Van life offers a fresh perspective for both full-timers and weekend warriors. While adventure vans can take you nearly anywhere, some travelers prefer boondocking over RV parks.
Now you may be asking, what is boondocking? In short, it is one way to enjoy your outdoor adventure and not feel confined to RV parks - AKA, it’s camping without access to shore power. While RV parks and ski resorts with shore power are convenient for their amenities, they can often get overcrowded and take away from being one with nature. It is hard to find that peace when 50 other campsites surround you.
Boondocking offers a way out of that. It has especially taken off in the wide-open American West. But you can do it almost anywhere, including some wineries. It is essentially freedom camping, but in your camper van rather than a tent.
You may also hear it called wild camping, dry camping, or dispersed camping.
So let us get into the nitty-gritty details of boondocking. We will deep dive into how it provides off-the-grid camping experiences that will truly make you fall in love with traveling in your adventure van.
Because boondocking does not provide you with the amenities (shore power, bathrooms, showers, etc.) typically found at campsites, your best bet is to ensure your van has all the basic amenities you need. The many National Parks and other campgrounds that you can boondock in will not always have shore power, bathrooms, or other amenities that provide you with comfort.
With your fully converted van, you will still be able to get access to water, take a shower (if you are lucky enough to have one in your van), stay warm with your diesel heater, and cook, even if you are quite literally in the middle of nowhere.
The whole concept of boondocking encourages travelers to be one with nature and enjoy the peace and serenity it provides. You are encouraged to use less water, use less power (unless the sun is shining), and be mindful of your decisions since the general modern conveniences are further out of reach.
Dispersed Camping on Public Land
What makes boondocking particularly appealing is that you can make your setup on public land rather than in a glorified parking lot (most typical campgrounds). You can genuinely enjoy your own private space on public land, where all you see for miles is nature and more nature.
One of the best parts about owning a van is the ability to connect with nature. And with so many people wanting to partake in the great outdoors, boondocking allows you to experience what likely drew you to the outdoors in the first place.
What Boondocking Isn’t
We want to break some misconceptions when it comes to boondocking.
Here are the most common things that you should be aware of:
Boondocking Isn’t Trespassing
You are not setting up your van on private property. Instead, you are setting it up on public land that allows for free camping. Boondocking lands are varied and can include anything from BLM land, to beaches and national forests.
There is no need to worry about boondocking in terms of getting in trouble for where you set up your van, mainly because you are not trespassing. Public land means it is available to the public, including you!
Boondocking Isn’t Parking Lot Camping
While you may not be out in the actual boonies, you will certainly not be in a parking lot with access to shore power. Boondocking allows you to get away from the crowds, park overnight, and enjoy true peace. You can boondock amongst the rock formations of Sedona, on the coast in Oregon, and even right at the entrance to multiple national parks.
Just because you are boondocking does not mean you will always be out of cell service range, Wi-Fi range, or far away from towns to get food. In many scenarios, those will still be very much accessible to you.
Why Go Boondocking?
Boondocking is an incredible way to immerse oneself in nature. The practice of “forest bathing” has spread from Japan to all over the globe. Research suggests that prolonged, regular exposure to natural green spaces can reduce the chances of chronic illness and even promote healthy fetal development. Sign us up!
Boondocking offers an incredible way to leave bustling cities and enter the peaceful realm of nature.
Experience Life in a Camper Van
You have spent a lot of time and energy designing your camper van. You have likely furnished it to have all the creature comforts of a home with you at all times, from the perfect memory foam mattress to a functional kitchen galley that even has hot water.
Plus, we always recommend you install solar panels to really go off the grid and still power up your fridge, lights, and MaxxAir fans.
Boondocking allows you to enjoy all the amenities of your camper van. When you park up on an actual campground or in an RV park with shore power, you aren't always fully immersed in nature, and you can't fully take advantage of all your van's technology.
Avoid Paid Campsites
When you spend lots of time in your van, the pesky campsite fees can add up. But when you opt for boondocking, you no longer have to deal with those fees. Instead, you can put that money towards other parts of your adventure or upgrade your van build.
Best of all, you will not get parked 5' away from another van or tent. Instead, when you are boondocking, you can park wherever on the public land and know that you will not be within arms reach of someone else.
Are you looking for a more luxurious way to boondock? Check out Harvest Hosts — they’ve partnered with over 3,400 wineries, breweries, golf courses, and farms to let you access their parking lots and fields for camping. Your campervan needs to be self-contained, and there is a small annual fee, but Harvest Hosts gives you access to some incredible properties in all 50 states.
How To find the Perfect Boondocking Site
Need to find free camping sites — check out iOverlander. This application gives you loads of details and information about off-the-grid camps, including whether or not they have cell phone reception, access to water, toilets, etc. This app is an absolute must-have for all your adventures.
Get Ready To Hit the Road
So what are you waiting for? Boondocking is a way to explore the world in your van and get you away from crowds of other people.
You will still probably have your modern-day connections with the internet and cell phone service. You will still have the power to stay warm and cook if needed as long as your solar panels bring in enough energy.
Why wouldn’t you want paradise all to yourself? You can sit back, read a good book, go for a hike, enjoy your breakfast and do some outdoor meditation, all without the noise and distraction of other people.
Where will you go boondocking this summer?