Renegade Camping, Dispersed Camping, & Boondocking

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Dispersed Camping, sometimes referred to as Renegade Camping, Primitive or Backcountry camping and boondocking is basically,

  • Camping OUTSIDE of designated campground areas.
  • Camping with no power, no services and no modern luxuries.
  • Camping with No Crowds. It’s just you, and the great outdoors.

As a general rule, this type of camping is usually done on public lands well away from any established roads. Scattered throughout the United States there are millions of acres of public land where you can setup and camp, most of which won’t cost you a single cent.

Boondocking in the Desert by a Lake

Where to Camp

Most people who camp off the grid will pick a road in the National Forest, or some other piece of public land, and then keep on driving. When the road ends, the real adventurers won’t stop until they find the perfect spot.

Free Campsites – While this might be a little less adventurous than finding a secluded spot in the backcountry, it still beats paying for a campsite or having to deal with a bunch of degenerates at the local KOA. Free Campsites are usually very primitive, but there are some that have basic services.

For those adventurous souls who just want to get away from it all, I recommend choosing a road that’s not often traveled. Roads with signs usually mean there will be too many people, and might not be the best spots to set up camp. Old dirt roads and old abandoned rail lines are some of the best places to look for. I’ve found some great spots by just wandering around in the backcountry.

  • BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and other public lands (National Forests and state-owned) are almost always free to camp at unless otherwise posted.
  • Some private land owners will allow people to camp on their land, so it never hurts to ask.
  • USFS – USDA Forest Service, and the BLM – Bureau of Land Management websites are a good start when looking for areas to camp. The USFS offers free travel management maps called MVUM (Motor Vehicle Use Map) that show exactly where dispersed camping is restricted and which roads are open for travel.

Always practice Leave No Trace! When you leave your campsite, there should be no trace that you were ever there. Things like fire rings, trash or anything else that you had needs to be taken with you; and the land that you camp on needs to be returned to the original condition that you found the land in. A good motto to live by when doing this type of camping is, “Take only photographs; leave only footprints!”

Jeep in the Backcountry
photo by desert-dweller@Flickr

The Best Kind of Road to look for…..
dirt road
photo by toughkidcst@Flickr

Driving  to camp

Camping in the Backcountry
Top 2 photos by indigoprime@Flickr


Responses to " Renegade Camping, Dispersed Camping, & Boondocking " Please share your thoughts...

  1. hermitjim says:

    It might be a good thing to go out and look some of these places over…you just never know!

  2. Renegade camping, dispersed camping, boondocking or maybe more simply put… backpacking into remote wilderness is the type of get away that I usually seek out. But one rule that many forget whom participate in this type of activity is… they forget to tell someone where they are going! A recent movie and story that was covered in Outside Magazine is a prime example on what can happen when you do not follow that simple rule. Be safe… be smart… enjoy the outdoors!


  3. Off Grid Survival says:

    Great Point Thomas,

    Not telling someone where you are going is one of the biggest mistakes that people make while adventuring outdoors. We highly advice anyone who is trekking out into the wilderness to tell at least 2-3 people where you are going. Telling multiple people your plan will ensure that someone will notice if you don’t return.

    • Rick E. says:

      You’re correct,with excellent points made.

      However, sometimes the thrill, excitement, and alluring silence of going it alone is THE point!

      Surely there’s the associated risks with making the decision to go into the wild by one’s self.
      Risks can be minimized along with the inherent dangers. And sometimes a camper changes his/her mind while on the way to a previously determined camping spot, and cannot let anyone know of the change in plans. In certain situations, OPSEC may determine that a person doesn’t disclose the location and route of their camping destinations.

      I do a lot of primitive remote area camping. The kind of areas whereupon if you break down or are stranded for some reason, it may be 2-4 weeks before anyone finds you. (or a longer period of time). This is why when I go into the wilds of our country I prepare myself mentally and gear-wise just in case I may experience “Murphy’s Law” while back of beyond. My point is to be prepared for anything while enjoying the wild lands.

  4. ztar says:

    I love stuff like this its just i dont have the time to do it as much i would like too.

