Boondocking: What is it and why do we love it?

An honest look into dispersed camping.

If you are part of the nomadic community, chances are you’re familiar with the term boondocking. If not, it may be new to you. It certainly was to us at the beginning of our skoolie journey!

Boondocking, or dispersed camping, is a type of “off the grid” camping. Generally, this means that you are spending the night on a piece of land with no provided amenities other than a place to park for the night. This means no water hookups, electrical hookups, dump facilities, public rest rooms or showers, and (usually) no picnic table or fire ring.

Converted school bus overlooking mountains in Montana while boondocking
Boondocking outside of Yellowstone National Park, Montana; September 2021. Read all about our trip to Yellowstone HERE.

So what is the benefit of boondocking then?

You may be asking this question after I just listed off a whole slew of things that boondocking isn’t. First and foremost, boondocking is free. In the day and age where it is nearly impossible to find something that is honestly and truly free, boondocking is just that. Show up, be respectful to the land and any neighbors that you may have, and go on your merry way.

But for many others, us included, it is so much more than just a free place to spend the night. It is a different, more intimate connection with nature and your surroundings, once the manmade elements of a formal campground are removed.

It is finding that perfect spot to park after driving miles down a dusty, bumpy, dirt road.

It is knowing that you have everything you need to provide for yourself right in your bus.

It is looking up at the brightest expanse of stars you have ever seen.

It is a quiet not like anything else you have ever experienced.

It is waking up to wildlife outside your window, curious instead of fearful to the visitors in their home.

beautiful sunrise over badlands while boondocking
Boondocking on “The Wall” outside of Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Read all about our trip to Badlands National Park here.

How do I find a place to boondock?

“Ok great! I want to boondock! I can just pull off any side road and spend the night then, right?”


Boondocking is a fantastic way to connect with nature in an inexpensive way, but there are still rules that must be followed, and making yourself at home in any old secluded place is a big no-no. Even if you don’t see any houses or people nearby, chances are your perfect spot is somebody else’s too. Meaning you are now trespassing on private property.

Lucky for all of us, there are many great resources available to avoid an uncomfortable encounter with an angry property owner, or an unwanted knock on your door by the police at 2 am.

Some of our personal favorite ways to find great boondocking locations include:

  1. Your local Bureau of Land Management office.
    • This is a great resource to discover public lands nearby that are managed by the BLM! Much of these lands are open to dispersed camping. Talk to a ranger for recommendations on great boondocking locations, or drop in to pick up a map!
    • Pro-tip: Even if you arrive at your local BLM office after hours, many locations have a small vestibule open 24/7 with many area pamphlets and resources!
  2. iOverlander
    • This is my preferred way of finding boondocking locations. I personally have the (free!) app downloaded on my phone. It can sometimes be a bit tedious to look through the various locations to see if they are legitimate boondocking sites, but overall we have had much success with this source.
  3. Sekr
    • This app is similar in function to iOverlander. I believe it is a newer resource, so there does not seem to be as much information on it yet.
  4. FreeRoam
    • Similar to iOverlander and Sekr, this app seems to be a little more focused on formal campgrounds than boondocking, but still has some good resources for dispersed camping locations.

What do you prefer? Do you like the thrill of boondocking? Or is a formal campground more your speed?

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