What to Consider When Searching for the Perfect Free Campsite
There are two secrets to finding free camping: being flexible, and thinking outside the box.
Being flexible might include one or all of the following:
- Camping away from your intended destination
- Learning to become a better dry camper as you seldom find a free campsite with utilities
- Camping in less conventional places
- Taking advantage of what is available when it is available
Thinking outside the box includes coming to the realization that free camping can be located just about anywhere. Start by studying the definition of the word campsite:
“Campsite (noun): a place suitable for or used as the site of a camp.”
Once you change your understanding of “campsite” your options for finding free camping become much larger. As Megan and Michael from Fresh off the Grid say, “There are a ton of free camping options out there – you just need to know where to look.”
Check out these unconventional camping locations:
- Casinos: Most allow RVers to stay for free in their parking lots
- ORV Areas (Off Road Vehicle) Busy on the weekends, but nearly empty weekdays
- State Fish & Wildlife lands also known as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA)
- Federal Wildlife Refuges
- DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and State Trust Lands allow camping
- Corps of Engineers often offer dispersed camping, which is typically waterfront
- TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority)
- Roadside Attractions: Many allow you to stay the night, especially those on BLM land
- Welcome Centers
- Churches: There are many Bible verses about welcoming a stranger
- When visiting an attraction late in the afternoon, ask if you can spend the night
- Ski area parking lots during the offseason
- Many Walmart locations allow overnight parking. Read more about Walmart camping in this article.
- Many popular National Parks and Monuments have designated overflow camping areas. Two examples are: Joshua Tree National Park and Natural Bridges National Monument. Overflow areas are typically listed on the park’s websites.
How to find awesome free camping spots
- Many of the above locations can be found on RV LIFE Trip Wizard, now included with RV LIFE Pro.
- Free Campsites (Freecampsites.net) lists lesser-known campgrounds and boondocking locations that offer free camping across the country.
- Several bloggers and Youtubers share places where they’ve camped for free.
- There are even places in rural communities that offer free camping with hookups. Click here for more information and listings.
- Facebook: Join one of the many groups that share locations where free camping is allowed across the country. If you don’t find one in the area where you want to camp, just ask.
- Instagram: There are many RVers you can follow on Instagram that share places that allow free camping, such as Boondocking Life who often shares a photo of the free camping space he enjoyed along with coordinates of the location.
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Mowitz Spur E (FR 46N10E). Modoc National Forest. Ambrose, Northern California. (41.511927, -120.968263). Free dispersed camping with a 14 day limit. Good Verizon signal. Gorgeous area. Hope to explore it more after it thaws out. . . . . #modocnationalforest #modocplateau #norcal #wintercamping #snowcamping #nomad #digitalnomad #rubbertramp #offgrid #backroads #simpleliving #tinyliving #overland #camping #truckcamper #truckcamperlife #adventuremobile #fulltimerv #rvlife #vanlife #vanlifers #roadtrip #campendium #freecamping #boondocking #boondockinglife #december2019
You too can find places that permit free or cheap camping by being flexible, keeping your eyes open, and understanding that a campsite isn’t necessarily confined to the boundaries of a campground or RV park. Read more about Why You Should Become A Better Dry Camper here.
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.