Keep it Simple Sunday: Staying Legal as a Boondocker


Before this incident, I never felt like the Forest Rangers were the enemy. Now I am starting to wonder. From now on I will assume he is there to trick me and do me harm instead of just protecting the Forest.

(Many of the comments I have got from this post expressed anger at the individual Ranger who came into my camp. I need to apologize to him and to all my readers for miss-communicating. The Ranger was polite, reasonable and professional; he was a good guy doing a hard job!! My issue is not with the Rangers, it is with what I consider to be an extreme over-reaction on the part of  the Forest Service Management in a few National Forests to the problem of the homeless.)

This Sunday I want to talk about the legality and morality of the way of life I promote. The truth is the vandwelling lifestyle is so far out of societies norms, that most of the time we are either right on the edge of breaking laws, and sometimes it appears we go over the edge and actually break laws. So each of us must decide for ourselves what we are comfortable with. For myself, I try to live my life by a very simple code:

  1. Do the most good for others that I reasonably can
  2. And do the least harm to myself, to others, and to the entire planet community that I possibly can.

As a boondocking vandweller I have bent many laws (and possibly broke some) but I have always done it with my code in mind of doing as little harm as I possibly can. So if I have ever accidentally stayed more than 14 days on public land, it was always been with the idea that I was doing no harm. I wasn’t damaging the land because I left it just the way I found it—no harm done. I wasn’t keeping anyone else from using it, because I was in remote places with no one else around. So even if I was technically breaking the law, I still lived up to my own moral code of doing as little harm as possible.

We recently had a Forest Service Ranger in camp who made it totally clear that my boondocking lifestyle was breaking the law as the Forest Service interprets the law. That has raised the question in my mind of just how far I am willing to go to follow my chosen life. Let me start by explaining the new interpretation of an old law the Forest Service (FS) has come up with.

It has always been illegal to set up residence in a National Forest, or any other Public Land like BLM Land. I have no problem with that, I believe the land is held in public trust for every citizen as an owner to use, but not for any one person to live on. Up to now as long as you didn’t build any kind of permanent structure and obeyed the laws by moving every 14 days, full-time vandwellers and RVers were allowed to use Public Land year around. That is no longer the case!

As I understand it, if you are a full-time vandweller or RVer, and do not have a home to go to, you are not allowed to camp in the Forest for even one day. If you don’t have a residence somewhere, then you are living in the Forest and can be fined and cited even if you aren’t breaking any other laws.

Two weeks ago a Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) came into my camp and asked to see my ID and started asking where my home was, I was alarmed, so I started giving vague answers trying to avoid getting myself into trouble. I told him I had a mail forwarder in Pahrump, but he kept pressing and wanted to know where I lived when I was in Pahrump. By then I was very alarmed so I told him I rented a room from a friend. That was semi-true because I have talked to my mail forwarder about renting a room from her just in case I had to have some sort of genuine residence. I told her I would pay the rent and spend a few hours there, but never sleep there and she agreed.


If you go far enough back, you won’t ever see a Ranger.

As our conversation went he told me that if I did not have a residence anywhere else, then I was living in the Forest and he could issue me a citation. So I asked him if he could cite me even if I was obeying all the laws and only stayed 14 days and then moved on, and he told me YES, he could cite me for living in the Forest unless I could prove to him that I had a residence somewhere else. He told me that he was unusually tolerant and so he was not going to cite me, but many other Rangers would have.

Of course I was stunned and had never heard of such a thing. Later on I talked to another boondocker who told me that he had a nearly identical conversation with another Ranger in the Coconino NF. The Ranger asked him if he had a home and when he said “Yes” asked him if he owned it. My first reaction was we were going back to the Middle Ages where there were the Landed Gentry who owned property and could hunt on the Kings land and everyone else were serfs who got the crumbs from their Masters tables.

That got me very curious and concerned, so I started doing some research to see what was going on. After a Google Search on “living in the National Forest” I found three newspaper articles discussing this very topic, two in Northern Arizona, one in Colorado. I have links to those articles at the bottom of this post. To show this wasn’t just a one-time fluke, I want to take some quotes from those articles and discuss them.

Here is the story of a couple who obeyed all the laws but were cited for $275 for “Residential Use of the Forest”

“(Barbara) also said that she had moved from the Coconino (National Forest) and then back to the Kaibab (National Forest) after he had warned her that this activity was residential use. Based on all that information, (the officer) issued her a citation,” wrote Brady Smith, spokesman for the Coconino National Forest.

The problem, say the Haackes, is a seasonal sticker on their motorhome allowing them to camp on Bureau of Land Management land near Quartzsite, northeast of Yuma.

The officer zeroed in on the sticker, realized the Haackes were living in their motor home, and cited them accordingly. The ticket was later reduced to $100. This couple had a LTVA sticker on their RV, and that was all the evidence the Ranger needed to issue them a citation for living in the Forest

Here is a story from the in which they interviewed Pike National Forest Recreation Programs Manager Frank Landis and this is what he said:

 “People can use the forest for recreation but living there is illegal,” Landis said. “We check to see if campers have a permanent address and our rangers have learned to recognize illegal camps. If vehicles are gone in the daytime, that usually means the campers are working.”

So in some Forests it is now Standard Operating Procedure for a Ranger to examine your camp and determine of you are a homeless person or a full-time RVer living on Public land. If he thinks you are, he is supposed to ask you if you have a residence somewhere, and if you don’t he can issue you a ticket right there.

In another article from the Arizona Daily Sun I found this interview with Jon Nelson, patrol captain for the Coconino, Kaibab and Prescott national forests:

Technically, it’s illegal to live in the forest for even a day, whether in a motorhome, a camp trailer or a tent.

“It doesn’t matter how many days you stay on the national forest — you can’t use it for residential use,” Nelson said.

But it’s also tough to prove that a person is living in a recreational vehicle in the forest, as opposed to just staying there as a temporary camper.


Not being seen is going to become more-and-more important. If you can get tucked away and not be noticed, you can’t be hassled.

You have to see that the topic here is not 14 day Recreational Camping; we all know that is the general limit for camping. The FS is arguing that by not having a home anywhere else we must automatically be residing in the Forest, even if we are there for just one day. It is a very subtle distinction (but critically important) between the two.

What does it mean to you and me?

  • It means the Federal government has stepped up its war on us and we are going to have to act accordingly. I am not going to suggest anyone break any laws, but I am saying you need to look for every loophole you can to avoid the appearance of breaking any laws. If the Ranger is going to come into camp looking for any signs you are a full-time RVer then we should avoid giving him any reason to think we are. At the same time, if he starts interrogating you about your permanent residence you should have a satisfactory answer ready to give him. Here are some actions I recommend you take to avoid getting a citation for “Residing” in the Forest:
  • Don’t have any signs or stickers on your RV or van that would in any way imply you are a full-timer like an Escapee sticker, a Quartzsite bumper-sticker or last years LTVA sticker. It’s terribly sad I have to write something like this, but this is what it has come down to.
  • Avoid having too elaborate a camp that makes it seem like you are settling in for a long time. The less comfortable it is, the more you look like you are just there for a short stay.
  • Camp in as remote a place as possible so that it is unlikely the Ranger will pass through and find you. If he doesn’t know you are there, he can’t interrogate you. The more popular the camping area, the more likely you are to get a ticket.
  • Have an expensive looking vehicle. Some of our group were about ¼ mile away in new, expensive Lazy Daze Class Cs, and no Ranger every stopped by to harass or interrogate them.
  • If the Ranger does find you and asks for your ID, it is my understanding you don’t have to give it to him. What I do is give him my passport; that is perfectly legal ID and it gives him very little information that can be used against me. The last one looked at my Passport and asked me if I had my Drivers License and I told him I had it out last night and had misplaced it, but if he wanted to wait an hour or two I would search and find it.
  • If he does start interrogating you, say as little as you can. Yes and no or one-word answers are the safest. Of course in this country you are not required to answer ANY questions and you can ask him if you are a suspect of breaking a law, and if you are you refuse to answer and would like an attorney. The problem with that is you have really elevated the situation from a game of cat-and-mouse to a serious issue. I don’t know if that is a good idea or not, you have to decide that for yourself.

For me, the best thing is to be polite and friendly and avoid any escalation, and at the same time have a rock-solid answer to where I reside. Here are some examples of steps I can take and answers I might give:

  • I would call my mom (or my sister or my son or even a friend) and tell her I would like to come and visit her every year in November through March and that I would like to lease a room from her for $100 a month. We would get a standard Lease Rental Agreement or a Roommate Agreement, fill it out and both sign it. I would then pay her $100 a month and give her $500 and she would give me a receipt. Then she would give me $500 for an early birthday present. She is very generous! Then when the Ranger asked me where I lived I would say I like to travel in the hot months, but I rent a room every November through March in Florida during the cold months. In fact I had just paid for it and got a receipt, would he like to see it? If he says yes, I would show him the lease and the receipt. I don’t know how he could ever argue I didn’t have a residence.
  • For a long time I have been debating with myself whether I would buy a piece of land or not. I would really like to but then I would ask myself, “Why should I buy land when I can just stay on Public Land for free?” I never had an answer before, but with this strict new interpretation of the residency laws, I do. I am actively planning on buying a cheap piece of land in Arizona (probably near Show-Low) and carry the deed around with me. Then if the Ranger asks where I live I will say, “I have land near Show Low with a little cabin on it, would you like to see the title deed?” If he does, I will show it to him.
  • One of the things I would like to do is lease a part of my land to some of my friends. I would offer you the same deal my mom was offering me. You pay me $100 a month and we sign a lease contract and pay me; then I would give you a receipt. And like my mom, I am very generous with my friend’s birthdays!

The bottom line is every one of us needs to have an answer as to where we reside. If that means getting a little creative, then that is just what you will have to do. I think of it like paying taxes: I don’t want to break the law, but I want to find every loophole I can and pay as little as I can. Start getting creative and looking for loopholes!


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

347 comments on “Keep it Simple Sunday: Staying Legal as a Boondocker
  1. JohnNTx says:

    The more we publicize vandwelling, the more “they” will come down on us.

    • Frank says:

      That may be true. Maybe Vandwellers should create their own camps and buy land as a group, like Bob is thinking of.

      But soon i’m sure The Regulations Empire will STRIKE back, and no, the force will not be with you young Skywalker.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Frank, generally I am an optimist and don’t subscribe to theories of gloom and doom, but this has put some gloom into my head. But, I am still optimistic!

        • Wemble says:

          Did you hear the one about the optimist and the pessimist?

          The pessimist says, “things are so bad they couldn’t get any worst”, to which the optimist replies, “Oh yes they can!”

        • Wayne says:

          Bob, Here’s another example of the disdain the public has for Gypsies,Vagabonds,Nomads and the like.
          Thought I’d share this with you.

          • Bob Bob says:

            Wayne, the Roma are in a different class from us vandwellers. That is much more a millennia old racial problem than a negative way to look at mobile dwellers. I’m no expert, but my understanding is that the Roma bring a lot of the hatred they get on themselves. In much of the world “gypsy” is synonymous with “criminal” and my little bit of research says that is probably valid.

            In other words they are hated for being criminals, not mobile, and when we lump ourselves in with them we invite the same disdain. But I speak mostly from hear-say, so I could be wrong.

    • That’s true John only because some people create too much attention and want to be arrogant. People get jealous when they know others have an advantage over them. Working all day at a dead end job is enough to piss anyone off at our lifestyle. I do appreciate Bob having the community though. Stealth in the medium sized cities are the way to go as long as you keep on the move. Don’t wear out one place. Two days is enough and move on for a week or two.
      Martin Hamilton recently posted…Choosing Foods To Help You Lose WeightMy Profile

    • Mara Alexander says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. 🙁

    • Bob Bob says:

      John, that is a very good point and many other people have made it as well. I am open to it, but as of now I am still going to publicize vandwelling. But, I will remain flexible as the situation evolves.

      • shara says:

        u keep letting us all know where & what we are allowed to do. I am currently considering living in my tent I am a 55 yo woman whose ssi got cut down to 408 total a month so I must do something here soon. I only pay 250 rent but dont get food stamps etc, so I am going to survive by myself somewhere, so thanks for all the imfo, keep posting please.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Shara, I know people who live in their tents, it can be done. But you need a mild climate or a state like Arizona where you can always find a comfortable temperature just by moving a few hundred miles. If you can make it out here, we will show you the ropes.

    • m.a. says:

      I agree, John.

    • DaveSC says:

      The more we publicize vandwelling, the more “they” will come down on us.

      Disagree, The “Van” is a class of RV.

      • Bob Bob says:

        DaveSC, that seems to be the consensus point of view.

        But, lets take it to it’s logical conclusion: 1) I (and every other vandwelling blog) will close it’s blog today and never be heard from again. 2) I will close all my websites today, never to be seen again. 3) I will close the forum today, never to be heard from again.

        Should I do that?

        • Nope. Don’t shut down your website. If you do that, if everyone else who is a little bit different from the “norm” shuts down their websites, and stops discussing the issues of not being “normal”, then the fight for acceptance becomes that of a single individual against the tyranny of the masses.

          Have had similar experiences and discouragements within the barefooting and barefoot running communities (mine is the original running barefoot website – since 1997). And as we get more publicity, there will still be some negativity, but there is also more education about why we like going barefoot, and from that comes more tolerance, acceptance, and even understanding.

          Keep on sharing and discussing, and even though not everyone is going to move out of their homes into vans or RVs, more will come to understand the choice.

          Have fun,
          -Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton

          • Bob Bob says:

            No chance I’m shutting down my websites Ken Bob. They are a lot of work but like the old saying says, if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. I love what I do!!

    • michelle says:

      I have a home but rent it out so I still have a residence. I can’t wait to live free. We also have a small property in AZ so we could use that too. be safe

  2. Frank says:

    I read the same story on the net some time ago and was going to say something about it, but i figured since you move every 14-days you wouldn’t have a problem.

    Still though, a regular address on your driver ID. should prove what your resident location is.

    My God man, even city cops don’t act like that. They just say to move on and even say please. But it’s also a whole new ball game since it’s private property.

    Still though I wouldn’t buy land, it’s not going to prove anything. It’s just your word that you have a dwelling on it and the aaasss can still give you a ticket or fine.

    In the city it’s easy to blend in, just go to a medium size hotel or apartment. But the BLM – I think will now stand for – (BOTHER LIKE MAD). Why? Because there are now too many people that are staying longer than the 14-days and are trashing the place.

    Too many homeless people now and even non-homeless that don’t follow the rules. Just like some Wal-Mart campers.

    If everybody could be like you Bob, there wouldn’t be any problems and the world would be a better place.

    It really is a shame that America is becoming less free, years ago this sort of thing wouldn’t of happen. How times have changed. What’s next, a locator chip stuck in our neck.

    • Douglas says:

      You have that right, that we are less and less free. It shouldn’t matter if its your full residence or not. Having something to prove you have a residence elsewhere is like “papers please”.

      • Mary says:

        Yes, we are losing our freedoms. It is getting scary

        • Bob Bob says:

          Mary, I am generally an optimist, but this one does have me concerned. Right now I just see it as an over-reaction to a problem and that cooler heads will prevail and we will get back to normal.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Douglas, it felt very much like “Papers Please.” I find it terribly sad that I have to carry papers and prove that I have land or a house somewhere to be able to spend one night in the National Forest.

        That’s just wrong!

      • Wemble says:

        “Papers, please”. Maybe we can empathize with how when those of Hispanic heritage who have to prove they are “legals”. Doesn’t feel good, does it?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Frank, it is discouraging! But as of now it is limited to just a very few areas with very heavy use. I don’t think we should overreact.

  3. Karen Abbe says:

    Hi Bob — wow, I haven’t kept up on your posts as I’ve been overwhelmed with my own stressors — so come to find out with your blog entry today that our federal rangers are becoming so gestapo-like. That really scares me, as it seems there are fewer and fewer places to enjoy America’s back country without harassment. When I’m off the beaten track, I don’t want to be bothered, questioned, cross-examined, or asked for my I.D. I hope this is not going to become a regular thing, that the rangers are stepping up enforcement of requiring a regular residence. Kind of takes the wind out of the sail of freedom, in my view.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Karen, i have to agree, I found it very discouraging. I don’t have any problem with the no-residence or 14 day rules. But this seems crazy to me.

      Essentially, people with a home can use the forest and no one else is allowed.

      • Johnnomads says:

        Of course Rangers aren’t going to harrass the owners of 100k rigs.
        It’s been my experience in life that ppl with big money often have big power, and rangers don’t want to have problems. Of hink course that doesn’t help if your not loaded, so vandwellers have to think stealthly ie: no stickers, and the house/room gambit you brought up.

        • Bob Bob says:

          I think there is truth in that John. While I am sure they enforce most of the rules equally (especially the 14 day rule) I think their main goal with the residency rule is keeping poor people out of the forest.

          But just using common sense should eliminate most all the problems as long as you have your story ready.

  4. I agree that we need to be aware of the laws and have an answer ready for where we live. For now, I think using my license address as my residence (I rent an apartment in Madison, SD) is sufficient. They’ve offered this address for full timers like us. Why not? If I need physical proof, I’ll do some lease with my parents like Bob mentioned.

    I don’t want to live in fear though as a new vandweller as this can really hamper the life of freedom I’ve chosen. Like my mother always has said, be “wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove”.

    I would like to also buy a small piece of land out west somewhere to retire on when I’m too old to travel or just want to come home if I don’t feel like moving around for a season or to just have a quiet place to write for long periods of time. But, for now, my life is the road. I’m sure there are ways to curb these, what I feel, unreasonable laws, which can take away our freedoms.

    Good point about folks who trash these beautiful places. I think that when folks don’t care for these forests, it potentially can ruin it for others. But, we’re always going to have those who abuse the land. I wish we could change that unfortunate aspect of our race. So, we could do what Bob and I did, and clean up after these abusers.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Gloria, this is such a great life, we need to hang onto it no matter what it costs us. Picking up after the other A–holes is a good start!

  5. Jamie DeWolfe says:

    The dates on those articles are from 2011. Has there been any progress or additional coverage on this issue since then?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Jamie, that was all the information I could find with a Google search, so I am not aware of any other incidents. This was the very first time I had ever heard of such a thing so I am still in a state of semi-shock.

      But, I am still optimistic!

  6. Dave says:

    Not a lawyer, but it seems to me that if you can show that you paid rent once during the year, even if it is at a RV park, then you can show that you don’t “live” on Federal Forest Land. However, the best solution to me is the one that you gave….make and agreement with a parent, sibling, or friend to rent a room for 4-5 months per year, sign and contract, get a receipt for payment (or copy of a check), and carry that with you. Seems that they cannot do much about that. –Dave,
    Dave recently posted…Melting ZoneMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      I agree totally Dave. In fact that has been my plan if the whole Patriot Act Real ID gets any worse. I would pay for a months rent in the cheapest RV park I could find and use it as proof of physical residency.

      The key thing to remember is they are after proof of physical residency, not legal residency. I am a legal Nevada Resident, but I have only spent one night there in the last 2 years.

  7. Rolf Fritschi says:

    A voter I.D card should solve the problem. In order to vote one needs to establish residency.

    • Gary Stern says:

      Not true. I once cross examined an election commissioner who indicated that homeless people who list a public park as their address can vote.

      Also, let’s NEVER forget in the middle of the woods the man with the gun is always right. You don’t want to end up face down in the dirt in handcuffs while your van is illegally searched. The rule of law only holds in a court. If you feel threatened dial 911 and get you complaint on tape and take a phone foto of the ranger and his vehicle. That should say enough.

      Any response except that you live at the address on your license and registration is going to be cause for further inquiry. Life may be unfair, but this is the way it is.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Gary, at one time across the south you could only vote if you owned property. It was a way to keep blacks from voting because very few blocks owned land after the Civil War. Of course at one time women couldn’t vote. Fortunately those days have passed. But it does appear this is a an attempt to bring them back as to who can use public land.

        Only people who pay property tax (either directly through home ownership or indirectly through rent) are allowed to use Public land.

        I also agree totally that you are always polite to anyone who legally carries a gun and handcuffs on his/her hip.

