What is Boondocking?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The term “boondocking” is used to refer to camping in a recreational vehicle (RV) without access to amenities, typically in a secluded location. You may also hear boondocking referred to as free camping, dry camping, or independent parking. There are a number of reasons to choose to boondock rather than using designated RV camping areas, ranging from a desire to be in a more secluded area to a desire to save money on camping fees.

RV camping in a rustic area with no amenities is called "boondocking".
RV camping in a rustic area with no amenities is called "boondocking".

There is some dispute in the RV community about what, exactly, boondocking entails. Most people generally agree that the term implies a lack of amenities, and a certain amount of self reliance, but the boundaries of boondocking vary, depending on who one talks to. For example, one person would say that running the RV's electricity and self-contained plumbing systems independent of amenities would be considered boondocking, while others argue that the use of electricity would violate the premise of “roughing it.”

In order for boondocking to work, people have to think ahead. Some people outfit their recreational vehicles specifically with boondocking in mind, equipping them with extra water storage tanks, composting toilets, solar panels, and energy efficient appliances and other measures designed to allow the RV to become self-sufficient for days or weeks. Other campers, who may only boondock for a night or two now and then, may not make any changes to their vehicles to accommodate boondocking.

Because boondocking often involves being in an area where camping or parking is technically prohibited, boondockers have a well-established honor code which includes precepts like cleaning up after oneself and helping other campers out if they appear to be in need of assistance. In this way, boondockers hope to get a reputation as courteous, respectful people who are not interested in causing trouble or in violating any laws beyond those which restrict camping activity.

Some boondockers claim that they enjoy the relative seclusion which boondocking provides, and they point out the fact that some parks with amenities are not very pleasant to stay in, with poorly maintained facilities and crowded camping areas. Such camps are not really what most people have in mind when they think of a vacation close to nature, leading boondockers to strike out on their own for more enjoyable camping spots. Others simply appreciate the savings provided by parking in free zones, arguing that parking fees for RVs are often high.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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