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You Should Try It! A Guide to Boondocking Your First Time

Kyle Arnold-profile-image
Kyle Arnold
February 7, 2024

Looking for new ways to use your RV? Wanting to escape the campground scene for something different? Let Harvest Hosts help you get started boondocking.

You Should Try It! A Guide to Boondocking Your First Time

Are you tired of competing for sites at campgrounds? Or perhaps, you’re just wanting something a little more unique. Well, it’s about time you ditch the ordinary and embrace the extraordinary by going off-grid. Boondocking, the art of dry camping, allows you to reconnect with nature in a unique, rustic, and sometimes adventurous way. 

If you’re a first-time boondocker, you might be a little intimidated. Fear not! Harvest Hosts is here to help you embark on your first unforgettable journey of boondocking. From finding boondocking spots to packing the right gear, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s dive into the wild and wonderful world of boondocking!

How To Find Boondocking Spots: You Can Unleash Your Inner Explorer

Finding the perfect boondocking spot is like discovering a hidden treasure. But the beauty is that no singular person gets to define what “perfect” means to an individual. This means there are plenty of “perfect” boondocking spots scattered throughout North America for you to enjoy. 

However, there are some similarities great boondocking sites have in common. Everyone wants a safe, legal, clean, beautiful spot to enjoy on their boondocking journeys. Finding something that meets all four of these requirements can be challenging, but there are some great ways to find them. Let’s take a look at some ways to discover boondocking gems. 

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

Imagine setting up camp in the vast expanse of nothingness. In every direction you look, there is nothing but beautiful landscape, free from the hustle and bustle of civilization. The Bureau of Land Management can offer magical pockets of wilderness that you can enjoy all by yourself. So grab your gear, pack up your RV, and start exploring the BLM lands for yourself. Just be sure you stay in designated dispersed camping areas and you’ll know you are permitted to be there. 

Social Media

Now this is not always the best way, but it does work. If you join different Facebook Groups, follow well-known Instagram Influencers, or watch hours of Youtube, you can discover some great sites. The issue is a lot of other people are watching, listening, and reading the same things. This can occasionally lead to crowded spots. 

The benefit of finding spots via social media is you can potentially make new friends. If you are nervous about “vast nothingness” then this could be a good way to go. Just be sure you are prepared to meet new people, and everything that goes with that. 

Boondockers Welcome

If you’re looking for a dose of good old-fashioned hospitality, Boondockers Welcome could be the perfect option for you. Boondockers Welcome Hosts are simply kind-hearted landowners that are willing to offer you a spot to park your RV overnight. 

With a Boondockers Welcome Membership, it's like having 3,000+ friends scattered throughout North America. You can let them know you are headed their way and they are ready to welcome you with open arms. 

Harvest Hosts

With Harvest Hosts, you can sip, savor, and chip your way all over North America. This network of farms, wineries, golf courses,  and other attractions invite Harvest Hosts Members to park on their property. All they ask is that you participate in their business and support their local business and passion. 

Harvest Hosts has three different types of Memberships that offer maximum flexibility and value. For first time boondockers, this is a great way to get started because you are always close to civilization, you know you are allowed to park there, and dinner might already be taken care of by your Host.

Ready To Hit The Road?

If you are excited about all of the places you can discover, you might be tempted to hop in the RV and go. Before you hit the road, we want to make sure you are prepared. We are going to give you a rundown of some of the essentials to get started. 

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Generators

Picture this: a cozy campfire, starry skies, and a magical aura of tranquility. It is a picture-perfect scenario and doesn’t require a generator—right? Well, yes and no. While you do not need a generator for a shorter stay off-grid, you’ll inevitably run into a situation where you’ll wish you had one. 

Generators are unfortunately a necessity for extended boondocking experiences. Whether you want to recharge your electronics, run some air conditioning on a hot day, or just use a small kitchen appliance to cook something that doesn’t require a can opener, you will need a generator. The good thing is you can go on plenty of weekend trips without. However, you’ll need to start considering it if you want to make this a habit in your travels. 

