Why do only one in four RVers boondock? Part II

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May 30, 2011

By Bob Difley

boondocking_desert2In last Saturday’s post I pondered why only about one in four RVers boondock and received a lot of informative comments. At the top of the comments was the concern for safety, with responses like boondocking was a “real unknown” and a preference for the “security of a campground” and “safety of others.” Other comments included “we try not to park alone,” and that there is “safety in numbers,” a fear of “people messing around outside”,and “someone would jump on me.”

Non-safety comments included one who said I “love my comforts” and another that didn’t want to be concerned about “keeping batteries charged.” Another said they camp a lot in Texas where it was hot and they needed their A/C. Concerns from previous blogs included a fear of getting lost, of the unknown, and of having no one else around.

There were also many comments from those who boondock regularly and would continue to do so. But it surprised me that safety was the biggest factor keeping RVers from boondocking. I don’t have any hard data or recent studies that indicate that there is a greater danger being alone on public lands than in campgrounds, but anecdotally I have never talked to anybody or heard instances where someone was attacked or burglarized while boondocking.

Most boondockers, including from the commenters on last Saturday’s post, say they have never experienced a problem or felt unsafe. I have never, in sixteen years of fulltiming and boondocking, had a problem or felt threatened. However, I have left boondocking campsites because of what I thought could have been problems, but all but one of those because of large partying groups nearby (I fear groups of drinking/partying 20-somethings far more). In the other case I pulled into and immediately out of a dispersed area because I didn’t like the look of some of the campers there–they looked more like homeless squatters than campers).

So maybe this is the better starting point for those unaccustomed to camping alone. There are all kinds of boondocking campsites, from the hundreds of thousands that flock into Quartzsite each winter to the isolated spot along an old logging road deep inside a national forest.  Though seasoned boondockers may prefer the latter, there are very nice boondocking areas called “dispersed camping areas” that the forest service and BLM designate for boondocking. They are less isolated, and you can often choose a spot near other campers or further away, whatever suits you. Some, like the Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) designated by the BLM have an onsite host. That is true even at Quartzsite.

So for beginning boondockers, a visit to the FS or BLM office to identify the local dispersed camping areas would be a good move. Then you could camp as close or as far away from others as you like. And there is another perk. Most boondockers are not unfriendly, though they prefer not to have neighbors too close, and are usually open to questions about the boondocking lifestyle enabling you to expand your knowledge on how to boondock and suggestions of where to go.

You might find that having more personal space than in a campground and being out in nature suits you just fine. Try it, and you can expand your boondocking pursuits at your own speed from there.

Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public LandsSnowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar.

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  4. Rod Mann

    Some of us Boondockers have little desire to network with Narcissistic Land Yacht owners, thou I have had many good times around the campfire with homeless squatter types as well as bikers… As for security I am always packing… It’s peace of mind if nothing else.. LMAO I own a 38ft three axle Land Yacht which allows me to dry camp for 60-70 days at a time…

  5. Vern

    I think alot of RVers don’t understand how easy it is. They should check on a blog that I ran across at http://greendockin.blogspot.com . These people converted their truck into a boondocking unit. (and its funny)

  6. David T.

    Larry, maybe Webster can help when we use the term common sense. He defines it as good sense or practical judgment. I hope that helps.

  7. William Fincher

    Great feedback on boondocking.We love the primitive camping in the toyhauler,we usually stay out 3 nights,so the water is not an issue nor is the waste water.When we get out in the wilderness,i adress colors,the Ameican flag above the marine flag.The family dog likes people he knows,we are plenty far away from the party people and the outside home depot generator folks.My boy and i really get a parimiter view as we return from a pounding early morning mountain bike ride.Have never had security issues, were respectfull to all,very aware,and camp in numbers,small numbers.The boondocking is the best,god provides.Happy camping

  8. AzYooper

    Steve… They probably camp right next to you because you took the spot they really wanted. (:-> .

  9. Steve

    Boondocking is great when you have two or more RV’s in your group.However, if you travel on your own like I do most of the times; I will seek the security of a State or federal campground. My only gripe is, when I’m the only one in the campground and there’s 65 – 100 other sites available, WHY, …. WHY, do people have to camp right next to you??????? God, if you’re that much afraid of the outdoors, STAY HOME!

