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Boondocking Guidelines
A set of guidelines for boondocking compiled by the forum moderators.

Glossary of Terms for Those New to Boondocking

"Boondocking" is camping where there are no developed amenities such as a bathroom, electricity, water, or garbage containers/collection.

"Dispersed Camping" is a term used by the National Forest Service (NFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other public land agencies to describe camping where there are no amenities (bathroom, electricity, water, garbage). In these locations you utilize existing dispersed campsites, and pack it in, pack it out.

 "Pack it in, pack it out" is a commonly used phrase that means exactly what it says. When camping in the back country, don't leave anything behind. That is no trash, including anything in the campfire pit (e.g. cigarette butts, half-burnt paper, cans, etc.). This also includes toilet paper and solid human waste. Note: in some areas you can bury solid human waste in a cat hole (but not the toilet paper).

"Cat Hole": A hole dug (6"- 8" in the forest, 4" -6" in the desert) into which solid human waste is deposited. It is then covered completely to show no evidence that it ever existed. 

Boondocking Guidelines

National Forests and BLM lands are the largest and easiest to access public land areas where boondocking (also known as dispersed camping) is permitted. Individual states may also allow boondocking on state forests lands, water management areas, and other public state owned lands. It is up to you to determine whether you are on public lands before setting up camp. Rules and restrictions are not universal. Each National Forest or BLM area may have a different set of rules concerning length of stay, types of vehicles permitted on the roads, trash disposal, fire restrictions, and distance from roadways, water sources, and established campgrounds. Learn the rules and follow them.

Choosing a campsite

It's always best to set up in an established boondocking site.

In the desert, camp at least 1/4 mile from springs and water tanks. This is so animals both wild and domestic can come and drink without being scared

Shoot for zero impact with your campsite. This means stay out of meadows and other sensitive areas, do not drive cross country, do not cut vegetation or remove brush to improve your campsite, do not put nails or screws into trees for any reason ( ie hanging tarps, hanging lanterns or what ever), do not arrange rocks around vegetation or use them to make path ways, and DO NOT PAINT ROCKS.

Do not invade an already occupied campsite. 

If you must camp close to another camper or a group of campers introduce yourself and keep your stay short. Everyone has a different idea of a comfortable distance between campsites so use common sense. If there's plenty of room stay far enough away to be out of earshot and out of the main view area of other campers. If you're camping in a popular or congested area it may be necessary to camp very close together. Take a cue from the people already camped and try to keep the same distance.


Know the restrictions before building a fire. Restrictions may apply to any type of open flame including charcoal grills, wood burning stoves, and portable stoves using contained gas, or pressurized liquid fuel without a fuel shut off valve.

Dead wood gathering is not permitted in some areas as it provides a home for many insects and animals.

Use an established fire ring if possible. If an existing rock fire ring is not available don't build a new one. Use a shovel and dig a shallow pit. Use the dirt from the pit to build a bank around the fire pit that normally would be rocks. When leaving level the fire pit to make it look like no fire was ever there

Do not transfer wood from one area to another to avoid spreading pests and diseases.

Do not throw plastic and cans in the fire pits. Pack trash out and deposit it in the proper place.

When you have a fire always have water and a shovel handy to put the fire out. just in case.

Make sure any fire is completely out before leaving camp. A fire is dead out when you can place your hand in the coal bed


Pack out all trash. Whenever possible dump trash at transfer stations and landfills. Very small amounts can be deposited in trash cans at businesses but ask first before depositing larger amounts.

Dumping waste water and digging cat holes is not permitted in some sensitive areas so everything must be packed out.

Waste water should thrown to distribute - away from the camp area and at least 150' from natural water sources.

Do not dump RV holding tanks onto the ground.

Cat Holes should 6"- 8" deep  in the forest, 4" -6" deep in the desert and 200' from water sources. Do not bury toilet paper in cat holes.

Common Courtesy

If you must run a generator limit the hours and/or buy a quiet one.

