What Is Boondocking Camping?

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There is nothing quite like leaving the city and going on a wilderness adventure! However, if you are like me, you may be tired of noisy campsites surrounded by people. Well, allow me to tell you the good news! There is a way to go on grand wilderness adventures without being surrounded by other noisy campers, namely going boondocking! So, what exactly is boondocking camping?

Boondocking, otherwise known as boondock camping, is the practice of staying a night or for an extended period in a caravan, campervan, tent, or even a car in an off-grid location. This can be any location that does not have access to facilities such as water, sewage, or electricity.

So, if you are thinking of going on a holiday road trip with your family or friends, boondocking may be a great alternative to the standard camping trip! Read on if you want to know precisely what boondocking is, as well as things to consider before trying it yourself.

What Is Boondocking Camping?

Essentially boondocking camping is staying for a night or longer in a location that doesn’t have any facilities such as access to water, electricity, or sewage.

Usually, it also refers to staying off the beaten track, far away from people and the noisy camping grounds or caravan parks. This makes it the perfect holiday plan for anyone who wants to be surrounded by wilderness as it allows you to appreciate how idyllic nature is!

However, in practice, most boondockers will realize that getting away from the crowd will require passing through and often even staying a night in a built-up area such as a city or town. It is common to stay the night in a parking lot in these situations. There are a lot of businesses that allow the practice, such as Walmart, Cabela’s, Cracker Barrel, and Camping World.

If the town or city does not have any of these businesses, you could always use the Allstays App to find parking lots that let you stay the night for free.

However, before setting up your rig in a parking lot, you should always approach the business and get their permission first. It’s also an excellent idea to spend some money at their establishments as they are essentially letting you stay the night for free.

The practice of staying the night in a parking lot is also referred to as boondocking, as you usually do not have direct access to water, electricity, or sewage. Although, if you ask the store manager nicely, they are often quite willing to let you use the toilet!

Why Is It Called Boondocking?

The name boondocking comes from the word “boondocks,” otherwise known as the “boonies,” which was imported by American troops who fought in the Philippine-American war. Boondocks or the boonies were derived from the Philippine word “bundók,” which means mountain.

What Type Of Vehicle Can You Use To Go Boondocking?

The vehicle of choice for most boondockers is either a campervan or a caravan, especially for longer camping trips, as these offer more space, comfort, and amenities. However, it’s also possible to use a regular car, especially a 4×4, to get to more remote places.

Most experienced boondockers will prefer an RV, which they likely have kitted out to be more comfortable so that they can stay in a location for longer. However, if you are just starting boondocking, hiring an ordinary campervan, caravan, or even going in your car is completely fine!

The convenience of a campervan is the reason most experienced boondockers use them. These vehicles don’t need much in terms of setup, as you can just pull off the side of the road, and you are all set for your stay. However, they usually have less space than a caravan as the driver’s section does take up a lot of living space.

On the other hand, a caravan has a larger interior living space, with the advantage of still using your car independently. This means that you can go sightseeing or buy supplies without having to take down your camp!

However, Caravans do come with a severe disadvantage as it is pretty challenging to reverse, park, and even drive with a caravan attached to the back of your car. Therefore, if you’re just starting out or are not the best at reversing, the campervan is a better option.

Lastly, you can always go boondocking in your car. This is a fantastic option if you own a van or a larger car. However, if you own a small car, it is not extremely comfortable to sleep in for an extended period of time. The last thing you need while being on holiday is to wake up with a sore back and neck and then have to drive hundreds of miles that day!

Is Boondocking Safe?

Boondocking is safe if you are adequately prepared. Pack the essentials such as enough water and food, a first aid kit, a power bank, and make sure your car or RV has enough gas to get you back to civilization. The most dangerous part of boondocking, like camping, is if a medical emergency occurs.

The most important safety precaution you can take when out in the wilderness is letting someone know where you are or planning to go. Often you might find yourself in areas where there is little to no cell phone reception, and therefore, contacting someone in case of an emergency is not always possible. Alternatively, you could buy a satellite phone as these have signal everywhere.

A common safety issue that happens when boondocking, especially if it’s your first time, is that your vehicle runs out of gas. To avoid running out of gas, take a jerrycan along. This little precaution can avert the disastrous situation of being stuck out in the wilderness!

The other common issue while boondocking is that your vehicle battery runs flat. This is often caused by using the battery while parked for extended periods. To avoid this catastrophe, all you need to do is pack plenty of power banks and avoid using the heater in the car. Instead, pack warm clothes and a suitable sleeping bag while traveling somewhere cold.

Lastly, always have a medical kit on hand! The most dangerous part of being in the wilderness is having an accident. This is especially true when you are far away from medical care. Therefore, knowing first aid and the route to the nearest medical clinic or hospital is the best way to keep yourself and your fellow travelers safe.

How Expensive Is Boondocking?

The purpose of boondocking is to have a cheap holiday. The only actual cost that you will be facing is the rental cost of an RV (if you don’t own one) and the cost of gas which also depends on how far you are planning on traveling. The only other significant cost you’ll have is food for the trip.

The reason boondocking is so cheap is that the whole idea is to avoid caravan parks or built-up camping grounds where you must pay a lot to spend the night. There are many places where you can go and stay for a small fee, or even for free. This is legal and often even encouraged!

Areas that allow and encourage boondocking include land managed by the National Forrest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. You might need to pay a small fee or have a permit in these areas. Therefore, before starting your trip, you should download a Federal Lands Map, which will tell you what you need to stay in specific locations!

Alternatively, staying on privately owned land is also often possible if you are in the countryside. Most farmers not only allow people to stay the night but actively encourage it. Just make sure to approach the landowner before setting up for the night!


Boondocking is an excellent alternative to the standard camping trip! It is super easy and cheap to find somewhere to stay the night and is also much easier to set up a camp for extended periods of time. Also, not to mention you can really appreciate how idyllic nature is!