Why Boondocking ROCKS In The West (And Why This Land Is Still YOURS)!
While we’re travelling to Phoenix and back into the folds of civilization I wanted to share some more ponderings on boondocking. I’ve written many times about this free-camping practice in past posts including how to do it, where to find it and other musings, but what I haven’t written about is why it’s soooo much better out west.
We love to boondock (dry-camp in the “boonies”) whenever we can and the resource that makes this possible for us is federal public land. Absolutely anyone (foreign or domestic) who visits the US has access to this awesomely free resource, and as tax-paying citizens it’s part of what we pay for every year in our taxes. In other words this is OUR land!
Now if that isn’t cool enough, where it gets über-fabulicious-cool is when you delve into the details. Public land accounts for almost 30% of the US and is managed by several different agencies most of it through the Bureau of Land Management (~248 million acres (1,000,000km²)) and National Forest (~193 million acres (780,000 km²)). Not all areas allow boondocking, but many do and what makes the west extra special is HOW MUCH of this public land is around here. Out of the 640 million or so acres that the government owns, the vast majority of it is in the 12 most western states.
Just check out this handy map (a bit outdated, but you get the idea):
Did you get that picture??!
Or another way to look at it:
Can you say Go West Young Man?
These maps are the very reason boondocking ROCKS in the West. All those pretty yellow and green-colored areas are OUR land -> oceans and oceans of public land for the likes of us crazy nature-lovin’ nomads looking to roam and free-camp in the wilds. We’ve spent the past month on this wonderful resource in both CA & AZ meaning ZERO camping fees and lots of space & nature to ourselves. How could you not love it?
We find most of our public land camping spots using our Benchmark Maps, RV forums, other people’s blogs and handy websites such as freecampsites.net. Arizona actually has a couple of extra special boondocking resources that I’ll detail in a later post, but you get the idea….the whole point is when you’re out in the west you’re out in the heart of the wilds. The land here is still wide open, it’s still free to everyone and that’s a kind of RVing I can learn to love. Boondocking ROCKS out here baby!
Some Random Public Land Resources For You:
- NationalMap.gov – Downloadable, printable map of public lands by state
- Benchmark Maps – IMHO simply some of the BEST hard-copy maps in existence for navigation and public land boundaries. We own these for all our fav western states.
- Public Lands Information Center – link to buy many of the “official” western State BLM & Forest Service maps here.
- FreeCampsites.Net – One of the best free online resources to find boondocking spots across the US. Use it & contribute to it!
- Bureau Of Land Management – not easy to navigate, but there is info on each and every BLM area in the USA hidden somewhere in this site
- US Forest Service – neat map and links to every forest service site in the entire USA.
- 2012 Congress Report of Federal Land Ownership (PDF Download) – this lists info by state of ALL federal land ownership Very detailed report for those looking to get into the nitty-gritty.
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Amanda Watson says
Yes- we agree 100%. Boondocking rocks! Today marks our 40th night in row of boondocking and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the experience. Of course, much of our boondocking knowledge has been acquired right here on this awesome blog. Thanks for all the wonderful resources you have shared and continue to share with us 🙂
Excellent! I’m going to be using a few of your boondocking spots soon too 🙂
Christopher McDaniel says
Do you ever feel like “sitting ducks” out there? Has anyone with criminal intent ever given you pause?
Nope. Never felt that way in the boonies. Only time I’ve ever been nervous is in a big city. Only time I’ve ever been attacked or robbed was in a city too.
Awesome post… Love the west, spend lots of time in state and national parks…need to do more boondocking!
There is an exceptional amount of open and wild land out West. Many things I love about the East too, but the West does call to my heart in a way almost no other place does.
You are THE QUEEN of blogging IMHO … her again is another great resource. I will be bookmarking all these sites you reference. Thank you!
Thanks 🙂 Glad it’s helpful!
Bear Tracks Blog says
You’re KILLING me! I want to be THERE! We’re all the way over here on the east coast dealing with selling our boat in Florida. Can’t wait to get back to the west at the end of the year. Again, thank you so much for all the useful links. –Linda
Hope it all goes smoothly w/ your boat so you can get your butt BACK OUT HERE!
We couldn’t agree more, that’s why we prefer to keep our wheels west of the Mississippi! Great post.
Yeah, it’s easy RVing out here, I must admit.
Box Canyon Blogger says
Box Canyon Mark
The Good Luck Duck says
*APPLAUSE!* We spent 10 nights hooked up this winter, and each one was one night closer to getting back out here. Whew! Way to spread the boondocking gospel!