    • Sandra says:

      You don’t have to prove where you live in order to vote at the polling place-this is harassment and a total overreach of authority.My interpretation is that they are taking creative license in a gray area of the rules. However, I hear ya loud n clear, Bob, on picking your battles…time and place for that. They need to be challenged on this though

      • Bob Bob says:

        Sandra I agree with you, it should be challenged. But, like is to short for me to spend it fighting battles.

        Long ago I decided I had two choices in life, I could be right or I could be happy. I try hard to choose to be happy. I was upset by this but I am already regaining my balance and everything is going to be just fine.

        • Sandra says:

          I guess the part that bugs me most personally is what could be termed ‘economic profiling’. Not all of us who are or could be living the lifestyle have the Bluebird bus, so to speak. Just because I have adopted a cheaper way of travel does not mean I am a vagrant, or any less worthy of enjoying the benefits of BLM camping in the allowed timeframes. But, as others have pointed out, takes just one bad camper to ruin it for many. Just know your blog followers feel for you, you’re not an army of one, but many! (psychic hugs, will have to do until we meet someday!)

    • Bob Bob says:

      Rolf, I don’t think a voter ID card would work. Remember, they are after proof of physical residency, not legal residency. I am a legal Nevada Resident, but I have only spent one night there in the last 2 years. Their claim is that if you don’t have a physical residence, then the forest is your residence. They want proof of physical residence.

      • Michael says:

        And the idea that your renting a place for PART of the YEAR and not the TIME of YEAR that you’re being questioned, would not be proof THAT at the MOMENT your being asked about your Physical Address you had A FULL TIME PLACE TO LIVE, and… that would make that your legal residence. So, that would be a waste of time “unless” you Rented a YEAR around place for the same amount of money and had it gifted back.

        This is just a war on the poor, the same as the one they have on those that try to earn their own living “outside the wal mart economy”. It just gets tighter and tighter by the day. But, adapting… that is the way to survive.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Michael, that is why I want to own land. If I own land, then I have a residence and I am just on vacation. The National Forest are designed for vactioners and no own has a problem with that. So if I have a piece of land where it is hot, I can just tell a Ranger I am retired, I own a small cabin on some land but I like to travel to cooler places when it is hot. That is perfectly reasonable.

          I do agree this is a war on the poor and we are lumped in with them.

  8. Naomi says:

    As another reader commented, I’m not an attorney, either. Heck, I’m not even a camper – yet. But it seems as this ranger believes that the burden of proof of not living on federal lands is on the camper. That doesn’t make sense to me (many things don’t …).

    If the camper in question isn’t doing anything illegal and the ranger has no proof that you have been there longer than 14 days, . . . how can they do that? I’d love to hear what an attorney that has experience with national forest land would have to say. I realize one doesn’t want to piss off the ranger, and apparently, they get away with it, but sheesh. It smacks of harassment. His behavior was a bit Nazi-esque, imho.

    I hope the incidents you mention are just isolated ones.

    ~Naomi “The Only Rambling I Do is on the Computer” Absher

    • Bob Bob says:

      Naomi, I have to agree, By their own admission they come into your camp looking for clues to catch you and then they interrogate you trying to get you to admit that you are a full-timer. Heck, I am prousd to be a full-timer so I have no problem saying it and I suspect many people do as well. That’s what they are counting on–that you will admit it.

      My main goal with this post is to warn you all to be very careful and NOT say anything he can use against you. Apparently we don’t even get Miranda rights!

      • Naomi says:

        Glad to see you back on here. I and several others were concerned for your safety with the horrific forest fires. Take care.

      • Naomi says:

        Re Miranda – yes, it’s scary (there’s actually a “plain English” paragraph here.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Naomi, man they are nitpicking some fine points there. There is no way the average person is going to know all that or understand the fine points of the law.

          I am inclined to tell him I haven’t done anything wrong or broken any laws, but if he is there to trick me into saying I have, I would like an attorney before talking to him any more.

          Does anyone know (not guess) what the results of that could or would be?

          • I saw a video about that not long ago…and general the border guards let the person go. The people were being asked to get out of the vehicle, to show their d.l., etc. and so forth, the they then in turn asked, “Have I done anything wrong? Is there a problem?

            I am pretty laid back at the borders and let them do what they want. I usually get waved through. A couple times I have been asked to open my trailer, but once they peak inside, they tell me to close it quick and leave. (scares me too… the trailer)
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          • Vagabond says:

            On the Miranda warnings, you have to be in custody and the officer has to ask you questions that would be incriminating against you before he has to read your rights. He can arrest you and never read your rights if he doesn’t ask questions. If he asks questions but you are not in custody he does not have to read your rights either. Also if you volunteer information and incriminate yourself then by law the officer can use that against you even if he did not read your rights since he did not ask you specifically.
            You have the right to ask him if you are free to leave or not if he tells you that you cannot leave then he better read your rights if he wants to incriminate you or you can tell him you want an attorney present. If you ask for an attorney he cannot ask any incriminating questions. Then again by doing all these he will probably find something to write you up just so he doesn’t lose face, as most people who have nothing to hide wouldn’t ask for an attorney or have their rights read to them.
            An officer has the right to ask for your name address, date of birth and any information he needs to verify that you are not wanted somewhere. So remember he does not have to read you your rights if you are not in custody and are free to leave. Now if you answer incriminating questions and he cites you, you cannot go to court and tell the judge that the officer did not read you your rights, therefor the ticket should not be valid.
            In conclusion, I’d say be polite treat the officer with respect if he does the same and be friendly. Don’t forget that a LEO Job is to deal with 90% of the 10% of the criminal population. So after a while they develop a certain sense of defensive barrier and when they deal with friendly non breaking law abiding citizens they will be more prompt to let you go with a warning.
            I know because I am a cop (retiring in 3 years and the wife and I will be full time RV’er)
            Bob, my wife and I enjoy your blog immensely and can’t wait to read every post you put out there.
            Take care keep on living the free life and be safe.


          • Bob Bob says:

            Vagabond, that is all very helpful information. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us. Yeah, I am just venting, I live my life by the principle that nice guys ultimately finish first. My goal is to live in such a way that I never have to apologize for my behavior after I calm down (boy do I get sick of apologizing to people!). And I succeeded here. I was friendly with the LEO and I think he responded in kind.

            I gave him my passport instead of drivers license, and after we talked for awhile I admitted to him the reason I gave him my passport instead of DL was as an act of Passive Resistance. He replied that was okay, passive resistance was still legal in this country.

            As he left I thanked him for his work and told him I appreciated it–and I honestly meant it. However, I still believe his bosses are dead wrong in their interpretation of a very vague regulation!

            Thank you for being an LEO!! We all owe you a huge debt of gratitude, and instead all we do is load you up with shit! Honestly, thank you very, very much!! Any man who walks out of his house in the morning wondering if he will come home that night and does it to protect and serve, he is ultimate hero in my book.

  9. Jim says:

    Good post Bob. We are the folks in the Lazy Daze. We had seen Bob’s blog and wanted to check him and the group out.

    A lot of nice folks and we had a good time visiting with them. This was a get together of folks interesting in learning from Bob and others about van and/or car camping. No noise, clean camp and pleasant people.

    Bob and I talked about this issue a bit and I have been researching the background as well. Federal Title 36 Chapter 2 contains the rules and regulations for the Forest Service.

    The two sections that others have pointed out as the ones that have brought this on are title 36 261.2 and 36 261.10. The first is a list of definitions and the pertinent def is for Residence which includes about everything. The second is supposedly what has given them the authority to single out some folks for harassment.

    Here is a link to the latter section.

    I have read it several times and find it impossible to see how we get from it to approaching someone without probable cause and question them as if they were criminals. There is clearly no language in it that would lead you to that conclusion.

    Perhaps, this isn’t the correct sections or perhaps this is an administrative decision and interpretation of what they think is permissible under the statute. I don’t think it does.
    Jim recently posted…It’s A Dry HeatMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Jim, you are absolutely right! If you read the rules there is nothing in them that would imply they have the authority to do this. It is wildly imaginative bureaucratic interpretation of a simple rule that gives them the supposed authority.

      How can you make the leap from “It’s illegal to live in the forest” to “If a full-time RVer spends one night in the Forest he is Residiing in the forest” I have no idea!!!

  10. Fred says:

    Good and timely post Bob. Your philosophy is quite similar to mine. I too have broken the 14 day rule many times and will probably continue to do so. I also harm absolutely no one. But, as yourself when I leave, there is no evidence that I was there except for the tire tracks. Still, I add that to judge every ranger or supervisor by the actions of a few is not quite fair either. If you remember when the FS was just starting to implement the new MVUA rules, we had a very nice and professional ranger come by at the summer RTR last year at Shaver Lake. He certainly could have issued me a ticket as well as many of the others there, but he was quite polite and just merely explained the new rules. He wasn’t all puffed up with power as these rangers seem to be. Like anywhere in real life, there are some people where the authority and power just go to their head. But not all rangers, police officers, and others are there to hassle anyone. They just want to do their job and go home to their families and loved ones, same as you and me. I realize the law is there to prevent the abuse that undoubtedly could and does happen, but your right, sometimes the enforcers become the problem and not the solution. Remember also, that there is a huge budget shortfall in the government, and you might simply be a revenue item to him, although they would never admit it.

    As far as land is concerned for where you actually live, I own property near Elko and Show Low, although I do not live there at present, I would be happy to accommodate with help for an address and a “lease”. I do like the idea about a small cabin on property as well. We could do it basically the way you suggest and that should hopefully take care of the problem. I could accommodate any number of requests of readers of this blog and would be glad to do so, a valid lease form should be easy to find on the internet, so let’s go from there. I would add also, if an officer asks, that I use solar and don’t need to be hooked up to electricity and therefore I would not have an electric bill.

    I have a deed with me for that property although it would be pain in the butt to drag it out just because someone wanted to see it, but I could. Guess I will have to start keeping it available. Seems like the government for no apparent reason is injecting its’ disapproval of a particular lifestyle of which it knows nothing, onto us vandwellers with a very broad brush based on the actions of a few miscreants.

    Unfortunately, as better times here in the States fail to materialize or substantially improve, I am finding more and more people, at least temporarily, are becoming more and more amenable to the idea of van dwelling, at least temporarily until things improve. Our government knows it cannot “control” us nearly as well when we are not living in a landlocked position. Fortunately, this ole USA is quite large and there are so many places, both convenient and inconvenient, that would work. I also like to have internet and phone available as well, and fortunately in today’s world, it is usually available.

    I’m sorry I couldn’t make the summer RTR but I am just now getting off crutches. I had 3 cracked bones in my foot as a result of a hiking mishap about 5 weeks ago. I am now almost back to normal, whatever that means, and would be glad to help if I can with the address thing.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Fred, you are totally right, there are always bad apples in every bunch and it’s totally unfair to judge the many by a very few. In fact this particular Ranger was not a bad guy at all. He was polite and professional at all times. We never had any unpleasant words and I think we parted company with good feelings toward each other.

      My great concern is that this is coming down from the top. The Ranger was just doing what he was told to do and not because he was a bad guy–because he was not–he was a nice guy.

      If it was just one A–hole Ranger, I would be angry at him, but not concerned for the future. He was a nice guy following the A–hole policy of the Coconino NF, and I am very concerned about that.

  11. JohnNTx says:

    Because the camp was publicized, someone reading could have called the rangers.

    • Mara Alexander says:

      That’s a possibility. Maybe next year send invites/maps by email?

      • Bob Bob says:

        Mara, I am thinking along those lines as well. I’ve decided to no longer post my campsite on the blog, but I will email it to anyone who asks for it. The RTR is a different story though. I think I will continue to post it on the blog. There is just to much activity to try to do it directly.

        I’ve never put much credence to the idea that “they” are watching us, but I am starting to give it a little thought.

        • Mara says:

          I think that’s a good compromise. The RTR is a public event, not everyday life/”living” on BLM land.

        • Susie says:

          Learning the lingo…what is a RTR?

          • Bob Bob says:

            Susie, the RTR is the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous which is a gathering of vandwellers and RVers I host twice a year. In the winter we meet in January at Quartzsite, AZ. The summer location varies but this year it was in Flagstaff AZ in June.

            If you type RTR into the search bar quite a few posts should come up and give you more information.

    • Frank says:

      All Forest Rangers are now after Bob Wells-007 Secret Boondocking Agent.

      Bob this means you will have to go under cover!

      That means you will have to get married again, buy a huge house, have maybe 5 kids, change diepers at 2AM, get a real job, give up retirement, and start mowing and mowing and mowing the YARD, YES I said the dirty four letter word – YAAARD.

      But don’t worry, soon you will be happy again like Al Bundy in the sitcom – Married With Children. LOL,LOL

      • Bob Bob says:

        Hey, Al was happier than I will be, I promise you that!!

        I thought cruel and unusual punishment were illegal in this country!

    • Bob Bob says:

      John, that is a very good point and I have since learned reason to believe that might well be true.

      At first I was sure it was a homeowner in the area. As you drive into camp you have to pass a group of very expensive homes and my experience has been that those people start to think of the National Forest as their own private property. I assumed one of them had seen us and called the Ranger. That very thing has happened to me before–which is one reason I try very hard to not camp in areas with homes nearby. In Yuma we had a Sheriffs deputy come out and said a nearby homeowner had complained about us. We pulled out the maps and showed him we were on BLM land, and that was all he needed to know and left.

      But, my other boodocking friend had the exact same ting happen to him the week before and he had no publicity.

      Again, let me emphasis, this was not one bad Ranger–he was a nice guy doing a hard job. This is the policy of Coconino NF and that is much scarier than one bad Ranger.

  12. I like the voter ID card idea. With that and valid Drivers License seems like no problems. If it’s a ranger who just wants to harass then simply move on. So, one night with little sleep. No biggie. Freedom has it’s price and that’s a small price to pay.

  13. Rob says:

    If the ranger gives you a ticket you have to go to court don’t you? The Federal Courthouse court at that.
    A drivers license has your residence on it unless it’s a PO Box, that should do it. Be a drag to have to go to court to show it to a judge.

    20+ years ago I was at a NF campground with my family & 2 tents, they charged by “the sleeping unit”, the guy in the monster RV next to us paid half of what we paid. Fair? Oh sure it was.
    It’s just as illegal for a millionaire to live under a bridge in a box as it is for a homeless person, I guess it’s the same with someone living in an RV in the national forest. That’s fair too….

    I’ll bet it’s easier to give a ticket like this to someone who does not look as well off ($$) than someone in a $100k RV does. But why do it at all?

    Many many years ago times were tough & we tried to get food stamps, oh my goodness! Make an appointment & show up with what the documents “x”,”y” &’z” that were asked for & she say “where is “w”?”. “You didn’t ask for it” I reply… “Make a new appointment” she says… Very frustrating.
    A few years later I had a chance to ask a guy “why” that happened, he replied they were “encouraged” to do that..
    Maybe the rangers are “encouraged” to give those tickets to the pepole they give them to?
    Rob recently posted…1st Class and 2nd Class citizens?My Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Rob, I think ultimately this will have to be settled in the courts. there is no arguing with a bureaucrat who is sitting behind a desk 1000 miles away interpreting the laws. He can pretty much do as he pleases. Until someone takes this to court, we are all just going to have to adapt to it.

      I like how you pointed out (on your blog) how different RV Sues treatment was in the Manti-LaSal NF last week in Utah. The Rangers gave her permission to break the law and stay for a second 14 day by just moving a little bit.

      I think this is going to be a very localized problem in a few National Forests that are very near a large population center (like Phoenix is to Flagstaff). I don’t think it will become a nationwide issue.

  14. Meg says:

    This really bothers me. First of all, I thought the whole point behind establishing a domicile with a mailing service was to have a legal residence – and these rangers are questioning it? Are they within their authority to do that – to determine whether someone is living in their vehicle/RV vs. camping in it? Second, how can a sticker giving someone permission to camp on BLM land be used against them? And finally – I’ve read so much about stealth when you’re in the city but having to practice it out in nature is just – unfair, somehow.

    It seems that attitudes on the part of law enforcement towards the homeless are getting worse, which is really unfortunate considering that the economy is forcing more and more people into homelessness. This is the kind of info that makes me, as a would-be fulltimer, rethink the whole idea.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Meg, this is a different question from legal residence, the issue is physical residence. Full-timers don’t have a physical residence and they know it! According to their twisted logic, if you don’t have a residence and you spend one night in the National Forest, it magically becomes your Residence–unless you can prove otherwise!

      I hope this doesn’t discourage you Meg. We are always skirting along on the edge of the law and we find a way to make it work.

      The truth is the government would like to make it illegal to not own or live in a house. We need to fight that!!

      • Michael says:

        Bob, you can’t have a Physical residence and a Legal residence. The Court case is Exxon vs State of California that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

        BUT, you can have a physical DOMICILE or a new one every 14 days and a Legal Residence somewhere entirely different.

        I am an Alaskan Resident, but I stay (legal word Domicile) in California, Nevada and Oregon most of the time.

        When an officer asked “where do you live?” it is a TRICK QUESTION they are being taught. If you give them Your LEGAL RESIDENCE (city and state). If you tell them “I am a full timer”, or anything else. Where you are staying “becomes” your Residence.

        This really becomes an issue if you have a drivers license and vehicle licensed outside of where you’re “Camping” as they can (and in the case of California will) go after you for vehicle registration and back fees as you are now… A CALIFORNIAN for Camping there. Connecticut I hear is doing that if you store your boat or RV there even for 90 days.

        • And I bet no one is doing this to the big brand new Class A RVs. Just betcha!
          Charlene Swankie recently posted…Great Resources for Newbies to the Tribe.My Profile

          • Bob Bob says:

            I think you are right Charlene, I believe it is economic profiling.

            However, we all discriminate and we all use economic profiling–even if we won’t admit it. I think we all look at a person and size him up by his or her dress and social status. I’m hoping that most of us have worked hard and we have mostly stopped judging based on race, but I bet most of us still instinctively judge by economic status. Most of us see a bum on the street corner and avert our eyes and try to avoid him. Or maybe we give him/her a little money; but I bet that is more from guilt at fearing him than actual kindness.

            And the fact is there is a lot of mental illness among the very poor, and they are scary. And I have no doubt that among that population they do a lot of damage to the Forest. Look at Slab City for what can happen when there is no controls or enforcement among the very poor. (for those of you haven’t been there, portions of it are incredibly filthy!).

            Do we want the Coconino NF around Flagstaff to look look like Slab City?

        • Bob Bob says:

          That’s very good information Michael, thank you.

          I know what you are saying about California is true, they do go after out-of-state people for registration. But I think it is very unlikely to happen to anyone. I worked there for 4 years with many other out-of-staters and I never actually heard of it happening to anybody I knew. I was forced to be there for 1 1/2 years straight dealing with legal and medical things with my arm and my Nevada plates were never questioned in any way. I know it happens, but the odds are against it.

  15. Wemble says:

    The address on your driver’s license is not absolute proof that is where you live right now. That is why that if you ever apply for help or benefits that are tied to actually living in a state or city or county they also want to see some proof that you actually reside at the address on your driver’s license or ID–such as a utility bill or some other receipt that indicates precisely where you live.

    In a perfect world innocent, law abiding people never get hassled or jailed my authorities. Alas, this is not a perfect world. Many innocent people who dare to assert their rights find themselves in more trouble than they would have dreamed would happen to them. This happens to people based upon how they look, their race, or their lifestyle and fulltime vandwelling is certainly an alternative lifestyle that some in positions of authority may not agree with.

    So the question: is this just the work of some overzealous FS rangers or supervisors, or is this a change is Forest Service policy? Or are they trying to target some high profile vandwellers such as Bob in the hope of discouraging others in following that path?

    Let’s face it, there are many in the good old US of A who don’t like those who refuse to conform and live in one place like everyone else, they don’t like nonconformists, those who won’t toe the societal line and march to the beat of a different drummer. They prefer that we all just be another brick in the wall because to be different is to be dangerous and they would eagerly trade liberties and freedom for what they believe is security.

    I work at a homeless shelter and our residents clearly understand that society does not consider someone to truly be a person unless they are attached to a physical address and have a house or apartment or room. Without those things they are homeless. Living in your vehicle is looked upon like being a vehicle hobo, someone who is down on their luck. Those retirees who snowbird in their RVs are admired, though.

