Overview of Full-timing in Oregon

Our camp on a beautiful lake.

Our camp on a beautiful lake.

As I told you in a previous post I’ve spent the last two months in Oregon camping. My first night of camping in Oregon was on July 20th and it’s now September 27th so over 2 months in the state. In that two months we’ve had 10 camps, mostly up the central part of Oregon and then in the northeast corner. In the future I’ll be doing individual posts on the different camp sites but for today I want to give you my general overview and impressions after two months in Oregon. I’ll try to answer the question, “Is this a good state for a vandweller or RVer to spend your summer?”

But first let me say most people come to Oregon to spend their time on the coast because of its spectacular beauty and cool weather in the summer, but we’ve never been there even once. The reason is, as much as I’d love to see the coast, I just can’t stand fighting with the crowds and the traffic there! Plus ,I understand it’s very difficult to find dispersed campsites. If things go well we may go by there later in the fall when traffic diminishes, probably in October, we’ll see.

I’ll break this post up in the pros and cons, positives and negatives of our experience in Oregon. Fortunately it’s been a great place to spend the summer. First I’ll give you the many positives of spending the summer in Oregon and then I’ll give you the few drawbacks that we’ve seen.

  1. The number one huge positive of spending the summer in Oregon is no sales tax so you save a lot of money! I held off on a few things I wanted from Amazon until I was here, saving me a lot in sales tax. Also, there is some routine car maintenance that can be saved until you’re here. For example, if you hold off on buying tires until you get to Oregon, and they cost you $600, you could probably save $40 or more on taxes. But, just your usual day-to-day shopping like groceries or the myriad other things you buy without even being aware of it–they add up fast. All in all, not paying sales tax saves a fair amount of money.
  2. Another thing I really like about being here is the abundance of public land to camp on. We’ve not had the slightest problem finding really pretty campsites anywhere in the state. Ten campsites in two months is a pretty fair amount and they were all very easy to find. The center part of the state is almost entirely National Forest and the eastern part is predominately BLM land, so between the two you will have no problem finding a place to camp.
  3. The most amazing thing about dispersed camping in Oregon is we have never once seen a ranger in the forest. We’ve never over-stayed in a camp-site, but it’s still very nice we never saw a ranger so we could have if we wanted to.
  4. Since both Caroline and I work on the internet that’s very important to us. We never had a problem getting 4G wherever we went. We may have needed to look and drive around a bit to find the best signal, but we always did find it and so we consider that a big plus to Oregon–Verizon covers it very well.
  5. Another thing that has really stood out was how secluded and private our camps were, but generally still very close to town. We have had virtually no other people through our camps. Particularly ATVs motorcycles or other off-road vehicles. They just have not been anywhere near us–which I love!! Even seeing other traffic is rare for us–maybe we see one or two other cars a week. I’ve camped all over the west and without any question this is the least number of people I’ve had through a camp anywhere I’ve been. And we’re not even going on remote or difficult roads, Carolyn has a 29 foot Class C and she has easily been able to get to all our camps. Even when hunting season started in September we rarely saw Hunters. If we were out on the main roads we would see them driving around looking for deer but never near our camp.
  6. Since Caroline and I both are Avid Walkers another thing we really liked is the spider web of Roads everywhere we’ve been that allow us to go for many varied and and pleasant walks. The forest is very attractive in Oregon, we’ve had beautiful camps everywhere we’ve gone. Pretty often we’ve had decent views around us although the forest was too dense where we were camped to see the views, but we didn’t have to go very far to see them. One of our camps had the second best view I’ve ever had, it was only beat by Grand Teton NP.
  7. We both have enjoyed the abundance of lakes and creeks everywhere we’ve gone. Most of the time we either camped on a body of water , or one was very close by. In fact three of our camps were literally on a lake or a river and all but one of the others were within a comfortable walking distance of a lake or river. Our dogs and us have loved that!!
  8. Both of us have thought the people of Oregon were very pleasant–they were friendly and polite and driving was easy and comfortable. For the most part traffic hasn’t been a problem ,although the little town of Sisters, Oregon did have quite a bit of congestion, but other than that driving around Oregon was very pleasant and easy.
Crater Lake, NP

