Boondocking and Dry Camping
Dry camping is simply camping without hookups. You can dry camp almost anywhere, such as in a campground, at a Walmart parking lot, in your friend’s backyard, etc. Boondocking is a type of dry camping that takes place in the middle of nowhere, in the “boondocks.” It typically happens on state or federal land and is free, but there are some rules to abide by. If you’re interested in learning more about boondocking, read on!
Follow the Rules
Even though boondocking is done in the middle of nowhere, there are still rules and etiquette you should follow to ensure you’re not breaking any laws. These rules will vary depending on where you are, so check the website of the specific state or area you’re going to be visiting to be sure you are not going to violate any rules. For example, most states prohibit alcoholic beverages in public places. This includes public land where you may end up parking your rig, so know before you go whether you can bring along your favorite alcoholic beverages.
Michigan offers a lot of opportunities for boondocking, as it can be done on any state-owned land with the exception of state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, or state game area campgrounds. When choosing an area to boondock, keep your eyes peeled for areas marked “no camping” and be sure you choose a spot at least one mile from a designated state forest campground. Other than that, all you need to do is follow all the State Land Rules and you’re all set.
Proper etiquette is mostly common sense, but some things may not be as obvious. Here is a list of some of the things we recommend when boondocking:
- Use an established road and site. It’s not a good idea to just start driving through the forest in search of the perfect spot. Not only will you be causing damage to the land and vegetation, but you won’t know the stability of the land and its ability to hold the weight of your vehicle and your RV.
- Make sure you find a proper dump site for both your gray and black water tanks. Dumping in the woods or in a field is not only rude but it can cause damage to the surrounding plants, animals, and water source. If that’s not enough to keep you from emptying your tanks out there, getting fined may be! If caught while emptying your tanks illegally, you’ll pay a hefty fine for it! Instead, plan ahead by locating a nearby dump station where you can empty your tanks safely and legally. Visit Sanidumps.com or download their app to find the nearest site to you. For 10 more RVing apps to make life easier on the road, read this.
- Be sure to clean up after yourself. Pick up your trash and don’t leave anything behind. Remember, you are not camping in an established campground where park rangers maintain it. Be respectful of nature as well as the next camper who will use the site.
- If there are people camping near you, be polite. Consider your noise level, pets, and proximity. Don’t park too close to another camper. You’re all boondocking because you want to escape the busyness of RV parks and enjoy a peaceful location, so give everyone else the space they are looking for in the great outdoors. If you have pets, make sure to keep them at your site. Don’t let them run off and potentially end up at your neighbor’s campsite. Also, always clean up after them, even in the wilderness. Abide by quiet hours that most campgrounds have, which is 10PM-7AM. Nobody likes having to listen to their neighbor’s music or conversations.
- Check the limit on camping in the area you are in and abide by it. In general, boondocking is limited to 14 days unless you have a special permit. Remember that there are others who would like to get out there and enjoy these free spots as well, so share the land.
There is a lot more preparation for boondocking than for camping with full hookups. In addition to packing the essentials and must haves, you’ll need extras of things since you’ll be far from a camping store or convenience store in case you run out of supplies or have an emergency.
One of the main things you need to be sure you have enough of is water. Hopefully you have an RV with a good-sized clean water tank so you can bring a good amount. It also wouldn’t hurt to bring some extra jugs of water along to be safe. While camping you will want to conserve as much water as you can, so think quick showers or even sponge baths and try limiting water usage on washing dishes or clothes. If you use all-natural soaps, you can utilize the water in your gray tank for things like washing your trailer or watering plants. This water is also good to use in a watering can to sprinkle around your campsite to keep the dust level down (if needed).
Consider purchasing a water distiller if you’re going boondocking so that you can utilize the water in nearby lakes, ponds, and streams for drinking water.
Since the very nature of boondocking puts you in the middle of nowhere, make sure you plan for the unexpected. Pack a properly stocked first aid kit just in case you suffer from an illness or injury while camping. You will also want to make sure that you are prepared for bad weather. We all know how “accurate” the weather forecasts are, so be prepared for any change in weather that may happen (rain, thunderstorms, ice, hail, damaging winds, flooding, etc.).