    How many non vandwellers could ever believe that someone would willingly choose to live that way? That aside, Big Brother would rather you stay put so he can keep an eye on you and know just where to find you.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Wemble, I agree totally. From the newspaper articles I quoted it looks to me like this is mostly about about the newly homeless pouring out into the Forests. And to a degree, I understand and agree that it could become a problem and cause destruction to the forest. But this isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a solution to the problem.

      I don’t know what the solution to the question of the homeless is, but I know persecuting me because you lump me in with them isn’t going to make anything better.

  16. HoboHounds says:

    I’m surprised it took this long for them to crack down on this. Welcome to the police state.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Hobohounds, I am more optimistic than you are! I am still satisfied that it is a (very bad) local solution to a local problem. I don’t believe it is a national policy because if it was we would be hearing a lot more about it.

      All we can do is hope that the local officials in the Ranger Districts around Flagstaff come to their senses and drop this nonsense.

      • HoboHounds says:

        You’re right, you are more optimistic than me. I see this “localized” issue as writing on the wall. It’s not a nation wide problem…yet!

        • Bob Bob says:

          Hobohounds, even if you take a dim view of the Rangers, this creates more work and headaches for them. I don’t think they are mean-spirited and want to hassle people, they just see it as a solution that protects the forest.

  17. Patrick says:

    The U.S. the only country in the world has too many laws and regulations to protect the few. Good for you, Bob, to break these bad laws. There are no harm to the environment to live in the van and park in the National Forest. This is horse-shit that you need to have residential address to boondocking in NF.

    • Frank says:

      Remember be nice to the forest rangers.

      They are very green peace, they want to cut down trees so that people can live in houses. Remember the forest ranger knows best.

      Such a nice way to save nature.

      I wonder where Somkey The Bear lives?

      • Frank says:

        P.S.- My typing is getting bad, it must be the beers, no, not the bears, the beers????

      • Bob Bob says:

        Frank, I still remain very pro-Ranger. The vast majority of them are great, hard-working guys. I want them out there protecting the forests.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Well said Patrick! It is horseshit!

  18. CP says:

    Hey Bob, Don’t let that piece of shit ranger off the hook. We should know his name so we can avoid him and all his friends and neighbors know what a Dick he is.

    • Bob Bob says:

      CP, I have to apologize to that Ranger and to all my readers if I gave you the impression he was a piece of s**t. He was not!! He was a good guy doing his job. For the most part we had a pleasant conversation and when he left I thanked him for the work he was doing–and honestly meant it.


      I have a huge problem with the policy makers at Coconino NF. In my opinion they are simply in the wrong on this issue. It’s a very bad solution to a very real problem.

      • HoboHounds says:

        Those with the money make the rules, and they don’t want people like us cluttering up the forests like vagrants.

  19. Kevin says:

    Interesting info – we are ‘residing’ in Yellowstone this summer as we work in the park. Yes, we are ‘residing’ here, as are most all the Rangers and others who work here. Although this is a National Park and not specifically BLM land, I don’t see the difference in residence laws.

    I would be interested to see someone take their ticket to court and press the issue. We have a legal address in Madison, SD, as does another commenter. That is as legal as we need for voting, vehicle registration and taxes.

    If others can ‘reside’ on public land, then vandwellers can too.

    BTW – Isn’t the BLM a government agency and consequently they work for the citizenry? Often govt. people have forgotten that little fact.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Kevin, I was a campground host for 4 years and lived in the forest while I was working. But each concessionaire is issued a Special Use Permit that allows them to do that. It really isn’t the same.

      You are right that the Rangers work for the citizenry. But their job is to care for and protect the Forest. Unfortunately, citizens are the main cause of damage to the Forest so they end up protecting the Forest from their employers. That is what they are paid to do and so they have to do it. And I am glad they are doing it. If we ever turned the Forests over to the citizens they would be totally destroyed within a very, very short period of time.


    • I am also a South Dakota resident and had a father who died there and eight brothers and sisters who lived there (some still do). I have even written to Madison to ask them to read Bob’s blog and see if they can help us in any way. I’ve hooked a lot of folk up with the Madison folk. I’ll let you know what I learn.
      Charlene Swankie recently posted…Attention Boondockers, Travelers, and VandwellersMy Profile

      • No response from them to date.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Thanks for trying Charlene.

          • I just got this reply from MyDakotaAddress, a mail service I have been using a very long time now:
            Hi Charlene,

            I am sorry I did not respond to your email earlier. Using your SD driver’s license and vehicle registration should be enough to prove your residency. I don’t understand why a rental or lease receipt would be necessary. I don’t know of anyone who would rent a room when the tenant is not actually there, sorry.

            Have a great week!

            Respectfully yours,

            Terri Lund
            My Dakota Address
            110 E. Center St.
            Madison, SD 57042
            Phone: 605-427-5863

            Guess she doesn’t understand the concept of an actual “Physical” residence either.
            Charlene Swankie recently posted…Great Resources for Newbies to the Tribe.My Profile

          • Bob Bob says:

            It’s a subtle issue Charlene. I think the FS logic is so convoluted it is difficult for most people to follow it.

            That’s why I thought it was so important to get the info out there so people could understand and be prepared.

  20. CAE says:

    Avoid authority at all costs. I cannot think of a time when have they ‘protected and served’ me. But I can think of plenty of times when they’ve ‘hassled and bothered’ me.

  21. Mara says:

    Wow. When I first reading my thoughts were that the ranger just had, as my dear grandma used to say, a burr up his butt. Then reading this is happening to other people and has been for some time…

    I know those who boondock in the city are tetter-tottering on some laws, but BLM land has always been open as long as it wasn’t abused.

    The thing that I would bring up is don’t look or act like you’re a vandweller. This includes carrying a rental receipt or lease with you, while you “travel on vacation.” I don’t know anyone who sets out on vacation, and brings along a rental receipt. The address on your license may not be enough to prove residency if you ever apply for public aid, but it’s more than enough for anything else.

    My mail drop has been my official residence for several years, to everyone (IRS, auto insurance, bank, etc). Most people who ask for your address don’t care what you give them, they just want something. So give the ranger the information he needs so he can feel like he did his job. Like you said, be prepared on what to tell him.

    You bring up some great suggestions, especially about having an expensive rig. Sad, but true. It’s just like how banks will loan you money if you can prove you don’t need it.

    If I were in your place, I’d be seriously rattled over the encounter with the ranger. Then again, is he the first one that’s ever hassled you? In 10 years? That’s a pretty good record. Maybe he’s in the minority.

  22. Sameer says:

    This is very sad to me. I keep hearing Woody Guthrie singing “This land is your land, this land is my land…..” In the 60’s I lived for a year in a VW Bus and spent my time between LA and San Francisco. The cops bothered me a lot but few were really unkind. They would make fun of my name and tell me to move on. Worked hard all my life and had to take early retirement during the recession because couldn’t get a job at my age. Now on a limited income my wish is to do nothing but travel the Southwest. I think of the Wild West when someone could hop on their horse and explore. True Freedom! No need to own property. I think of my van as my horse. Corny? What happened to Freedom? WE the people have given the government too much power over our personal lives.

    “This land is your land This land is my land
    From California to the New York island;
    From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
    This land was made for you and Me.”
    Sameer recently posted…Keep it Simple Sunday: Staying Legal as a Boondocker My Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Sameer, I have no problems with Rangers or the rules–there has to be a limit on our freedom in the National Forests!! The 14 day rule is just fine with me, it protects the land from abusers. Nor do I have a problem with the NO-Residency rule. I don’t think anyone should be able to build structures or “squat” on it.

      BUT, they have taken it much too far when they say that a full-time RVer can’t spend one night in the forest or it is Residency!!

  23. WriterMs says:

    Bob, of course they already know exactly who you are. I’m sure some FS and BLM personnel are tasked with scanning camping forums and boondocking websites — to keep up with what people are saying and doing. Nothing sinister there — they need to know what’s happening with their “customers.”

    But they would certainly have heard from others (even if they did not read it themselves) that the RTR was being held in their forest.

    And, I have come across notices on at least 2 vandwelling forums (on Yahoo) where information was shared about producers looking for people to participate in a reality TV show that spotlights those who boondock. Once such shows air, get ready for another round of harassment and all kinds of new rules. The FS must be fearful of what that might bring, and who can blame them for worries about that?

    I suspect, however, that some full-timers will band together and find a pro-bono lawyer to file a class action lawsuit to stop such harassment. Let me state that I am not a lawyer, but I see some big problems with the FS approach (and now they’ll be checking this out with their lawyers).

    First, it would appear to me that they are profiling to select whom to question. From your experience, it would seem to be economic profiling. Although your experience is different, because I’d bet you $10 that, as I said, they already knew exactly who you are. You have photos of yourself and your rig on your sites. If I were you, I’d record right now the nice folks who were camped near you but did NOT get questioned by rangers. You’ll want to have a record of who they were and what sort of vehicles they were driving in case the Rangers are discriminating on the basis of economic status. I mean, really, isn’t it more likely that people driving large, new, comfy rigs are full-time RVers with no bricks-and-mortar homes? Yet they were not questioned. I’d also recommend finding out the LEO’s name and/or badge number. Regular police are required to provide that if asked. You want to have a record of who did what when and to whom. A class action might not come this year, but if these tactics keep up it WILL come, don’t you think?

    Even if the laws/rules are written so that they can be used as a loophole to limit boondockers, it sounds to me as if that interpretation is PERFECT for a lawsuit against the FS. You mentioned feudal times, but think in terms of times when a person had to own land to vote. A full-timer is not doing anything to a campsite that someone who camps only two weeks per year would do (some campers are stewards of the land and some aren’t — but that cannot be determined by whether you have a home somewhere).

    My suspicion is that they want to deter people from taking up this lifestyle. And you, my friend, are promoting it. So they’ll read your post and hope it scares off some people. Personally, I am a resident of South Dakota. The state issued me a drivers license and a voter registration card. I pay my taxes there. That state determines how many nights I must spend in the state to become a legal resident. So if some federal agency wants to say they can overrule a State’s laws (set up specifically for full-time RV folks), then I’d say they probably have a second lawsuit in the wings.
    That’s the way I see it.

    • Frank says:

      Reality show, NOOOooo! Only movie rights.

      Bob Wells-007 Secret Boondocking Agent, name of movie,- The Forest Is Not Enough.

    • Wayne says:

      Law enforcement monitors many different genre forums and web sites, you can be sure they’re watching you.

      If it isn’t too painful a thought, maybe the ACLU may be something you could consider.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Wayne, as a long time conservative it is a little painful to consider it, but they have done some great work for the homeless and their attack on us is very similar. I actually think this may be something the ACLU would take and do a good job with. Much of it comes from the Patriot ACt and the need for “papers and ID” I think eventually they will get involved.

    • Bob Bob says:

      WriterMs, I agree totally with you (and also very well said!). I actually have some reason to believe that Forest Service personal are aware of the blog. I have to admit that comes as a surprise to me, I’m just a guy who like to live in a van!!

      I have to agree 100% it is economic profiling. Their first concern is the homeless poor (we used to call them bums), but it in’t much of a stretch to raise that up to vandwellers. To most people we are still essentially bums. In fact I have called myself that. My first year as a boondocker I went to a soup kitchen for thanksgiving and afterwards I called my mom and told her to congratulate me because now I was “Officially a bum!” We both got a laugh out of that. (Mom, are you still laughing?)

      Oddly enough we had a successful lawyer who was there at the RTR in her car and a tent and she said she would gladly take our case if it ever came to that. But before you can file a suit, I think you have to have been harmed in some way. So we have to wait till someone has been issued a ticket or citation of some kind, then we can fight it in court.

      I wasn’t actually harmed, the Ranger was polite and reasonable and I wasn’t issued a ticket. I’m just concerned what a slippery slope this could turn into and I want to warn all of you to be very, very careful what you say to the next Ranger who comes into your camp.

  24. Andrea says:

    This is a sad and worrisome event, but I feel encouraged when I read about the solutions offered. I’m sure most folks here have contributed positively to our country’s economy all of our adult lives, and we don’t want to stop now just because we either live or are contemplating living in a van/RV. I think that developing effective strategies for living this lifestyle during these changing (difficult!) times can be strengthened by like-minded people coming together. The net is an amazing tool for that – I’m really grateful for it.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Andrea, thanks for a positive outlook on the issue. I think of it like the battle between bacteria and the body. The bacteria are constantly adapting to find new ways to survive and thrive even against our every effort to kill them off.

      We will simply adapt new strategies to deal with this assault on us. But the most important thing is know about it, so I am trying to get the word out!

  25. Bob says:

    Excellent article on your experience at the NF. It does make me wonder why there seems to be an interest in knowing our “residence” address as opposed to our “mailing.”

    This is making me reconsider my brother’s suggestion that he allow me to use his mailing as my residence address while I maintain my mailing address in Pahrump when hit the road. But the one issue I’ll have issues with that as well.

    My brothers residence address is in Clark County, Nevada. This means that I’ll have t get a yearly smog test. If I use my mailing address in Pahrump, NV I won’t need a yearly smog test. A very interesting legal issue to consider when I do start to live in my van.

    All of this due to the NP’s staff requesting to know if I have a “residence” address.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Bob, I use my mail forwarders resident address in Pahrump as my resident address. I did a tricky thing though, I gave him my Passport as an ID which doesn’t have an address or DL number. I told him I rented a room from a friend there in the winter and traveled in the summer to get away from the heat.

      Remember the Ranger doesn’t have time or inclination to actually verify your story right there. And how could he? He could demand the name and number of my friend and call him but that is just extremely unlikely. The key is to have a good plausible story that is difficult to verify.

      In your case I would go and get flyers from all the RV parks in Pahrump and memorize one or two and tell the Ranger you stay at an RV Park in the winter and travel in the summer. The problem is that if he pushes it you could end up being proven to be lying to an LEO. So it’s much better to have a story that can be verified if they push it.

      You don’t owe them any explanation why you have a Pahrump license and live with your brother beyond that is what you want to do. Tell them you just got lonely so you are staying with your brother now all winter and give him your brothers name, address and phone number. If you both stick to your story you will be safe.

      It’s very sad we even have to be thinking this way. All we want is the same right a every other American: the right to stay legally in the National Forest without being hassled because of the look of our camping vehicles.

    • Michael says:

      Because they are asking your Residence Address and people confuse that with WHERE THEY LIVE. No, a Resident, Residence, and Residency are the LEGAL terms for where and how you are TAXED. And where you are to be served any legal documentation, such as a ticket, a tax lien, etc.

      This address, even if it is a MAIL Drop is the address you must have on your Drivers License, Registration, tax forms, insurance, “credit”, etc. All this is per the US Patriot act.

      Sadly, I have learned all this since being disabled and homeless (lots of time to read at the library in the A/C). As I ended up, at the same time, being sited from 3 states claiming I was a resident and needing their state Drivers License and Vehicle License and at the SAME TIME having all three of their own DMV’s saying I did not “qualify” as a “resident”. I finally learned that my “Legal Residence” is/was ALASKA as that was where my Tax Status was the Last time I had to file.

      It was a real MESS to learn the simple fact that my residence is not where I “live”, and at the time it was a van and all I had left. and I was visiting family within this 300 mile loop between California, Nevada, and Oregon trying to get medical care.


    • Bob Bob says:

      Patrick, I’n not familiar with that story, but I do know that in many National Forests in California there is a huge problem with drug cartels growing marijuana deep in the woods of the Forest. In that case those officers might legitimately be afraid for their safety.

      When I was a campground Host in the Sierras, I had a LEO stop by my campground and I had a camper who was an off-duty Sheriffs deputy walking around with a Glock on his hip, so I asked the LEO if that was okay. He said sure, that was fine, the Second Amendment still applied on Federal land.

      I take that to mean that the Forest Service as a whole is pro gun-rights but that one Forest is having really bad problems with Marijuana growers an they have severely over-reacted. It’s natural for us to get carried away, but it is still our job to be vigilant and protest when they do.

  26. MichaelinOK says:

    This tighter scrutiny and harrassment is sad and unfortunate–and yet, I’m afraid, totally predictable.

    We’ve had several debates in the comment section of this blog over the past year on this very topic. Some have warned that promoting the vanliving lifestyle will trigger inevitable backlashes and restrictions.

    It’s both physically and financially unsustainable for the landscape and communities in certain desirable areas if vandwelling were to become very popular. More to the point, perhaps, it’s also a social reality that people don’t like to see others have it too easy, seeming to be staying clear of the responsibilities and burdens that most people endure. And, of course, many people are wary of strangers, and don’t like witnessing non-conformity of any kind.

    Furthermore, the more vandwellers and transients, the more people (though a low percentage, but still a growing number) who will litter, shoplift, destroy property or nature, commit various other crimes, spark forest fires, and in other ways be a nuisance or danger.

    So whether it’s jealousy, rigidity, or any other type of ill-will, or whether it’s legitimate concern for community safety and welfare, the bottom line is that the local home and business owners, and the authorities, have the power to enforce their will on visitors or wanderers…and, if roused, will do so.

    And as inspiring as it is to spread the “Good News” of vandwelling in a very public way, it has been so predictable to some of us that this “thumb in the eye” of convention and authority, and the trumpet call for everyone to join in this counter-cultural lifestyle, would result in push-back.

    Bob is one of the most generous-spirited people I’ve come across, in person or online. And his intentions are beyond reproach. If there’s a heaven, I’m sure Bob’s going there. And if this were a better earth, good intentions would always yield good results. Yet, famously, we know what a certain road to a certain somewhere is paved with…

    I have no illusions that Bob will suddenly ease up on his efforts to popularize vandwelling. He’s made this his life’s mission, and he’s a very persistent man. But I’m sad that all this loving zeal, because not tempered with caution and discretion, will harm vandwellers…the very group he has been trying to help.

    And if vandwelling becomes even more popular, restrictions will only get harsher–by legislation, interpretation, attitude and legal harrassment, fee changes, length of stay changes, and by the entire aresenal of weapons the establishment has at its disposal to defeat those who openly challenge their way of life.

    And I’m not optimistic that the work-arounds mentioned will be successful for long. Bear in mind that with one stroke of a pen, some unelected bureaucrat can change the rules of length of stay on public land, or severely restrict which lands are open to camping–and the great majority of the voting public, not being campers, and certainly not being 2-weeks-at-a-time campers, would neither know nor care about such changes.

    Moreover, in light of the many firefighters who died in yesterday’s Arizona wildfire, it’s very easy to see how the establishment could argue that for fire safety, for everyone’s good, there must be more restrictions on who can use which public lands, and for how long.

    And those are just the most obvious ways the establishment can swat down the fly that is the swelling numbers of van-dwellers.

    “Discretion,” it has long been said, “is the better part of valor.” Especially in light of recent events, but really in light of predictable human and social nature, we can update that proverb by saying, “Discretion is the better part of vandwelling.”

    • Bob Bob says:

      Michael, that was extremely well said and a powerful argument. But I do disagree with a few of your basic premises.

      I wrote a long answer, and then realized it was going to be very long, and then realized it was a great post. So I will answer your comment in my next blog post.

      • MichaelinOK says:

        Excellent, Bob. I’m glad we can continue to communicate and exchange views, in sincerity and good will, even when we may hold different points of view, passionately.

        I look forward to your next post.

  27. Steven says:

    I haven’t read all the posts and somebody may have already mentioned…

    Be careful about “paying” someone rent and having them give the money back to you. Depending on the “lessor’s” situation, they could have to pay income tax on the “rent” even though they give you the same amount back as a gift.

    You are not legally required to pay any certain amount of rent in order to have a residence or RV lot. If you have a friend or relative who is willing to help you out, just have them execute a lease for their garage space or parking spot and write in “see schedule” or some other vague reference. If your friend is concerned about you actually enforcing the agreement, give your friend the right to terminate the lease on minimal notice (say one week). On separate paper, “Schedule to Lease Dated _____”, write in $1.00 and have both parties initial.

    If you are questioned by a ranger, just tell them you lease a room or a trailer space and give them a copy of the lease for a period that includes the current date. No need to give them the schedule that says $1.00. It obviously would be best and raise fewer questions, if your drivers license and other papers are consistent with your “residential address.”