Crater Lake, NP–Oregon

What are the drawbacks of spending a summer in Oregon? Actually there are very few:

  1. We never were very close to good shopping. There were small towns nearby, and they all had some shopping, but the nearest Walmart or major chain stores were never closer than 20 miles away. Several times the closest one was seventy-five to a hundred miles away, and that means we paid a little more for daily items.
  2. For the most part the weather  was very good, we almost never saw rain the whole summer. But, we did have two or three weeks of unpleasantly high temperatures. It was in the mid-90s for most of that time and that was too hot for both of us. I don’t know the state well enough to know where else we could have gone to camp that would have been cooler. Of course the coast would would have been better but we didn’t know where to camp there so we didn’t want to risk it. But other than those two or three weeks of heat and a rain storm in late September, it’s been very good, sunny weather nearly every day.
  3. While Oregon is very pretty, it only has a few really beautiful mountains. They’re only a few places where you think to yourself, “Wow this is beautiful.” Obviously Crater Lake NP is one of them, as is the Three Sisters Mountains. But you don’t see them much because you’re always in the forest. I greatly loved Smith Rock State Park but it was a small area that we went and visited once and never saw again. The most beautiful place we went was the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon around Joseph and Hells Canyon of the Snake River. The drive over to them was very pretty and I love the Wallowas themselves. So there are some very pretty places, but overall it’s just mostly beautiful forests–which is common in most states. But to be fair, I must say we didn’t do the Oregon Coast or the Columbia River Gorge, two if the very prettiest places in Oregon.
The Three Sisters at sunset. You can't see them through the forest, but we found this hill near our camp we could walk up and watch them.

The Three Sisters at sunset. Generally, you can’t see them from camp through the forest, but we found this hill near our camp we could walk to and watch them.

So do I recommend spending a summer in Oregon? Yes I very highly recommend it!! The great camping, the great internet, and the facts it’s very pretty makes it very special. Not having to pay any sales tax is just money in your pocket. We both especially enjoyed being able to camp so close to water, either directly on it or within easy walking distance. I especially loved how secluded we were and that we had so little vehicle traffic, particularly ATVs motorcycles & Off-Road traffic. I was also very glad we had no Ranger enforcement and  never saw one, much less spoke to one. That means if you need to stay in one place longer than you should to save some money, you can.

So there you have it, an overview of camping in Oregon for the summer, my next few posts I’ll talk about specific campsites and specific areas of beauty we went and saw, I hope you enjoy them.


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Bob
About

I’ve been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

83 comments on “Overview of Full-timing in Oregon
  1. Oregon looks and sounds very good. I don’t need spectacular scenery; “very pretty” will work for me. The absence of a sales tax and presence of wi-fi certainly add to that. I look forward to finding out about the coast.

  2. Bethers says:

    I recently noticed that many of the old videos on the Youtube channel are gone or marked private. Yikes, hope they’re not gone for good.

    • dak says:

      I noticed that only all of Bob’s videos are gone. I’m not a big blog reader, but I loved Bob’s videos. I hope that they’re not gone.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Dak, James and I ended our collaboration and removed all my videos from his channel. Most of them (but not all) will be moved to my channel, plus lots of new videos I’ve already shot and just need to edit.

        I’m just getting started in video!!

        They will be here eventually:
        https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAj7O3LCDbkIR54hAn6Zz7A

        Unfortunately I’m traveling now and it will be awhile before I get them all re-posted and new ones edited. Bear with me!
        Bob

        • Kelly says:

          subscriber #139. feels like I’m on the ground floor.

        • Ann says:

          I am so sorry to hear this but relieved to hear you will be re-uploading to your own channel. I hope you are still friends. May I ask why you won’t be uploading all of your videos? They are ALL so wonderful.

