Boondocking in Baja on the beach in a van | Photo: Jess Stiles | RV Today


Boondocking Tips to Get Comfortable Off-Grid

Photo: Drifter Journey

Boondocking Tips | Pinnable Image | RV Today

Boondocking provides the ultimate sense of freedom to many RVers. To others, it’s a way to save money by not paying for campgrounds. For us, it’s both. 

However you look at it, boondocking is essentially camping for free, without the facilities or utilities of a paid campground. This includes endless campsites in nature, truck stops, Wal-Mart parking lots, and the occasional incognito hotel parking lot.

Since moving into our van in May of 2018, my husband, Greg, and I have only paid for camping a handful of nights per year. When we pay for a campsite, it’s usually the only option available. 

For example, there are very limited boondocking options near Glacier National Park, so we paid to camp in the park when we visited in 2019. We’ve traveled all over North America (Canada and Mexico included) and have primarily boondocked the entire time.

Boondocking Tips

Although this way of camping is inherently more independent and freeing, it does require a bit of preparation and planning to be successful at it. Each person has their own approach, but here are a few boondocking tips to get you started:

  1. Prepare your RV
  2. Understand your RVs limits
  3. Do some research
  4. Have a backup plan

Prepare Your RV

If your RV doesn’t have a solar setup or a generator that can power your RV electrical system, you will need to get one. Being off-grid means you won’t have access to an electricity source and will have to run all of your lights, fans and appliances off of your battery supply. 

Most RVs don’t come equipped with a large enough battery supply to run anything for very long and you will need a method to charge your batteries and run your electrical system.

In addition to a lack of electricity, boondocking also means you will not have a hookup to water. Be sure to dump your gray and black water tanks, and fill your fresh water tank before you head out of town. Running out of fresh water or having a full black water tank are common reasons why people have to leave camp sooner than expected.

Epic Baja adventures, courtesy of boondocking | Photo: Jess Stiles | RV Today
Epic Baja adventures, courtesy of boondocking | Photo: Drifter Journey
A van on the beach in Baja boondocking | Photo: Jess Stiles | RV Today
Boondocking on the beach in Baja | Photo: Drifter Journey

Pack all of the necessary camping equipment that you need. There won’t be picnic tables, chairs, or maybe not even a fire ring at the spot you choose. Be sure to pack chairs, a portable table, a shade canopy, outdoor games, and a portable fire ring, to name a few items you might want with you. Many people enjoy just setting up camp and sitting outside, but if you want to recreate by bicycling, fishing, hiking, etc., bring those items too!

Plan all of your meals and go grocery shopping for the trip. While some boondocking spots are within a short drive of restaurants, we prefer to stay in the woods (sometimes referred to as dispersed camping) and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. Stock up on your favorite snacks and immerse yourself into the experience of being off-grid.

Pack all of the necessary camping equipment that you need. There won’t be picnic tables, chairs, or maybe not even a fire ring at the boondocking spot you choose. Be sure to pack chairs, a portable table, a shade canopy, outdoor games, and a portable fire ring, to name a few items you might want with you. Many people enjoy just setting up camp and sitting outside, but if you want to recreate by bicycling, fishing, hiking, etc., bring those items too!


Plan all of your meals and go grocery shopping for the trip. While some boondocking spots are within a short drive of restaurants, we prefer to stay in the woods (sometimes referred to as dispersed camping) and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. Stock up on your favorite snacks and immerse yourself into the experience of being off-grid.

What is boondocking?

Boondocking is essentially camping for free, without the facilities or utilities of a paid campground. Many times this means you're camping out in the middle of nowhere, but can also include truck stops, Wal-Mart parking lots, and the occasional incognito hotel parking lot.

Boondocking in Idaho in a van | Photo: Jess Stiles | RV Today
Boondocking in Idaho | Photo: Drifter Journey

Understand Your RV’s Limits

This boondocking tip applies to both the size and driving capability of your RV as well as its capacity for storing water. While there are some really cool boondocking spots in the world, some are completely inaccessible for the average RV. When planning your trip, it’s important to know how long your RV is, and what your comfort level is while driving it.

As I mentioned in the previous boondocking tip, running out of fresh water is a common reason why people have to pack up camp and leave early. Understand how much fresh water your RV can hold and monitor your usage so that you know how long it will last.

If you’re used to staying in campgrounds, try filling your fresh water tank and then unhooking the connection to see how long it lasts you. Once you have a good gauge of how long your fresh water tank will last, you will be better prepared for boondocking trips.

Searching for hot springs in Idaho while boondocking | Photo: Jess Stiles | RV Today
Searching for hot springs in Idaho while boondocking | Photo: Jess Stiles

Do Some Research

Depending on who you are, researching your boondocking spot for the night may take you hours, or if you’re a pro, it’ll be about 10 minutes before you need to find camp for the night!

We are typically the latter, since we are in a van and don’t need much. However, when we want to find a really neat spot to set up for a week or two, there’s a lot more research involved.

Firstly, determine what you like to do when you’re camping. Do you like to find new hiking trails or go fishing? Or maybe your priority is a campsite with an epic view that you can admire from sunup to sundown. This will help you determine an area that you’d like to boondock in. We typically prefer sites with things to do nearby, like fishing, hot springs or hiking.

Hiking in Canada while boondocking nearby | Photo: Jess Stiles | RV Today
Hiking in Canada while boondocking nearby | Photo: Drifter Journey

Resources like the iOverlander app or freecampsites.net have a ton of information about an area, the boondocking sites available and the accessibility of each site. Previous campers leave reviews and comments about sites and attractions, helping you determine if it’s a place you want to stay.

In addition, the information available on these platforms is really helpful for people with big rigs and who need service to work remotely. There is information such as road access and the size of the boondocking spot, as well as how good the cellular service is there (if any at all).

Have a Backup Plan

Despite all of your research, there is potential that you will show up to a boondocking campsite and be disappointed. Whether it doesn’t match the description, or more commonly, someone else is already utilizing the spot, it’s important to have a backup plan. 

When researching boondocking camp options, I typically browse several sites in the same area to get an idea of how many options we have. I navigate us to my first choice and then we will go from there. In busy areas, it is common for us to check out several sites before finding one that we want to stay in.

In addition, if boondocking spots are not as flat as we prefer, or don’t have the view we were hoping for, we continue our search for another.

Booking Campsites Cheat Sheet | RV Today

FIND THE BEST BOONDOCKING SPOTS WITH THESE APPS

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Learn more about the best apps and websites for finding campsites: Booking Campsites Made Easy Plus How To Find Campgrounds
Boondocking allows for epic experiences like this hot springs soak in Nevada | Photo: Jess Stiles | RV Today
Boondocking allows for epic experiences like this hot springs soak in Nevada | Photo: Drifter Journey

It’s important to start looking for a campsite several hours before it gets dark so that you have ample time to find a boondocking spot that you like. It’s pretty much impossible to navigate narrow roads and determine what is a good versus a bad site when it’s dark.

Plus, you will have no idea what kind of view the spot has. In our experience, when it’s getting dark and you need a campsite fast, a Wal-Mart or a truck stop is usually an easier option.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for boondocking. Since each person has a different RV and different priorities for how they want to spend their time outdoors, your boondocking experience will be unique to you. We are just amazed that we even have this opportunity in the first place!

Check out these power station recommendations to keep your adventures powered off-grid while boondocking

What boondocking tips can you share? Do you love it?
Are you a pro, or just starting to try it out? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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