best places to boondock in the US.  

Truck stops. 

Most of the truck stops in the US welcome RVers and campers for overnight stay.

However, it is always best to inquire before you settle for the night. If you decide to stay in the truck stop, be considerate by not hogging the truckers’ spot and taking care of your own trash.  

Pro tip – Give your business to the truck stop by using their services. Also, if you don’t feel safe in a particular stop, move on.  

Parking lots. 

Retailers, including Home Depot, Costco, Lowe’s, and Walmart, are very accommodating when it comes to Rvers and campers.

But of course, it is wise to ask the store’s manager if you can stay overnight.

This will prevent you from getting booted in the middle of the night. Plus, it costs nothing to be courteous.  

Rest stops.  

Rest stops or areas are also very frequently filled with campers and boondockers.

Most of the rest areas will have facilities for campers, including drinking water, hookups, electricity, and even dumping stations.  

Unlike parking lots, rest stops will allow free stays ranging from an overnight stay to a couple of days.

However, you should ask before you can park for a night or two. This is important as state laws differ significantly.  

Casinos. 

Casinos are not the first choice when it comes to parking your RV. But if you are in an urban area, casinos can be a fantastic place for boondocking.

While most of them do not have hookup facilities, in bigger cities, you will have options for hookups to amenities and full security.  

But of course, the amenities typically come at a price. Security comes without a cost in most cases.

In the case of casinos too, you need to ask if you can park for an overnight stay and also check if there are fees involved.  

Pro tip – Even if you are not a gambler, make it a point to drop a coin or two in one of the slot machines.

You will earn brownie points from the management, and of course, you have fun as well.  

Other places to consider for urban boondocking.  

In urban areas, you should also check out places where you think that parking RVs are allowed.

Most of the places in the United States are very welcoming. If a particular site is strictly against you parking your mobile home, it could be that the state has laws against it.  

These are the places that you should check out for urban boondocking: 

  • Restaurants 
  • Schools 
  • Visitor centers  
  • Private properties  
  • Convention centers 
  • Military recreation facilities  
  • Parking lots of factory outlets  
  • Urban RV parks 
  • Luxury Parks  

What are the factors to consider for safe urban boondocking? 

Boondocking in an urban area is a little different from camping out in the open such as a park.

Below are the most important factors to consider for safe urban boondocking. 

Choose your parking location with care.  

The place you choose to park will have a lot to do with your safety, which is the primary factor that you should consider.

Parking lots of shopping centers and rest stops have the advantage of the security, onsite restrooms, and easy access to other amenities.  

On the other hand, parking in apartment complexes and residential neighborhoods can be relatively risky.

Chances of running into unscrupulous characters are high, and you also don’t have access to restrooms or amenities.  

Don’t overstay your welcome.  

Although most places that I have mentioned above are forgiving, don’t make the mistake of staying more than two or three nights at a stretch in one place.

In urban areas where there is traffic all the time, you would think that people don’t get uneasy when a car keeps parking overnight in their neighborhood.  

One of the smartest moves for safe urban boondocking is to keep on moving, literally.  

Keep a low profile. 

It is never safe to let people know you are living in your car unless you are parked in an RV park with other campers.

Among the dead giveaways are taking out your camp chairs, keeping the lights on at night with blaring music or TV, and keeping your blinds open for people to peep in.

These are ways you can compromise your safety.  

It is best to keep as low a profile as possible at all times. It is also a great practice to clean up after yourself.

Apart from leaving no trace, it removes the stigma from people assuming that boondockers are sloppy and messy.  

Conclusion. 

Urban boondocking is becoming more popular as more people experiment with alternative lifestyles. 

Statistics show that up to 77 million households in the US have members in the family who are campers, from regular to occasional.  

Many boondockers love the freedom that comes from the experience. But the abundance of fantastic places to park your RVs and cars for urban boondocks is too good to be missed.     

I hope this post gave you a head start into urban boondocking. I welcome you to share your boondocking experiences as well as questions in the comment section below.  

References: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boondocks

https://blog.goodsam.com/urban-boondocking-as-a-survival-technique/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/monicahoughton/2018/04/16/why-camping-is-rising-in-popularity-especially-among-millennials/#132fcfbf16c0

Dean

I bought my first camping trailer in 1972 and since then I have owned several different types of RVs from pickup campers to Class A & B motor homes as well as several different size camping trailers.

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