Free campsites!!! What??
When I was a kid we used to go camping during the summers. This was way-way back in the 50s and 60s. You could head out on the weekend find a nice secluded spot and set up camp and most of the time it was free. It was a joyous time, I remember waking up and smelling bacon cooking. You knew mom had hotcakes bacon and a glass of milk waiting when you got up. Having gotten up at the crack of dawn, Dad had a nice warm fire going. That was living, Nowadays, We still love to camp but finding a secluded campsite is almost impossible and a free site forget it. The love for the great outdoors will never leave us because our parents saw to it that we experienced this when we were little.
As modern day camping has evolved the pay camp and reservation system restricts camping for many people. Just try and find a campsite along the Oregon coast during the summer months. It can be done but luck has to be with you. Most of the campgrounds anywhere near a large city have the reservation system and the cost of a night stay can reach astronomical levels. For us, this type of camping looses most of its charm.
When we retired we decided to live full time in our RV. At first, we pondered the cost of moving from pay camp to pay camp. After adding up the price for the camp, electric hook up and the hassles we decided to look into other ways of doing this. What we found was quite amazing. We could find campgrounds at or near some of the most wonderful places and guess what they were free.
This free system of camping is called “Boondocking”. All over this great country is open land. This land is publicly owned and managed by the US Forest service, BLM “Bureau of Land Managment” or State land. Unless otherwise posted this land is free to camp on. There are restrictions such as 14-day rule and during fire season complete no camping restriction. Unlike pay camps, the free campground has no facilities and requires that you bring what you need and when you leave you take everything with you. Most important is that you leave the camp better and cleaner than you found it. This is important because if we leave a big mess every time the public lands will become closed to this type of camping. “Dry Camping”, is when you set up camp without having any facilities available. There is no bathroom, shower, fresh water or electricity. Most modern day RVs have everything you need for dry camping and if you are doing the weekend thing you will be set. If you plan to stay longer then you start to run into some issues. The size of your waste water holding tanks and how much fresh water you can carry are just a few of the more important things to worry about. We know several people who Boondock with just a van. They have learned how to live with a minimal amount of stuff and most are living their dream life without all the junk we think we need. Our rig is set up with all the comforts of home. We have a solar system that allows us to use everything you would find in a home. At today’s prices adding electricity to your rig is within most people’s budgets. We can stay for the full 14 days without having to dump our wastewater or get fresh water. When we leave to find our new spot we will find a dump station along our way. Again we always make sure we leave our last camp cleaner and better than when we arrived.
When we first started our adventure we were totally in the dark about where to camp. We called around to some RV parks and found that the price was way too high for our budget, we are retired on social security. Yes, you can live very well this way just on that income. The other thing we found was that many of the RV parks have an age restriction on your RV. This means that if your rig is older than 10 years you are out of luck, It doesn’t matter what the rig looks like. In a small way that ended up being a good thing because we had to find another way to camp. We used the internet to see if there was another way we could camp and that is how we learned where to find the boondocking sites. We also went on YouTube and watched videos of others who were trying to do this and to our surprise, there are many folks out here doing the same thing. There are several websites set up that will help you in this endeavor. The one we decided to use is called www.campendium.com. From this website, we can look all over the country and find all the known free camp areas state to state, also the pay campgrounds. Users can recommend places and rate them. It shows cell service and in some cases where the water and dump stations can be found. The best feature is that after you sign up you can add reviews of the campsites you visit. What we have found is for some folks there experience was a bit different than ours. Many time this may be because they are camping with a larger rig that cannot get into the spot as easy. Or some other restriction because of their equipment. We read all the reviews and make a judgment from what they say and then using google maps look at the site in satellite view. This will give us a good idea of what we will find and usually we have no surprises.
For Barbara and I, Boondocking is working very well. We can camp all summer long for free, save money, and enjoy some of the best camping there is. If you look around you can find a spot that is up in the mountains and cool all summer long and then during the winter head south where it is much warmer and drier. We choose to go to Quartzsite AZ for the winter because for $180.00 you can dry camp in the BLM property for up to 7 months. They have a dump station, fresh water, and a garbage disposal. The town of Quartzite offers many things to do and is a great place to visit especially for the winter months. Just North of town is a 14-day free camp area for anyone who wanted to only stay short term. For the lifestyle, we are trying to live Boondocking fits into what we enjoy. If you are looking into this as a way of life there are many resources available online. Most of us are more than happy to offer our advice so do your research then untie the dock line and head out and join us. Thank you Barbara, Mike, and Jazzman