Lights Usage

We might not realize how easy it is so start reducing our power consumption. By switching out light bulbs from the old-school incandescent lights over to a much more energy-efficient LED light, you can start cutting back on power consumption. 

When you are staying in those remote areas, you might be a little nervous about it being completely dark. But flip those lights off for just a moment, let your eyes adjust, and you’ll be surprised what those beautiful stars can do for you. 

If you do still want some light while playing cards outside, consider getting some string lights that are solar-powered. They put off enough light to play games, but not so much that it kills the mood and nature’s natural light show.

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Limit Your Water Usage

We all know that water is the elixir of life. When it comes to boondocking, it is that and so much more. It really functions as your hourglass and determines the length you can maintain being off-grid. You can always be off-grid and not have electricity, but you cannot go without water. 

When you set out for your first boondocking trip, try one to three nights and monitor your water consumption. You’ll want to bring enough fresh water for drinking, cooking, washing, and cleaning. Keep in mind, you can use water in different ways for different purposes. By monitoring your water consumption for each activity, you’ll be amazed at how much you use and the ways in which you discover cutting back. 

Pro Tip: Take an emergency gallon or two that you don’t plan on using. If you end up running out, you have those two gallons to get you through. 

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Cooking

When it comes to boondocking, you might find that you need to simplify your menu—simplicity is key. Stock up on non-perishable items like canned goods, granola bars, and dry instant meals. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may consider bringing a portable camping stove and cookware to keep the heat out of your RV. You can enjoy cooking over a fire to save on things like propane or even use a jet boil to quickly boil some water for your instant meals. 

One of the best things to do is just stay at a Harvest Hosts location that offers meals. By doing this you can eliminate a meal, prolong your time off-grid, and support a local small business. 

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Your Shopping List

There are a million things you could bring on a boondocking trip, but these are the basics that should be in every boondocker’s RV. Adapt this list to suit your needs: 

  • Freshwater
  • Biodegradable soap
  • LED lanterns or lights
  • Portable camping stove
  • Cooking utensils and cookware—fire ready preferable
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Extra batteries and battery banks
  • Camping chairs that are comfortable
  • Adequate clothing and bedding to endure any weather
  • First aid kit and emergency supplies
  • Trash bags and eco-friendly toiletries

First Trip Checklist

Below you’ll find a checklist that will help you plan your first boondocking getaway. While we might be partial to the 8,000+ Harvest Hosts locations, you’ll need to determine for yourself what you are looking for. Regardless, here’s a checklist to help you get started. 

  • Research and choose your boondocking spot
  • Check the weather for your desired dates
  • Familiarize yourself with local regulations, guidelines, and legalities
  • Pack your boondocking shopping list essentials and any other items you might want—less is more
  • Fill up your freshwater containers—and your emergency supply
  • Charge your electronic devices, battery banks, and add extra batteries
  • Ensure your vehicle is field up for the journey including propane
  • Have an RV-safe route—not all route planners are created equal
  • Let people know where you are going, your route, and when you plan to be home

Just Get To It

At some point, it is time to pull the trigger and go. While considering the items above, you have what you absolutely need to get started and experience it for yourself. Remember, boondocking is all about embracing nature’s playground and reveling in the freedom your RV offers you. So pack your sense of adventure, leave your worries behind, and get ready to slow down. 

Whether you plan on sipping wine at one of Harvest Hosts wineries, sharing stories with welcoming Boondockers Welcome hosts, or avoid all of humanity in the BLM, boondocking is a journey like no other. So try boondocking today and let the wilderness direct you forward.

About Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that offers self-contained RVers unlimited overnight stays at over 5,657 small businesses across North America with no camping fees. Boondock at farms, wineries, breweries, attractions, and other one-of-a-kind destinations throughout North America, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing that a safe place to stay is always nearby!
Kyle Arnold-profile-image
Kyle Arnold
I'm a freelance adventure travel copywriter. My wife, 2 dogs and I have been on many adventures together in either a big, blue bus or our camper van. While touring the country, we take advantage of checking out new towns, hikes and waterways. We are often found hiking, paddling or drinking coffee and love meeting new people.