        • Amalia says:

          Bob, what about the winter rtr. I just asked for time off work and outfitted my kia Sedona for the trip. I planned it as my maiden voyage and, to be honest, I feel as if I have gotten to know you. I feel like you are the backbone of the event and I would feel safe there. I am 56 years old, never camped by myself. Did it once for a weekend with all my children for a religious retreat from the mosque, and one night at a permaculture conference, but never on my own. It was to be the test strip for some decisions I need to make. But if you are not there, I would have to dig deeper and muster up some new strength to go. No pressure 🙂

        • Dak says:

          Hey Bob, thanks for the update! I saw James’ video about it also a day or two ago. I really like your videos and I hope that you continue to do them into the future. Thanks again for the content. I can’t live like you guys for many reasons, but I love watching it!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Behters, James and I ended our collaboration and removed all my videos from his channel. Most of them (but not all) will be moved to my channel, plus lots of new videos I’ve already shot and just need to edit.

      I’m just getting started in video!!

      They will be here eventually:
      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAj7O3LCDbkIR54hAn6Zz7A

      Unfortunately I’m traveling now and it will be awhile before I get them all re-posted and new ones edited. Bear with me!
      Bob

      • Bethers says:

        Yahoo! I just subscribed to the channel.

      • Cecilia says:

        Glad to hear that Bob. I was bummed. I have seen your educational video’s on heating, cooking and women who were van dwellers, RVer’s, etc. I like to see them several times just to make sure that I haven’t missed anything. Being a female myself, I wanted to see the video’s of the ladies and how they get along on the road whether in a van, RV or truck camper.

  3. Mitchell says:

    Nice overview of Oregon. I look forward to your thoughts on the specific places you stayed.

  4. I’m with Calvin, “very pretty” works for me too!

  5. todd says:

    Quite a few areas in Oregon are extremely nice during the summer. Very mild, low humidity, most areas have low cost of living etc. Salem is nice little town. The scenic areas are pretty much all very nice to be around. For the most part, I’ve found people in Oregon easy to get along with.

  6. Mike says:

    Boy oh boy, that sure is a nice picture of you and Cody up at Crater Lake Bob. A note for your readers, disabled veterans like myself can stay in Oregon parks 10 days a month free. One only needs to send a copy of their disability papers to the state and they will send you your pass. One must reserve a campsite ahead of time though from my understanding.

  7. Eric says:

    I read an article in Orion Magazine few years ago about a “inch of silence” at Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic National Park in Washington. Have either of you went there, yet? This park that I want to visit one of these day.
    Thank for those great pictures!
    I found this website below.
    http://onesquareinch.org/

    Eric

  8. Matt says:

    Thanks for sharing, I enjoy reading your blog and learning from your experiences.

  9. Awesome! I hope to make it next year. Thanks Bob! I’m celebrating the summer you and Caroline have had.

  10. Greg says:

    Very informative post and beautiful pics, Bob. Thanks, as always, for sharing.

  11. Scott says:

    Hi Bob,
    I chimed in before about Oregon because I lived in Bend twice and explored extensively from there. The mountains, other than the Cascades, are scattered throughout the state. Each are very different in every way from the others. The Ohocos east of Prineville are ponderosa pines with numerous creeks and many bitable and walkable roads and trails. The Strawberry Mountains near John Day are a rugged island of beauty, wildflowers, and hiking. The Steens in SE Oregon has spectacular scenery, hot springs, and remoteness. There are the Pueblos and Trout Creek in SE Oregon that are very very remote. The Blue Mtns near Baker City are a smaller version of the Wallowas. Of course the Cascades stretch from north to south and are filled with lava formations, creeks, waterfalls, and are also much cooler in the summer. If you are still in the Bend area, check out Sparks Lake near Mt. Bachelor. Another note, do not wait too long to go to the coast as the rainy season begins in mid-autumn and does not end for 6 months or so. It will not be pleasant. But the traffic will be considerably less, that’s for sure!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks for all that great information Scott, I’ll remember it! My problem is having spent so much time in
      Alaska and Colorado, very few mountains can live up to that.
      Bob

      • Scott says:

        They are all very different. Actually lived in Colorado and thought most of the higher terrain was basically a pile of rocks. If you want silence and privacy, then Eastern Oregon is your ticket. Check out the Malhaur Refuge and National Antelope Refuge too. Large unpopulated areas far from anything. Except open space and serenity.