  10. Larry

    I agree with a lot of the posters here on their reasons pro or con. If you’re that nervous about boondocking, then it’s not for you and shame on the posters who made fun of you. One way to get over the nervousness is to boondock with a couple of friends who like to do it, especially if one or both of them have “protection” whether a gun or pepper spray. Being aware at all times of your surroundings is the key. You can get mugged or home invaded in a Walmart parking lot, or for that matter, anywhere. It’s just a matter of screwing up your courage to the sticking point and doing it, after taking precautions and using the much vaunted “common sense” and being aware of your surroundings. The only thing about “common sense” is that sometimes, common sense is not so common. What is common sense to one person is not to another. There should be another descriptive word for what people mean when they say “common sense”. “Common sense” is too subjective. Personally, I prefer to stay in one spot for a week at a time and then move on. I like boondocking, but my waste tanks fill up over a long weekend and I don’t like having to travel with full tanks sometimes a hundred miles before I can find a public dump because it makes me nervous. What if I should hit an unseen major pothole or something and one of the tanks ruptured, especially the blackwater tank? Mine are some kind of plastic or fiberglass and my camper is over 20 years old. I can just see the EPA getting involved after a friendly local policeman shows up and having to pay a hefty fine. And a certain evil magician named Murphy would play a major role in the affair. When my wife and I had just a slide-in pickup camper with a recirculating toilet, we boondocked all the time and when the 5 gallon toilet tank need dumping, I just dug a nice deep hole and dumped in it; I carried a shovel just for that, but I’d need a backhoe for my 40 gallon blackwater tank. Lol In quite a few primitive camping places, you can legally dump your graywater, but you still need dumping facilities for the blackwater.

  11. David T.

    Tom Smith said it best. My wife and I have been RVers-campers for over 30 years and boondocked alot. Everything from sleeping bags on the beach to 40 foot class A motorhomes. We can tell stories of great enjoyment and some that would curl your hair. The worst was because we didn’t check our surroundings. If you use common sense the joys of RVing are unlimited!

  12. Great article as always. I also have to admit that ‘safety’ is my number one concern. The second ‘challenge’ is finding these great boondocking places in Canada. When I travel to Arizona they are plentiful and I will take more advantage of boondocking this coming Winter when I return there.

    In the meantime, despite all of my searching, I cannot find anywhere within the area I’ll be spending the Summer.

  13. Tom Smith

    …… As a followup to my previous post.

    Always, Always, Always be aware of your surroundings…no matter where you camp.

  14. Tom Smith

    The “Weak Kneed” amongst is fearful about life in general. I recently camped at a RV park in California that had about 25% long term residents because they lost their home due to the financial crisis. The couple next to us were almost in a state of panic and left one day early. I talked to a lot of these long term campers and found out that some were middle to upper level management who lost their job and the wife’s salary couldn’t make their home payment. So they lost their home. They were nice, educated people that were doing the best they could to survive by living in their RV.

  15. butterbean carpenter

    Howdy Bob,
    Another good article on boondocking… You are getting some people thinking, anyway… We all heard about the couple from Amarillo AND THEY WERE ARMED,
    but they had scattered their protection, until they gave the arms to the KILLERS..
    Remember these criminals were killers, before they killed them.. THEY WERE IN THE WRONG SPOT AT THE WRONG TIME!! WHEN YOUR TIMES UP IT’S UP!!

    If I was able to I’d do it and not be scared… If you’re scared you’ll for boogers!!

    Enjoy life —-GO BOONDOCKING——–

  16. Manuel Enos

    What is it with the (author’s) obsession with BOONDOCKING!! You love it and I am glad for you but there are some of us who could care less and I think that is more than likely the majority. If you love being by yourself when camping then you should refrain from yucking it up about how great it is – you may get more company than you want. For the guy who thinks it is a liberal thing against boondocking because they don’t or won’t carry concealed weapons. I am a died, dryed, and tried CONSERVATIVE and I carry concealed all the time!! I just do not wish to have to shoot some stupid idiot for messing with me or mine. I enjoying being around people, guess it comes from riding them submarines all them years – so no boondocking for this RVer – Thanks but no thanks…

  17. Geoffrey Pruett

    Camping on your own is a pleasant change but safety is an issue, and I prefer pepper spray to gun powder, mistakes are much easier to correct with spray. The nervousness is valid more now with high unemployment as dividing the down on thier luck from the scum is harder by appearance. The somebody owes me attitude is becoming more a way of life than it was just a decade ago and that applies to the if its not guarded it walks idea too. Camping with other RVers has seldom been a problem hookups or not but the entitled in the younger group are often one, sometimes just noise other times behavior that would make Mother Jones frown and she was a free spirit. There is a large drop in the married with children group, perhaps a blessing in hiding.

