How do you pick a boondocking spot?
If you haven’t done much boondocking picking a site can be a little daunting. We had a pretty rough time when we started. We had only stayed in RV parks, campgrounds or parking lots for the first year and a half of fulltiming. Why is that? Well RV parks and campgrounds are easy. For the most part, you don’t have to do any planning other than picking a park near where you want to go. However, boondocking requires more planning. And without proper planning, you can put yourself in a bad situation. You don’t want to have to back up your RV a few miles because there’s no place to turn around. We know people that had to do that.
Here’s what you need to know for anyplace you want to boondock.
- How long you can stay? Many public lands have a 14 day limit, but not all.
- Is there a fire ban? You don’t want a big fine so check before hand.
- Are you allowed to scavenge firewood? Plan ahead and bring wood if you can’t scavenge and fires are allowed.
- Do you have to check in with anyone?
- Can you park anywhere or only in designated sites?
- Is there dangerous wildlife in the area? Is it safe to leave a grill out or will it attract bears?
For these questions calling a local field office (BLM, US Forrest Service ETC.) will be the best place to find answers.
Other things you need to know
- How far is the nearest drinking water source in case you need to refill?
- How far is the nearest hospital and veterinarian if you have pets?
- How far is the nearest grocery store?
- Is there cell service?
- Can your RV even fit?
- Where’s the nearest dump station? In case you need to use a blue boy during your stay.
Many of these questions will be answered in the apps and websites we use. If you can’t find the answers there Google is your best friend when researching. And remember, it can be the best boondocking site in the world. But, if you have to drive two hours to do anything it may not be worth it. On the other hand, if you can bring everything you’ll need and don’t have to leave that won’t matter.
It took a little trial and error to figure out which apps and sites had which information, and what order to do our research in. You may have, or find, a different way that works best for you. If so, we’d love to hear about it.
The first place we check is the Allstays app, it’s our primary source. It provides great filters to find your favorite type of RV parking in the area you want. They also have many good reviews and photos. If there isn’t anything available for where we want to go, or we want to know more about an area, we then visit http://www.freecampsites.net.
This will typically provide a few other options not on AllStays, but it’s more targeted. Once we’ve picked a few possible locations we use Campendium to look at more reviews and photos to polish the plan and narrow it down.
Once we pick a site we verify the route with google maps and Google Earth. These will also give you a good idea if your RV can make it to the site. Also, don’t blindly trust reviews. The terrain, roads, etc. may have changed since it was written. Check when you get there. Don’t be afraid to detach and scout an area before trying to take your RV in. Drones can also be good scouting tools if they’re allowed in that area.
We verify cellular coverage by googling AT&T and T-Mobile coverage maps.
We’ll also check previous weather records and trends. We attempt to chase 70 to keep the RV comfortable. If it’s been 50 degrees the month we’re looking at going for the previous three years then we’ll pick a different area.
Final tips when you arrive.
Don’t park in a low-lying area if you have a choice. Mud can quickly develop a sticky situation. Park using the landscape to your advantage, use trees or rock walls to decrease wind, be careful of tall trees with low hanging limbs, not only while parking but in case of storms.
Other useful resources.
Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts are great for finding someplace to park overnight. We don’t use them often since we try to find boondocking sites that can accommodate several RVs for a few days.