  12. Scott says:

    Two spelling errors in that post: Ochoco Mountains and bikeable.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Scott, I don’t remember using either of those words. I’ve never heard of those mountains. If there were only two spelling mistakes, that would be my best in a long time!!

      I just realized you meant your comment, thanks for the corrections!
      Bob

      • Scott says:

        Yes, I only correct my own errors! Ochocos are east of Redmond/Prineville. Mainly 6-8000 ft so not real dramatic, but filled with wonderful ponderosa pine forests, streams, and lots of walking, biking roads (Forest Service) and trails. Not heavily used and lots of free, primitive camping.

  13. Bill says:

    Hello Bob. You must try the Owhyee Mountains in eastern Oregon. They r fabulous and loaded with scenery and wildlife.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks for the tip Bill, I’ll look into that.
      Bob

    • Scott says:

      When you say Owyhee Mtns, are you referring to the Steens, Trout Creek, and Pueblos, or something else entirely. Did I miss a range when I was exploring out there? I know that the Owyhee River is East of Steens, but mainly plateau/canyon country, at least as far as I am familiar with.

  14. Bob Baar says:

    Another interesting and informative post with great photos. always enjoy the pictures of you and cody. Looking forward to the posts coming up.

  15. Steve says:

    Good job Bob, thanks for letting us know about camping in Oregon. Wish I were there. It looks like youtube is trying to control what people say on there. Is it mind control or police state?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Steve, I don’t know what you mean about Youtube? If you’re wondering why my videos are gone, James and I ended our collaboration and most of my videos will soon be moved to my new channel, along with lots of new videos I’ve already shot and just need to edit.

      I’m just getting started in video!!

      They will be here eventually:
      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAj7O3LCDbkIR54hAn6Zz7A

      Unfortunately I’m traveling now and it will be awhile before I get them all re-posted and new ones edited. Bear with me!
      Bob

  16. Ron says:

    I spent 6 weeks working from the Oregon Cascades this year. It is exactly as Bob says. I now have regular camps in the Gorge, Mt. Hood and around Detroit Lake. Great internet, with the help the Signal Finder app, is everywhere. The downside? I try not to let my clients know I’m working from camp, in front of a fire, with a bowl of wild strawberries or huckleberries at hand because these poor rat race types don’t deal well with the truth: freedom is out there if you change your priorities.

  17. joe says:

    Glad you enjoyed your stay I have been to Oregon in 1985 went to Eugene to take a old girl friend had at the time very pretty three sisters area was just awesome it was a quick on and out of state drive but I enjoyed it also the sales tax thin b is so nice I have heard of others living in Washington near Portland they work in Washington, it has no state income tax then come across the border to buy goods with no sales tax that’s smart doings any thing to avoid the tax crap that eats us up daily ,any way it’s too bad you did not hit the coast it is awesome but i,m sure it was crowded I also do not like crowds so I understand why you did not go glad you had a pleasant time

  18. Cae says:

    I camped for two weeks in Oregon back in 2014. About an hour north of Klamath falls. I remember the local cop actually helped me find a camp spot. I had my trailer at the time. No one around, no hassle from the man. Very quiet. And although nice, the scenery was nothing too special.
    As I home base out if AZ, it’s just too far for me. If it was closer, I’d keep it on my radar. Sales tax is 5.6% in AZ, so the math is pretty easy.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Cae, in Quartzsite sales tax is now 11% since the cities and counties can add their own. But Ido agree, I would choose Colorado or Wyoming over Oregon.
      Bob

      • Scott says:

        RVers are a captive crowd and they are taking advantage of it. Good thing it isn’t NY or it would probably be near 100%!

      • Cae says:

        Wow! Sounds like quartzite has figured out how to ” monetize ” their population base. In Tucson were actually at 8%, when you add up all the pounds of flesh taken. Just another reason to buy used stuff. If you can.

