Dispersed Camping On Public Land
For the first six years I lived in my vehicle I stealth parked in a city. But after I retired I said goodbye to the city and headed for the hills. For the last four years, I have lived almost xclusively in forest, mountains and deserts on public land without paying a penny for it. In the cold of winter I stay on BLM land in the desert Southwest, and in the heat of summer I move up into the mountains in the National Forests.
Some people are concerned if camping in the wilderness is safe. In my opinion and experience, it is by far safer than living anywhere in a city. Numerous times when I lived in the city I woke up afraid because of people hanging around outside my van. Never once was I in real danger, but I was afraid
nonetheless. But on public land, I have never been afraid of other people, not once. More important than my experience is the fact that according to crime statistics, you are much less likely to be victim of any crime in remote areas than in the city. Combined with clean air and beautiful scenery, the woods is the only way to go as far as I am concerned.
When you camp on BLM, or National Forest land without staying in a campground, you are doing dispersed camping. Nearly all BLM and NF land is open to dispersed camping. I just drive along until I find a spot that will make a good campsite and then I pull in and set up camp. Very often the authorities will ask that you try to use existing campsites instead of making new ones. The main issue there is if you make a new campfire ring. These are unsightly and scar the land so they try to limit them. I am a big believer in Leave No Trace principles so I almost never make a new ring out of respect for the land.
Every so often you will find a sign that says “Camp Only In Designated Campsites.” That means there is
no dispersed camping, you can only camp in sites with signs allowing you to camp there. The most common reason for closing dispersed campsites is that the area is close to a city or National Park that increases public use to the point that they have to restrict camping. Another reason is to
protect an environmental area that is overly susceptible to damage, such as waterways.
The best way to find out the status of an area before going there is to call the local BLM or National Forest office and ask for information on restrictions on dispersed camping. Finding the phone number is as simple as doing a Goggle search on the name of the National Forest or the name
of the state and BLM (for example: BLM Nevada). That search will show the location and phone number of the Ranger Stations in Nevada. Give them a call; I have always found them very helpful!