How To Find Remote (And Free!) Boondocking Locations in the USA

By Janessa Tice Miller

If you can run your RV on solar power or batteries – or you’re just willing to go without power for a few days in the backwoods – there’s no reason not to spend your precious camping time in the middle of nature in some great ‘boondocking locations’.

Even the best campgrounds are usually full of other people and, naturally, many charge a pretty penny for their services. But is it really necessary to pay for Cable and WiFi when the entire reason you went camping was to disconnect and get into nature?

If these thoughts have ever crossed your mind it may be time to try boondocking.

Boondocking, also known as dry or primitive camping, means parking your RV in a campsite without any hookups of any kind, whether electric, water, or sewer. While some campgrounds technically offer dry camping, the term “boondocking” generally refers to camping off the grid in a free location you have discovered away from an organized campground.

Following is a simple guide to finding a great boondocking location in the USA.

  1. Pull Up Google Maps on Your Phone or Computer:

BoondockingGoogle1

You should start with a general idea of where in the country you would like to go camping. Zoom in closer to that area on Google Maps, just so you can start to see details, but stay zoomed out far enough to easily observe large chunks of land.

  1. Look For Big Plots of Green Land:

BoondockingGoogle2

There are numerous different plots of green land throughout the majority of states. These are various government-allotted masses of land designated as forests, parks, game lands, game preserves, et cetera.

  1. Understand What Areas Are Open for Free Camping

These areas are usually OPEN to public camping:

  • National Forests
  • State Forests

These areas are all almost always open to the public for camping, whether in a tent or an RV. It’s a good idea to check each Forest’s website before you go, just to be sure. Sometimes you will need a permit for camping, and other times there are specifically designated areas where camping is or is not allowed. Generally speaking, this is rare.

The average limit for camping in one National or State Forest is 14 days.

*When choosing your camping site in a National or State Forest be sure to watch out for PRIVATE PROPERTY signs, as many are massive expanses of land and they do often have towns and private  homes spread amongst them! Areas that are not posted are understood to be for public use.

  • BLM Land

BLM Land is public land run by the Bureau of Land Management.  These areas are mostly in the west and may not show up on Google Maps, but it’s definitely worth checking out their website to get to know the areas where they are located. These public lands make for great boondocking locations!

Usually NOT open to public camping:

  • State Parks
  • National Parks

Parks such as these usually have specified campgrounds available for a fee, but are not always open to public camping. Some of these parks will be open to free public camping of some kind, but you cannot assume that boondocking with an RV is permissible. However, backpacking along designated trails is allowed in many State and National Parks – so you might be able to grab your hiking gear instead. Once again, just check out the website for specific info!

  • Game Lands
  • Animal Preserve Lands

Generally speaking, lands pertaining to wildlife are reserved for either the hunting or viewing of wildlife, and do not allow camping unless explicitly stated on their website.

  1. Look for off-shooting roads throughout the forest:

BoondockingGoogle3

Once you have picked the public land of your choice, zoom into a main road that travels through that green plot of land. Typically you can find many side roads or logging roads that turn off of a few main roads. Some of these extend for quite a ways, some are extremely short. Having some basic knowledge of where side roads are located should give you a good idea of where you will be able to begin your search for a campsite.

  1. Turn on Earth (terrain) mode to get an idea of how accessible the area is for your rig:

BoondockingGoogle4

Before you choose a location, it is important to determine what your rig is capable of handling. If your RV is on the larger side, you will probably need to stick to more accessible roads and flatter plains for your own safety and the safety of your vehicle.

If your RV is a lighter motorhome, van, travel trailer or some other tricked out adventure mobile, then you can probably attempt some more adventurous locations. As long as your tow vehicle is capable, there are lots of steeper, bumpier “roads less traveled” that are open to you.

Boondocking2

The important thing to remember, no matter the size of your RV: push your limits, but never threaten your safety.

  1. Head out and see what you can find!

Once you have done your research, you will have a pretty good idea of where to start searching for camping spots on your chosen area of public land.