  19. Roxy says:

    I took a job running an inn in Florence, OR, for a year once. I worked 4-days straight then had three off. On those three days I was out camping with my vehicle (back then it was a Jeep). Every weekend for a year-straight. It’s true, it is VERY hard to find free camping along the coast, but one can spend the days on the beach with a camp fire (drive onto the sand) but going inland from the coast a little bit scared me. There were a lot of areas with signs saying that anyone caught stopped and getting out of their cars, would be shot. Perhaps it was the areas I was in, but I never felt comfortable in the logging areas. HOWEVER, on a positive note, the State is awesome! so diverse and beautiful, and the geology is a smorgasbord of fun places to explore. I did a lot of traveling further inland as well, and felt safer there. The clear cutting broke my heart, especially of the virgin forests….but the trees that have been saved are incredible! The coast is rugged and beautiful, but be prepared to pay at State Parks on occasion. I’m glad they have saved the coast with all the SP’s, but it’s hard to find a place for the night for free. By the way~~~ I saw a WOLF when I was hiking in the Three Sisters Mountains….it was one of those moments that one holds dear to their heart forever…I highly recommend Oregon, but it can be very damp and gloomy, but not so bad in summer.

  20. Bambi says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful summer. The picture of you and Cody at Crater Lake is amazing, what a beautiful blue color. Always look forward to your posts, cant wait to read more about Oregon.

  21. The pros definitely outweigh the cons. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  22. Denis says:

    Great post Bob, looking forward to reading about the specific campsites.

  23. FALCON says:

    I spent the last month in Oregon, mostly in and near Portland. I went out to the coast for a few days (straight west of Portland – Astoria, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, etc.) The coast was really nice. There are a lot of State parks along the coast which is cool, but no national forests with easy boondocking. I stayed in the cities along the coast and that was very easy.

    I went through Bend and going just that far east, saw that there is a LOT of variation in the land and plants in Oregon. I had already been thinking many of the things you pointed out in the article, the two main ones being that a Western Oregon (and Washington) are so full of trees that it’s difficult to see good views. Also, there are very few people. I was more used to Colorado or parts of Arizona, where you have nice open spaces, but there are a lot of people. Even just outside of Bend (one of the larger cities in Oregon I believe, and one full of outdoors enthusiasts) there appeared to be a ton of good Forest service roads to go camp on, and I know there are a ton of bike trails and hiking paths. I’m looking forward to spending much more time exploring Oregon in the future

  24. FALCON says:

    And Bob – where will you be going next? I’m headed down the California coast. If you happen to be as well, let’s see if it works to meet up. (I don’t really expect you would be coming down the coast, based on when we spoke at the Flagstaff gathering, but thought I’d check since we’re nearby)

  25. Lynn says:

    I plan on spending some time wandering around Oregon on my way out of Washington. The Cascades in Oregon are gentler, the Washington Cascades are more rugged, (think North Cascades NP.) As far as spectacular views, you have to hike to them. It’s called “earning the alpine.” I’ve spent many days huffing and puffing through a hot forest to be rewarded with meadows full of wildflowers, tarns, and playful marmots.

    Good review on Oregon Bob. Looking forward to more reports on your individual stays there.

  26. Bob Frost says:

    Well I must chime in here as a resident and advocate for the Southern Oregon Coast. The summer weather is outstanding and there is free camping everywhere. I would never consider moving inland, being too far from the ocean makes me nervous. In the area around Coos Bay we have easy access to county,state and federal forest land and in 20+ years have not run into a Ranger. Hint: camp on exposed abandon logging landing in the summer to avoid the ‘Skeeters.

  27. I hope that in future installments of your Oregon report you will include tips for finding dispersed camping sites in the forest that provide enough solar exposure to keep batteries charged. I had a hell of a time with that.

  28. Steve A says:

    Hi Bob, I’m traveling Oregon now too and I’m loving it. Right now I’m in Sisters planning on finding some good hiking tomorrow morning. Last two days I was camping on Clear Lake. Spectacular. From here I’m heading south on the Cascade Lakes scenic by way. I’ve added a kayak to my gear. Thanks Oregon $ ! I spent about a week in Portlandia. No shortage of REI’s. There’s a supper rest stop (French Prairie) on 5 about 25 minutes south. Actually so big you can almost not hear the freeway.
    Bob, where you able to camp at Crater Lake?