    Hope that helps,


  28. Fred says:

    While the deaths of the firefighters are very tragic indeed, the cause of the fire in AZ was acknowledged to be by lightning strike, not van dwellers, hobos, fireworks, homeless people, or miscreants. I fear though that an uncaring and/or unknowing public will scarcely care about the difference. They will go along like the sheeple they are and not care one way or the other. WE must figure solutions to this impending because WE are the ones that care most about them. If we leave the solutions to someone else, then it will be someone else who does what suits THEIR best interest with new rules and regulations, not ours.

    • Bob Bob says:

      I totally agree Fred. Authorities generally listen to the group with the loudest voice–and MOST money. Since we don’t have any money, we need to have as loud a voice as possible. The government is squeezing all full-time RVers and coming from many different angles, this is just the latest. I think eventually there will have to be some court-cases that settle it all–just like their have been about the rights of the homeless. I suspect the ACLU will be involved or maybe just some wealthy RVer. Perhaps even the Escapees and Good Same club who both have a vested interest in the continuation of full-timers. Most likely a number of different group will combine and work toward the common goal with one voice.

  29. It seems as though you have laid out the situation realistically without overstating it or becoming alarmist.

    It gives me pause about relinquishing my NYS residence. Everyone just nods knowingly when they see me in Arizona or New Mexico – who wouldn’t leave New York if they could (so the thinking must go)?
    The Good Luck Duck recently posted…Datil Well, New Mexico, and Pie TownMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      GLD, thanks for your kind words, I appreciate it. I have often thought that the “Just-Passing-Through” look is one of the safest. Sounds like you have got it down pat!

  30. DougB says:

    Thank you for posting this, Bob. Looks like I’ll be stripping off the Escapees and LTVA stickers before I return! At this point it looks from your links like the overly-aggressive enforcement is in National Forest areas, not Park Service or BLM lands. Also looks like any groups of economy-minded campers draw attention first. I have no doubt that the NFS does not waste time and resources scouring the web for vandwellers and gatherings coming in. All they have time to do is tour their areas and try to size up the populace, making best guesses as to whether this or that person is likely to also own a home or not, just by appearance. In practice, it hardly matters what your legal rights are – you can only attempt to prove that once you get your citation and have to head for court with the financial resources to locate and hire a competent lawyer. They know it’s not going to happen.

    Kinda looks like The Enterprise, a 26-foot TT, may also be looked at as they patrol by, due to its age and how the solar panels are deployed to the side. Looks a little too much like someone could live permanently in it. I’ll be packing away the fresh water and waste transfer hoses after every use from now on in NFS lands (a pain), and leaving the pickup parked as if still hooked up. The goal will be to trim back the obviousness of the extended boondocking mods as much as possible, and promote a “just on vacation” and “I’m cheap, not homeless” look. This tub is way too big and clumsy to get to safer remote areas, so my only option will be to attempt to look more Snowbird and upscale than I am. If it gets serious, I’ll have to include how I dress and look while inside NFS sites. Sheesh. What’s an affordable source for having custom stickers printed? “Affordable Vacation Rentals” comes to mind.

    For the converted cargo trailer crowd, I’d think about plastering large Polaris or other ATV/motorcycle brand names on it to look more like a toy hauler. Magnetic, if you needed to go urban later and strip them off. Shows you have the money to waste on toys. Can’t think of anything quickly for just a van, just some sort of electronic cloaking device.

    These rangers are going purely by appearances, same as everybody else in the culture we bailed from. They are looking for “bums” and “undesirables” that fell through the cracks of the collapsing economy. Find them, fine them, and force them to move on. Rangers probably enforce to the level they’re instructed to, though some do it with more eagerness and malice than others. They’ve been told to identify and cull out people who look like they don’t have any other options. Now, I gotta appear more like a Snowbird than a homeless cheapskate or new-age hippy. Like I don’t already have enough to prep this summer…
    DougB recently posted…The Battle Goes Slowly, SireMy Profile

    • Frank says:

      I don’t have an electronic cloaking device.

      But i am working on a ROBOT SKUNK. Programed to attack forest rangers, bears, and the tax man.

      Wow! I could make millions with this. A ROBOT SKUNK in every home to chase away sales people and then some.

      Then i will make a movie- Cujo The Skunk. LOL.

    • Bob Bob says:

      That’s a very good analysis Doug, with lots of great suggestions! I can live with taking off one bumper-sticker and putting another one on, and other things.

      But here is where I am drawing the line, I am not cutting my hair or beard for anybody!!

  31. Calvin R says:

    This posting is being discussed on the Facebook Vandwellers group as well as here.

    I personally doubt that the actual focus has anything to do with whether one has another residence or not. As others pointed out, larger and more expensive RVs are more likely to belong to fulltime RVers, who also have no stick-and-brick residence, but are not experiencing this harassment. I would be willing to bet the training the Ranger referred to is about spotting poverty, not residence.

    Having been poor and/or different all of my life, I find less to fear from “real” police (state troopers, city officers and county deputies) than from the likes of park rangers, private security, and property police. States, cities and counties require real training nowadays; others may hire almost anyone.

    • Bob Bob says:

      I think you are right Calvin, it is mainly about economic status in the sense that the poor have nowhere else to live but in the forest. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe they really do have the good of the Forest in mind. They don’t hate poor folks, they just hate the damage they do to the forest. Rich RVers have more money and move more often and so they do less damage to the forest than a broke guy who stays in one place for 6 months.

      None of us don’t want to say it, but there is a lot of mental illness among the poorest of us, that’s how some of them end up poor. So the newly poor from the crash just get lumped in with few mentally ill poor and now we vandwellers are getting thrown into the same pot.

      We are a problem so the solution is (as Doug said) Find us, Fine us, Force us to move along. In their minds, problem solved.

  32. Joe S says:

    I haven’t seen a response from Bob. Is he OK?

    • Calvin R says:

      I was getting an invalid captcha earlier for a couple of hours. Now I see that the captcha is gone altogether. I wonder what’s up with that.

      • Mara says:

        WordPress upgrade. 🙂

      • Bob Bob says:

        Calvin, I wonder too!! This stuff is so far over my head it’s ridiculous. Fortunately I have a wonderful new webmaster who fixed the problem in about 5 minutes.

        There are big changes coming to all the websites and I think all for the better. I did my best as webmaster and it could have been worse. But now that I have someone that knows what they are doing there should be big improvements coming in the next few months.

    • Mara says:

      80+ comments…y’all wore the poor guy out! lol

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks for your concern Joe! But I am fine. With the RTR just ending and we moved camp I have gotten way far behind on my work. Trying desperately to catch up now.

      A hundred comments to the post slows me down a bit too!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. GARY GREEN says:

    hey now bob, you think its bad now,just you wait. nineteen firefighters were just killed !!! fighting a fire north of phoenix airzona.supposedly on blm land. i.m.o. you better do your homework!! on buying this land and rent it out to fellow rubber tramps. maybe check out the loner on wheels, at the slabs and there rv park in new mexico. do you really want to be a rv park manager!!at this time in your life? fellow traveler gary

    • Bob Bob says:

      No, I definitely do not want to be an RV park manager! Just throwing out ideas, who knows what I will actually do!!

  34. poorplayer says:

    With due respect, and with the understanding that this is a fair- and open-minded group, I would like to take up the opposing view on this particular subject. I am not a vandweller, and I don’t have any intention of becoming one. I enjoy backpacking and hiking, and I own a 1989 American Star RV. I read this blog because I have picked up some valuable tips on RV and general outdoor living, and I appreciate that. I am solidly middle-class: a teacher for 40 years, married with three grown children, a house with a backyard, approaching retirement.

    While I appreciate the search for freedom that vandwellers espouse, I do slightly resent the implication often expressed here that the vandwelling lifestyle is somehow superior to middle class life and, as such, deserves special treatment and exemption from the law. This particular discussion thread seems to be amplifying that kind of thought, in that vandwellers are being “victimized” by the NFS Rangers, who are portrayed as the operatives of “the larger society” that frowns upon the vandwelling lifestyle and is now looking to persecute it.

    The existing regulation as cited by commentator Jim above reads as follows: “The following are prohibited:(b) Construction, reconstructing, improving, maintaining, occupying or using a residence on National Forest System lands unless authorized by a special-use authorization or approved operating plan when such authorization is required.” There is no ambiguity here; Bob and others like him are clearly “maintaining, occupying (and) using a residence” on NFS land. While the way he uses his van is admirable and efficient and eco-friendly, nevertheless he is using the van as a residence for himself. It is disingenuous not to admit this. You’re just in denial if you do not. And many good, honest people caught doing something illegal naturally use denial or “good intent” as their first line of defense. That’s just human nature. The regulation, however, like most laws and regulations, does not and cannot take into account intent. When you kill someone, it does not matter how kindly or efficiently or with what good intent (euthanasia) you did it; you’ll be prosecuted for murder.

    The real reason it is hard to take the arguments presented here seriously is that Bob and other vandwellers try to create a smokescreen of rationalizations for what they are doing rather than openly admit that they are, in fact, living on NFS land because their van (or whatever) is, in fact, their residence. Bob’s van is, in practical fact, his residence. He lives in it, he likes living in it, he is even proud of living in it. I find absolutely nothing wrong with that other than, when confronted by the NFS ranger and the regulation, he refused to admit he was living in it. Now, he may try to find some legalese or loophole to make it APPEAR he is not living in it, but if he does this, then ethically he is no better than any Wall Street firm that takes advantages of loopholes in the tax code to pay no taxes. Setting up fake leases or any other method of creating the illusion that he is not living in his van is no different that corporations setting up dummy corporations to launder money to evade taxes.

    It is well in this instance to remember why the National Park Service and the National Forest Service were created in the first place, and why such a regulation might exist and might, in fact, be a good thing. John Muir and others like him envisioned and pioneered the NPS movement so that Americans like me and my children and generations to come would have an unspoiled place to go to enjoy nature in the most pristine manner possible. They are “Public” lands, and as such they were designed to be enjoyed by as much of the public as possible. The reason for the 14-day limit stay and the prohibition against residential occupation of any sort was PRECISELY so these lands would always remain “Public.” They were not envisioned or designed so that people who decided to leave the rat race for whatever reason, noble or not, justified or not, could make them their free residences. That is not in the spirit or purpose of public lands. Just because a certain group of people discovered the potential in public lands as a way to live without owning a typical house does not give them some sort of discovered right to do so. I am part of the public; I enjoy the public lands in my area very much, and I do not want to see them become occupied by people who use their vans or RVs or whatever as their permanent residences. I wish to see them continue to be used in the spirit John Muir intended them to be used. You can’t have it both ways; you can’t say the lands are “public” but then let a class of people who were clever enough to find loopholes make them their “de facto” permanent residences while claiming that they are not.

    I do not wish to denigrate Bob nor any commentators on this list. Clearly he’s a fine man with a solid character and noble intent. Nor would I defend an improper attitude by the NFS rangers; if they behave badly and rudely they should answer for that. But if all they are doing is enforcing the law, then they are doing their job, and that deserves anyone’s respect. They are preserving the land for my and other’s use. I thank them for that. People who live on the edge of society should understand the risks inherent in that, and accept the consequences of those risks. If your van is in fact your residence, have the integrity to admit that. When you get caught, have the integrity to admit what you’re actually doing, and move on from that. Creating a “victim” mentality for yourself only lessens your freedom. A person is only free to the extent that she or he can openly admit who they are and take complete responsibility for what they are doing. That’s true freedom, whether you’re middle class or a vandweller.

    My thanks for your understanding and patience, and apologies for the length of this comment.

    • Frank says:

      Tell the truth and you’ll pay a big fine. While others don’t have to.

      But what do i know, i live in Florida with Mickey Mouse.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Your right, Frank. If your in a $200,000 RV the Ranger won’t even stop, but a guy in a beat up van will get a ticket. If your reside in that RV 100% of the time (don’t own a home) but you spend 50 weeks in RV parks, you can spend 2 weeks in the National Forest no problem. But if I reside in my van 100% of the time and spend one day in the forest, I can get a ticket. What’s the difference between us? He has money and pays property taxes.

        Bottom line is that the National Forests are only open to people who pay property taxes and since I don’t, I’m not allowed.

    • Wemble says:

      Well said poorplayer, an alternative point of view was needed whether one agrees or not. I like to read a well-presented viewpoint that is different from my own because it makes me think, possibly causing me to better understand and believe in my point of view or maybe to reconsider it.

      As human beings we seem to have an infinite capacity to rationalize our own behavior. We may have no problem with targeting or profiling people as long as it is not us. We can clearly see and protest what we feel to be unfair to us, but fail to see how things may be unfair to others. Would we be as quick to protest something that negatively impacts the lives or lifestyle choices of others as we do when it is our own?

      There are a good number of people who undoubtedly disagree with the vandwelling lifestyle for one reason or another which may be valid or not–it depends upon your point of view. Possibly more than a few view vandweller as little different than vehicle hobos with a few bucks in their pockets.

      In this age of increased security and fear of terrorism, authorities may have a mistrust of those who choose their lifestyle to be one of dust in the wind, tumbling tumbleweeds, surviving under the radar. Let’s face it, those in authority in this country for better or worse prefer to know who you are and that you belong and are tied to some specific geographical and physical address. Any official of any kind would certainly be uncomfortable and less than happy if they believe you are being evasive or less than truthful with them. Who wouldn’t?

      I agree that if vandwelling is your lifestyle, then when confronted by someone in authority about it you should own it. No hemming or hawing or dancing around the maypole about it. You don’t have to advertise it or wave flags, but don’t deny it. Nobody ever promised that life was going to be easy or fair. Any consequences of vandwelling on public lands is pretty piddly in comparison to what many experience every day. Life goes on, just somewhere else.

      Loopholes. There always seem to be loopholes. Does anyone here admire those who use loopholes to hide millions or billions of dollars in order to avoid taxes so others of less means pay more? Nobody wants to pay more than they need to, but somewhere there is a line between what is legal and what is moral. We all get to personally decide whether loopholes in any way violate our line of morality.

      The world is shrinking, getting smaller. The Old West is gone and the pressure to conform is getting stronger. How long until the day when some satellite will be able to spot you no matter where you go?

      Vandwelling may become a lifestyle where those who choose it or have it thrust upon them are living more on the edge. Some of us may have to decide how much on the edge we want to live and and if we want to walk the wire without a net.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Okay, now I am pissed off!!! NEW RULES!! No readers are allowed to send better written and better organized comments than me!!!!!!! go get your own blog and show off!

        Only Kidding, I also love a well written counter-argument. And for the very same reason, it forces me to stop being lazy and really think through my position. Thank you both, you have done us all a great service.

        I don’t accept that the Old West is gone. My ultimate goal is to work against progress however I can and hasten a return of as Primitive living as possible.

    • MichaelinOK says:


      Welcome to the discussion, and I trust you see by people’s responses that you are not being punished for your viewpoint.

      It happens that, although I think it unwise of Bob and other vandwellers or full-timers to actively and prominently promote the living on public lands, this does not mean I think that living on such lands–so long as one abides by the length-of-stay limits–is necessarily illegal.

      As you quote it, the law says: “Construction, reconstructing, improving, maintaining, occupying or using a residence on National Forest System lands unless authorized by a special-use authorization or approved operating plan when such authorization is required.” And you add: “There is no ambiguity here.”

      I respectfully disagree. The whole passage seems to be describing buildings, structures about which one uses the terms, “construction,” “reconstructing,” “improving,” and the like. These are real estate terms, not terms used to describe vehicles or tents or other moveable or temporary dwellings.

      At the very least, reasonable people can disagree about the intent of that language. In fact, you and I are doing just that. It is therefore open to interpretation.

      And that’s the point: If Bob and others encourage ever more people to get in their vehicles and swarm all over public land, of course that will rile up the authorities to give the strictest possible interpretation to the written laws…so they can limit the influx.

      But make no mistake about it: There’s no sacred and rigid cause to insist that any amount of people, no matter how few, camping in their vehicles on public land is somehow going to destroy the land for future generations. Not so. But, as with everything, there is a tipping point. And when vandwelling and RV boondocking blogs go viral, and TV shows start springing up about the practice, what was once an activity that the land (and its law enforcement officers) could easily tolerate, soon becomes…due to growing numbers…intolerable.

      That’s why I think that shouting from the rooftops encouraging vandwelling and boondocking on public land is unwise–whether or not the written laws are ambiguous about its legality.

    • Mara says:

      In general, you make some valid points. One of the points that was brought up, by Bob and others, is that he was in effect singled out, while others (also living out of their RVs, vans and campers) weren’t even questioned. It seems to have to do with the value of the vehicle.

      You have a good point about not wanting BLM lands “over-run” with people living there. But with the exception of Quartzsite, and the occasional well-regulated meet up (as this one was), most Vandwellers keep to themselves.

      Yes, if you chose this lifestyle, you need to accept the risks. But that doesn’t mean a Vandweller should be required to give up a freedom given to every other US citizen.

      We are truly splitting hairs here. Seniors have been “living out of their RVs” since Lucy and Desi got a trailer. I know many snowbirds who sell their house before they leave on their adventure.

      Most do stay in campgrounds and RV parks, but what if they boondocked one night in a BLM forest, If we’re going to be following the letter of the law, Grandma and Grandpa could be cited for that, even though they are supposed to be allowed to stay for up to 14 days.

      But that’s not going to happen, since Grandma and Grandpa own a very fancy, expensive RV. o.O

    • WriterMs says:

      Here’s the big difference that your argument does not address. According to what the ranger said, if a person has an apartment somewhere or a house, THEY can spend 11 months a year camping on public land for free. They have a “residence” somewhere other than public land so they get to camp on public land as much as they like (obeying 14-day limit, etc.).
      But if you do NOT have a place you can say is a “residence” somewhere, then magically you are not allowed to camp on public land for even ONE NIGHT. A person camping for 14 days who has an apartment somewhere/anywhere is having the SAME impact on the land as a person who does not have an apartment. Under this interpretation of FS rules, every single full-timer (whether in a new Class A or in a 1988 van) is NEVER allowed to camp for even one night in a free FS camping site. Your are barred for life from any camping at all just because your home is mobile. If a camper is in a legal “dispersed campsite” and is following the rules such as not staying more than 14 days, what the heck does it matter if he can afford to keep a home or apartment somewhere else? The impact is the same, period.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Oh boy here we go again. What is it, everybody write better than Bob Week!! I’m getting embarrassed here!!

        WriterMs. I could NOT have said that any better. Thank you for summarizing it so succinctly.

    • DougB says:

      “I do slightly resent the implication often expressed here that the vandwelling lifestyle is somehow superior to middle class life and, as such, deserves special treatment and exemption from the law.”

      Well, I’ve never read into this blog that the vandwelling lifestyle is superior – as in arrogance and upturned noses. It simply works better for people who are no longer able to acquire a home or apartment, or who have simply found that the middle class consumption lifestyle does not appeal. Please keep in mind that the middle class is suffering considerable attrition in the last decade, and that’s not because they are advancing to the upper class. I agree that this bunch does not deserve special treatment or exception from the law, but I think the grating point is the increasing number of new laws making it illegal to do what was once perfectly legal, and the tailoring of those laws to confine lifestyle toward that of the traditional middle class. Tired? Pull over into a parking slot before you crash, and take a nap. That’s no longer legal in many, many towns. Have you been reduced to living out of your car? Don’t do it here. Unlike the Grapes of Wrath, there are few mobs to attack car camps because they were perceived to take away local jobs. We’ve now made it illegal to car camp at all, and let the police clear the destitute Oakies out. Did they have jobs? Too bad, so sad.

      At its core, the section of law in question here does not deal with harming the public land. That’s covered by the 14-day limit and mileage minimum. The law makes selling your home to reside in an RV a criminal act, as interpreted locally. I belong to the Escapees RV Club, one created specifically for full-time RVers. I was as solidly middle class as you, when I decided to pull up stakes and try something radically different. As of last year, I no longer own real estate. I’m up here to see the kids right now, but I once again plan to spend at least a month in NFs in two states on my way down to two LTVAs for 6 months. That makes me an instant lawbreaker in the eyes of the NFs in northern Arizona. Not welcome. Yet, I would have been welcome a year ago.