  18. I feel much less secure in a campground than on our own. I carry enough generator power to run A/C if we need and life is a lot quieter with ourselves alone. Last campground near Williams AZ, the host knocked on our door as we were running the gen and watching a DVD. Said we should lock it now as there had been thefts EVEN AS the gen was being used!!!

  19. AzYooper

    Maybe this was more of a local story, but as a previous poster noted above…last year three of four bad apples broke out of a low security prison in Arizona. Among the highlights of their days of freedom, they hooked up with a girl friend and then came across a fifth wheeler boondocking in north-eastern Arizona. They killed the elderly couple, burned the bodies in the 5th-wheeler, stole their truck so they would have an unrecognized vehicle and continued on for another few weeks before they were caught in another remote campground.

    This is not the same gentle world it was 10, 20, or 3 years ago. Carrying a gun always sounds like a great idea to all the “cowboys” out there. Last week in Phoenix, some bad hombres cut open a security door and did a home invasion. They tied up the couple, stole all the money, valuables and SEVERAL GUNS, and he family pickup. The male victim said “I wish I would have had my gun by the bed.” Owns gun, did no good.
    We’ve been Class A RVing for seven years and choose our spots with more in mind than 50 amp service.

  20. I have to admit when I 1st saw the article title my 1st thought was “safety” too, but other than scary movies I have absolutely nothing to base that on. So once you get past safety the next obstacle I thought of was finding places… but there again when planning a trip I immediately look for RV parks & haven’t even tried researching BLM or other free space.

    We always intended to spend about 25% of our time boon docking, but looking back over the past year it’s actually been more like 5%. I blame myself & will start thinking “outside the box” in the future… just think of the toys we can buy with the park savings!!

  21. I think alot of us have also seen those Horror Flicks like the “Hills have Eyes 1 & 2” where the poor Camping Family gets Slaughterd in both Films. Once in the Dessert in one Film and the Hills of Tennesee if I remember right. Either way there are alot of Films out there with basically the same plot. Those alone would be enough to make me leary about Camping in the middle of nowhere. Oh yeah, when in trouble they have access to a Cell Phone but have No Service.

  22. MikeStock

    Living east of the Mississippi we don’t really have the opportunities for boondocking that you Westerners have. Our opportunities are basically limited to Walmart parking lots and a few national forest campgrounds. Dispersed camping areas just don’t exist.
    Reading these articles just makes me envious.

    However, on our few trips west I mentioned boondocking on BLM land and my wife didn’t like the isolation, so I guess it’s just as well.

  23. It all depends on where you boondock. I just returned from boondocking in the middle of a friend’s ranch. No animals, no people, no roads, no houses for a half-mile in any direction. It was a great experience. I would not, however, want to boondock in an area where there was evidence of past parties (beer bottles, campfires, dirt bikers, etc.). When my wife and I boondock, we want to be alone, with no one else nearby.

    We could, of course, depend on firearms for protection, but then we would have to be concerned about the hassle of legal representation should we get into a self-defense situation whereby we had to use a firearm to defend our lives. The laws favor the criminals, and not the victims. So……we are careful about choosing a good boondocking site. BLM has been a great help, and we usually boondock when school is in session.

  24. Frank Aguilar

    The reason you have not heard of people having problems with boondocking is because dead people don’t talk. There used to be a lot of problems in Northern Arizona and New Mexico. A couple was just killed last year.

  25. B.J. McCord

    I believe one out of four is higher than it really is.
    I would venture to say it’s one out of 20, unless
    parking at Wal-Mart is considered Boondocking.
    And if whiny liberals carried firearms, they might
    feel safer and not be scared of their own shadows.
    But of course, they might shoot themselves………..