  29. Cae says:

    I remember going to crater lake in the late 1960s and that color of blue was absolutely stunning. Your picture of you and Cody brought that memory back to me the moment I saw it. Thanks

  30. Vanholio! says:

    Vanholio’s been banging around Oregon and Washington for a few weeks. Near the coast, the national forests have a bunch of the forest roads gated off. I’m guessing that’s to keep out poaching loggers. It’s been annoying finding free dispersed camping, though. Inland the situation is good.

  31. Gorgeous photo of you and Cody and the lake! I love getting new tips about boondocking places, and Oregon might be in my future. And in addition to your blog post, your reader comments are always good, too. I’m looking forward to the more detailed Oregon posts, and also your new You Tube channel. 🙂

  32. Dan Southcomb says:

    Once again you’ve given us a very informative assessment of camping in Oregon. Thank you sir. I am sorry to hear of your parting ways with Jamie. I thought you complimented each other well with very informative/entertaining videos pertaining to the Nomatic lifestyle. I wish you both well, and will continue to follow your adventures. Safe travels. Dan

  33. Mike Yukon says:

    Bob, glad to hear your going solo. You have a very good casual style that includes valuable van dwelling information. I’ll visit your sight often so I don’t miss anything when you start uploading. Also putting your address link on my blog so others can find you.

    Stay safe,
    Mike

  34. JannaB says:

    1974 I was living near san fransico and just happened to travel threw Oregon, and never left.
    My favorite time to camp is in the fall and winter. (to avoid people). Where else can you drive on the beach to camp and build huge bon fires?
    I love Oregon.
    JannaB

  35. Ann says:

    Thanks for the great info about Oregon! I think it would take a lifetime to explore all of its beauty. I am happiest surrounded by big trees near bodies of water. It’s great to hear that there are a lot of private camping opportunities. I also wanted to say how much I enjoyed your videos with James. I’m looking forward to your new channel and hope the “missing” videos will be available again. However, as much as I like your videos, I LOVE your blog posts!!! Thanks for writing!

  36. Tim says:

    Bob –

    What happened to your YouTube videos? I had a large playlist of your videos, which are now private. Will they come back?

  37. Elaine Patton says:

    Bob, I thought you looked like you have lost a few lbs. All that hiking you and your new gal pal have been doing is paying off for sure. I think Caroline is going to be good for you and your health! Very happy for you guys. The pictures in this post were spectacular….the lake was so blue! Thanks for another great post and look forward to meeting Caroline!!

    • Scott says:

      Funny, I thought the same thought! It really doesn’t take much to look better, just a little activity everyday and eating well. Of course, having the perfect companion to do it with ( in Bob’s case, Cody and Caroline) makes it so much easier and enjoyable.

  38. Pam says:

    You are really missing out by not going to the Oregon coast. Now is the time. Kids are back in school and crowds are small. Just sayin’. There are Wal-marts at Coos Bay and Newport when in a pinch. Spectacular!!

  39. Kathy Keehan says:

    Beautiful photos Bob! I’ve never been to northeastern Oregon but I’m now considering a trip there. My parents used to live in Grants Pass and I loved it there around southern OR. I currently live in Prescott, AZ but have been considering moving my 5th wheel that I live in to the Oregon Coast (Gold Beach or around that area). Then coming back to AZ for the winter months perhaps. I look forward to seeing your wonderful, informative videos again and wish you well with your new channel! Kathy

  40. Scott says:

    I have been to Crater 6 times over the past 15 years and never tire of it. It is one of the few places in the world where I could probably stare at it endlessly and never get bored. Once was in the winter when only the southern approach from Klamath is open. It is a whole different experience then. It gets almost 600 inches of snow annually and the lake rarely freezes. The blue of the sky and lake mixed with the pure white powdered snow is magical. I do believe you can probably camp there in the winter. It is well worth it to try. I haven’t yet, but might someday. For the truly adventurous, there is a x-country ski tour around the lake on the road, which is not plowed.

  41. Paul says:

    Bob,

    I haven’t read through all of the comments yet, so maybe this was addressed. But, there are tons of places for dispersed camping on the Oregon Coast on state forest lands, BLM and US Forest Service. I’m talking a lot of places, just in my one county alone. Do yourself a favor and visit.

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