      What I can’t wrap my head around is why it’s illegal for me to swing through an NF on the way down, and it’s perfectly legal for you. I don’t get why I should have to be placed into a position where I park my midsize TT on the other side of the forest road from you, and have “the integrity to admit that I’m breaking the law” if the officer decides to stop. I should not have to be in that position, because that law is – in my view – unjust and plain wrong. It needs to be “reinterpreted” locally back to what it was and be based on bad behavior and violating strict camping rules, not on motivations or reasons for being there. Give your home to your kids. Tour the country and see it all, and in the process, watch the NFS officer smile and pull out his pad. See if you think that still feels right to you.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Doug, the problem is that poorplayer bring up a lot of great points. And on this one I think he has a valid point. I do think my lifestyle is better! I try to remain balanced and reasonable, but I’m sure it comes through more than it should. However, I don’t agree that I think it deserves special treatment. I just think we need to find the loopholes on this particular issue and take advantage of them.

        I believe we are getting special negative treatment and that isn’t right.

    • Bob Bob says:

      poorplayer, thank for an excellent comment!! it was well-reasoned, well thought out, and well said. SO YOU ARE BANNED!! Just Kidding!! I always appreciate a well crafted argument. And I am forced to agree with you that I do in fact live on public land and promote it. And you are right, I am doing it for totally selfish reasons and I rationalize to myself and others why I do it.

      I guess to be honest I consider it a form of civil disobedience. I hate civilization and I consider it wrong and evil. I do not want to support it! I encourage everyone to drop out and to do as little as possible to support it. Civilization is at war with the earth and with every indigenous people who have ever been on the earth. I would encourage you to strongly consider which side you want to be on. Yes, civilization has given you a wonderful, amazing life. But at what cost? I could write for hours and hours about the horrible environmental, social and human costs that it takes to support your wonderful lifetyle.

      If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.
      Henry David Thoreau

      The American dream is an agent of injustice to every living thing on this planet, except for those extremely few who are prospering from it. My moral code requires me to not support civilization because it is a horrible cancer and blight on the earth and to all the inhabitants of the earth.

      We all rationalize and compromise. I feel pretty good about mine.

    • Steven says:

      There’s some pretty impressive legal analysis in this thread. Here’s a little more food for thought…

      There appear to be two statutory/regulatory provisions that are relevant to this discussion: (i) the “14-day” rule, which requires ALL campers to move every 14 days, (ii) the “no residence” statutory provision, which apparently is being INTERPRETED administratively to require federal land users to own or rent some form of fixed residential real estate.

      The 14-day rule appears to be reasonably related to legitimate government purposes–i.e., protecting areas of federal land from indefinite use and occupation that would (i) preclude other members of the public from using the same space, and (ii) inflict environment damage from continuous use of a particular area.

      For a number of reasons, however, the government’s Administrative Interpretation of the “no residence” provision does not appear to be reasonably related to advancing a legitimate governmental purpose.

      Unlike the 14-day rule, the Administrative Interpretation does not regulate conduct to further legitimate government objectives. Rather the Administrative Interpretation discriminates against a class of persons–i.e., those who do not own or rent a fixed “permanent residence.”

      The same conduct is judged legal or illegal, depending soley on the status of the person engaging in the conduct. Does the government have credible evidence that a homeowner or renter following the 14-day rule causes less environmental damage than a non-homeowner or non-renter engaged in the same conduct?

      This is similar to saying that homeowners may have a picnic at the park, but non-owners may not have a picnic at the park. The same conduct is treated differently based solely on the status of the person.

      The government, of course, would argue that “the homeless” are likely to spend more aggregate time on federal land than owners/renters, even if both classes are following the 14-day rule. Perhaps that’s true, but is there a legitimate government interest in limiting the aggregate time a person can spend on federal land? And if so, is the Administrative Interpretation a reasonable way of providing such a limit? In other words, if the government has a legitimate interest in limiting any persons aggregate use of federal land, why not limit all users to a certain number of days rather than discriminating based on class?

      Generally speaking, US citizens are entitled to equal protection of the law under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. I don’t know whether the Administrative Interpretation could be successfully challenged, but to me it sure seems to violate the spirit of “equal protection” of the laws.

      • MichaelinOK says:

        That’s good thinking and legal analysis, clearly stated.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Steven that is very insightful, they are judging a person based on his status, not on his actions. The actions of two people in the Forest might be exactly the same, but one is fined because of what he does outside of the forest (live in a van).

        I had totally missed that! Thank you for making it so clear!!

  35. Blars says:

    Most FS personal do not have law enforcement athority, only badged LEOs and some who have very limited athority for specific types of tickets.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Right Blars, very few Rangers carry guns. This was the LEO with full authority. It’s my understanding that they go to Quantico and receive basically the same training as FBI agents. he was totally polite, reasonable and professional. I have no arguments with him. Nearly all my interactions with Rangers have been just that way, as a whole, they are a great group of guys.

      I’m sure you feel the same way as I do, when you are a campground host in a remote area, when you see the ranger or LEO cones in you ave very, very grateful for him.

      When you see campers in a NF from the point of view of authority, you get a very different view of Rangers and LEO. You realize they are the good guys dealing with a lot of bad guys.

  36. Panda says:

    There are some videos I think others in the VanDwelling community need to be aware of. First of all recognize that any encounter with government officials is not likely in your benefit, whether it’s the dog catcher, social workers, police or forest rangers.

    Busted: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters

    10 Rules for Dealing with Police

    Don’t Talk to Police

    I like how the young man in the Busted movie asks the cop, “Am I being detained or am I free to go?”

    Go over these movies, make notes and practice the key phrases so you’ll remember them when encountering government officials.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Panda, i would like to have watched those but they are very long. I don’t have the bandwidth to watch them. I’m also so strapped for time I just can’t do it.

      Do you know of any websites summarizing them, I would really like to see that.

      • Panda says:

        Bob, let me see if I can find a site that does summarize them or maybe even a transcript. If I can’t, I’ll see if I can summarize it myself this weekend. I know bandwidth is an issue with some, so having a transcript or summary would be beneficial for everyone.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Thanks Panda, I appreciate it. You would think the ACLU would have a summary page somewhere. If we find it I will post it.

        • Michael says:


          Do you mind if I try to summarize?

          Never Talk to any government official!

          Nothing you say can ever be used for your benefit only used against you or someone else.

          No matter how friendly… they are not your friend, they are doing a JOB, and that job is to collect information and use that information to FIND a law or statute you broke and bring you into the system.


          • Bob Bob says:

            Michael, of course you are entitled to your viewpoint, and I understand how you arrived at that viewpoint, but it is not mine. I believe the great majority of enforcement personnel are sincere and want to do good and so I try to be be friendly and co-operative.

            But I have a good story ready and I want to it to be as legal as it possibly can be. That’s what I recommend to everybody.

  37. Al Christensen says:

    >>These rangers are going purely by appearances<<

    In which case, one small thought. For the whiskered among us (which includes myself) a not-shaving-while-on-vacation stubble might be a better idea than a full-on mountain man beard. ;0

  38. Tom says:

    I’m wondering why no one has suggested contacted BLM and or NF to asked how to comply with the enforcement of this rule. It’s one thing to be angry and speculate on what might work, but another to find out what’s required. Even going as far to download, keep with you in printed form to show an officer along with what ever documents are required.

    I don’t think jumping through hoops, guessing what might work, even throwing money at it, is productive.

    I feel reasonably sure this officer received a directive, even without the timing of his visit, he’s doing his job. Hopefully he was respectful and received the same. Being vague, stalling, uncooperative or other tactics aren’t useful when dealing with any law enforcement official, and it will generally work against your goal. And if they don’t have the authority you think, they can get someone to your location that does have the correct authority. And when that person arrives, they won’t be on your side of the issue.

    I don’t boondock, but I hope this helps. Find out what’s required and comply.

    If (worth saying again,,, If) that means renting a room in a house that has an address where there’s no smog test, it would seem prudent. I feel pretty sure if I wanted to rent a room to live in; and explained I would almost never be there,,,, I could find a deal, maybe five deals by the end of the week in this economy.

    I know someone that lives outside the U.S., though he is a U.S. citizen. He’s required to come back to the U.S. once a year. That’s what’s required, he didn’t guess or speculate on what he must do, he found out what he needs to do and he complies.

    Bob I hope your okay, I think a lot of people here are worried about you. I hope your able to respond soon so we know you’re okay. Thanks for all you share, I for one am better for it.

    • Wemble says:

      Just a guess, but there may be very legitimate reasons why Bob is not immediately responding at this time. It is likely nothing sinister, but I’m sure he will respond when he can.

    • MichaelinOK says:

      Yes, even those of us who may from time to time disagree with Bob, respect him greatly, and are concerned for his welfare. Like you, I hope he’s okay, and that whatever has detained him is not in any way bad.

    • DougB says:

      This topic got to me so much I’ve been up since 2AM researching it. An individual who runs an RVing blog HAS written to the policy setter at received two replies. Those are sufficiently vague and contradictory that only one thing is clearly stated. The NF around Flagstaff and Prescott are after full-time RVers in any form, without apology. They cite that, specifically, if you roll in with a Quartzsite LTVA sticker in your window, that proves RV residency before you can roll to a stop. They will come visit and talk to gather any indications that you’re a full-timer rather than a snowbird. They will ask you personal questions in order to get you to “admit” that you’ve traded your house or apartment for an RV. Then they can hand you a $275 ticket for “residency”.
      What is required is to convince the officer that you do not reside in the vehicle he’s standing beside. Unlike proving ID at the library or DMV, there is no list of approved documents that the NF will accept, so I have no idea what that convincing would take. I kept my deed in a safe deposit box, not my vehicle. If the officer feels that you reside in it, you will be open to receiving a citation and will have to prove otherwise in legal proceedings to avoid paying the fine. Guessing what might work when talking with the officer may be an unsavory option, but it is currently the only option.
      DougB recently posted…The Battle Goes Slowly, SireMy Profile

      • Tom says:

        Hey Doug,

        You’ve certainly put more time into this then I. I have myself, at times lived in a van (in a rented RV park) and camped on BLM and NF land (tents) including DeathValley with and without a permanent address. Sometimes it was a matter of me simply moving or taking a summer break from school.

        But what you’re saying is disturbing. If the BLM and NF haven’t or won’t post the requirements for compliance then that allows rangers to make a judgment call and can lead to abuse.

        I appreciate the job rangers do. For example, there where places I camped and hiked in Death Valley and Mojave where no motorized vehicles where permitted, I was grateful for the rule and grateful rangers where enforcing it. They’re also the people I would count on if I got in trouble.

        Certainly a lawsuit can be brought if someone has the resources. But maybe it’s time to file a formal compliant with these agencies and contact your congressman. It sounds like a very aggressive tactic and a set area.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Doug, wow that is some impressive research. Would you mind sending along a link to that?

        There is no doubt in my mind that what you said is 100% correct. There is no doubt I am going to buy a piece of land. I don’t see how they could argue I didn’t have a residence somewhere when I own land. Are they going to drive to it and look to see if I have a cabin on it?

      • Kris says:

        good research Doug, I have many of the same questions…..I also know that I now have to never admit to being a full timer and have to wrap my head around “no officer, I am just a snowbird”….geeze

    • Bob Bob says:

      Tom, thank you for your concern, it is very meaningful to me that people notice and care. Fortunately, I am fine, busy, but fine. A poster earlier quoted the relevant section of the law that basically says it is illegal to live in the Forest. Until recently the law was interpreted to mean build some kind of permanent or semi-permanent residence or stay in one place too long. Only recently has it been interpreted that staying for one day is residency. There are no details or guidelines in the regulations the defines specifically what is Residing in the Forest means. Each Ranger district gets to interpret it for themselves.

      If I live 51 weeks of the year in my van in a Walmart parking lot and 1 week a year in the National Forest, I can be cited for “Residing in the Forest.”Their definition is that if I don’t have another residence I am living in the Forest even if it is one day. The answer for me is to buy a piece of land. It seems to me that all they care about is that I pay property taxes, so I will buy a piece of land and pay property taxes.

      The other boondocker who was interrogated in another camp wants to go talk to the heads of the forest to see what he can find out. If he does, I will let you know what he learns.

      • Tom says:

        Glad to see you’re okay Bob, and there’s your dog to think about too. I’m relieved to see your back.

        Bob it seems from your posts that you are dead-set on making a land purchase. But if there’s no set rules for residency when staying on BLM or NF land…. well you get where that’s going. Are they just going to change the rules?… Of course you’ll have someplace to go if they do.

        Just as I would say everyone should go back and read the guest post about boat living. But if everyone did that, the rules would probably change for there too.

        Okay, I know this isn’t going to work for most reading this, but I feel I need to put it out there. This year, I met a person in passing that receives an apartment that is subsidized by the government.

        This one person pays $25.00 a month for a one bedroom apartment in a mid-size U.S. city. So it is more legal for this person to do what Bob does, then Bob.

        All of you could go on about that scenario on many different levels,,, but the obvious is that a low income person that decides to fend for themselves without any government help would supposedly be less legal to camp on BLM and NF land then a person that applied for subsidized housing. What a country!

  39. Fred says:

    This is a response to PoorPlayer. I appreciate the salient points you made and commend you on a well reasoned essay, but as you might expect, I take a different point of view on one particular point. That point is that while we may be living in a van, travel trailer, RV or whatever, don’t we have the same right to enjoy those very places which you hold so dear, for the exact same reasons you state so well for a period of two weeks, 30 feet from an approved road, or whatever the rule is? The rules intent is to limit dwelling for an ongoing period in excess of two weeks. If you move 25 miles, you can park again, as I usually do. Two rangers with whom I have personally spoken are more concerned with permanent or semi-permanent encampments (illegal) in which people reside for months on end, often leave debris behind, and prevent anyone else from enjoying the spot they are camped on, and which I would agree can be and probably IS a problem for them at times.

    I also readily admit that I too have lived in a travel trailer for many years and thoroughly enjoy it. BUT, isn’t it also true that for a one or two week period, I have the same right to enjoy that particular spot as anyone who does not enjoy this on a full time basis, e.g., a vacationer? I would hope so. Please Bear with me for a moment,. If two well mannered, respectful people each entered the same general area, both left it clean the way they found it, did no harm to the surrounding environment, and both left after their respective time was up, how can you determine who is the fulltimer and who is the vacationer? If, as you say, the Forests and Parks are there for everyone to enjoy, and I agree, they are, aren’t they mine as well as yours? and BOTH of our future generations of our children, as you explain so appropriately, regardless of whether I am full time and your not? I would certainly hope so as I too have paid my taxes and obeyed the laws of our land just as you have.

    If you were to only base your opinion on the behavior of both types, I would argue that many times, certainly not always, the deportment of the permanent resident of a mobile dwelling would surpass that of the “vacationer” because we don’t have to get all the fun in during a one or two week period. I would maintain that if you didn’t see us, you would never know some of us are here since as a group we enjoy the solitude, respect others, and bother no one at all except to ask for help if and when we might need it.

    My thoughts run more along the line of the two rangers I spoke with and that rule is needed to prevent abuse by those who would, could, and have done so. Rangers, just like police, can let their power go to their head. Most thankfully, are doing a tough job and do it courteously and professionally. They just want to go safely home at night same as anyone. ALL law abiding Americans should have a right to enjoy the public lands regardless of their living situation for the prescribed time allowed by law but should also exercise the inherent responsibility that comes with that right.

    One more thought. What about the person who works for 6 months a year, lives in a apartment for those 6 months, then saves enough to take the rest of the year off and travel? I know of a person who does just that and loves it. He works his butt off for those 6 months but he really enjoys it. You would never find a quieter guy or anyone who respects the outdoors more than him. He is law abiding. Should he be prohibited from enjoying the National Parks or Forests under his situation? Your further thoughts would be enlightening. Thanks for sticking with me through this missive.

  40. Frank says:

    The truth shall set you a fine! OOoops,$$$$$! I meant FREE, silly me.

    My physical address is from planet constellation or constipation not really sure what it’s called right now officer.

    But last I can remembe-r I’veeeee # I say I have been living at Typhoon Lagoon.

  41. Things are only get to get harder with the 2005 Final Travel Management Rule requiring you to stay on MVUM roads. I get a fever every time I compare a forest map to a MVUM. In some cases, only about 10% of the forest roads are legal for users to travel on. That is, unless your a logging truck! I am no longer allowed to legally camp in some of my favorite places.

    By not camping within the set limit, usually two car lengths, of MVUM designated roads, you are breaking the law and lose some of your rights during the ranger interaction.

    Money is a factor. We were almost never hassled before we got the van. Having the camper near the van seems to lower our chances of getting hassled 10 fold.
    hitekhomeless (jenn) recently posted…Scheduled Outage – 6/28/2013My Profile

    • %s/your/you’re
      hitekhomeless (jenn) recently posted…Scheduled Outage – 6/28/2013My Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Jenn, so very, very, very good to hear from you again!! You two are missed! I agree, but at least the MVUM is pretty straight-forward, you are either on a legal road or you are not. There is no trickery about it.

      Very interesting that camping with and without your very nice slide-in camper determines how much hassle you get in the van. Just more evidence this is about economics.

  42. CP says:

    According to the Government that poorplayer worships, Bob has a MOTOR VEHICLE, not a residence.

    • Steven says:

      Ha, that’s a pretty good point. The rangers want to know if you have a “residence,” which apparently means some fixed, residential real estate. If that’s what “residence” means, then it’s Bob and others have no “residence” on federal land.

      • Mara says:

        That’s exactly how *I* interpreted “a residence”, also. Basically it seems like very thinly veiled and purposefully vague wording to give them a reason to hassle/arrest homeless people living in the forest, such as in a tent.

        I have mixed feelings about that. As a taxpayer who would like to visit BLM lands without seeing hobo shanty towns strewn everywhere, I see their point. But if a person has a vehicle that’s in operable condition, and they aren’t hurting the forest in any way, what’s the harm?

        I think the bureaucrats should give the rangers (the ones who are actually there, seeing the situation) leeway to use their own disgression and to deal with it as their own good judgement and common sense dictates.

        In this sort of situation it’s really hard to paint everyone with the same brush, which is what those in charge are trying to do.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Mara, it really does come down to mainly the newly homeless forced into the Forest by the economy. I understand that they wont to do something about it–like you said, who want shanty-towns out on public land. But harassing all full-time RVers and fining them doesn’t seem like a valid solution.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Steven– another outstanding point!! They are the ones who are changing the definition of residence to suit their purposes.

        But don’t confuse them with logic.

    • Bob Bob says:

      CP it is a two-sided sword, when I want it to be a Motor vehcile they say it is a home, but when I want it to be a home they say it is a can’t win.

    • Wemble says:

      You know, you are free to disagree with poorplayer but there’s no point in making a personal attack. In his comment I saw nothing where he said he “worships” the government or is that simply your interpretation because we have read a lot about interpretations in these comments?

  43. ILDan says:

    Bob-I own some rental property here in IL and have all necessary legal docs (application, background check, lease, move-in form, and “dear tenant” letters) to show tenancy.

    The best tenants are ones who are never home! I would be more than proud to have you or your referrals as “tenants.” I agree with your ethical and common sense approach to bending a law.

    • Frank says:

      Sorry man, but I think Bob is more like the mighty majestic EAGLE. To fly high and free, for it’s captivity holds no honor.

      Freedom has to be earned and fought for just like the wild.

      But maybe, just maybe, some day, as humans evolve to a higher hierarchy, the human race will find true freedom within it’s universe, greater than the majestic eagle. Without war, death, greed, or fear

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks IlDan, lots of people are looking for me as a tenant and I am grateful to you all!! But my first hope is to get some land, so for now my energy is going into that.

  44. Bob Bob says:

    Jim, we are a long ways from the Yarnell fire, so it has not had any affect on us. There was talk for awhile of closing the Forest to everybody because of the severe fire danger. I talked to a Fire Ranger, and she said the FS did not want to do it unless they were forced to because it was nightmare for them to enforce it and make it happen.

    The weather has improved (more clouds and humidity, a tiny amount of rain) so I think it might now happen here. I sure hope not.

  45. White Trash says:

    With the problems that I’ve just read from the content in the blog (not all the comments section), MEXICO is looking like THE place to vandwell…
    I wonder if that country has any laws/restrictions against vandwelling in remote places lol…

    • larry says:

      if someone buys property be sure you get the post office to assing a address to it with number and street or road get a new driver license with the address and carrey a copy of your property tax payment

    • Bob Bob says:

      White Trash, I Know people who live and camp in Mexico and love it! But it’s not for me. I love and will stay in the good ole USA!!