This entire process can take you between five and ten minutes once you get the hang of what you are looking for and develop an eye to see it.

Even then, it’s very important to remember that Google Maps is a limited guide. Roads you expected to take might be closed off, or roads you didn’t know existed might be in your path.

Boondocking1

The point is:

  • take your time
  • get a lay of the land
  • be flexible
  • and, of course, appreciate the beautiful places you will eventually discover!
  1. Bonus Tip: Check with the locals!

When you pull into a new town near public land of some kind and you don’t feel like researching or driving until you find a good spot, just ask the locals where they like to go camping.

They will almost always have great tips for spots that are free and accessible, not to mention knowing all the best hikes and scenery that is worth checking out. It will save you lots of time and probably leave you with the best results, too!

When in doubt always ask a local.

 

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A shot of my husband as we take in the remote and beautiful nature

 

An Overview of Camper Van Travel

naturevan

By Shazia Chiu

Imagine if your car was good for more than getting you from point A to point B. Imagine if, in addition to being a mode of transportation, your car was your kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Camper van travel is just that: an all-in-one package that appeals to one-time and perpetual campers alike.

“Camper van” is a term that is often used to refer to any and all vehicles that have been altered to serve as a living space. An old van with a mattress in the back or a hatchback laden withcouch cushions could both be classified as “camper vans”.  Converting cheap, old cars into camper vans is a popular past time for long-term travelers, especially in “driveable” countries like Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and parts of Europe.

Is a camper van the same as an RV?

Although camper vans and RV s have a lot of similarities, RV s are designed for camping from the get-go. If you plan to take road trips often, you might want to look into purchasing an RV. Most RV s already come with all the fixings necessary to be a home away from home: a bed, a kitchenette, storage space, and in some cases, a bathroom. RV s come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and layouts. Some people like buying an old RV and giving it a face lift, while others opt for something brand new.

It’s important to remember that RV s can be expensive to purchase initially and hard to maintain. Gas mileage in RV s usually isn’t great, either. This is why many travelers are drawn toward camper vans.

Camper vans are a great option for travelers who instead to stay in a particular area for an extended amount of time. In many first-world countries it’s possible to buy an old car, travel in it for the duration of your trip, and then resell the car before you head home. Camper vans give RVs a run for their money since they’re often smaller, cheaper, and more fuel efficient.

Buying your camper van

van1It’s important to shop for a camper van like you would any other car, even if you intend to sell it back before you head home. However, it’s likely that your camper van will endure much more wear and tear during a short amount of time than your everyday vehicle. As you shop for a van, be sure to do your research and to test drive prospective vehicles before making any decisions. If you spot things that concern you, be open with the seller, and don’t be afraid to ask for discounts.

Thoroughly research the laws and requirements of car ownership in the country where you’re making your purchase. It is possible for travelers to buy vehicles in most countries, but it may be more complicated in certain areas than others. Don’t forget to account for insurance and registration costs. You can find out a lot about these expenses and car ownership in general by befriending locals or doing your own online research.

Getting your camper van ready for the road

Aside from the crucial step of making sure your vehicle is road-worthy, you’ll want to make some changes to the interior to make sure that it is comfortable. This process usually involves:

-Cleaning the car thoroughly (assuming it’s old and dirty!)

-Removing the back seats of the car and adding in a mattress with sufficient bedding

-Hanging drapes (or towels) on the windows for privacy

-Designating an area for luggage

-Figuring out where to store food and cooking supplies

This can be converted into a camper van
This can be converted into a camper van

For the last point regarding food, some camper van owners take things to the next level by installing a mini-kitchen in the back of the van. They’ll create a space for hanging utensils and build in shelves to hold food and supplies, and bring coolers along to store perishable foods. Your kitchen setup can be as elaborate or simple as you’d like. In any case, it is helpful to have some sort of space set aside for food and cooking.

Where do I park at night?

