Mar 9, 2020

Boondocking Etiquette

Boondocking is a fun type of camping where RVers ditch the hookups in lieu of beautiful, free campsites that often offer a unique sense of peace and solitude. Now that you have learned the boondocking basics, it’s time to learn a few rules associated with boondocking. Some of these rules are clearly stated, while others remain unspoken, yet equally important. Since there is no one to directly enforce the rules and regulations of boondocking, it is up to individual campers to know and respect them. Follow along with these seven important considerations of boondocking etiquette so that you can be prepared before camping in the wild.

Credit: Go RVing

1. Practice quietness
When campers go off to boondock on public lands, they often do so to find a sense of peace and quiet. While there is no camp host to make sure that campers are remaining quiet and respectful, it is still generally customary to follow certain quiet hours. This means you should try to keep a respectful volume from the hours of 9pm until at least 7am the next day. During this time, you should avoid running generators, playing loud music, allowing dogs to bark, and anything else that could disturb other campers. This allows the camping areas to remain quiet and peaceful for the enjoyment of everyone.

2. Keep your distance
When choosing your boondocking campsite, it is best to choose a site that is a good distance from other campers. Many RVers choose to boondock in lieu of a crowded campground because they want some space for themselves. Unless the boondocking area you are visiting is very crowded, you should try to choose a campsite that allows others to maintain their own designated space. Never assume that other campers want nearby neighbors, especially if they have chosen a site off by themselves.

Credit: Xscapers

3. Keep a clean campsite
When boondocking, it is best to keep a clean campsite. It is totally fine to leave a few items outside, such as camp chairs and tables, hammocks, outdoor decor, etc. However, if things begin to pile up, it can make your campsite a bit of an eyesore. You should never leave garbage or anything else outside that can make your campsite stick out. Be respectful of the land and others around you by keeping a clean campsite for both yourself and anyone else simultaneously using the land.

Credit: Pheribee

4. Pack it in, pack it out
This principle ties into the previous rule but bears repeating. When camping on public lands, it is important to practice “Leave no trace” principles. This means that you leave your campsite better than you found it, with as little impact to the land as possible. You must avoid trampling any plants or brush underfoot and park on dirt or gravel only. Never dump black or gray water, and be sure to clean up after yourself. In addition, be sure to pack out all trash, even items that are biodegradable. After all, you must remember to respect the land, and leave it better than you found it. There have been public lands camping areas that were closed down to the public due to excessive garbage being left behind, and this is certainly possible for any other lands that are repeatedly abused by campers. If you see garbage left behind by other campers, pick it up. Remember that the free use of public lands is a privilege that can be taken away.

Credit: Campendium

5. Practice pet politeness
Many campers bring their pets along with them to enjoy the fun. Boondocking can be a great way to allow your dog to run and stretch their legs. However, you must be sure to keep a close eye on your pets at all times, especially when they are outside. Clean up any waste that they leave behind, and do not allow them to chase or disturb any wildlife they may see. In addition, do not allow them to roam free off leash and disturb other campers. In general, just keep them close to you and in your campsite for both their safety and the safety of others around you.

6. Respect fire bans
There is nothing like enjoying a nice bonfire in the great outdoors. However, fires are banned on many lands and in many national forests in certain seasons throughout the year. Be sure to check local fire bans before lighting a campfire, especially during the drier summer months. If you are unsure of current local bans, call a local ranger or USFS station for more information.

Credit: Roaming Remodelers

7. Don’t overstay
Finally, you must be sure to respect stay limitations. Most public lands allow a maximum of fourteen days of free camping, but some allow as little as three days and others up to twenty-one days. Look for signs posted when entering a new camping area, or check the rules and limitations on the website for your national forest or BLM (Bureau of Lands Management) area. If you are truly unsure, consult a ranger at the local station. Overstaying on public lands is a fineable offense and could result in being removed or even banned from certain areas. Be sure to know the rules and follow them for your own good and the good of all future campers.

Boondocking is very enjoyable for those who know how to find the best sites, conserve utilities, and follow the rules. While this may seem like quite a few regulations, most of these are set to protect the land for future campers and and allow you to continue enjoying beautiful, free campsites year after year. This concludes our series on boondocking. Be sure to check out our other articles to learn all about boondocking before finding your next free campsite.

Do you have a favorite boondocking site? Are there any rules you feel we missed? Feel free to share in the comments below!
Trader Online Web Developer


  1. Robins Pond in Michigan's upper peninsula is a nice out of the way place.
    Only three campsites, one large, one medium, & one small. Very much enjoyed it and our 35' 5th wheel fit in the large spot nicely.

