Boondocking is a great way to camp, especially if you enjoy the vast wilderness and the solitude that one gets from becoming a part of nature. Boondocking, otherwise known as “dry camping,” “disbursed camping” or “off the grid camping,” simply means that you choose to camp on your own, rather than stay in an established RV park. This is completely possible because every Cruise America class C recreational vehicle is completely self-sufficient. With water tanks, battery banks and an onboard generator, it’s easy living when you boondock in a rental RV from Cruise America.
There are a great number of public lands upon which campers can boondock, and many of them have rules regarding their use as far as how long you can camp, where you can camp, etc. But when it comes to the proper etiquette of boondocking, there is no hard and fast set of rules to follow; it’s more about common sense and good judgement. However, here are seven rules that every RVer should know before embarking on a boondocking adventure.
Utilize Existing Roads and Camp Spots
This is probably one of the most important rules to adhere to as you dry camp. While you want to enjoy the wilderness, you also want to keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to have as little of an impact on the surroundings as possible. One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to follow roads that have already been traveled, and make camp where someone has camped before. Don’t drive into beautiful land and destroy vegetation just to establish a new camping spot. There are most likely plenty of spots where people have camped before, leaving fire rings, cleared areas, etc. Nobody wants to destroy the nature that they’ve come to visit and admire.
Remember that campfires are regulated by the local public land authority. Most boondocking spots allow fires, but when the fire risk is high, they can ban them completely. It’s easy to call ahead and find out before you go.
Leave with What You Came With
Boondocking on public lands is not unlike backpacking … on a large scale. You basically bring whatever you’re going to need for your trip, and when you depart, take it all away with you. It is considered extremely rude for RVers to dump black-water tanks and leave trash scattered around their sites. It’s a simple process to put all your trash in plastic bags to haul it away, and if your tanks need dumping, then find a legitimate dumpsite. By practicing leaving no trace, you’ll encourage other campers to follow in your footsteps (literally) and do the same.
Observe and Obey Stay Limits
Most of the public lands around this nation of ours have stay limits. Normally, these rules limit campers to 14 days within any 28-day period. Once you have stayed fourteen days, you may be required to move camp at least 25 miles away. Some public lands have rules that are more restrictive, yet there are others that have no stay limits at all. It’s always a good idea to check before setting up camp.
There are some who, rather than observing the stay limits, will push the limits and wait for the ranger to come by and tell them that it’s time to leave. Truthfully, most of the time nobody will ever bother you, but as a courtesy, it’s a good idea to obey the stay limits.
Keep your Neighborly Distance
While there is no written official rule about this, remember that it’s basic boondocking etiquette to give your neighbors a respectful amount of space between your two camps. Now, the right amount of space will depend on the situation. If you’re out in the middle of the desert, two or three hundred feet apart is not at all unusual. But if you’re camping at a big event, and there are several RVs parked there, you may only be able to keep about 20 feet between your rigs. Typically, if you’re camping in a densely-wooded area, you’ll just take the next open site. It’s just good, common sense to keep a neighborly distance between campsites.
Wandering Pets and Noise Levels
Most people who boondock are out camping so they can get away from it all. The last thing they want to hear is another campsite making a lot of unruly noise. Most of the time this won’t be an issue, as you may have no neighbors at all, but when there are other campers in close proximity, remember that they are probably out in the wild seeking peace and quiet. Most disbursed camping spots have no written rules about generator noise and music, but this is where common courtesy kicks in. If you have no neighbors, then crank up the tunes as loud as you like, and run the genny anytime of the day or night that suits you. If you do have other campers nearby, respect their relaxation and tranquility.
Also, keep in mind that your RV neighbors don’t want to have your pet wandering around their campground. If Fido is wandering around unleashed (and there are public lands that allow this), you should always keep a close eye on him, making sure that he doesn’t wander into other campers’ space.
Are your Neighbors Sociable or Private?
This is always a good thing to find out. Most RVers are the social type. They love to sit around swapping travel experiences and comparing notes. It’s not at all unusual to be walking through the woods and get an invitation to sit and shoot the breeze. But then again, there are those campers who choose boondocking because they want to stay as far away from other people as possible. Those are the types that probably will not be inviting you to chat around the fire. It’s always a good idea to determine if your neighbors are social or private, and approach them accordingly. In a boondocking community, it doesn’t take long to determine who the social butterflies are, and who the party poopers are.
This Land is Your Land, this Land is My Land
Public land is just that – public! It’s your land, to an extent, but then again, it’s not your land. In other words, it is land that we can all share equally. The prime spot that you may have had during last year’s camping trip may be gone this year. That’s okay, there’s a lot of land to park on. There’s no need to place barriers and “no trespassing” signs, (which has been done many times) in an attempt to save your perfect and traditional spot. Just remember that unless you have a deed to a piece of property, it’s not yours and you’re not managing it.
Just remember that when boondocking, be respectful, share the space, leave it pristine for the incoming visitors and we’ll all be happy campers!
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