What you need to know for desert boondocking

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February 8, 2010


By Bob Difley

If you follow the rest of the snowbirds to the southwestern deserts in winter, you will find that most of them stay in he same RV resort or campground for the entire season. A small number of RVers decide to so some boondocking in the open desert to really experience the desert in its wildness and beauty.

As you roam around and talk to other boondockers you will find more desert boondocking locations than you ever imagined. Many are just places where an RVer has pulled off onto an unnamed, unpaved desert track and found a nice spot behind a hill, overlooking a wash, or hidden in a grove of desert willow or mesquite trees.

Others become popular simply because one boondocker spots another and decides to join and soon there are half a dozen RVers, though they space themselves apart from each other, but still enjoying the proximity of other boondockers. Iff you would like to try this open desert camping, here are some of the basic rules and tips you need to know.

  • The BLM allows free camping for up to 14 consecutive days out of every 28 days on open land.
  • After 14 days, you must move at least 25 miles away from your current location and cannot return for another 14 days.
  • Camping is legal except where specifically prohibited by signs or fences.
  • No camping within 300 feet of a man-made watering hole or tank to allow wildlife access.
  • Use existing routes and trails.
  • Camp at previously used sites.
  • When there is no danger of rain or flash flooding, camp in washes where signs of camping will wash away.
  • Pack It In, Pack It Out: Pack out your trash and any that was left by others.
  • Leave What You Find: Protect cultural resources by leaving all artifacts as you find them.
  • Leave natural objects and avoid damaging vegetation. Pick a spot that has been camped in before.

Check out my boondocking ebook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands

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  2. Sheila Allison

    While watching a program on tires I learned that any tire over 6 years old should not be used. They have a date on them in a small oval area. this date is read with the week and year made.(2409) = June of 2009. We just purcased new tires and they are a couple years old for our Award. I know that the spare on the Award is older than 1995. I may just put that one on and not get out of the driveway before it comes apart. I plan to replace the spare this year before heading out for who knows where.

  3. I have a 36 foot class A motor Home, I have also owned large trucks. You do not want to change a tire on a large motor home, it is extremely dangerous. Road side assistance generally can mount the tire onto the existing wheel as easy as replacing the entire wheel assembly. On our large trucks we carried spare tires but not wheels.

    I am aggravated that there isn’t a way to carry a spare tire. Most RV tires are hard to find, especially in remote areas, such as Alaska (I had a hard time finding one in South Florida). Our dealer drove our new RV through a construction area and a rock was picked up between the duel rear tires and blew one out. So it can happen!

    I just recently replaced all my tires. I kept one as a spare, but I can’t find a place to carry it. It seem a little dangerous trying to get it to the top of the RV and if I could how do I secure it. For long trips I may have to carry it on top the tow car.

  4. Thanks for that Barry. I too recommend PublicEarth, having talked to them also in Albuquerque, and urge RVers to use the site to list locations of interest, wildlife viewing areas, boondocking spots, hiking trails, and other locations that would be of interest to RVers. The more of us who use it, the more valuable it becomes to all of us. You can get your free membership at http://www.PublicEarth.com.

  5. Barry Engleman


    The Albuquerque Rally last April had a new internet company called PublicEarth with a booth. Their internet site has been launched and it is a free Wiki site which includes mapping and a lot more. With public support, this website could become a very good resource for our RV community. They have a way for anyone to mark a site on the map for public use, add a description, add pictures and rate the site. The public can mark boondocking sites, campgrounds, rockhounding locations, mine locations, trails, rock shops, parks, etc., etc., etc.

    The people behind PublicEarth seem to be really trying to make it work for all of us and I would like to recommend we, as an RV community, give them some support. I have no affiliation with PublicEarth other than being a free member.

    Barry Engleman