Figuring out where to hunker down each evening can be a bit of a chore. In camper van friendly countries, like Australia or New Zealand, it’s easy to find rest areas where you can safely and legally park your car for the night. An online search of the general area where you plan to camp will also reveal freedom camping sites, or spots where you can park your camper van overnight without having to worry about fines. These areas aren’t hard to find since they’re usually packed to the brim with cars, RVs, and people in tents. The most important thing to remember with freedom camping sites is that they need to be kept clean. These sites are increasingly at risk of being shut down because of careless camping.

In other countries, you may need to pay a small fine to park at a general campsite. Unlike your freedom camping counterparts, you’ll probably enjoy access to a bathroom, running water, and showers!

Camper van travel is an exhilarating way to explore and live life on the road. Whether you car camp for a week or months on end, you’ll come away from your camper van trip with plenty of memorable experiences, and enough driving practice to feel comfortable on any road that comes your way.

Camper vans by a lake

 

Hiking food: Eat well while carrying less

By Lynley Joyce

Hiking food: Nothing tastes better than a hearty meal at the end of an excellent day’s walk.  The trick is to not be too exhausted from having to carry your food.

Day walks are simple.  Pack your lunch box, take a bottle of water and you’re off. Some people like to take a thermos of tea, or another option is a small camp stove to make yourself a cuppa along the way.

Flat breads or cracker biscuits are good lunch options for multiday bushwalks as they tend to travel better.  Hommus is perhaps the best travelling dip, and can be carried dehydrated, and rehydrated the day you want it.  Cheese is great for lunch, as is salami and anything with a bit of a kick.

Woman enjoying tasty bar on a hikeFresh food will generally keep for up to three days, depending how warm the weather is.  Most fresh food is also heavy and some of it does not travel that well. Fresh food that usually travels well for an overnight or 3 day walk includes snowpeas, carrots, hard cheeses, hommus and some other dips, if they’re in sturdy containers or tubes. Other things can be carried in containers, if you can be bothered.  Try and avoid fruits that leave pips and stones to carry out again.  Fresh bananas, stone fruits and berry fruits do not travel that well.

Sadly chocolate is often not a good option on walks unless it’s cold weather or you can keep it insulated and protected.  It’s often best to take this essential supply in a form that has a hard candy shell, such as M&Ns, Smarties or the like. Scroggin with nuts, dried fruit and other goodies can help keep you sustained.  Have a few bags with different options when walking for several days, so you have some variety.

Unless you have to take all your own water anyway, it is so much better to take dried or dehydrated food and not the extra weight.  While you do not have to live entirely off dried foods, they are definitely worth it on longer walks.

Women enjoying lunch on a hike

If you have to carry water for all your walk, you may as well take some of that water as part of your food.  Choose foods that don’t need too much cooking to minimise the fuel needed.

It’s also a good idea to take food that’s easy to prepare.  Heat and eat is a great motto for evening meals on a multiday hike. Take a small camp stove with at least two pots.  Trangias of all sizes are a great option, as are gas camping stoves.

Couple eating muesli bars hikingPeople who have dehydrators swear by them for preparing food for hiking.  They can make just about any casserole, curry or pasta sauce and weigh next to nothing.  Dehydrated food is easy to rehydrate, heat and eat.  Mostly it tastes delicious, though most things do after a day’s hiking. On the downside, dehydrators are expensive and you do need to prepare well in advance.

Hiking gear on forest pathMost camping stores will stock commercial dehydrated or freeze dried food for hikers.   These can be worth it for long walks, but tend to be expensive.

Dehydrated foods from the supermarket can be an option.  They tend to be salty and highly processed, but they are cheaper, and most people hanker for a bit of salt on a long walk anyway.

Instant soups and tea bags are almost a must for colder evenings.  Couscous is great, as it only needs boiled water.  When cooking white rice, try the absorption method to reduce the fuel needed. Put two cups of water to one cup of rice in your camp stove and bring to the boil.  Cover and sit it aside while you cook the rest of your meal.  The rice should be ready in about 20 minutes.

