Those that have been following my blog over the years know my wife and I are big fans of dispersed camping. We do it for a host of reasons like:
- It puts us close to the activities we want to enjoy on public land
- You do not need reservations. Come and go on your schedule
- The price is right, as the “campsites” are free
- Typically we don’t have neighbors
- The campsites are often very scenic
- We are surrounded by nature, not other RVs
- It allows us to enjoy the night sky as there is seldom any light pollution
This is RVing!
Dispersed camping refers to camping on public land in places outside of a designated campground. This means there are usually no amenities like at a campground. Some popular dispersed camping areas may have toilets. You will need to come fully prepared and self-contained. It also means you will need to leave no trace. You must pack out everything that you brought in, including all trash.
This style of camping gives RVers the freedom to get out and camp on some of the most beautiful undeveloped (and unspoiled) land this country has to offer. You do it on your own schedule and terms. Isn’t that what RVing was meant to be?
Learn where dispersed camping is allowed
Two of the largest public land agencies that allow dispersed camping are the United States Forest Service (USFS), and Bureau of Land Management, often referred to as the (BLM).
How much public land is available for dispersed camping between the USFS and BLM combined? The two agencies oversee 437.3 million acres of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the entire United States. This equates to over 19% of the whole country. That’s a whole lot of dispersed camping opportunities!
Is Boondocking and Dispersed Camping the Same Thing?
Finding boondocking sites takes a little planning, research, and effort. Most importantly, it means using the right terminology when inquiring where you can boondock with your RV (or tent). View a public land agency’s website and perform a search for “boondocking.” You will likely end up with the message “No Search Results Found” across your screen. The reason is public land agencies (state and federal) use the terminology “dispersed camping” when referring to undeveloped campsites dispersed across the land they oversee. They do not use the term “boondocking.”
BLM land, National Forests and more can be found while planning your route on RV LIFE Trip Wizard. You can also get RV-safe GPS directions using the RV LIFE App With GPS. It’s also always a good idea to check out the street view and satellite view before you visit to get a better idea of what the back roads are like.
So the next time you want to discover your own secret hideaway on public land, perform an online search. Or, ask a ranger where you can enjoy dispersed camping. You will be talking their language!
Read more about free camping on public land:
- 7 Must-Haves For Boondocking In The Summer
- 14 Reasons Why I Would Rather Boondock
- Why You Should Become A Better Dry Camper
- 5 Boondocking Lessons: How To Camp In The Wild Like A Pro
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.