There are many terms for types of camping, and each has a slightly different definition. Dry camping means no utilities like water, electricity or sewer at your site. These can be free or are less expensive than sites with utilities.

Dispersed camping is more of a government term for dry camping spread out on national lands. Some locations are free and some have a minimal fee.

Free camping is just that, free. Boondocking can be free camping or dispersed camping. Black top boondocking is a subset of boondocking that takes place when you camp in a parking lot.

We don’t boondock all the time, but we like to reduce our expenses by boondocking several times a month. Here are some hints and ideas for boondocking:

Camping in a free campground along Natchez Trace, Mississippi.

Free camping:

Dry camping:

  • Conserve electricity use. We can normally make in one to two days without needing to either set out the solar panels or run the generator. We added a second battery to the RV to help.
  • Consider buying a solar panel to provide energy for long stays without having to run a noisy generator.
  • Always have a few jugs of clean water in your RV. The tank water can be used for washing and cooking, but since tank water can go “bad” we like the extra security of clean jugs with fresh water that is periodically replaced.
  • One of the biggest problems is having enough water tank capacity. There are many tricks to reduce water usage.
    • When washing dishes, I start by only using enough water to wash silverware. After I rinse them, I add flat dishes and rinse them. I finish with the larger items like glasses.
    • Consider using paper plates and hand wipes.
    • If you have to use the camper shower, do a navy shower where you get wet then turn off the water. After lathering, turn the water on and quickly rinse. Expect to wash in cold water since clearing the lines of cold water can take extra time and water.
    • Use water after washing dishes or from a shower to flush the toilet.

Dry camping in City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico.

Dispersed camping:

  • Use existing sites. This reduces the effects of camping on the environment. Build campfires in provided fire rings.
  • Look to see what time limits exist for camping. Many require you move every two weeks to a new campsite at least 25 miles away.
  • We all hope for quiet and a bit of space when we are experiencing dispersed camping. Don’t park right by another RV unless the area is full. Run your generator only during the day and keep music down so it can only be heard within your campsite.
  • Don’t leave trash. Campgrounds have hoppers and trash cans. Most boondocking locations don’t have this, so you need to bring your trash to the next stop.

Walmart camping in Texas.

Black top boondocking:

  • Camping is allowed at most Walmarts, Cracker Barrels, Cabela’s locations and casinos. Rest areas allow camping overnight in some locations in Illinois, Inidiana, New York, and Ohio, and all rest areas in Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. Other states may not have rules specifically allowing overnight camping in rest areas, but you can stay overnight if you aren’t outrageous in the hours you spend or are not spreading out your slides. Always check for signs forbidding overnight camping.
  • Don’t spread out your awning and chairs when at a place like rest areas, Walmart or Cracker Barrel. While you have permission to camp, don’t be overly obvious.
  • Black top boondocking is only for a day or two at that location. Don’t overstay your welcome.

Boondocking can be the most relaxing type of camping as you camp in a secluded area. Or it can be useful as an overnight stop on the way to your destination.

If you haven’t boondocked yet, you are missing something!