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.
Where to Camp for Free: Boondocking and Backcountry Camping
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. I’ve found some great spots by just wandering around in the backcountry.
- BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and other public lands are almost always free to camp at unless otherwise posted.
- All National Forest land is open to camping unless otherwise posted, but some areas do have limits on how long you can stay in one spot so make sure to check with the rangers.
- 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.
A Few Things To Be Aware Of
If you’re new to camping, then you might want to start of slow. Dispersed camping means you need to be fully self-sufficient.
- Don’t forget to find out if you need a fire permit or if you need to pay fees to camp in the area.
- Unless you’re boondocking in an RV, then you need to remember that there are no bathrooms.
- Anything that you’re going to need at your campsite needs to be brought in. Make sure to pack extra water, food and emergency supplies.
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!”
photo by desert-dweller@Flickr
The Best Kind of Road to look for…..
photo by toughkidcst@Flickr
Top 2 photos by indigoprime@Flickr