Here are a few options that are easy to cook on a hike:

  • Pasta with pesto
  • Sundried tomatoes, “cream” made from powdered milk with optional stock cube and dried herbs with pasta
  • Instant mashed potato with flour and egg and optionally salami and dried peas or onion, fried to make savoury potato fritters. It’s best to take oil as margarine or butter to help prevent messy spillages.

Hikers often crave something with a bit of a kick in their food.  Take extra chili or pepper, salt or dried parmesan cheese to add extra flavour to a meal if needed.

Hiker cooking on campfire

Muesli and powdered milk is popular for breakfast for good reason.  It is hearty, provides sustained energy and travels well.  Another option is instant porridge.  If you want to take the effort and have the time, pancakes or apple fritters made with dried fruit are good options for a leisurely breakfast or supper.

There are a variety of coffee options, and everyone’s tastes are different so it’s best to try a few.  Unless you’re walking past a café, you’re unlikely to get a high quality cappuccino with milky froth on top, but the one you get when you return to civilisation will taste so divine, it will be worth it.

Woman hiker enjoying snack food

 

Essential Camping Clothes for the Seasons

By Stephanie McHugh

Women are usually in three basic camps, when it comes to the way they look on outdoor excursions.

Many favor throwing fashion out the window and dressing in their favorite sweatshirt or whatever is most comfortable.

Serious campers focus on function, to be sure clothes perfectly accommodate their adventure.

Then there are the campers who also happen to be lovers of fashion. Why should nature be the only thing worth gawking at, after all? The fashionista camper is also savvy enough to know that stylish clothes perfect for the woods are not ideal for the mall.

Camping fashion for all seasons, above all, should be non-fussy. The following are practical tips that can be adapted for fashion-conscience campers:

Hair and Makeup for all Seasons

Spending a significant amount of time applying makeup is a camping faux pas. The natural look is far more fitting for full-on nature settings. Stick with the usual daily moisturizers and perhaps add some tinted BB Cream with UV protection, maybe a bit of waterproof mascara, and whatever small touches are required to make your natural beauty pop. Then, for the rest of the day, follow one of the cardinal rules of camping, which is: Don’t worry about your looks.

Give some thought ahead of time to what you will do with your hair, since there won’t be a daily shampoo and blow-dry. Ponytails and messy buns are ideal, and wearing a cute camping hat is also perfect. Whether it’s a funky cowboy hat, a cute version of the Indiana Jones hat, or some other style, a hat also serves to provide sun protection.

Winter Camping Fashion

Wear thin, warm layers in winter, and make the first layer cute thermals. Wool is perfect for the middle layer because it retains heat, but many other amazing fabrics are also available today that enhance the winter camping experience. A warm hat is important, and it should provide ear coverage and a dead-air insulating function. Inside of your winter walking boots should be some special socks that reduce moisture, aren’t too tight, and are made for warmth in winter.

Wearing down booties inside your boots is another excellent option. Winter camping outerwear is designed to provide warmth with minimal bulk, to enhance the hiking experience. Mittens are better than gloves, though mitten-gloves are the best option. They will all cover your nail style, but some sacrifices are unavoidable.

Spring and Fall Camping Fashion

The mildest weather for camping is typically experienced in spring and fall. Since major bundling isn’t required, there’s a lot more room to choose clothes that are both functional and flattering. During the day, lightweight denim or twill shorts or pants are ideal.

It may be warm enough to wear a tank top for part of the day, but a long sleeve top for outerwear is also recommended. A sweatshirt with a hood is best for evening and morning, along with thermal tops and leggings. Transitional heat may be needed. Be prepared with wool socks, gloves, lightweight jacket, and a hat.

Summer Camping Fashion

A great way to be stylish on a camping trip in summer is with a breathable lightweight jacket over a tank top. Some styles of jacket provide a little extra protection from sun and from pesky bugs. If your hike warms you up too much, it won’t weigh down your pack if you need to remove the jacket. Adorable styles of vented hiking boots are available to keep your feet cool in the heat. For lounging around the campsite, wear cute sandals with grips on bottom. Bandanas with high style are available that also provide extra protection from insects and UV rays. Of course, pack your favorite swim suit.