Drive slowly on dirt roads when passing campsites to avoid stirring up dust.

Radios and other noise should be kept at a low volume
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The following 21 users say Thank You to VanDwellerMod for this post:
Wandering Walden (12-13-2017), Gardenias (09-29-2017), SilverVoyager (09-19-2017), dr_nelson (07-05-2017), Preach (05-15-2017), Queen (05-15-2017), speedhighway46 (05-13-2017), GotSmart (05-09-2017), waldenbound (05-09-2017), slynne (05-08-2017), karl (05-08-2017), Thirsty Boots Nomad (05-08-2017), cyndi (05-08-2017), Stretch (05-08-2017), Gunny (05-08-2017), rvpopeye (05-08-2017), Qdini (05-08-2017), Blanch (05-08-2017), Snow Gypsy (05-08-2017), rvwandering (05-07-2017), BobBski (05-07-2017)
Thanks for this and the time you give to this forumSmile
2016 Ford Transit 2500, 130" WB, Mid roof
Full time since Aug 2016
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Good post VDM.
Helping keep these places open for us all!
Stay Tuned

Weirdo Overlord  YARC CRVL edition
12 "Stinkin'Badges"  a "Full Monty Badge" 2 "Just Ignore Me" clusters  4 "Pine Cone" clusters  one "Stinkin' Badger" and 4 of the coveted "Flying Manure Spreader"awards! (What a "Stinkin' " honor !) + ROOIRIA

1981 Travelcraft Class C - 23'
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Boondocking essential packing list:

Inclement weather items
Provisions for drinking water
Snacking/ food for the amount of time
Van or temporary shelter
Butane lighter
light sources
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The following 1 user says Thank You to Belinda2 for this post:
Fairlight (06-11-2017)
I'd add...
check the weather before you start the fire and however long it is lit. Wind. Wind.

don't burn toilet paper at the poop site.

Split the logs so they don't burn for hours and hours and hours. You'll also use less wood.
1997 Class B Dodge van 3500.
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The following 1 user says Thank You to bigsallysmom for this post:
Fairlight (06-11-2017)
"Boondocking" is camping without amenities such as a bathroom, electricity, water, or garbage containers/collection."

I think it should read "Boondocking is a campsite without amenities such as a bathroom, electricity, water, or garbage containers/collection."
I boondock all the time without the above mentioned amenities at the site, but my motorhome has them all. I even do the collection.
1990 VW Vanagon Carrat Mulitivan

1987 29' Foretravel GrandVille Class A 
Home is where I park it, now in Livermore Ca

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The following 1 user says Thank You to Michael4104 for this post:
VanDwellerMod (05-09-2017)
Boondocking is not done at Walmart or other friendly parking lots.
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The following 1 user says Thank You to Weight for this post:
Fairlight (06-11-2017)
That discussion has been had many times, in many places. No need to have it, again, here.
I'd like to give myself a few negative ratings, because I am such a big meanie. The forum won't allow it. Feel free!

Cyndi (made it across the cattle guard)

"I reject your reality and substitute my own."
~ Adam Savage
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My understanding has always been that one should not use a "cathole" in a desert because there aren't enough soil bacteria to break it down. (Though I'm an east-coaster and have not spent much time in a desert).

Have I been mis-informed about that?

Living in "Ziggy the Snail Shell" since May 2015
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while boondocking in Florida at The Southwest Florida Water Management District yu have t have a permit (free)

i think it's very important to sign in at gate, while you don't have to, it shows that you did arrive and used the campground
It helps when it's budget time when they know people are using it they'll keep funding it

if it's not used they cut funding

and while i am at it if you sign up and don't show PLEASE cancel so someone else can use as sites are limited
I am good with god .... Wonder how she feels about me ?
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The following 3 users say Thank You to Florida boondocker for this post:
SilverVoyager (09-19-2017), Fairlight (06-11-2017), Thirsty Boots Nomad (05-09-2017)

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