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RV parked in front of a mountain stream.

How to Boondock in an RV

Wish you could travel anywhere in the great outdoors and never pay for a hotel or campsite?  You can–if you’re boondocking in an RV.

Boondocking is a mystery to many camping enthusiasts but it doesn’t have to be!

So let’s blow this little-known camping secret wide open.In this post, we’ll dive into how to boondock in an RV, where to boondock, and so much more. Once you try it, you’ll wonder how you ever vacationed any other way!

What is Boondocking in an RV?

Before we dive into how to boondock in an RV, let’s discuss what it means.

Boondocking in an RV means parking your RV outside campgrounds, in a place where there aren’t any hookups to electricity, water, or sewage.

Now before you turn your nose up at that, or wonder how it’s any better than pitching a tent, here’s some further explanation:

  • When you boondock, you’re off grid. But you can “bring your own” electricity. (Keep reading for the best ways to do that.)
  • When boondocking in an RV, you can bring your own water and use your RV’s septic tank for sewage.
  • Boondocking and dry camping are similar. The difference is that boondocking involves staying off grid and off campgrounds completely. With dry camping, you might stay at campsites with bathhouses, but off grid.

RV boondocking in Arizona desert with hills in background.

Advantages of Boondocking in an RV

Why would anyone want to skip the convenience of campgrounds and go boondocking in an RV? Boondocking isn’t for everyone, but it does have its advantages!

First of all, it’s cheaper. You don’t have to pay campground fees. If you park on public lands or parking lots, it’s free. Most of the time you won’t have to make a reservation either. So say hello to impromptu adventures.

Another advantage of boondocking in an RV is that you get access to amazing views that you just won’t get at a campsite. That’s because it will be just you, your RV, and the wild outdoors. No buildings or infrastructure to muddy the breathtaking landscapes.

Boondocking in an RV is basically limitless. You can go almost anywhere, and boondocking is legal in the United States (some public lands may restrict parking to 2 weeks). But what are some good places to boondock? Read on for the answer.

Places to Boondock

So you want to hit the road and see some national parks or monuments. Where can you park your RV to boondock? It’s good to have a plan ahead of time, and know where boondocking in an RV is acceptable. Here are some of your options:

Parking Lots

Did you know that many businesses have no problem with boondockers camping out in their lots? Walmart’s a famous one. But many businesses, including Cracker Barrel, Cabela’s, and Camping World, are A-OK with boondocking. When in doubt, call the store ahead of time.

Public Lands and National Parks

Boondocking in RV at night under the stars.

Most public lands or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands allow boondocking in an RV. Just make sure you don’t park on a main road. You should also be sure that the land you’re staying on is indeed public–you don’t want any angry homeowners accusing you of trespassing! Here’s a link to a map of federal lands to keep you out of high water.

Friends and Acquaintances

Need a place to rest on your way to your destination, but can’t find a suitable spot? Check with friends ahead of time to see if they can lend you a driveway. If you’re heading somewhere where you don’t know a soul, RV/travel Facebook groups are great for finding folks who will provide a safe spot near their homes.

How to Boondock in an RV with Electricity

You don’t have to forgo creature comforts while boondocking in an RV. Here’s how to boondock in an RV and still run your appliances.

Use a Generator

Generators can power “hungrier” appliances like microwaves and air conditioners. They connect to your fuel line, and are reliable in general. But they have major disadvantages. For example, they make a lot of noise and may spew toxic fumes–two things you probably came out to the boondocks to avoid.

A Deep-cycle RV Battery

An earth-friendly option for powering your appliances while boondocking is using a deep-cycle RV battery. LiFePO4 lithium batteries are toxin-free and reliable for RV trips. You can charge your battery with shore power before you leave home, or charge it on the go with solar power, which we’ll discuss next.

Solar Power

If you’re wondering how to boondock in an RV for a longer period of time, and still have electricity, solar power may be the answer. You’ll need some sturdy solar panels, a lithium deep-cycle battery, and a sunny parking spot. Read more about RV solar setups here.

Ready to give boondocking in an RV a try? Check out this guide to RV Batteries for Boondocking.