Boondocking Tips & Tricks
We love boondocking! I mean, who can argue with a free place to park your camper in the middle of some remote & gorgeous location?
Boondocking does take some preparation to fully enjoy and feel successful doing, so we've created a list to help you be successful as you venture "into the unknown." [can you tell we've raised young children?]
© The Wild Catts - photo taken at Muchwater dispersed camping in Montana (about an hour away from Missoula, MT).
What is Boondocking?
Boondocking is essentially staying on national or public lands (or a friend's property) that is free. Also called dispersed camping, boondocking is often in a remote place with no camping amenities like toilets, power, water, or showers.
What do I need to start boondocking?
To start, we like to bring our camper. Of course you can tent camp, but for the sake of this blog, let's assume you are pulling a big-rig like we do.
We decided, since this is how we live every day, that there were some essential must-haves for living off-grid in a camper. Our non-negotiables were:
We invested in a heavy duty solar power setup before we even left the driveway. We knew we would be off-grid a lot, so we wanted to be able to work online, cook, access online school resources, charge phones, and all the electronic do-hickies that we can't live without in our modern world. Solar power has made that possible. Curious about our setup? We'll be posting a blog about that soon!
Okay, so maybe this one isn't strictly necessary for everyone, but we work remotely and live a boondocking lifestyle, so it definitely is necessary for us!
Starlink has been what has made this lifestyle possible for us. No matter how remote we are, as long as we have a clear view of the skies pointing north, we've got high-speed internet! Pretty amazing, if you ask me. Now our kids play video games out in the woods, just like any other normal kid. But seriously, who needs fortnite when you can enjoy your own personal river out your front door?
©The Wild Catts - Muchwater Dispersed Camping, MT
Not unsurprisingly, water is a precious commodity when you aren't living in a sticks and bricks. We fill our water tanks before we go, and then use water as sparingly as we can, while still living life.
However, since we aren't "camping," we don't skip the showers. I don't want to stink and I don't want to smell stinky children, so taking showers on the regular is necessary. That being said, we have made some compromises and everyone gets showered once every three to four days when we are fully remote. Dry shampoo has become our friend. And baby wipes.
When we use our water supply up, we take a big 55 gallon drum (that we keep in the back of our truck) to the nearest fresh water source to refill our tanks. Then we use a handy-dandy little siphon pump to move the water from our big ole drum to the camper tanks. Then voila, showers for all! Phew.
Bikes (electric, in our case)
This might seem unimportant to some, but whenever we're unsure of a road situation, Andy or Elisha will pull a bike off our bike rack and check out the road condition and potential campsites before we take our huge rig on perilous journey. We have chosen not to go down many roads using this method. A short bike ride has saved us hours in headaches and unnecessary frustrations. Plus exercise for the win!
Okay, we're pretty bougie. We really don't like encountering problems when we boondock, so we bring a backup for all the things. And then backups for our backups. Just kidding. Sort of.
But since power and internet are a must for us when we travel, we bring a generator along (we bought ours from Costco, but this dual-fuel generator is basically the same as what we use).. Just in case the sun is hiding it's beautiful face or there are trees shading our solar panels, we want to be prepared. We've had several places we've camped where we run our generator for an hour in the morning and at night to recharge our batteries. Not enough to be obnoxious or ruin the whole being-in-nature experience, but just enough to keep our life functional.
Know Before You Go
We extensively research every boondocking location we are considering BEFORE we drive to it. We mostly use Campendium to find sites and research what people have said in the comments. If there is any hesitation about a location, we skip it and move on to somewhere different.
We have also chosen to stay at a campground in an area we want to boondock, and then we'll take day trips to scope out the best boondocking spot. When we find a good place, we pack up and move. We generally try to stay in one spot for a full two weeks before moving on to a different location.
Other apps & resources we use to find locations are:
recreation.gov (they have an app we use, especially when staying on BLM land [bureau of land management].
Boondocking app (not our favorite, but it has been useful a time or two)
Free Roam app
Facebook groups for dispersed camping & boon docking (we've had some amazing recommendations like Water Canyon in Winnemucca, Nevada [see picture below] from real people in these groups!)
©The Wild Catts - Water Canyon in Winnemucca, Nevada. (You can't see it, but on the left hand side is a rippling brook that the kids loved playing in).
The Wild Catts
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