  2. My darling wife and I LOVE boondocking! Our 30-ft Class C goes to some places that we would have never dreamed being able to reach! We are very careful to check our GPS and various terrain maps, though, just to be sure there's adequate overhead clearance and a road big enough for other vehicles to get by us when they're coming from the opposite direction. We're also very careful to choose a location where we will (eventually) be able to turn around! THAT is a HUGE consideration when you're out in the sticks! While we enjoy having hookups during cold and hot weather, in the spring and fall when we don't need heat or a/c is the BEST time for boondocking! And of course there are much fewer fellow travelers competing for all the best spots, too! ~ Wes Brummitt, Las Vegas, NV

  3. I found this article interesting and helpful. Most of it common sense for respectable RVers. Most of all it was an inspiration for me to look for some of these areas in my beautiful state of Oregon!

  4. My hubby, our pit bull & I only have done the "Wal-Mart" boondocking but want to venture outside of the public parking lots of the security of the Sac-A-Tomatoes/Ratchet Cordova, CA don't want "certain"overnighters(namely, homeless) to stay there! They rather hide the homeless from the "regular RV'ers"! But we're fine with that because we're not regular homeless anyway! We've been called the "upper-class-homeless" because we have a newer RV! Most of the homeless or I guess "lower-class" don't have a new rig or even a car! They're actually sleeping on cold pavement or dirt ground, which we WERE before we got a new Chevy Cruz,then a new Nissan Versa now an RV! We've been HATED by a town of few drama-Baby-Mama-Bipolars that we just had to leave the toxic-attitudes that draining our healthy energy from our own relationship AND pockets! So we decided to just LEAVE the misery and the Sac-DRAMA behind and "go wherewe've never gone before"! To wild, blue yonder, as they said on the Old Western Days!

    1. Why must you rank and judge people with your stereotypes of homeless, upper class, and lower class? For someone who has only “Boondocked” in Walmart parking lots - you sure have a lot to learn - 1 being mutual respect of your fellow human beings. I say this not to be mean - but to get you to think about the way you describe others... Best of luck in your travels!

    2. Anonymous10:43 PM

      What a rambling mess of a post. Best I can tell, she can't stand people who are doing exactly what she's doing. Go figure.

    3. Anonymous8:46 AM

      WHAT DOES RVING AND HOMELESS have in common ? Nothing I'm very sorry to hear about your situation I will be praying for you and all the other lost souls alike we all make our own future don't let your pasted drag you down

  5. The generator is where I have a problem. I need AC if it's hot due mainly to medical issues. So I need to run my generator at night when it's hot out. Why shouldn't I have the same right to boondock and be comfortable especially with medical needs.
    I get the stereos partying and garbage like that but a necessity is a lot different


    1. The need of the one out weighs the need ((quiet) of the many?

    2. Anonymous9:03 AM

      CRY ME A RIVER stay in your stick built or Best Western why does everyone think they don't need to follow the rules bet you're a liberal DEMOCRAP

    3. Go to the mountains, you won't need the AC after dark.

    4. Anonymous, liberals are WAY more likely to obey boondocking's unwritten rules than are right wingers, who are more interested in individual rights than rights of a group.

    5. Unknown......politics should not have been brought into this. You argument is just as flawes as theirs.....Just Sayin'

    6. I agree. Politics have no place on a forum of peaceful recreation.

    7. I agree. Politics have no place on a forum of peaceful recreation.

  6. The need of the one out weighs the need ((quiet) of the many?

  7. Noise is noise whether there's a tune or lyrics to it or not. Don't play the entitlement card. Figure a way to make it work. Talk to your neighbours, leave lots of space, park next to someone with the same needs, get a bigger battery, get a bigger inverter, buy a quieter generator. It won't always work out, but life is like that.

  8. Your "never dump black or gray water" should be capitalized........


    Most people will recognize the Black but will figure it harmless to dump Gray. Just smell your Gray sometime and see if you think it's harmless. It's full of crap, too, so to speak.

    We've been off the traveling end of RVing for about a decade now (Thanks, Great Recession), so don't know how much more things have crowded up. We did most of our boondocking out west......Utah and surrounds. BLM land is great. We always thought one of the joys of boondocking was having NO neighbors ! ALL our best boondocking adventures involved NO neighbors at all......except for the bears in the woods or the ghosts at the coyboy ghost camp.

    It's hard to boondock in the east.....too stinking crowded. And we've been stuck at our home in SC, recovering from 2008. Just about there, and SC is pretty, if too flat where we are in the SE. But God is good and we'll soon be on the road again.......

    GO WEST, OLD MAN !!!!!

  9. All is good! Just remember everybody is not the same. You can create peace or you can create havoc, I prefer peace and I realize everybody thinks a little differently and I leave it that way. We are all a product of how we were raised in one form or another sometimes you have to break the spell.

  10. We have never boondocked but want to in the near future. Your article was very informing. I would like to know what boondockers do to help cut garbage/waste and what do you do with your garbage until you can find a proper place to dispose of it? Thanks in advance.

  11. Just curious about safety while boondocking. Is it safe to camp out in the middle of nowhere? Do people ever experience trouble with thieves, etc.?


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