You ducks are the QUEENS of boondocking. Waiting for you to publish the book on it 🙂
Nina, Great Post. Thanks again for all the great info. We are enjoying our time here at Dome Rock. Yes, boondocking rocks!
Glad your enjoying the spot. It’s so relaxing out there.
John and Pam Wright says
Having made that stop in Anza Borrego to meet you got us trying boondocking even if just for short periods of time. It is really a treat to be so alone and so very quiet!
I’m glad you guys made the jump to try it out! Always love introducing people to this side of RVing.
Lorraine and Don says
Nina and Paul,
We’ve been following your blog for a few months now and left Alberta on January 26 for our 6 week winter ‘adventure’. You’ve inspired us to boondock on this trip, and so far have managed two nights. One finding a spot in total darkness and the next at Dome Rock last night. We looked around a bit but didn’t recognize your rig so unfortunately we missed out on the chance to say hello. We’re in Yuma tonight but are heading west to American Girl Mine on Tuesday. We have a couple of questions though…where do you find firewood in the desert? Or do you bring it along? Second question: Do you know where we can buy Benchmark Maps other than online? After American Girl, we’re planning on spending a while in Borrego Springs. Thanks SO much for all your helpful and informative blogs. We love reading them. We’re even talking about some full time RVing in the not to distant thanks to you and Paul. Have fun in the Phoenix area!
Lorraine and Don
Oh HOW EXCELLENT! Happy you’re enjoying all the spots!!
Regarding firewood I prefer to bring my own. Not alot of scrub/vegetation left in the desert and I prefer to leave it be.
Regarding the Benchmark maps I’m sure any good book or map-store would have them, although I admit I’ve never tried. Amazon.com sells them too (online again, I know).
Rattlesnake Joe says
I once read ” I was never more alone than when I walked the streets of a crowded city “, In the west I never feel alone in all this beautiful wilderness. Cities breed contempt for others as well our ourselves.
I have to admit I love both cities and wilderness for different reasons, but the wilderness is where I feel most at peace.
Great post, that map was an eye opener
As soon as I saw that map I knew I had to write a blog post about it.
Hi Nina, I enjoy reading your posts and wanted to thank you for the link to the great maps. We met you briefly at the Lane County campground, Armitage and have enjoyed the blog since. I agree the West is the Best and hope to go back out this summer.
Glad the links are useful! Maybe we’ll see you in OR again this summer?
I certainly hope to. We plan to start the summer trip in July at Rocky Mountain National Park for a week. Maybe we will be in Oregon later on in August. I will keep tabs on you via your blog, really enjoy it.
Bob Nuttmann says
I suppose that the title “Why Boondocking Rocks” is a play on words. Or at least multiple meanings. Quite a good one actually. A very good post. And yes the west is the best. The public lands are just fantastic. We are going to try a couple of your boondocking spots on 395 up to Oregon when it warms up a bit. I noticed in your “journey” maps that you have not been to Montana. This is an oversight you should correct soon. Montana may be my favorite State to go to. Glacier National Park is likely the best mountain scenery in the lower 48 States.
Yeah, a bit of a play on words (I do like to do that).
And I totally agree that we NEED to go to Montana. Definitely on the list!
Totally agree…. But it seems that the RV industry is making so many new models that are all electric or with more household appliances which would entail being plugged in all the time. I guess that’s fine for some people….
Yeah it’s a sad (for me) trend. You can certainly boondock in an all-electric, but you need ALOT of solar and/or a generator (almost a requirement). I’m still very attached to our propane devices and happy they allow me the flexibility to boondock without generator usage.
Ray Burr says
Great Post. We have tried many of the spots mentioned by you and they have been fantastic. Thanks for providing such great info. We like to boondock, spent many years camping in the forests of Vancouver Island with a class “B” van and love being isolated in nature with great views. It’s really nice the US still has so much free open land.
Oh excellent. Glad you’ve enjoyed the spots!
Frank Lodico says
Followed your blog for over a year now. Just wanted to reach out and thank you for all your effort. We are jumping out full-time in may and I wanted to let you know how much your blog has smoothed over the fear of the unknown for us. Love your writing style and sense of humor too. Your site has become our “training wheels”. See ya out there, frank +laurel
So cool!! Congrats on the up-coming fulltiming. Good wheelin’ to you!
The Lowe's RV Adventures says
Great info as usual. The map is simply telling us to hurry our travel and get back to the West and really enjoy boon docking.