  46. Bob… just let the posters run… you don’t need to reply or out-write them. The conversation will take the lead. I’m glad you know a lawyer who will jump in as needed, and I think it will be. I’m really pissed over this… as I think we all have a Constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I should be able to do whatever full-timers in Class A’s can do. My happiness (the only I’ve known in my life) comes from vandwelling and the freedom of the road.
    I’ll fight for that right.
    Charlene Swankie recently posted…Attention Boondockers, Travelers, and VandwellersMy Profile

  47. Wemble says:

    Exactly the wrong kind of people who should be in positions of authority even over a gerbil get attracted to those positions, no matter if they are rangers or their bosses, or simply supervisors at work. We all have encountered them. The question here is whether these are isolated incidents or part of a larger seed change in philosophy or policy in how the rules concerning public lands and residency are interpreted and enforced.

    Changes often have small beginnings to gauge resistance and to see how they work. Fulltime vandwellers do not really have any power or political clout, there is no vandweller lobby looking out for our interests. The measure of a society is gauged by how it treats those without power or wealth, the least of those within it.

    It is human nature to be upset when something personally impacts you or your lifestyle whether it is based upon how your vehicle looks or how you look. We notice it and are alarmed when “they” seem to be targeting or coming for us, but are we as concerned when it happens to others maybe not like us?

    • Tom says:

      Wow, can someone repete that;
      The measure of a society is gauged by how it treats those without power or wealth, the least of those within it.

      Guess that would be me. That’s a great statement, thanks Wemble.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Wemble, it’s been my experience that there is a huge difference in how each Forest even in the same state is enforced and an even greater difference in the way it is enforced in different states. As of now I think this was a local problem. But only time will tell if that is true or not.

      I have to say again that in nearly all my experiences with FS personnel, I have never questioned their motives of love of the land. I often desagree, but I still think they are good people trying to do what they think is right.

  48. 1Urantian says:

    Havn’t read all the posts but…
    I’m in general agreement with you Bob…
    As an Earthman I prefer to use the modern Wheel.
    I’m fortunate enough to have a place where sundry material can be stored,but enjoy by choice to roam as best I can.
    As an American [we] fought for the freedom of the life we chose to live.And your philosophy is right on!
    A vandweller is not homeless unless he defines that himself.
    So the government should respect a gypsy lifestyle.

    It would be good for each area in this great country to provide a place for the real homeless to [squat] and meek out an existence. Neighbors helping neighbors.

    • Wayne says:

      There is a organization, devoted to the protection of your civil liberties, particularly the disenfranchised. They are the ACLU. I hope some of you, who I’m afraid may not like some of their causes, will not let that stop you from using them.

      They recently defended a native women’s right to panhandle in Flagstaff.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Wayne, I must admit that I am one who has not liked the ACLU. But for some reason I was at their website today and I had overwhelming urge to send them money.

        Horror of Horrors, I may very well become a card-carrying member of ACLU!

    • jackal says:

      Behind the Dollar Tree in Flagstaff there is room for the homeless and boondockers to squat. But, even though this area includes more than one dumpster, the boondockers and homeless alike prefer to litter the place with garbage, discarded clothing, urine, you name it. In the wilderness, predatory animals wipe out the useless, but in human civilization the useless are welcomed, even breed and have kids. It’s why I no longer give money to beggars, which money they merely use to create more trash.

      • 1Urantian says:

        In social groups there evolves “policing” or they never reach “light and life” ie. a period of peace.
        Hopefully social evolution hasn’t stopped.

        • jackal says:

          Government: rich men in charge.

          • Bob Bob says:

            jackal, I’m going to give them more credit than that. I am confident it is people who love the land and want to protect it. In my 4 years as a campground host I interacted with lots of FS personnel, and I often questioned their decisions, but I never questioned any of their motives. They were good people who loved the Forest!!

      • Michael says:

        Are you sure the “dumpsters” are not locked? Or there is a sign saying Illegal Dumping prohibited?

        I actually know someone that went to Jail for picking up the trash around “his camp”, I wish I was joking but no.

        Hell, the store should be giving him a “gift card” for his efforts, but they called the cops instead because he was acting “Suspiciously”.


    • Bob Bob says:

      1uratian, I agree, the solution to the homeless is in person-to-person care. But we have become so dependent on the government to do everything we just sit back and wait for them to take care of it. Government is good at a few things, but bad at others. Unfortunately we have come to rely on them for everything–and still demanding more all the time!!

  49. jackal says:

    All this new enforcement on public land is about greedy RV park associations, the members of which have been severely impacted by new economic realities. Like all associations (greedy monopolies), the RV lobby has been hard at work in Washington, pressuring politicians to enact new laws or enforce old ones already on the books, the aim of which is to increase revenues for greedy park owners and investors. Today there are RV parks everywhere, half empty, all begging for residents. Not even middle class, affluent RVers are willing to pay the inflated park rates any more. Rather than tighten belts and lower rates, as those of us in the real world have already done, RV parks have actually driven away RVers, their greed behind the dramatic rise in boondocking. Wouldn’t it be nice, they’re dreaming, mouths watering from the prospects of almighty dollars, if the government were to outlaw all boondocking, forcing millions of boondockers into RV parks? Whenever there is a new loss of life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness, you can always be sure of one thing: It’s just another woodshed rat behind it, cloaked as a special interest in bed with no shortage of willing, whoring politicians. At some point, boondockers will organize and respond to this new assault. They will form new associations, raise money to fight fire with fire, lobby for new laws that will legitimize boondocking — but it will only come with the cost of new usage fees — for the Washington whores. In this way, boondocking will eventually morph into the same greedy industry that the RV industry already is. Enjoy what’s left of it while you still can!

    • 1Urantian says:

      Yes,,What once was available is cut in half year by year.And what remains is priced higher and higher.
      Beware…the blight comes from the East!

    • You are right. They tried this in Lake City, FL by posting “No Overnite Parking” at the local Walmart. Lake City is considered the “gateway to FL”… with lots of people stopping to resupply, gas up, have a hot meal, etc. There was a member on the Town Council who owned the RV park (a dump) across the street and 1/4 mile down the road, who drove this new law. Well the Walmart Parking Yahoo group and many other groups immediately responded by writing letters, emails, making phone calls, contacting newspapers. The barrage was so heavy and fast that within a week, the sigs were removed and overnite parking once again allowed.

      It was greed on the part of the RV campground owner’s part, and as a result, his facility is now one NO campers or RVers stop at anymore (and I don’t know why anyone would want to stay there anyway… it’s really really creepy.

      We need to unite in the same way, but fighting Government is going to be harder to do than fighting a little town.
      Charlene Swankie recently posted…Attention Boondockers, Travelers, and VandwellersMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      jackal, I’m sorry, but I can’t agree at all. I think that is much too cynical a view. Again, in the hundreds of experiences I have had with FS personnel in the last 5 years I never once thought they were the pawns of the rich and greedy who were trying to rip me off. That simply has not been my experience. They have been good people who love nature and are trying to care for the forest.

      We will have to agree to disagree.

      • jackal says:

        Bob, you sure have a wonderful knack for running your thoughts. You ruminate in one post, then contradict yourself in another, in wholesale fashion. As the Indians used to say: He has a forked tongue.

        That aside, I never said government employees are pawns of the rich. What I did say, however, means just what it is, though I had said it in context to a previous comment, which point you obviously did not take into account.

        Even so, it wasn’t the rank and file who founded our nation. Instead, it was the rich founding fathers who banded together and organized support for a revolution. They knew they couldn’t do it on their own; they needed the support of the population behind them. Thus, the Declaration of Independence — and the government that followed, and then laws that were not at all favorable to those who had remained neutral or were British patriots. All governments have started in this way.

        Finally, just because your lifestyle is predicated upon free access to public lands, doesn’t mean you’re obligated to talk of rangers only positively — devaluing opinions of others who’ve had bad experiences on public lands. Being a winter Quartzsite devotee, surely you’ve read this: Yes, not all rangers are angels, as even evidenced by links to stories you’ve posted, yourself. Yet you hand out free passes to rangers anyway. Are you afraid all rangers are reading your blog, fearing retribution if you say the wrong thing? Well, you can never go wrong by fearing the truth. The good rangers out there know this. They’d like to get rid of the bad apples, too, as much as we all want, but can’t. Telling a bad ranger that he is a good, merely reinforces his behavior.

        Finally, opinions of commenters are no less valuable than your own, contrary to what you ostensibly believe. If you don’t agree with something a commenter has said, perhaps someone else might or will — or perhaps you’re just uninformed but don’t know it yet. For example, I was very surprised that you had never heard of the public-lands ban on squatting. I had already read those stories you linked, on the day each was first published. But then I’ve been constantly on the lookout for those who’ve been abused by the powerful. I’m a champion of the little person, the guy who actually works and sweats for a living. But when a bully picks on him, I’m the guy who steps up to help him. That aside, people enjoy reading what others have to say, most even respecting other’s opinions, notwithstanding whether or not you agree or disagree.

        One very popular radio talk show recently sacked its alternate host because he had constantly sucked up to guests while badgering every other person who had called in. He came off as a brown noser, forgetting one important thing — that it was ratings that paid his network’s bills — not the guests. It wasn’t just his inflated ego that got him fired but lots and lots of listeners who had not just complained but had also tuned out.

        Still, you have a right to say whatever you want, polite or impolite, and I actually do respect it. Otherwise, I might as well tune out.

        • Bob Bob says:

          jackal, I apologize for having offended you, I regret it. I think you have a valid point, I do hold a number of contradicting opinions and hold to them with all sincerity. At heart I am a conservative so at times i react with that part of me (pro-police, pro-business, pro-profit). As i have gotten older I have become much more liberal on many things and so sometimes I react with that part of me.

          I guess the bottom line is nearly everything I believe has come after years of consideration and re-consideration and I don’t toe the line to any agenda, I try to reach an honest opinion even if they seem contradictory.

          I have just fundamentally disagreed with several of your comments and I tried to respond to them by presenting my point of view but without offending you. Apparently I failed and for that I sincerely apologize.

          I am now and always will be pro-police, pro-ranger and pro-firefighter, pro-soldier. Anybody who is willing to put his life on the line for my safety or the safety of my loved ones will always be my hero and I will strive to be worthy of them. Of course there are some bad ones, but that doesn’t mean the huge number of good ones deserve less of my respect.

          Like I said before, I think we will just have to agree to disagree, I’m willing if you are.

          • jackal says:

            Like I’ve said, I respect your opinion. But more so, I respect you even more for allowing not just me but everyone to weigh in. That’s really what true brotherhood of boondocking is all about. Otherwise, we’d all be no better off than the masses who are shackled to slugging rats every day.

          • Bob Bob says:

            Jackal, on that we can agree completely!

  50. PondPutz says:

    Thank You,
    Bob for bringing this subject up in a public venue.
    I really think this is all about AGENDA 21 … If folks have never heard of it … it is worth learning about….

    PondPutz recently posted…Hooray for Cabela’s …. Not what you thinkMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      PondPutz, I’m not sure it is a direct cause, but they seem to have a common agenda. Except I would think that Agenda 21 would be horrified by such harsh treatment of the homeless and would come to their defense. So it agrees on the environmental defense but disagrees with the social causes.

  51. Renee says:

    I’ve been reading some of the comments above and as an ex-law enforcement officer I would like to throw in my 2 cents. Let me first say however that my views are simply based on my experiences as an officer…others will obviously see things differently.
    The above being said, please understand that the park officer was simply doing what he was told to do. Even if he doesn’t personally agree with the rules he’s there to do what his supervisor(s)has told him to do. The reasons for the sudden over-enforcement of the law could be (and probably are) varied. It could be that someone very high up on the food chain has decided that more revenue is needed/wanted and so an increase in fines is required. Federal and state funding (grants, etc.) tends to be very “numbers-based”. If someone feels that more personnel or better equipment is needed they have to have the numbers to back up the request. Those numbers generally come in the form of increased tickets, fines, etc. and civilians are the ones that feel the brunt of this. I personally don’t agree with this (it’s one of the reasons I’m no longer in law enforcement) but it’s just the way things are. With government funding being cut more every day that passes, that money needs to come from somewhere…and if officers are told to increase the amount to tickets they write to make up the difference that’s exactly what they will do. Whether they agree or not makes no difference…they need their jobs just like everyone else.
    It should also be noted that this could be as simple as one park officer having one bad run in with a homeless person on public land. Law enforcement tends to be an extremely tight knit community. As an officer, you may not like the people you work with but you will work together as a group nonetheless. If one park ranger had to fight/got hurt when dealing with one homeless person that was living on public land then word will get out among the law enforcement community. As word of the incident moves up the chain of command ways to deal with the “problem” will escalate to the point they are apparently at now…that being that everyone is being looked at as suspect.
    There are various other scenario’s that could also be the cause of a sudden enforcement/change in the laws. If I had to guess it’s probably based more on money and funding than anything…most things these days are. All of that being said I guess my point is this…you can carry around whatever paperwork you want to (authentic or not)in an attempt to prove that have an actual residence somewhere. Most officers do not have the time, patience, or inclination to stand there with you and sort it all out…that’s what the courts are for. So it’s generally easier for an officer to just cite you for the violation and let a judge handle it. Also note that most people when ticketed will simply pay the fine and move on because it’s easier than trying to prove their case in court. This does nothing but encourage more citations and fines because it’s “easy money”. It’s unfortunate but that’s why some (not all) officers won’t think twice about writing a ticket to someone with out-of-state tags on their vehicle. Chances are those folks won’t be in town long enough to come to court and dispute the charge.
    I’ll be moving into my van full-time in a couple of weeks. I can assure you that any fines or tickets that may come my way will be settled in front of a judge. I may lose the case but that really doesn’t change anything. They can’t increase the original fine simply because you lose a case in a court room. In my personal opinion, it’s better to go down swinging than not try at all…but you have to try. For the folks that are having issues with the enforcement of the laws on public land I would recommend directing your energies toward finding out what’s really going on. Demand a clear and concise explanation of the law, what’s being done to enforce it, and what the fines/ punishments are for breaking it. Start with the forestry dept. and work your way up if necessary. Find out exactly what is acceptable to prove residency…and get that in writing. Carry THAT with you and whatever documentation you were told to have. Be polite when questioned and be prepared to get a citation anyway…some officers are hard-headed or simply too worried about screwing up so they will err on the side of caution and write you a ticket anyway. If this happens and you have complied with what you were told to have, then document everything and go to court. Take responsibility for your actions…you may or may not win but change will never occur if people simply sit on the sidelines and refuse to make an effort.
    Again, just my 2 cents. Safe travels all… 🙂

    • Hello Renee. Thank you for your post. I one to respond to one point… that about needing more revenue… that why single out the poor who really don’t have much money. Go for those big rigs, usually with two income couples on retirement and… really boost the coffers. NV is now requiring a permit for people staying in the state more than 30 days and it is based on the size of the rig. It fines were something like that, some of us would have less of an issue with it… as it was a tax being imposed on everyone according to their property (size of rig). But they aren’t going after the “haves” with Class A’s, only the little guys.
      Charlene Swankie recently posted…Attention Boondockers, Travelers, and VandwellersMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Renee, that is very good counsel! Hopefully each of us will take it to heart and be ready to take these things to court. I know I will.

  52. I’ve never been a very political person but somehow this doesn’t seem like fair politics to me but an invasion of my constitutional rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. heck, here there are churches all over the country trying to set up safe parking places for those not able to travel around much. And here we are… wanting to travel into wilderness areas away from all that… and just be left alone. I always leave each camp better than I found it and never damage plants or wildlife, more than grass under my feet and small bugs and I try to avoid that. I usually used the same path I have walked before to minimize even the damage from my footsteps.
    I take great pride in my freedom and independence and ability to set and accomplish goals, and leave no trace. Don’t tread on me.
    Charlene Swankie recently posted…Attention Boondockers, Travelers, and VandwellersMy Profile

    • Renee says:

      Unfortunately Charlene it’s not about you. For every person like you that actually cares about the land they’re on there’s a hundred that simply do not. These are the people that will trash an area and expect someone else to clean up after them. They are the reason laws were put into place to try and curb that kind of behavior. I agree with you in that it’s not fair to the people that have enough common sense to respect the land that they are on…unfortunately, common sense is not very common anymore and everyone pays the price for that.

      • Renee says:

        Also Charlene, to respond to your other post that I initially missed in regards to going after people that may not have much money: at the base level, a fine is a fine. It doesn’t change based on someone’s income so the money that an individual has doesn’t matter…and law enforcement doesn’t care. If the fine is $135 for someone making $200,000 a year it will be the same for someone making $10,000. Also, in terms of numbers, I would be inclined to think (based on the economy) that there are MANY more people full timing in vans than in $150,000 RV’s so you will have more lower income people out there to be cited to begin with. Also, I keep hearing that the lower income folks are being singled out as compared to others. I would be interested in seeing the stats on this if indeed there are any. I only bring this up because sometimes it appears to one group that they are being singled out when, after the numbers are looked at, it turns out that that isn’t the case at all. Please don’t misunderstand me, I think it’s all a bunch of nonsense. I hate politics so much that at the risk of losing my home (which I did) I got away from all of it. Unfortunately though, our society is a very political one and it’s making things terribly difficult on a lot of folks.

      • Steven says:

        Renee, the way to address those issues is by having laws designed to encourage or discourage certain behaviors, rather than discriminating against entire classes of people.

        We seem to live in a society that believes wealthy people can do no wrong and poor people can do no right.

        We need laws that say, whether wealthy or poor, if you pollute or otherwise abuse the land, you’ll be held accountable. We don’t need laws that say, in effect, “Poor people are dirty and leave a mess, so let’s just discriminate against people who don’t own property.”

        (I know that’s not what you’re saying or defending, but I believe that’s an unstated assumption of laws targeting those without a permanent home.)

      • Bob Bob says:

        Right you are Renee, the rules are written for the worst behaved of us (of which there are many) and the rest of us get caught up in the same trap.

      • Calvin R says:

        I would like to see numbers on that statement that, “For every person like you who cares about the land they’re on there’s a hundred that simply do not.” In particular, how does it apply to whether a person has another residence?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Charlen, that is what is so frustrating about this situation. You aren’t being punished for anything you did in the Forest, you are being penalized for what you did outside of it, live in a van.

  53. I’m trying to find the information about Nevada’s tax on visitors… haven’t found it yet but this might be of interest to some of you, with NV residency:
    Charlene Swankie recently posted…Attention Boondockers, Travelers, and VandwellersMy Profile

  54. m.a. says:

    One thing I’ll mention that’s important is really keeping a clean camp.

    I worked on the Sawtooth Forest up here in Idaho for a few years. Dispersed was 14 days. A lot of the guys who had risen up in the ranks of the FS had camped themselves, at one time or another, on the forest, rather than getting an apt.

    It’s a big forest. Nobody was bothering to check or bust anyone. Then – there was a housing boom. Guys started coming up from towns in Southern Idaho for jobs, hauling old trailers up, putting up tents, working all week & going home on weekends. Even then, they let it slide. And then…the barking dogs got tied up outside the trailers, the beer & pop cans lay all over, the bags of garbage piled up. THEN the FS law enforcement guys got called in, we had to get everyone out & the length of time was changed…I think to 3 days?…for a few years.
    And you know what? – by then we wanted to. Because we love this land and the people that were using it didn’t have a clue how to take care of it.

    I don’t think the guys on the ground generally want to come down on people. But they want the forest to be clean & safe. Bob’s comment about the Class Cs not being bothered was telling. Maybe those of us that live in smaller, not so fancy rigs have to be extra careful to not look like we’re ‘homesteading’! And just hope it lets up.

  55. Debbie Downer says:

    Not to be Debbie Downer, but I feel that I should point out that rental income is taxed at state and federal levels. So, having a rental agreement and making a “gift” of the same amount back wouldn’t relieve the landlord of taxes on that income. On the bright side, establishing the property as rental property allows the owner to write off certain repairs, etc… (federally, anyway).