What we wear can definitely enhance or detract from our camping experience, and injecting elements of fashion and style is to enjoy the best of two worlds.

 

8 Long Term Camping and Hiking Tips

By Kristina Eaton

Long term camping and hiking trips require more than just a good pair of boots. From thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to trekking in the outback for weeks at a time, here are 8 tips to prepare, plan and remain positive on your upcoming long term camping and hiking trip.

 

Know the Laws

Most laws surrounding long term camping and hiking trips are in place to protect the wilderness, so it’s important to be familiar with them.

 

Use the Internet to study up on the laws concerning campfires, food storage and camping in each area you intend to spend time in. Some thru-hiking trails even require a permit for use, so get in touch with the right authorities to make sure you aren’t breaking any laws. There’s nothing like spending the last of your cash on a silly ticket instead of a bus ride home.

 

Lighten Up

It’s hard to enjoy the scenery when you’re doubled over under a pack full of useless stuff.

 

When packing for a long term camping and hiking trip, a good rule of thumb is to pack everything you think you need and then get rid of half of it.

 

Once you’ve narrowed down the items you can’t live without, figure out which of those you can replace with a lighter item that has multiple uses. For example, a collapsible rubber bowl can double as your coffee cup and dinner bowl, a light tarp can serve as a very efficient shelter and wind-proof clothing will keep you warm while cutting down on the number of heavy layers you need to pack.

 

Eat and Drink Well

If you’re training for your long term camping and hiking trip, which you should be, start paying attention to your pace and caloric intake. Use this information to plan how often you’ll need to resupply during your trip as well as with what kinds of foods.

 

Next, decide if you’d rather send yourself resupply packages or stop at grocery stores along the way. Take into account that you might tire of the food that you packed in those resupply boxes at the beginning of you trip, but also that small roadside grocery stores might not have exactly the items that you’re looking for. Many thru-hikers end up with a combination of both strategies.

 

Drink water and lots of it. Make sure it’s sterilized. You really don’t want a stomach bug sending you off of the trail and into the hospital.

 

Track Your Budget

If your resupply strategy has you stopping to shop during your long term camping and hiking trip, get your budget in order before taking off. Always include at least an extra 20% for splurges and emergencies and keep track of your spending along the way.

 

Even if you’re planning on shipping or having someone ship you supplies, you should always have some cash on hand in case one of your shoes springs a leak or you absolutely have to have a giant ice cream cone in the town you just hiked 20 miles to.

Heed the Weather

You’re going to be out in the elements for 99 percent of your long term camping and hiking trip, so pay attention to what you’re in for.

 

Be realistic when comparing your pace to your expected start and finish dates. Research common weather patterns and, most importantly, don’t risk your life in unexpected inclement weather just to stay on schedule.

 

Listen to Your Body

Your body is your most important piece of gear on a long term camping and hiking trip. Don’t neglect it.

 

Start from the bottom up by taking good care of your feet. Many campers and hikers will say that wearing clean, dry and comfortable socks and shoes is one of the best ways to ensure a successful long term camping and hiking trip.

 

For good measure, also remember to take as many rest days as your body needs and never, ever ignore an injury. Eat as well as you can while out on the trail and stay hydrated.

 

Listen to Your Mind

After your body, your mind is the next most important aspect of your long term camping and hiking trip.

 

Be realistic, but not pessimistic. You are going to get dirty. You are going to get tired. You are going to miss the comforts of home. You are going to want to give up at some point. Positive thoughts will carry you along your journey even when you think your body can’t anymore – so don’t forget to pack them.

 

It’s Not a Race

It’s often been said that comparison is the thief of joy, and that’s just as true for your long term camping and hiking trip as it is for anything else in life.

 

Don’t over exert yourself. Don’t change your pace to fit in with other hikers and campers. Travel in a way that is best for your mind, body and spirit and you will have the most amazing time of your life – especially if it doesn’t go exactly according to plan.