What is Boondocking?
Boondocking is free camping without any amenities. It is usually outside of developed areas in the “boondocks.” But, boondocking is also referred to as dispersed camping or dry camping. Boondocking can be any place where there is no water, electric or sewer dump. This could include a Walmart, National Forest area or other undeveloped areas. When you boondock, you are on your own. You need to bring in everything that you will need and pack out everything that you brought.
Why do we boondock?
When we first discussed boondocking, we were referring to staying in a Walmart parking lot as we travelled to a destination. I (Tina) was never a fan of this. It kind of scared me a bit to think about staying either in a parking lot or in the middle of nowhere. But after my first experience, I was hooked. Of course, everything changed once we got a generator. This meant we could run most things on some sort of power (generator, battery or gas). We have installed a convertor inside our camper so that when the generator is running, we can plug in for power. The generator was a game changer for us when it came to boondocking possibilities.
Our experiences with Boondocking?
We have stayed in Walmart parking lots as well as in National Forests and National Grasslands.
On a recent trip from the Midwest to Yellowstone, we stayed in Walmart parking lots on both the westbound and eastbound trips. The general practice is to call the Walmart ahead of time and ask if they allow overnight trailing parking. If so, they will generally advise as to the location they prefer for the parking. Every time we have stayed at a Walmart, there have been several other trailers. After we put the bed down in our hybrid, it seems just like we are at a campground. (Except the one time they decided to power sweep the parking lot around 2am.)
Badlands National Grassland
Before we headed out west, we came across a suggested boondocking location found online. This location was on the ridge, overlook the Badlands in South Dakota. It looked like the perfect boondocking location. When you find a boondocking location online, the exact coordinates are usually provided.
This location in the Badland’s National Grassland was absolutely amazing. The coordinates are 43.8898, -102.227. It is located 6.5 miles south of Wall, SD off 240. Once you get to the two cell towers on the left (east) side of the road, Forest Road 7170 is on this left. Turn onto this road. Drive about ½ mile to the ridge overlooking the Badlands. Then you can turn either right or left for multiple “sites” along this road in both directions. We parked about 15 feet from the drop-off by the ridge. We heard stories of other campers waking up to sheep outside the camper.
Prior to driving to this location, we stopped at Sleepy Hollow Campground. For $10, they allow you to fill-up with water. It is definitely worth it to not haul water across the entire state of South Dakota. I assume you could probably pay to dump as well but since our next location wasn’t far, we waited until our next stop.
When we began the trip out west, we had reservations in the Grand Teton National Park at a full hook-up campground. After the awesome experience boondocking in the Badlands, we searched for a location in the Grand Tetons and found the BEST location ever. The coordinates are 43.7645, -110.5558. This location is right outside the Grand Teton National Park on National Forest Road 30310. It takes you up the side of a mountain. When you get to a fork in the road, go to the left and you will see “sites” to the left as you get to the top of the mountain. This was an absolutely breathtaking location.
One of the best parts about this boondocking experience was the people we met here. Everyone here had a story. I laughed when one couple looked at us and said “so what’s your story”. We replied with “We are on an awesome 16-day vacation from Michigan”. It didn’t compare with their month long travels, but we had an amazing time. We even had a boondocking potluck one evening. Everyone brought whatever food that wanted to share and it worked out great. We have met some absolutely wonderful people through our brief boondocking experiences.
One of the best experiences at this location was the night sky full of stars. We have never seen this many stars in the sky. We had a full 360 degree view of the sky since we were on top of a mountain. The following pictures we taken by a fellow boondocker, ????.
How to find Boondocking locations and options for boondocking?
Walmart, Cabela’s, Cracker Barrel and Camping World are known for being overnight camper friendly. I would suggest always calling ahead because some locations cannot allow overnight stays due to the city ordinance. In addition to these locations, truck stops would also be another possibility. We decided against staying at a truck stop due to the traffic, noise and lights from the trucks, although it would most likely be a safe location to stay.
Options for true boondocking locations include National Forests, National Grasslands, and Bureau of Land Management public lands. We found the best reviews for boondocking sites by just searching “boondocking” along with the location.
And don’t’ forget about the RV Dumps app. You will need this to find a place to dump the sewer tank after several days of boondocking.
We are so glad we decided to boondock. This is now one of our favorite ways to camp. By having the option to boondock, so many more wonderful locations are an option for camping without the need for electricity, water and sewer. So, don’t wait. It’s time to get off the beaten path, live outside, and enjoy nights under the stars. Best of all, it’s time to do it all for free.