Yes, turn around, turn around…you’re driving in the wrong direction!
Thanks for teaching us the ropes Nina and for generously sharing sooo much info with the masses. 🙂
We’ve loved having you along for the ride, both on the blog and in person 🙂
ain't for city gals says
If it wasn’t for boondocking I don’t think I would even go camping…I really dislike campgrounds. Plus in our little trailers we have no use for water or electric….
Cool! We don’t do as much of it as we’d like, being somewhat limited by our “beastly” size, but we’re hoping to find more spots to get out there. Ideally most of this coming March will be boondocking for us.
william & susan mckay says
We will be FTers in June this year, we are a family of three and would love to go boondocking but have not found info that’s not non conflicting about generators, solar, wind etc. We would like to go off grid, but what’s the best way? I should mention we have converted an MCI bus that has a wheelchair lift. 102 wide 40′ long. It was set up (by previous owner) with 30 amp. One roof a/c.
We have thought about solar, but have not found anything online that shows there company has done wind tunes testing with there product. Solar seems to be the way to go but I worry about the roof-&-leaks.
Would the solar panels help with heat by providing some shade? With an 8’x 35′ roof there is a lot of room for solar, can you have to many panels? We are at the present time in N. CA. and real need to here from those FTers whom and where to purchase them and get installed …
Solar and a generator are your best bets for going off-grid. Wind power won’t be consistent enough (you need regular high winds to even get close). So, I’d focus on the other two.
If you’re not sure how much you’ll be boondocking start with a generator. It’s inexpensive and it’s worth having one anyway as a backup for rainy days or extra hot days etc.
For solar plan for around 100 watts of solar for every 100 amp hours of battery. We have 600 watts on our roof and 440 amp hours of batteries. That’s a tad oversized, but it works great and satisfies all our regular needs.
Keep in mind there are certain things solar cannot do…run the air conditioner for example. That just sucks too much power too quickly and solar can’t replenish that fast enough. So plan to boondock where it’s not too hot, or keep a generator to run the air.
As for the roof our panels are stuck on with special 3M tape. No holes for us except where the combiner box runs the wires into the coach.
Have a read through our solar series. I have 4 detailed posts about our setup here:
Hope that helps!
Maynard Correll says
Nina: In this post you make a reference to a resource called “Benchmark maps”….A heads up; when I click on that link I get a warning that that link has a malware attached to it. You might want to check it out….comment?
Woah! I just tried it on my ipad and all looks ok, but I will check it out as soon as I get back on my regular computer (tomorrow) and will comment back too. Cheers for the heads up.
So I double-checked the link on my regular computer and cannot find anything wrong with the link. It just links directly to Benchmark Maps (their official site). Not sure what might be causing it to trigger a Malware alert on your computer, but it seems all clear on this end.
Billie Sue Patrick says
As an RVing resident of the west who has also camped in the east, I would like to add a few things I think campers from the east need to know. 1. Unlike the east, the west simply isn’t a grid of little towns connected by small roads, nor do cities sprawl into miles of suburbs. In the west there is pretty much nothing between major towns. You can go hours without cell service, and those little dots on the map won’t have any services for travelers. 2. There are lots of micro-climates based on elevation and other terrain differences, but as a rule the west is HOT in the summer. You won’t be dripping sweat in 5 seconds like in humid areas, but it’s still miserable and you can easily become dehydrated. Personally I can’t imagine camping without AC anywhere under about 8,000 ft., and you would still be hot during the day. 3. There is wildlife. This seems obvious, but you really need to know and be prepared for what you, your kids, and your pets could encounter. Too much to go into here, but we still have dangerous animals roaming wild in the scenic spots you want to visit. 4. It can take a reeeeeally long time to get to or be rescued by emergency services. At our ages, this is something my husband and I keep in mind. 5. Detailed maps and GPS are a must. Besides you not wanting to get lost, property owners get plenty hostile if you stray onto their land. 6. The west is a checkerboard of native/tribal land. “Indian reservations” are sovereign nations, not theme parks. Some welcome visitors; others do not. Also, do not expect any roads on the res to be passable or even accessible. Certainly don’t expect gas, food, or public restrooms while driving through. 7. Don’t be fooled by the cell providers’ coverage maps. Real coverage is more like Swiss cheese.
The west is absolutely wild, and beautiful, and austere. You will experience stunning vistas and stars you’ve never even seen before. Just take time to research where you want to go. If you get there and it isn’t what you expected, it will most likely take hours to get somewhere else. And please take the risks associated with remoteness seriously.