So, for years, my husband has been in love with the idea of Ninja Camping. This theory is based on camping or staying in your RV overnight for free.
This does not have to be illegal camping; The premise behind Ninja Camping or Boondocking is NOT to stay where you are not welcome, but finding places to stay or camp where you ARE welcome that are free. There are usually no amenities or hook ups, basically you are dry camping or bringing everything you need to stay over night with you; And most importantly taking it with you when you leave.
I will never give away all of our secrets or treasured Ninja spots, but I will share what I know about the subject. I am a master of Ninja Camping, as we have been Ninja Camping for 11 years. I am newbie at Boondocking. I have only recently learned about the subject.
I have often heard people ask why would you want to stay in your RV outside of an RV Park or Campground. I will give you several reasons: you don’t plan to spend much time at the RV park or campground, you are traveling to and from your final destination, you are only sleeping in the location, you don’t want to waste money on a site for services that you don’t need or won’t we using, or all of the RV parks are full where you want to stay.
Just because you Ninja Camp or Boondock does not mean you don’t pay to stay at RV parks or paid campgrounds. If you can find a way to stay for free for a few nights of your trip, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars depending on the location.
An alternative is a membership to a camping group like A Thousand Trails, Good Sam or other membership where you get a discount on your stay.
The most common places to boondock are:
Walmart- Walmart allows camping overnight in some of their stores. Not all allow overnight parking, so its best to call the specific store you plan to stay at and ask during daytime hours. I suggest asking in advance so you can have a solid plan in place to make a reservation elsewhere during business hours if necessary. Don’t roll in at midnight, find out you can’t stay and then have no place to go when you are tired. That’s no fun. Been there, done that.
Rest Stops- All rest stops will let you stay and rest, all will allow you to stay the night. Some have a 4 hour maximum sign posted. They are trying to prevent people from moving in. Rest stops are exactly what they are named, a place to stop and rest.
BLM Land – There is Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in almost all 50 states. Here is a link to the activities found at popular BLM sites. Currently the current administration is auctioning off 1M acres, so there will be considerably less in the future but that’s a subject for another place. These American public lands are our Inheritance and belong to our children and future generations.
- Here is a list of developed BLM campgrounds that charge $4-$10 dollars per night.
- Here is a list of all BLM campgrounds, undeveloped campgrounds are free. Select a state and choose camping as the activity.
- Leave no trace.
Friends and Family- We have many family members in California that don’t mind if we are parked out front or on their drive. Don’t move in or treat their residence like a RV site. Have fun. These are your friends or family, plan to visit and work around their schedule. We usually treat our hosts to dinner at a restaurant of their choice, and my husband is always trying to get them to join us at a Tiki Bar. That never happens.
Boondocking.org- This website allows you to enter in GPS coordinates, and it will show you all of the free camping sites in your area. You must be enter latitude and longitude coordinates to access the data.
Boondocking app– There is a Boondocking app for ios, aptly named by Boondocking by William Modesitt that shows a map of remote Boondocking locations found in Boondocking.org, many are the BLM locations. This is helpful when you are looking for a spot while traveling and only have your phone handy.
The same developer also has a handy RV Dump Station App that sales for .99 cents on itunes. The description reads, “This app shows over 5,700 RV dump stations throughout the US. and Canada. Includes rest areas, truck stops, KOAs and more.”
Businesses that welcome RV’s – There are many businesses along buy highway routes that welcome RV’s. They will usually have a big parking lot, and a sign welcoming RVers. These places are happy to have you stay the night, when you patronize their establishment. You will usually see fellow RVers staying in the lot. You will see signs posted if it is NOT ok to camp overnight.
We never Ninja Camp or Boondock in places where “No Overnight Camping” is clearly posted, neighborhoods, or commercial parking lots. Stay safe. Leave no trace and have fun.
Ninja camping or boondocking may go against your moral Compass for some, but for me traveling in an RV is an adventure and experiences are a part of my journey.
I hope that I have added some value to your RV experience, and possibly opened you to a new adventure. I realize Ninja Camping and Boondocking is not for everyone, but there comes a time in everyone’s RV experience when you are out of options and need a place to rest for a few hours until you can get back on the road.
What has been your experience with Boondocking? Good or bad?
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