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The great thing about boondocking is that you’re unencumbered by the need to have electricity, water, and sewer hookups. That means that you can camp just about anywhere, from big box store parking lots to National Forest lands.
In today’s guide, we’ll discuss some boondocking tips for beginners that focus on where you can camp without worry of being towed or otherwise getting in trouble for parking your rig overnight.
Boondocking Tips for Beginners: Camping in Urban Areas
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From time to time you’ll find yourself in need of a place to camp overnight in an urban area. And when those occasions arise, you’ve got plenty of choices.
First and foremost on the list would be Walmart. These stores welcome RVers and have an abundance of parking lot space for you (and many others) to park your RV or camper overnight for free.
These parking lots tend to have great security with cameras all over the place for added peace of mind. Plus it’s an easy walk into the store to stock up on any needed supplies.
There’s even an app for checking which Walmarts allow overnight camping.
Other big box stores also allow camping, including Target and Cabella’s. Again, be sure you check the specific location allows camping before you set up shop.
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Here’s another one of my best boondocking tips for beginners: if you’re desperate for a place to pull over and park for the night, rest stops are a viable option.
While the noise from the road might be a bit much, you’ll at least be off the road in a well-lit area.
However, many rest stops are in the middle of nowhere with little or no security or supervision. Be vigilant about locking your vehicle, trailer, or RV, and close all the blinds in your RV or camper for added privacy.
This isn’t to say that rest stops are dangerous, but the level of security is certainly not what you get in a Walmart parking lot.
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Another option is to park for the night at a truck stop.
Again, the noise will be a major disadvantage, but there will be plenty of spaces to park alongside truckers and supplies aren’t far away in the convenience store.
Yet another roadside possibility is visitor centers. While many visitor centers are closed overnight, some leave the doors open so travelers can use the restroom. Typically, they are well lit, though they often don’t have much in the way of security or supervision.
Boondocking Tips for Beginners: Camping on Public Lands
Boondocking on public lands would be my personal choice. There are millions upon millions of acres of public lands where you can camp for free, and likely do so without anyone else nearby.
As I explain in the video above, Bureau of Land Management lands are a prime target for boondocking. Be sure to check out the video to learn how to find campsites on BLM lands.
Forest service lands are another great resource for boondocking.
Unless there’s a sign that says otherwise, you can pretty much camp anywhere in a national forest. Obviously, since you’re in an RV or pulling a trailer, you’ll need to stick to established forest roads and use pull outs and campsites that other people have already used.
But even with those limitations, you can easily get way off the beaten path and enjoy free camping in the forest, likely with a lot of privacy.
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Of course, Forest Service roads aren’t exactly well-maintained freeways, so it might not be advisable to take your diesel pusher on a two-track into the woods. But if you have a 4×4 and you’re pulling an off-road capable trailer, you can find some epic spots to camp.
For guidance, download the US Public Lands app. It’s an excellent resource for finding free camping on public lands.
Another tip for camping on Forest Service lands is that many fee-based campgrounds are open and free after the season ends. Though amenities like electricity, water, trash pickup, and vault toilets might not be available, you can usually find a window of several weeks after the campground closes for the season in which you can boondock. Check with the local ranger station before heading to the campground to ensure the gates are open and won’t be closed while you’re there.
Boondocking Tips for Beginners: Be Prepared
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In case you missed the first two articles in this series on power sources and conserving water, be sure you check those out for valuable tips on being prepared for boondocking.
Though it can be a lot of work to get things together to be off-grid for a few days, the rewards are often very much worth it. And even if you’re just boondocking in a parking lot over night on your way to someplace else, it’s still a great way to camp easily without spending any money.
As with anything related to camping and overlanding, taking the time beforehand to plan and prepare will ensure that your trip will be fun, safe, and successful!