RV boondocking means different things to everyone, but however you define “dry camping without hookups” one thing remains the same: mind your boondocking manners or you’ll run the risk of having yet another free overnight campsite get revoked from the RVing landscape.
Here’s how you can help preserve these bonus spots for years to come:
Step 1: Don’t trespass.
Whether you’re pulling into a Walmart or going incognito by parking in a vacant lot behind a truck stop, always do your research to uncover the legal status of staying overnight in that location.
The iRV2 Discussion Forums offer boondocking tips but if you’ll be staying on the lot of a retail or service establishment, it’s best to check with employees in the location to find out if it’s OK.
Also look for parking regulation signs. If you spot any that say “No Overnight Parking,” chances are good that the establishment means it and at best you’ll get a knock on your door at 3 am asking you to leave. Even if you see other large vehicles and RVs parked there, don’t risk it and move on.
Step 2: Show ’em the money.
Smart businesses like Cracker Barrel and Walmart are usually OK with RVers staying overnight in their parking lots because they understand that most RVers will usually patronize the establishment when parking overnight.
Remember, your dollars speak for themselves so whether you just need a cup of coffee or want to get your grocery shopping done, spending your dollars at the establishment where you’re parked shows appreciation and gratitude to management for the privilege of allowing you to stay there.
Step 3: Remember it’s not a campsite.
It should go without saying that a big box parking lot isn’t a great place for setting up camp, but many RVers still don’t seem to get it.
How many times have you seen RVers get comfortable in parking lots by extending their awnings, putting down their leveling jacks, and even detaching trailers?
If you’ve done any amount of RVing from coast-to-coast, you’ve probably seen this behavior and wondered if it’s acceptable. The truth is, just because so-and-so is doing it, doesn’t mean you should too. In fact, it shows poor manners to set up your RV homestead in retail parking lots.
Most store owners want to accommodate overnight RVers, but still need to reserve room in their parking lots for as many paying customers as possible. Once you get permission to park your RV overnight in that establishment, move on within 24 hours unless you have permission to stay longer.
Back in the day RVers could park just about anywhere without getting told to leave. Unfortunately too many blacktop boondockers have left their mark on free campsites by overstaying their welcome, leaving trash, and even dumping their sewer water on the ground.
As a result, city ordinances against overnight RV camping spring up every day, leaving one less area for us to park when we might need it the most. Don’t jeopardize our free camping privileges any more than they already have been. Be a respectful overnighter and share this overnight parking etiquette when you see sloppy boondocking in action.
Mike Beaulieu says
My wife and I enjoy staying in various Cracker Barrels parking lots over the past 7 years, we have been fortunate to encounter very friendly store managers. We always try to park far away from the store as to not hinder store access by other customers. I use pads under my front jacks of our 5th wheel to take the weight off the truck without marking the pavement. We usually leave early, right after breakfast at the store of course. You know, these are common sense things to do when you are being welcomed in these places. As I am reading the articles in this issue, I realize that the people who should be reading these articles do not subscribe to this type of magazine and they couldn’t care less what others think. It is becoming increasingly difficult to boondock because of those attitudes unfortunately. Such a shame.
Jerry & Sue of scenic NH says
Mike: You made a good point. Unfortunately in this “Me first” society rudeness abounds and these people ruin it for thoughtful RVers like you and I. If you ever come to NH feel free to stay at our site, I can’t offer you much more than a secluded, private place to park but you can run your generator as much as you want and not have any lights shining on you all night. As for those Bozos maybe they will learn by your example.
Regards, Jerry Lake Buffalo.
Mike Beaulieu says
Jerry and Sue, thank you for your kind words, Georgette and I just might take you up on that some day. We usually leave in late October or beginning of November depending on the things we need to get done on the 5th wheel before departure. You can be assured that you will not hear a generator run all night. We use our power very economically so that we don’t need to recharge until the next day while driving, heck we don’t even have a small generator that we can bring along, never needed one so far. If you are serious about having us over some time, just send us your email at ” firstname.lastname@example.org ” and I will make a note of it in our log for future reference. I extend the same invitation to you both if you ever travel through Nova Scotia, I have a big spare pad for a motor home or trailer and power and water available “FREE”. Thank You, I hope to meet you guys someday.