  5. Rich says:

    The problem that I have encountered in telling someone where I am, is the fact that they usually google or GPS my location. I have come home from combat and I really do not like being around “Big Brother” and its ways to pry into my life. The people I know, they just arrive from out of nowhere, even if I leave the state. I am soo frustrated when these people come back into my life and drag my wife and I back into some kind of reality of feeling guilty about going anywhere. If they like to work their way to have a fancy phone or work to pay for a peice of isolation where you can never leave (except for weekends or vacations), that is no way to live. I should not have to feel guilty about being free. And nor should I be forced into following the leader, if I may, never going anywhere.
    We all go to school or an institution that tells us to go to college, then we go to college to get this fancy job with our three degrees, and next thing you know, we are on top of the world (so to speak), but they forgotten something, How many of us have to “Support” those on top of the pyramid? We need skilled laborers to support them smart people on top. Guess what, I am going to go out and support myself living freely on my own peice of land and not pay for all of my amenaties.
    Leave those people behind who want to just know where you are to either snitch on you, report you, bug you, get you into beleiving that doing what everyone else is doing is the “Right” way to live. Ever hear of Right to privacy, or Standing Upon Your Land? No one needs to know where I am or see what I am doing every minute of the day nor know how much I spend or where I spend it at.

  6. Rich says:

    Have Food Stamps, A bike, or a sailboat, will travel. (Of course you have to have lots of free time, oh wait, I do have free time, I am unemployed from the service, ha-ha-ha!) Even a bit of common or what should be common outdoor skills on how to be a bit of a mountain man/woman..

  7. Paulie D says:

    I’m the kid from the big city back east. always love going backpacking. move out to the mountain west and fell in love with the open space. when ever get a chance I’m out there in the wilderness and enjoying every moment of it.

  8. joannewall says:

    If you dream of doing this, do it now. I have waited until I’m too old, too broke, too unhealthy to try these adventures. If I could find a companion my fear of accidents or worse would be less, but I don’t think that’s in the cards. I have acquired a kayak and do some exploring on local lakes and rivers but still dream of hitting the back roads and trails. My favorite pastime is learning basic survivor skills. The way the political scene around the world is escalating, I might need them. Do it now!
    Sad old explorer.

    • Les says:

      Hey, unless you are bed ridden, you are never
      to old to camp. Just go light and easy and if
      possible find a partner to share the trip.
      Good luck !!!!

      • Marie says:

        You made my day!!! I’d just been thinking to myself, “I’m too old to go boondocking…”

        • paul says:

          we are both 59 years young, and just purchased 10 acres in south central oregon, and are moving off grid in april of this year, 2015. we enjoy wilderness and our property is surounded by national forest. Never to old to live off grid. we have a big cabin tent, and our property is secluded.we never know if u dont try. we have been planning for years, and now we are taking the plunge.

  9. george morris says:

    I live SW of Louisville KY. I plan on kayaking and primitive camping from this area going west on the ohio river this spring exploring any caves spotted from the river. Dining on fresh fish, wild greens or squirrel on a stick. I am another sad old explorer just learning or relearning survival skills and would welcome company if any live near. Just safer to travel with others. Also gonna try out land between the lakes in SW KY primitive camping. Have heard so many good things about it.

  10. love some information this help thank you of your time

  11. roughin it says:

    sounds like what I was thinking, I have a trailer dose that ito much for deep country you think ?, might stand out?, but sure nice to have traveled with home in the hitch,

  12. Mike says:

    Yes, the road in that second picture could be a good ambush, or defensive spot depending on your perspective.
    During exploration adventures (after I inform someone of the general area I will be and when they should hear back from me else they call SAR) with my dog and Personal Locator Beacon just in case, and GPS, I like finding places to store on my GPS. If one place is not available, another one may not be too far away.

  13. Check this one in south Spain:

  14. WTF says:

    to get away and experience the remoteness and one on one survival is the excitement of it. not giving someone all the info to gps and trace your habits…LIVE FREE OR DIE.

  15. David says:

    I’m curious. Is it illegal to have a campfire on state land while disperse camping?

    • Les says:

      Don’t confuse state owned land with Federal land.
      It is legal to primitive camp in Federal forest
      areas and to build a campfire………unless a fire ban has been issued due to dry weather. State
      parks and conservation areas etc. have rules that very, so check out each location separately. Happy trails !!!

  16. Peace says:

    For those who think I can’t sleep in a tent or be exposed, I say come home .

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