For people who consider themselves “glampers,” meaning camping with every single amenity of home, this may not be for you. Boondocking involves traveling to federal, private, or other areas that don’t have water and electric hookups and enjoying the nature around them.
Say you are on the way to a destination that’s going to take a couple of travel days; there are many places, including many Wal-Mart parking lots (thus the moniker, WallyDocking).
According to several sources, permission to park is granted by individual store managers. Some managers may not allow overnight RV parking because of previous bad experiences while others may choose to allow it.
There are documented cases of Wallydockers getting permission from different managers at the same store on the same day and then receive different answers regarding overnight RV parking. That’s why it is important to ask top management for permission to park; don’t just assume it is allowed because there are other RVs in the parking lot. Go to Walmart.com and click on the store locator tab to find the address and phone number of the store you where you wish to Wallydock. Below is a list of retail establishments and other places that may allow overnight parking. Remember to always be sure to reach out to the location management before setting up camp. Approval may vary based on locations.
- Holiday Inn
- Marriott Hotels
- Winco/Safeway/24-hour grocery stores
Moochdocking (parking at a friend or relative’s house for a night) is also another free and fun way to kill two birds with one stone. However, again, just showing up isn’t an option.
There are many HOA’s that frown on an RV parked on the street or in a driveway. In addition, unofficial etiquette dictates that the time spent moochdocking be limited to an overnight or two days, tops.
TRUCK STOPS & REST AREAS
Many truck stops, visitor centers, and rest areas allow RV owners and van campers staying overnight in the parking lot. Make sure you do some research about the venue as there may be little or no monitoring during your stay. The good news is that you’ll be close to a restroom and right off the road. Traffic can be noisy, but some rest areas in more rural locations can feel very similar to campgrounds.
Don’t forget to look at each individual state’s department of transportation site to access information about whether a rest stop is open and whether overnight parking is allowed.
No matter what overnight option you choose, make sure that your belongings are locked securely and safely. It’s likely that there will be little or no security cameras or personnel available to assist you in the event of a theft. Stay ahead of anyone looking to take advantage of your situation by “locking it up.”
What if you can’t find the address?
RIS recommends researching the longitude and latitude of the site location in the instance finding an actual address isn’t feasible.
HOW TO FIND COORDINATES
- Open a web browser and go to the Google Maps website. Any browser will work.
- Go to a location for which you want the GPS coordinates.
- Right-click (or Control+click on a Mac) on the location.
- Select What’s here? from the menu.
DEVELOPED CAMPING – NO HOOKUPS
Ready to ease into boondocking, but not quite ready to operate without a net? Try paying a reduced rate at established campgrounds, but without access to hookups. This will take a little advanced planning if you are thinking of staying more than one night (batteries charged, and fresh water tank full, etc.).
There are many state and national campgrounds that allow developed camping boondocking. The best bet is to check websites, or your new best friend Google. When entering “campgrounds in the United States that allow boondocking,” a huge list came up, starting with compendium.com that listed different categories, including public parks, RV parks, parking areas and dump spots. A few clicks later addresses and phone numbers pop up so that you can verify that the “free” status is still in place.
UNDEVELOPED CAMPING – ULTIMATE BOONDOCKING
This is the apex of what everyone thinks when the word “boondocking” is mentioned – actually going out into the wild with no water, power, camp hosts or other support that you find in a traditional campground.
You’ll usually find undeveloped campsites on United States Forest Service (USFS) property or land on the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM in particular does a very nice job of outlining what boondocking is to that agency and providing a list of places by state or geographic region as to areas that allow boondocking. There are many different websites that you can access to get yourself prepared for this highest level of boondocking, including valuable information on power requirements, handling water requirements, and other tips that will allow you to travel off the grid safely and securely.
Below is a site we found particularly informative, it lists several boondocking locations in the West and gives tips about what each location offers (and doesn’t offer).