    • Bob Bob says:

      DD, you are right but if that is all the income that you ever have I think it called be a hobby and not reported. I have no idea how the IRS would even know about it. And if my mom insisted on reporting it I would give her 20% more to cover all possible taxes on it. It would be worth it to me. And as another commentor said, it could be $1 and not on the lease agreement.

      But, I am buying land instead.

  56. stanw909 says:

    Imagine that your obvious care for your surroundings and your no fires policy were the reason you were warned(threatened) and not fined.A simple glance around your camp told the rangers you were a good group and probably not the types they were looking for.That camp you were at is amazingly close to Flagstaff and I’m sure they have a lot of trouble with bad apples messing things up for everyone.I recall you gave it 1 star for enforcement.I hope this can be fixed by moving to more remote areas.This country gets less and less free every day and I wish I was just paranoid.Peace out, Stan

    • Bob Bob says:

      Your right Stan, the whole problem was how close we were to Flagstaff. Enforcement is always worse the closer you get to a population center. The only reason I was that close was for the RTR. Normally I want to be close but hidden. Here I was close and obvious. Bad combination!

  57. dan novinger says:


    What’s the difference if somebody owns a palace somewhere worth millions, if they decide to take off a couple of years from living in their palace, and move around the country camping 14 days at a time going from BLM site to FS site full time….. …versus somebody who likes living “mobile” on an ongoing basis if they have no “fixed” residence, as long as everybody respects the land while they are on it and follows the rules? No difference as far as I can tell.

    No matter who you are if you are camping for 2 weeks then you’re a RESIDENT of the forest service managed land for 2 weeks. If you are camping, then unless you are a corpse, then you are living or residing on the camping grounds for the 14 days no matter who you are. It seems to me that the forest service is splitting hairs, and engineering nuances in the rules where they ought not be doing that. They’re going to get themselves into a problem eventually with that behavior.

    Only fly in the ointment might be if so many people started doing it full time, to where the public lands started to become crowded. But I can’t see that happening.

    Anyway, it seems to me that we should contact our political representatives to tell them you don’t like being harassed, the ACLU to see if they’d like to manage or participate in a sting against public officials doing things that they should not be doing, and maybe set up a national organization to keep the forest service from over reaching or from forgetting why they’re being funded by the taxpayers, their bosses.

    I read the links you provided, like for that Colorado newspaper, where they automatically assumed that the people staying on FS lands were homeless and that they didn’t want to be that way. It’s a pretty arrogant attitude.

    When I was younger, I noticed that there were quite a few rednecks out there in Colorado with a bad attitude. I also got some attitude when I was hitchhiking in Idaho from the locals and police. Ug. Of course I was completely innocent of any law breaking, but it appears that many people assume the worst of “strangers”, especially those in the law enforcement ranks, who actually do see and deal with some of the worst that society can produce. It tends to make the officers paranoid, and project the worst possible things on people you don’t know from everyday living.

    Maybe some of these misunderstandings could be cleared up by communicating with some of the people that work on the FS or BLM lands where one is staying. Just stop in from time to time to “be friendly” and strike up a friendly conversation so that one is not a “stranger”.

    Maybe build up a list of email addresses, and strike up a network of people who work on the FS lands, maybe have a periodic dialog. Of course, that is made more difficult by the fact that they require that you move along every 14 days to the next destination. Ug.

    Clearly the forest service needs to get out of the business of not correctly interpreting the law, and that needs to be cleared up mighty soon.

    I wonder what they would do if 500 campers descended on a US forest, and stayed for a month and refused to move on until they publicly committed to stop harassing people? What if it was 5,000? What if it was 50,000? Have a sit in until they repremanded the clown who was misinterpreting the law.
    dan novinger recently posted…Keep it Simple Sunday: Staying Legal as a Boondocker My Profile

  58. Toshi says:

    I am appalled to think that a country once built on being a rugged individual with pride in frugality and freedom can sink to this level. Everyone is so concerned with what other people are doing in their personal lives that this country is spiraling down the toilet. It costs money to enforce silly laws like this. Money America does not have.

    Regardless, if enough people take on this lifestyle and form a network and stick together I think we can hedge against losing our freedom. Many people will turn to van dwelling for freedom, travel and economic reasons in the future, and that will be our saving grace.

    There are no “pro-van dwelling” candidates running for public office. There aren’t people in the mainstream that even think about van dwelling.. and there aren’t any on the horizon so all we have are our numbers and ability to stay below the radar.

    Stay free and Roll on!


    • I got it! How about a politician who is also a vandweller??? That person would have my vote.

      Walk a mile in my shoes.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Toshi, when we become vandwellers we should all know that we are going against the grain of society and they don’t like it! They want us where they can find us and know what we are doing. The love of freedom drives us away from that, but that means staying under the radar, just like you said!

  59. I don’t think you veered… I think you are right on point. How about a “drive-on” (you know, like a “march-on”) Washington DC. 500,000 of us driving into DC and locking the place up until someone listens to our story/stand???
    Charlene Swankie recently posted…Attention Boondockers, Travelers, and VandwellersMy Profile

  60. Renee says:

    I think part of the issue with vandwellers is that we aren’t part of the status quo. People tend to look with fear and apprehension at what is different from the norm. When you are no longer part of the “herd” then who knows what you might be capable of. The mentality is that as long as you appear to be under the thumb of the government and social norms like a majority of people are then you must be ok. Have the strength and will to break free of societal norms and people just can’t understand. In my opinion, most folks have been taught since birth to be followers, to be part of the “herd”, to be just like everyone else in order to be accepted. When you make a conscious effort to step outside of those things you open yourself up to all of the fear and prejudices of the ‘regular’ types. Even homesteaders and people living off the grid generally have a residence. They’re not mobile so, even though their lifestyle is somewhat different, they still have some things in common with the average citizen. Put your house on wheels and suddenly you become a threat. People are scared these days…they may not want to admit it but they are. They’re scared of terrorism, violence, and their own government…all valid fears. Unfortunately those fears tend to be projected on everyone and everything around them that’s different…including those living a mobile lifestyle.

  61. Wemble says:

    Lots of people don’t have a problem with others being harassed (I’m sure they don’t look upon it as harassment) until they are the ones being harassed (then they DO look upon it as harassment).

    It reminds me of the quote by Martin Niemöller:

    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

    The list is long, did we finally get upset because it has come to vandwellers?

  62. Gerta Buehner says:

    Little by little the noose tightens. I think many laws are not even constitutional. “pursuit of happiness”. If we allow laws such as these to go unchallenged, pretty soon it is the norm and people think the norm is for government to have “control” over its citizens. Scary. Little by little. And we just sit and watch. Maybe someone should have the guts to bring it to the judicial level. Challenge these laws. That is the only thing that changes them. But of course, that takes time and money, and the powers that be, know this. And so we sit, and watch. (and complain, like me)

  63. Drtrisha says:

    It has taken me all day to get through these replies and I have enjoyed every minute! I am not going to add even more lengthy comment here but will take it to my blog space on see Letters to…
    One thing I will mention is that I have been thinking of my own land as well just to avoid the hassles, anyone who is thinking the same thing, be SURE there is no HOA AND that the land is zoned for recreation!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Very good advice, Trisha, if you are buying land being able to do anything you want on it is the highest priority. Otherwise you are just out of the frying pan into the fire of more regulations.

  64. Bob Bob says:

    i think there is a similarity William. It is all about control. The government has the idea that if they don’t control it, disaster will strike. I think just the opposite, the more they control, the more certain disaster is to strike.

  65. Roger, could you email me the name of the town or give me a real estate agents’ name?
    Charlene Swankie recently posted…Great Resources for Newbies to the Tribe.My Profile

  66. Kris says:

    has anyone brought up canadians, they camp and they do not have a US residence? sry if this has been discussed, I read all this a few days ago and was just thinking about it and wondered if it had been mentioned……

    • Bob Bob says:

      Kris, I don’t think Canadians would fall under this issue because legally they are only allowed to be in the country for 6 months. But I know many of them who do stay in one spot for a very long time. But they are here mostly in the winter on BLM land and this has not been an issue so far on BLM land. But, who knows!

  67. Bob Bob says:

    Rodger, the best thing to do is fly under the radar and that should take care of it very well.

  68. m.a. says:

    This is part of a Noam Chomsky quote that popped up on my facebook page today. I thought I’d share it with you – it seems fitting for this conversation! “…capitalism is basically a system where everything is for sale, and the more money you have, the more you can get. And, in particular, that’s true of freedom. Freedom is one of the commodities that is for sale, and if you are affluent, you can have a lot of it. It shows up in all sorts of ways. It shows up if you get in trouble with the law, let’s say, or in any aspect of life it shows up. And for that reason it makes a lot of sense, if you accept the capitalist system, to try to accumulate property, not just because you want material welfare, but because that guarantees your freedom”

  69. stp says:

    I had this same incident in a county park! I have a job and I also bought a yearly use pass. At the time, I also had an apartment as I was still working on my van. The ranger came up and started talking about indigents and how there was a park down the street open later. how he knew a guy who hated his wife and lived in his van. i feel he was profiling me because I had a van! I assured him I was not indigent. I had a job. I told him the apartment complex where I lived and told him I had a parking sticker and he could feel free to go and look at it. I think it was very sneaky how they start out conversational and I definitely felt profiled! I told him how I was working on the van for weekend camping trips and the apartment complex does not let you do any kind of auto work in the parking lot and my only other option was the street. at the time i actually was not working on my van at all and would never think of doing any automotive work in the parking lot there, but at the time I think i might have been tying something down with bungies and had the side door open.

    The US is going to become like india where people have to live out on conoes in the water if you aren’t rich! If we have any lawyers in the group, hope they can take up a campaign for us! I’ve done nothing but pay taxes and abide by the law my whole life and give to others. Its terrible to be treated this way and I believe our founding fathers might be aghast. seems these days they are trying to force everyone into the trap of the banking system so they can take whatever you might have…your home, your credit, you money…even the debit cards with all the fees these days on your minimum wages. We’re all just marks to be milked!

  70. STP says:

    what about putting a petition on for that matter, I don’t think it should be illegal to have to live in your vehicle either. better than living out on the sidewalk and hey if Dennis Kucinich and his family had to do it..heck he was a representative in Congress! These laws are discriminatory and I think as a group we should start a petition at least…! we can use social media also to get friends/family to help support us perhaps? I mean just on principle, this is discriminatory. And companies can come in and log these places but Americans can’t camp there just because they don’t own or rent something somewhere? its unAmerican!

    • Bob Bob says:

      STP, the only problem I see with that is most people are not sympathetic with us. Either they think we are crazy bums, deluded lunatics, or they are jealous and don’t want us to have what they can’t have.

      Not many would be sympathetic so I think appealing to population as a whole would be less than helpful, maybe even harmful.

  71. wheelingit says:

    I have to admit I am rather shocked to hear about this. It’s total discrimination against fulltime RVers. We pay taxes and should be able to enjoy the lands like any other citizen/camper. I have no problems with 14-day rules or whatever rules they want to apply, but these rules should apply to ALL campers and not just the ones with stix & brix homes (or fancy RVs for that matter). I can’t see any way they can make different rules for a sub-set of campers just based on their living condition. To not allow them in the forest AT ALL?? That’s unbelievable.

    Then again, this is the Coconino & Kaibab forests you’re talking about. Sadly, these 2 forests seem to have done an excess of “clamping down” over the past few years. It appears their goal is really to get people out. Many old-time boondocking spots are gone (no longer legal) and patrolling has increased. I hope (and believe) other forests are not as discriminatory.

    wheelingit recently posted…Harbor Campground Review – Winchester Bay Marina, ORMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Nina, I was shocked too. It never occurred to me I would be judged for what I did outside the Forest! Like you, I am willing to be judged for what I do in the Forest, but to say that I don’t own a home or land anywhere means I can’t spend one night in the Forest is obscene!

      I think you are right, this is just over-zealous enforcement in these few Forests where they are having a very serious problem; I don’t expect it to ever be system-wide. I’m sure you follow RVSue and saw how she was being treated very well in the NF up in Utah. That is much more the norm in my experience, and for as long as I have been following your blog, it looks like that has been your experience as well.

      for me the solution is to simply get back a little more remote and on a little worse road. The FS doesn’t have the manpower to patrol every single road so they only check the most commonly used ones.

      As much as I admire your 40 foot Class A, this is one time I’m glad I don’t have one!

      • wheelingit says:

        Yup, I’ve been following RV Sue. The UT forests seem to have the right attitude. Friendly rangers helping to find legal boondocking spots. And yes, that’s the attitude we’ve experienced too. Generally I’ve *always* found rangers helpful.

        I really do believe the Coconino & Kaibab forests are being over-zealous (and somewhat out of the norm here).

        And yeah…sometimes I DO wish we had a smaller rig haha…sure would make boondocking easier 🙂

        wheelingit recently posted…“Home” On The Beach – Bandon, ORMy Profile

        • Bob Bob says:

          Nina, I OFTEN wish I had a shower and running hot water. In the words of the great philosopher, we may not get everything we want, but hopefully we get what we need.

          What counts is that we are happy, and I’m sure we both are!

  72. Nemo says:

    Just letting ya know Bob, as per our email conversation put a post up on it on mine linking here as well.. Want to spread the word as far as we can here and hopefully get some phone complaints going to Coconino NF about their selective enforcement (in my perception)
    Nemo recently posted…Concerns about Forest Service Ticketing campers.My Profile

  73. OK, here’s a thought I had last night. We paid taxes all our working lives and are now retired. It’s our business if we choose NOT to own any property other than our mobile homes. But here is the thought I had… Canadians come down here, in their big rigs, they never paid taxes here, and they can stay on all these lands without paying or even being questioned. They don’t have a permanent residence here. They never paid taxes here. But we CAN’T stay because we are mobile dwellers in small rigs. I am pissed.
    Charlene Swankie recently posted…Great Resources for Newbies to the Tribe.My Profile

  74. DaveSC says:

    Living in the Forest? When I’m camping in the forest, I’m living in the forest, but not for more than 14 days as allowed by law.

    The Ranger’s rational of “if I did not have a residence anywhere else, then I was living in the Forest and he could issue a citation” to me is harassment and discrimination.

    I would at that time be writing his name down, his vehicle license plate number, asking for his supervisor’s name, phone number, and office location, and taking pictures of him, his vehicle and my campsite – regardless of any damn stickers on my van or address on my driver’s license.

    It’s none of his business if I have a permanent residence or not. A permanent residence is not a requirement to camp for up to 14 days in the National Forest. Where in the law does it say I have to have a permanent residence in order to camp in the national forest? It doesn’t.

    The next work day, I would be at his supervisor’s desk filing a harassment and discrimination complaint, with pen and paper in hand, and requesting that Ranger give me an apology in person. If his supervisor fails to satisfy my visit, I would ask him for HIS supervisor’s name, phone, and location. I would run this issue up the chain of command, providing each supervisor with a follow-up email of what was discussed, until someone acted appropriately.

    Of course I also would not open the door by having a trashy camp either. I would be polite, get up and shake his hand and introduced myself as he approached, address him as Sir, and smile. I would make sure I opened the encounter on a very positive note. If after all that, if he was relentless with some kind of attitude, out comes the pen, paper, and camera. I would not raise my voice, I would just simply state that I feel he is harassing me and would like to discuss the matter with his boss.

    Some retired folks, may buy a Class A, B, or C RV, sell their home and plan on spending several years traveling, touring, and camping over the entire United States before resettling into permanent retirement. Why should they be harassed? I would not tolerate that Ranger’s behavior.

    • Bob Bob says:

      DaveSC, I have to emphasis again that the Ranger was polite and professional at all times. I have since learned for a fact that he was doing exactly what his superiors wanted him to do. Each Forest has a head Ranger who is solely responsible for his Forest. There is no doubt in my mind that these decisions came down directly from him. The only step left for you is to start into the Dept. of Agriculture that oversees the FS.

      I am not guessing, I am in possession of letters from the legal office of the Coconino NF acknowledging that this is Forest policy. I am undecided at this time if I want to continue the discussion and do another post with them. I think everything has been said that needs to be said. let me know if you disagree.

      • DaveSC says:

        Do you have a scanner? I would like to have a copy of that policy.

      • DaveSC says:

        I sent emails inquiring to the Coconino NF and Sierra NF public affairs folks. Here is the response from the Sierra NF public affairs office:

        Dear Sir,
        Is there a requirement/rule/law for a person to have a permanent residence elsewhere in the U.S. in order to camp in the National Forest?
        Dave C.

        Good afternoon,

        I’m not sure that I quite understand your question. If I’m understanding you correctly, there is no law stating that you have to live in the U.S. to camp the Sierra National Forest.

        Thank you for your interest,

        • Bob Bob says:

          You may have to ask your question again and be more specific. I think they will answer, you just have to be very clear.

  75. CB says:

    I don’t know why folks have this much trouble with rangers. I have never had any problems with the USFS or BLM rangers when out camping. I am polite & respectful, and never had a problem. Not regarding camping. You have no lawful need to verify anything to anyone about your residency. If a ranger asks you where is your home, tell him the truth. I do. My home state is Utah and I own real estate there and elsewhere. No need to get into details. and if details are asked for, just tell them it’s none of their business. Because it’s not. BUT!!!! Do so politely and respectfully. I myself have never had a ranger ask this, myself. So I’m uncertain if this is a regional thing or a national thing. I will say that every USFS ranger I met is polite and respectful and most BLM rangers have been as well.
    CB recently posted…Why I Hate Civilization–and Dropped Out of it! Shouldn’t you?My Profile

  76. CB says:

    Bob, may I ask what it was that brought the rangers to your camp? Why you? Did they say? What about other campers in the area?

    I thought about this some Bob, and from my experience with the USFS I can promise you they don’t just pick one camper out of a hundred and say “let’s check this guy out”. If they come there Bob, they are there for a reason.

    So I have to ask exactly what IS the reason that they were there for? If you want to discuss this in private e-mail, be my guest.

    • Bob Bob says:

      CB, why don’t you ask Randy, the Ranger was at his camp the same day and asked him the same questions.

      Going this all over again is going to take a long time, and I honestly don’t have the time. Since it happened I have heard from numerous people that is the way Coconino NF does business. No one is welcome in their forest and they will all be treated badly. I know that is hard to believe, but there is no doubt in my mind it is true.

  77. Denny says:

    It’s getting more difficult all the time to live off the grid. Twice in the past few months I’ve had problems…one with my paypal acct when they said they couldn’t locate me in any of the common data bases. My insurance company was the other that said basically the same thing. It’s really becoming a pain. I had planned on doing this for 3 yrs originally then decided I enjoyed it enough to shoot for 5….not I’m not sure all the hassles are going to be worth it.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Denny, with the Patriot Act being put into place it is becoming much harder to live off the grid. This is a complex subject and requires a really long answer, but most of us get around the problem with a mail forwarder who can also provide us with a redisential address. A PMB is a business address and many places now require a residential address. As soon as they type it in they know instantly if it is residentail or business.

      My mail forwarder works out of her home and her address is my address, so it comes up as residential 1234 Main Street, Pahrump, NV. Then she gives me a P.O. Box: P.O. Box 1234, Pahrump, NV. She handles my mail and I use her residential address. She costs $100 a year and does an outstanding job. Nye, County NV has no taxes and no vehicle insepections.

      You can get the same thing at SD and TX.

  78. SteveK says:

    Hey Bob, I love your blog and live vicariously through you and others (I’m 42 with two kids and a wife who avoids camping like the plague but who I love dearly). More importantly, I’ve been an attorney for nearly 20 years.

    I have no direct experience with these rangers or interrogations, but the couple of pointers I would give which seem, in my humble experience, to be almost “universal truths”.

    Generally speaking, a law enforcement officer questioning someone who is not under arrest only has the right to a limited amount of information such as a name and enough info. to run a background check for warrants, etc … so the Golden Rule is usually to offer as little information as you can get away with and under no circumstances should you give a contrived story that can’t be verified. If you do, you can be charged with other offenses that have nothing to do with the reason they are questioning you.

