Updated: Jun 3
Living on the road means something different for everyone. While some prefer the luxury of hooking up at RV parks, others enjoy straying far off the beaten track to enjoy the pleasures of boondocking. I’m a supporter of the latter. I’m enchanted by the beauty of nature in the world and want to be as close to it as possible. I decided to pack my bags, put my larger belongings in storage, and head out into nature.
While it’s easy to romanticize what it’s like to boondock, sometimes the reality that comes with it is far less glamorous. So here’s a list of the good, the bad and the ugly of boondocking.
The good If you enjoy camping, chances are you’ll love boondocking. There’s nothing like being able to park your home in the middle of a wide-open field, secluded from the hustle and bustle of the world, while relishing the simple miracles of mother nature.
Besides the joy of being submersed in epic locations, another incredible thing about boondocking is the cost -- it’s free! Well, every so often you may have to pay for a permit for US Forest Services (USFS) land but if you stick to boondocking on the Bureau Land Management (BLM) land you won’t have to pay. There are 14-day limits on both lands. This rule applies to most BLM and USFS administered lands, but there are exceptions.
Having power is a must if doing long term boondocking. Solar panels are the only way to go. Heat waves and winter storms can be difficult to manage. I have seen a low of 45 F in the RV when hunkering down through the historical Winter Storm Uri in Texas, and a high of 97 F in the RV when temperatures near Big Bend National Park reached 115 F! It’s not very pleasant wearing your ski jumpsuit to bed as you shiver to sleep, nor is sitting at your dining room table feeling sweat droplets slide down your back. The RV is not insulated enough for extreme temperatures. Even with unlimited power – it doesn’t cool down or heat up enough with a single AC or heating unit. The goal is to follow that 70-degree line if possible. Or worst-case scenario, hook up to an RV park until the weather improves.
Service -- Hotspots are your best friend! Being out in the middle of nowhere is wonderful, but sometimes being so far out in the wilderness comes with weak service. Having a strong signal is critical while working on the road and for keeping in touch with family and friends. It can be frustrating when you finish a 3-hour drive, thinking you’ve found the perfect spot, look down at your phone and find out that you have no bars. You may have to bounce around to several different spots before settling on the one with the strongest connection.
Groceries/laundry -- There have been times I’ve driven 45 minutes to get groceries or do laundry because I’m boondocking so far from town. If you only plan on boondocking for the week, you may be able to slide by. But if you’re approaching day 14, a trip into town might be necessary. When relocating from one boondocking spot to another it’s always a good idea to stock up on supplies between moves.
Trash-- Some locations have dumpsters depending on where you’re boondocking, but majority of the time it’s the “Pack it in, pack it out” rule, as in “leave no trace you were there”. Within the two weeks of boondocking you may have a sizeable amount of trash and have nowhere to put it. I throw it in the back of the enclosed truck bed so no animals can get to it. Then dispose of it properly during the next move.
Mail– Receiving mail can be tricky. Luckily, Amazon has a wide range of Amazon lockers across the country. If those aren’t available, you can usually find a local shipping mail service. They often charge a few dollars to hold your mail.
The ugly I find the toughest part of boondocking is the water rationing. I used to be a water hog and had no concept of how much water I was wasting during my long showers. While Boondocking, there isn’t an endless amount of water that pours from the faucet. It’s the water you have in your RV tank, and it’s very limited. So, depending how much water you use, determines how long you’ll be able to boondock. My showers now usually last about 2 minutes- a quick rinse, followed by shutting the water off, lathering with soap, then a quick rinse again. This makes shaving particularly challenging.
When the black tank is full your boondocking time is up! Luckily finding dump stations isn’t too difficult. Some of them charge you $10 but others are free.
Boondocking has been the experience of a lifetime and I can’t wait to see what else it has in store for me. Sure, boondocking presents a lot of challenges. But for me, the pros outweigh the cons and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There's a whole world waiting out there for you to explore. And it’s only a decision away. This article was published in issue 13 of Rootless Living Magazine. A big thank you to them for supporting all nomads out there!