Boondocking is a term used to describe camping in a place that is not a formal campground with amenities. Boondocking, also called dry camping, is camping "off-the-grid" so to speak. It is typically free, and will bring you to some amazing places where others often aren't.
Where is boondocking allowed?
1. There are several big box type stores or chain restaurants that will allow overnight camping. These are great places to utilize on a road trip when you just need a place to sleep overnight and plan to drive during the days. A few that we have used are Wal-Mart, Cabela's, Bass Pro Shop, and Cracker Barrel. Casinos will also often allow overnight camping.
2. Public Lands are great for boondocking! The US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are two federal agencies that allow boondocking on properties such as national forests and national grasslands. Various state managed properties also allow boondocking. These would be too many to even list, as they vary from state to state.
3. We have two favorite websites for boondocking: Boondockers Welcome and Free Campsites.
Boondockers Welcome has free overnight camping on private land. People can post their property as a host site and you can search for someone to host you. There is a small fee to become a member on the site, but when you host boondockers you earn credit toward that. Also, according to their site, 3 out of 4 host sites actually do offer electric, so you often are not completely without amenities. We have had water hook ups offered to us as well. There is a great network of Boondockers Welcome sites all over the country, so it has come in very handy for us. Click the affiliate link to find out more:
Free Campsites has been very useful to us as well. It provides an interactive map that has sites color coded according to whether they are free sites, pay sites, permit only sites, and sites still being researched. The comments that users leave about their experience at the sites are very helpful. This site doesn't always work well and could really use an upgrade, but the information is still very pertinent.
There are other sites that you can try as well. Campandium and the Dyrt are both popular ones. We just haven't found them as useful as the two I mentioned above.
What equipment is needed for boondocking?
This is entirely up to you. Some people camp out in a tent and have minimal supplies. We've seen others boondocking in very expensive class A motorhomes. For us, we boondock with our 26 ft Jayco trailer, plus a generator. We can stay at a location for about a week with a full fresh water tank and empty black water tank. However, often the roads to boondocking locations in public lands can be difficult to navigate. Narrow, dirt roads are common. So always be aware of the road conditions and your vehicles capabilities before charging ahead.
Solitude. Quiet. Peacefulness. Unbelievable locations. When you look at a brochure or advertisement for recreational vehicles, the pictures they often show are boondocing sites. The single camper alone alongside a mountain lake. That's why you boondock. It is an experience you can't get in a campground surrounded by other people. I think it's what many travelers want but aren't sure how to do. If you are willing to be a little adventurous and seek an experience outside of most people's comfort zones, the reward can be unforgettable.