    In this scenerio, a little more would be necessary, but not much more. I would definitely suggest that you have a relative or friend’s residence which you can list as yours (with their permission), and that you bunk there a couple of nights every few months when you are passing through. I’m not sure about other states, but the law in the State of Ohio is that residency is dependent on your “intent” … i.e. if you live at your brother’s residence during January and February, you can travel as much as you want during the remainder of the year so long as your “intent” is not to change your legal residence … i.e. you still consider “home” to be your brother’s spare bedroom. Things you can do to solidify that residency are: (1) keep having your mail sent there; and (2) file your tax returns listing it as your residence; (3) get your driver’s license switched to that address; etc …

    I’m not sure that intending to go somewhere and rent for a few months will get you where you need to go for residency purposes. It would be better to have an address where you stayed for a couple of weeks or more with the ability to do the things mentioned above to keep your link to that address alive. Then, it doesn’t matter how long you’re gone, because you are always intending to head home after the vacation is over.

    In answering questions, I’d suggest:

    1. “My name is ________________, my address is _________________ and here’s my driver’s license verifying that _________________ is my address. I’m on vacation and will be heading home when my vacation’s over.”

    2. [WHEN IS YOUR VACATION OVER] “Well, I’m retired so I can’t really say for sure. My original itinerary has me heading home after a few more stops, but who knows, I may extend it … it is still a FREE COUNTRY, right sir?”

    3. [WHERE WERE YOU LAST] “Sir, I’m really becoming uncomfortable with your questions. I know you’re just doing your job, but I haven’t seen you asking that guy with the brand new Ford F-150 these questions, or that gal over there … are you going to be questioning everyone here, or just me for some reason? If it’s just me, I’d kind of like to know why.”

    4. [AGAIN, WHERE WERE YOU LAST] “Well, I was in [STATE] and I also travelled through [another state] on my trip”

    5. [WHERE DID YOU STAY, SPECIFICALLY] “Well, I usually look for a good campground while I’m passing through, but I can’t say I remember the names of them all …”

    If you get pressed beyond that point, I’d simply ask if you’re under arrest for something or if he’s instructing you to leave. If he does ask you to leave, get his name and badge number and leave peacefully and then lodge a complaint … preferably postmarked from your legal residence.

    Just my rambling thoughts on the matter. Stay safe and God’s Grace to you and your readers.


    • Bob Bob says:

      Steve, that is good, sound advice! We should all print that out and keep it with us, reading it often so we have it in the back of our mind.


      • Stevek says:

        Anytime, Bob. BTW, someone should set up a way of donating to help cover these B.S. citations for those on a fixed income. I’d be the first to donate. I can’t believe we pay taxes to keep these areas free and open to all … unless you live an alternative lifestyle, then you get fined …

        • Bob Bob says:

          Steve, we are all being herded like cattle together into total uniformity by more-and-more pressure for anyone who doesn’t fit the mold.

          We will jut have to be more creative!

  79. Anonymous says:

    “Have an expensive looking vehicle.” – nailed it. It’s a shame but it’s true.

    Also you left out outright lying- originally squirrely with your responses might have put the officer into pitbull mode. Instead you might take a tack of “absolutely I have a home, it’s right there on my driver’s license. you can’t not have a home, where would you get mail?”; channel the incredulity of the masses to your own lifestyle!

    As far as property, maybe you should invest in a square-inch plot, if they’re still selling them, in a remote area of the moon. “I do in fact own some land, I stay there as much as I possibly can officer!”

    Not talking is probably the best tact though- I have a bad habit of being cooperative and respectful of officers, which is fine if you’re doing nothing wrong but often you ARE even if it’s not obvious or clear to you. To wit I learned that a casual-over-the-shoulder-bird flipping is illegal enough to warrant drawn weapons if the person you f.u.’d is sufficiently hysterical when she calls 911~!

    Good luck, Thanks for posting your experience.

  80. Matt says:

    I’ve been thinking about doing what you are all talking about, but the number one problem has always seemed to be where to sleep legally. I was actually thinking of spending a few thousand on a plot of land with trees on it, and simply parking my van there at night. With no structure on the land, the taxes would be very low, and it’s not like you’d have to be mowing the lawn or some foolishness like that. That way when you went to national parks or traveling in general,you would be able to name your residence… even have a driver’s license with that address on it. I’m assuming most dwellers do have a general area they dwell in, where they could buy a small plot of land for a few thousand and park there at night. Just my idea.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Matt, I also think buying a piece of land is a good idea and encourage you to do that.

      But other than the one time in Cocoino NF I have never had the slightest problem finding a legal place to sleep at night. And even then I literally drove 5 miles down the road to the kaibab NF and that problem is solved. I’m confident I can stay here all summer and never see a Ranger.

      It really isn’t a problem so come and join us!

  81. William says:

    I have been Living in a Campsite in Virginia Since I lost my Job. I bought the property but still have a 1240 a year fee for electric, security, water, Etc..( Cant beat it ). I had the same issue here where they were saying I needed Proof of Residency. I had a friend give me a Notarized lease that spelled out that all utilities were included. I haven’t had another issue yet with them here but I imagine it will come up again. I plan on buying me a few acres at beginning of next year. You would be welcome to come camp on it if your in the area. Take Care, Bill….
    William recently posted…KIS-Sunday: Making Peace With the 2,000,000 Year-Old SelfMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      William I’m glad you have a place to stay and solved the problem with the FS. I don’t think I will be back east for many years but if I am I will look you up!

  82. Dave C. says:

    After several BS email replies from the Coconino FS AZ, Supervisors Office, I emailed the USFS civil rights division, AZ SEN John McCain, and USDA IG Inspector General.

    The reason I ask is we have reports of Coconino Rangers harassing and discriminating against older Americans and Veterans who full time in their RV’s. They only camp for 14 days. They do not have permanent addresses because they are retired and want to travel full time. The Sierra NF rangers have responded that they absolutely DO NOT require ANYONE to have a permanent address in order to camp for 14 days as allowed by law. It’s interesting that the Coconino Supervisors Office is avoiding answering a simple question. Why can’t the Coconino Supervisors Office make an affirmative non-discrimination statement the way the Sierra NF has? Is that an affirmation that Coconino is indeed discriminating against people?
    Dave C.

    Here is the response:
    I’m not sure I fully understand your question, but I will attempt to answer it based on what I think you’re asking. The 14-day camping limit found in Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations 261.58(a), prohibits camping more than 14-days in a 30-day period. It is not based on whether someone as a permanent address. It has never been used as an element in prosecuting cases that I’m aware of.

    Some folks get confused with Title 36 261.10(b), residential use and the 14-day stay limit. The two regulations are completely different and require different elements of proof in court. If I apply your question to residential use it could provide evidence toward using the forest for residential purposes, but it is not the sole element to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt that is required in court. There are many elements officers use to establish residential use in the forest, I will not attempt to describe them because there situational, endless, and based on the totality of a particular situation.

    I hope this answers your question. Jon
    Jon Nelson
    Patrol Captain, Northern Arizona

    So at least the big guys in Washington, DC have been notified that there may be an issue at Coconino. Its interesting that the Sierra NF folks have the wisdom to make an affirmative statement of no permanent residence needed and the Coconino folks can’t find the words.

    If anyone receives any type of this behavior, let me or Bob know, and I’ll follow up.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Dave, thank you so much for your time and effort in contacting the different authorities! You are so right that the Sierra NF was aaa no BS answer while the Coconino was just one big double-talk. The reason you have to use such deception is you are in the wrong and you know it. They are obviously in the wrong and they are just trying to cover themselves.

      Thanks again for you hard work!

  83. Dave C. says:

    If this happens again in the Coconino NF, get the Ranger’s name and go find Patrol Captain Jon Nelson and file a complaint. You do not need a permanent residence to camp in any United States National Forest. It’s absurd that this behavior should be tolerated or accommodated with trying to pacify a person under the color of authority.

  84. bill r says:

    i cant read all the preceding so I may just be restating someone elses comments. but its all same ol same ol. we have a country on the rocks for many of its citizens. as I don’t think many choose unemployment or homelessness. but instead of banding together as a nation to protect our unfortunate fellow citizens we penalize and ostracize them. it all happened before in America during the depression. hobos, tramps, okies, anyone down n there luck instead of being treated like citizens were treated like they had chosen their misfortune and jailed, etc. for vagrancy, homelessness. even though at that time and age there was far less population than nowadays. welcome to a possible glimpse of the average baby boomers future with no pensions and unable to pay off their 300 thousand$ home. I lived in panel trucks and vans 45 yrs ago as a homeless 15 yr old kid and even then was awoke many nights at 2am and told to keep moving.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Bill, I think you are right. my personal expectations are the the economy is just going to get steadily worse and I don’t see a good end on the horizon. There are few signs of hope though

      1)In one state the FS has a Pilot Program to work with local communities to take in the homeless in free campgrounds. Lets hope that thinking spreads.
      2) Some cities are setting aside areas in the city for people living in their cars.

      At some point the problem is going to be so wide spread that there may be no choice but start offering real solutions. Eventually the homeless are simply going to overwhelm Law Enforcement.

  85. bill r says:

    the worst of it is that we were taught since old enough to listen that this country was based on “united we stand, divided we fall” and we’d better stand united as one country or the other countries will pick our carcass. but like you I think we are going to be such an overwhelming problem that we will demand attention. hopefully it will be mostly positive. it should never be an us versus them attitude on the lawmakers part as we were the veterans,builders,parents,farmers that kept things going. its just comes to a point for some that boondocking, van dwelling beats living behind the dumpster at the shopping mall. it is a positive way of maintaining some control over ones life, freedom and resources.

  86. Thom says:

    I’ve lived in Oregon since 1986. Since 2011 my wife and i have lived full time in a 5th wheel on the oregon coast. We still work in the local community…but i asked the DMV an honest question one visit, and they were quite helpful, and i thought accommodating. There is a clause in the OR DMV that states the following:

    “(6) An applicant who travels continuously may use a residence address of “continuous traveler.” The applicant must prove that he or she is a resident or domiciled in Oregon pursuant to OAR 735-016-0040. In addition to the use of “continuous traveler,” the applicant must also provide a mailing address.”

    My delima was i wanted to be honest for the sake of DMV being able to always contact me via how they always had in the past…by mail. I told them my wife and i might move from RV park to park on the coast. They told me to bring proof of my mailing address (the local UPS mail forwarding store) and my birth cert. Now both our ORDL read “Continuous Traveler” above our mailing address. It is also the address i use on all federal forms such as tax returns. I have no idea how any ranger would take all that, but it is legal for the OR Gov and the Feds on my tax return.

    OH, and for myself and wife? Every ranger and peace officer we’ve met has been kind and respectful, i expect nothing less from any future contact…as i respect and appreciate them too.

    Happy Trails,

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thom, that is very interesting!! Oregon certainly has an enlightened view! like you, the great majority of my encounters with Rangers has been very good. I don’t have any doubt that the problem with full-time RVers not being allowed to use the National Forests is a very local problem and only applies to just a few Forests. I only hope it stays that way!

  87. Mocha Gypsy says:

    You can grow your own food and have more privacy if you had your own land.

    • Bob Bob says:

      That’s a good point Mocha Gypsy! It seems like being a homesteader and a vandweller are exact opposites, but I think they go together well. I’m also a little bit of a prepper and that also goes along well with owning remote land.

  88. lonfu says:

    I’m suprised that he wasn’t satisfied with a passport, after all it is a federal picture ID. I recently renewed my passport. While my address is not listed on my passport I had to provide my address in order to get the passport. I’ve used that passport to get a state Id card for AZ.
    When I contacted a tax lawyer many years ago when I first went mobil I was told that I had to claim residence and file tax forms in at least one state. The kind of address was not important as long as I could recieve mail there. If I didn’t file taxes and had income then I would be subject to tax evasion prosecution. The address provided my residency and I should use it for all legal documents. I was still allowed to use other addresses but the main address was my legal tax address and residence. So, when questioned by LEO’s I must use this address as my residence.
    I’ve never had any problems with LEO’s as long as I followed these rules. But, I’ve always used the term, “tax address and residence address” when answering questions. When asked if I live there I always respond with I’m retired, I have a motorhome and I travel but this is my tax and residence address. I’ve never had anyone question me beyond that. If asked again I would respond with, today I live in my motorhome, tomorrow I might be at my address and the day after that I might be traveling again, that is the best part about being retired. Also, it is always important to ask the question “do I need an attorney?” Not that you can believe the answer.

    I don’t go to federal parks or campgrounds anymore. They are just to expensive for me and I don’t like all the forgieners
    Did you know it takes less time to pull up warants with a state ID than with a passport? If you are moving or driving then you are required to show your drivers license, insurance, and registration. Many states now register vehicles to individual licenses so when they pull up you license your vehicles show up too. Showing the registration is just a way to get a look in your glove compartment to make sure you are not armed.

    I don’t go to federal campgrounds any more because I find them expensive and I don’t like the motorhome loads of forgieners. I have gotten the feeling that they want to discourage the use of them by ordinary citizens.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Ionfu, he did take the passport as ID, he really had no choice. I don’t pay for campgrounds either, this was all dispersed camping on NF land. In a campground the issue would not come up.

      This is a unique and bizarre situation that no one has ever seen before. But that doesn’t make it any less true. If you are a full-time RVer without an address they will ticket you for being in their Forest.

  89. Dwight D. says:

    With all the talk about loosing our freedoms, how many are going to remember this BEFORE stepping into the voting booth again? I like the OR DMV’s idea of “continuous traveler”. SD is full timer friendly in that a Private Mail Box (PMB) is accepted as legal address. I have mine through Americas Mailbox in Box Elder SD. They have an RV park next to the mail center. Our driver licenses, plates and registrations, and proof of insurance all have the same PMB 4996 after the street address. Since we don’t own or rent a dwelling in SD, my wife and I only needed to fill out a nomad affidavit and have it notarized before going into DMV. And yes, we have receipts showing month-month space rental. If an officer has a problem with our “living” in a PMB, I’ll suggest they take up the issue with SD legislators, because in SD, I’m legal. By the way, I also have a concealed carry permit in my home state along with 3 other states, all with the same SD address.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Dwight, that makes sense to you and me, but because this is Federal land, the LEO doesn’t really care what the states do. They are enforcing what they understand to be a right interpretation of Federal law and SD approving of full-time RVers doesn’t change what they see as Federal law.

      I think the only way this will get resolved is to be taken up the Federal courts.

  90. Jason Odom says:

    Bob, Jason Odom here (wrote Vanabode). I wanted to let you know that as someone familiar with this life; this blog post of yours about the “prove your physical residency” is much appreciated. It is well written and covers a topic that I have never covered. I appreciate the time you took to help your members with this issue (including the causal reader…me). I own a house and would certainly be willing to help you out with securing a PERMANENT physical address if you would like. Just email me privately please as this is not something I want to do for the general public. Thanks again. Well done. Sincerely, Jason.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks so much Jason, I appreciate the offer!! I ended up buying a cheap piece of land that solves the problem, but I do appreciate your offer!!

  91. Great article, Bob, thank you for this heads up. I will share it on my website for other Full-timers.

    I just bought a piece of property outside of Show Low…but my license and Drivers License are both California.

    Hmmm…and to top that off, I have to renew my license this year, and as you know, I don’t have a legal residence address in Slab City, just a PO BOX. (Well, the USPS does not deliver mail in Niland, just mail boxes)…so wow, that just might be way too confusing for a Ranger who can’t think outside the box, LOL

    • Bob Bob says:

      Slab-City-Robi,I’m in the situation, I have a Nevada drivers license and Ariona license plates and land in AZ. I’m just going to tell him the land near the Grand Canyon is my summer hoe because it;s cooler and I rent in the winter in Nevada. I think I can get away with that.

  92. hot rod says:

    This read addresses all my concerns. This is the key issue. Fulltime nf or blm wld allow me to retire early. Bottom line is big money rig implys that I have money and dont need to live in forest. Even with a stack of papers , all proving I own a house somewhere, if I pull them out from a dirty bag behind the seat of my dirty van …..a ticket has my name on it. Since having cop stick his face into my world 24/7 whichis just the opposite of what I want, I think I have another alternitive. I hope to retire in 10 years to a 420 freidly state a buy a small rural house. It may not be as beautiful a life as traveling around nation forest but, not pigs knocking on door all the time. The world cld be very different in 10 years . We will just have to see what the us will be like then. I hope your not the last generation that can live that way. Thank you.

    • Bob Bob says:

      hot rod, it really isn’t as bad as you make it sound. This is the only Forest I know where it is this bad. Most Forests just barely enforce the 14 day rule and no others I’ve been in have this terrible attitude. It really is as simple as moving to a different area and being careful.

  93. hot rod says:

    Thanks Bob. Thank you for your encouragement and optimism. You have to remember that I live and work in Houston now and have never been to these places so pls keep that in mind. I am trying to plan for retirement now so this sort of research is my fulltime hobby now. Since posting here I read more from your site about the issue. Sounds like the reason for these is that Arizona has lots of folks doing this in their N.F. I do not agree with Arizona’s policy as long as people obey the laws there just trying to discourage it from getting larger then it is. I think that’s a fair evaluation of the situation from an outsider like me considering my options.
    Still I wld personally avoid any place that harassed me.
    States like Colorado and Arizona have strict envimental laws and require septic tanks etc. I think that’s a good thing considering they want to keep the aquifer pure. It’s just that they price everything so high it’s staggering. Places like terlingua, TX has cheap land with no building codes. One cld live on their land in a school bus, no septic tanks just a compost toilet if they wanted to with no harassment from code officials. This cld work for some people as a address and as a retreat/home base. However, one must except that they will most likely have to pass many DHS border check points (up to 100 miles inland) just to get to their land. That’s what has soiled me from that idea. But wanted to throw it out there for others. You see after coming back from a trip to Colorado I don’t need the border patrol dogs signaling my van/car even if there is nothing but smoke smells. So I am done with that plan.
    I will continue to read your blogs and stay abreast of the situation over the next ten years. We will see what travel is like in the US, and if there are still places free to be a cowboy in US then.
    Bob one question pls.
    When camping what has been your plan for food storage and cooking concerning bears, both brown and black? What do you do? Thank you

    • Bob Bob says:

      hot rod, I’ll be writing about that very soon because bears ARE a very BIG issue here in Alaska. Basically in the Continental United States it really is not that major a problem except in a few places, like the National Parks. Keep a clean camp, follow basic common sense rules, and everything should be fine.

      There is still a lot of very cheap land in Arizona. I have a friend who bought 20 acres for $3500. I bought an acres for $2500 very close to the Grand Canyon NP. How tough the building codes are and how strictly they are enforced are set at the county level, not state so some counties here re very tough, and some are very easy. But you’re right, they are all getting worse.

  94. Mike McGill says:

    I just have to put in my 2 cents here because it bothers me that people who carry out injustice are always “excused” as if they have no choice. It bothers me in particular in this case because most of us here have made a serious, unthinkable choice to live on the road so we of all people know about choices. So to excuse the ranger, however nice he was, is well… inexcusable. You are in the forest! Who MADE him come to your camp and ask for your papers? I’ve been in situations at jobs where I didn’t believe in what I was being told to do and if I felt there was no way they would know if I enforced something I thought was wrong, I didn’t do it. If I were in the ranger’s place, unless the boss was following me, I wouldn’t do it. Period. That guy is not some innocent professional. He is a part of the problem. He is single-handedly making injustice a reality. But it’s not just about him it’s about all of us. We want change but insist on placing the blame on “higher ups”. It’s just downright passive aggressive. Anyone who carries out the wishes of injustice should feel the full wrath of the consequences for their choice. You don’t like the consequences, get another job!! And I’m not just talking about rangers. I’m just sick of people making choices and being excused for them while people suffer or they help lead the way to Nazi America. There would have been no Holocaust without all the willing participants. I find that most people who excuse people who carry out the unjust wishes of “higher ups” do so because they themselves are or would be willing to do the same. So this always comes back to a self reflective issue. In other words, you aren’t shit so you excuse others who aren’t shit.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Mike, I basically agree with you, but in this particular instance, the higher ups wanted this Ranger to issue tickets, but he decided not to. So in fact he thought for himself and didn’t follow the letter of the law. He had no choice but visit us, we were a large group and we were in the middle of a terrible fire danger so that alone meant he had to visit us to be sure we were in compliance with all the fire rules. I have no complaint about that at all.

      He was a good guy and did the right thing. He did his job thoroughly and yet made the decision to not follow the letter of the law.

      However, that was just this one case, I still basically agree with everything you said.

  95. Scott Bennett says:

    Is this still an issue or have things changed?

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