Again…SO Nice… 🙂
We Have Been
2 Years Now
And Have Met
Incredibly Nice RV’ers
98% of the Time… 🙂
Mike Beaulieu says
Hi Kathy, read your last comment and I noticed at the top Jerry and Kathy from scenic NH, is scenic a place (town) or are you just saying that it is beautiful. I looked it up on Google maps and it came up as Scenic Nursery, Scenic Inn, Scenic Home inspection, etc. but no specific called Scenic. The reason I am asking is that we are leaving on or about the 15th of November, and if you are serious on your offer to let us park at your place overnight, well if it’s close enough to our route south we may take you up on your offer. We would definitely feel safer than staying at a truck stop or Wal-Mart. Anyway let us know and please give us a way to contact you when we will be on the road.
Mike Beaulieu says
I am sorry Kathy, I screwed up on my last comment it was addressed to Jerry and Sue of scenic NH. The layer upon layer of comments led me to think that the last comment was from a reply that I made to Jerry and Sue when in actual fact Kathy responded to my comment. I hope you guys won’t take offense to my bad eyesight. ????????
SO Nice… 🙂
♡ Kathy ♡
I wasn’t going to say anything, but this subject comes up frequently and as a long time RVer Its time to give back.
We have used both Walmart and Cracker Barrels over the years…. Not all Walmarts will let you spend the night.. You need to go in and check with the manager. I will say I have spent a small fortune there over the years, but that does not give me the right to stay over night. Keep in mind not all have good security.
Cracker Barrels are pleasant, but I had a very expensive bike stolen that was cabled and locked to a very sturdy bike rack on the back of my motorhome. They had cameras, but the crime was not recorded. This happened on I-10 enroute to Texas in Albuquerque NM. Just because they accommodate RV’s, it doesn’t quarantee your equipment or you are safe.
All in all its nice to have a place to pull over and take a one night break if you can’t get to that campground you’ve been trying to reach all day. Sometimes it’s best to suck it up and call it a day.
I am sorry folks but this is a pet peeve of mine. Like the article says shop at Walmart to say thank you for letting us stay in your lot. So lets say you spend $40.00 at Walmart, (saying thank you) where you could spend the same $40.00 at a campground. If we do not support our “mom and pop” campgrounds one day they will be gone. Do you think if you stop spending your “thank you money” at Walmart one day it will be gone. These campgounds need every dollar they and get to say open. Its our job as RVers to make sure that happens. With out us there will be no RV parks. Stop camping at Walmart and spend your money at an RV park
Randall Burdette says
Thank you for your thoughts on the small campgrounds. My wife and I try to use the campgrounds whenever possible. In fact it is always our first choice. But there are times when traffic, a late start, or too many doggie stops put us behind schedule and I don’t like pulling into an unfamiliar campground after dusk. Too many are poorly lit, have low trees, tight spots and too many opportunities to disturb neighbors or damage the Motorhome.
In those cases I am glad when there is an opportunity to pull into a nice well lit parking lot for the night.
People who pull into a Walmart in the early afternoon, set up a camp to include chairs, awnings etc hurt us all. Additionally, I don’t like it when a campground is working to outlaw parking in commercial lots such as Walmart and Cracker Barrel. I have seen some campgrounds working hard to pass local ordinances to make me use their campground if I have to stop in the area. I don’t like it when someone tries to force me to support their business.
Just my 2 cents for consideration.
Gail Phariss says
You’re right. I’m a retired social worker and I’ve seen the good, bad, and the ugly. Remember folks there will always be more nuts than there are squirrels.
Jim & Diane says
When traveling to our destination we follow a ‘9 to 5’ schedule, and call ahead to schedule an overnight stop. Also, if you’re a member of a fraternal organization such as Moose, Elks, Eagles, American Legion, or a veteran (Military famcamp), you almost always have a place to stop over without ‘risking life, limb or property’ on your way to your favorite RV park. Sometimes our driving time is stretched a little, but over the past 30+ years of rv’n we have yet to resort to a Walmart, a truck stop, or a Cracker Barrel.