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How to Camp Off the Grid

When you decide to take off camping, do you think of a posh, electrified campground with lots of other RV’s or do you imagine going camping – like the good old days when you looked up at the brilliant sky in a quiet and secluded spot, when you made a fire yourself, and took your time about cooking dinner over it.


Well, if you really want to get away from it all, consider camping off the grid, or as some call it boondocking. You can boondock in all manner of places, including national forests, some national parks and even some state parks or park lands reserved for that purpose. Read on for more details of how you can camp off grid and enjoy your camping trip!


Off grid camping is exactly like the name suggests. This camping type is for those who want to reside in tents or RVs with minimal supplies without being connected to sewage, gas, water or source of electricity. When off-grid camping, you will have to pack a sufficient amount of water and utilize it shrewdly. With the absence of sewage, off grid campers with RVs will have to pay attention to their water use and storage of gray and black water or perhaps use outdoor spaces to go to the toilet. Many campers tend to dig a hole in the ground for doing their business. However, there are many places with rest rooms and even primitive toilets in some of the boondocking places available.


Needless to say, this camping style is intended to be simple and is especially ideal for those who want a break from their “normal” way of life. Off-grid camping can provide you with a fantastic break from normal routines, allowing you to unwind and relax. 


Also referred to as dry camping or dispersed camping, off-grid camping has been around for quite a while. People who want to be away from everyone and everything find this camping form ideal, especially because it requires minimal investment. While going for off-grid adventures can bring the calm into your life that you are looking for, you must take your time when it comes to preparation. 


Here are some pros and cons of off-grid camping:


  • You can camp for free or very cheaply

  • There are often fewer people around so you have more peace and quiet

  • You get to experience nature more fully

  • You’ll see more wildlife

  • Always pet-friendly

  • You have to be more self-sufficient since there are no hookups

  • You may have to drive farther to find a spot since they are often more remote

  • Road and weather conditions may prevent you from going to your intended spot

Boondocking on public lands or camping on government-owned land without hookups (water, sewer, and/or electricity) has grown in popularity in recent years. You can boondock on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, USFS (US Forest Service) land, state trust lands, and National Grasslands.


Prepping for off-grid camping includes things like searching for the best places, taking safety measures, and doing other important things that will ensure your camping experience is hassle-free. 


Best Places for Off-Grid Camping


Finding ideal places for off grid camping can be quite challenging, particularly for those who are new to it. Mentioned below are some ideal places for your camping trip, to help you can find the peace and quiet you are looking for.  


National Forests and Grasslands

Generally, people have the permission to set up camp without paying any fee in the national forests and grasslands in the United States (unless they are marked). That said, every national forest has different sets of rules. Click on the link above for destinations within the national forests and grasslands. Be sure to check beforehand with the place you intend to camp to avoid any major inconveniences. Traditionally, however, you can camp freely outside campgrounds and in many state and national recreation areas. 


National forests and grasslands are ideal for car and tent camping, RVs, trailers and vans. You have plenty of options when setting up camp in national grasslands as you can set your camp up in the woods or at a spacious area along the forest service road.  That said, you must be self-sufficient, because national forests and grasslands usually do not have amenities like restrooms, trash cans or picnic tables. There are some areas where campers are allowed to light fires as long as they have a fire permit. Also, it would be best to confirm the rules regarding fires as they can change quite frequently with weather conditions, etc.  


Finding national forests and grasslands is relatively easy as they are identified on Google maps. You can also utilize the national forest map locator to search these maps or look for state-specific information about the particular jurisdiction where you intend to camp. Once again, the camping regulations for each area are different, so check beforehand to be sure you will have a suitable campsite for your RV or vehicle.


Some campers also utilize road maps to search particular national forest areas for camping. These comprehensive maps show campground locations, open and closed days for roads and much more. You can find these maps on the National Forest USDA website for free. With these maps, you can learn about important things like whether the place where you want to camp in will have cell phone service or not. 


Top Choices for Boondocking States


Here are the top 4 choices that are really nice for boondocking, and why, according to the Boondockers Bible. 


1. Arizona - The Grand Canyon State seems to have best mix of federal land choices. You have lots of BLM land and lots of national forest land. Its state trust lands are also popular with boondockers, and it’s also home to the only national wildlife refuge with true boondocking. Even its system of highway rest areas is lenient with no restrictions on overnight parking. But Arizona is the only “true” four season boondocking state in that you can camp at high elevation in the summer and low elevation in the winter. As long as your RV has air conditioning, you can stay comfortable all year round.


2. Utah - The Beehive State was almost our pick for number one except that it’s just not seasonally friendly in the winter. Even if you remained at low elevation, it still gets terribly cold and you’ll find yourself stressing over frozen water lines. But in the warmer parts of the year, it too offers a multitude of boondocking choices. Utah tends to be more crowded in the summer than Arizona, but there still seems to be plenty of land go around. Utah’s system of rest areas has no limitations on overnight parking. Their state trust lands are more lenient than Arizona’s. And Utah’s scenery seems to be a bit more spectacular too.


3. Wyoming - It’s really amazing landscapes that keep bringing us back to the Cowboy State. I mean, Montana bills itself as “Big Sky Country”, but Wyoming ought to call itself “Big Landscape Country” because when you go boondocking there, that’s what you notice… so much land! It too has tons of acreage of BLM land and national forest land that you’ll never be able to see it all. The best part is that these lands are less crowded than Arizona and Utah. During the summer you can still find cool weather boondocking as high as 10,000 feet. We also like Wyoming having the lowest gas prices west of the Rockies. Its rest areas are not as lenient as Arizona and Utah, and they don’t offer any state trust lands for camping purposes.


4. Montana - Once again, a wide variety of boondocking choices is what makes this northern state a top favorite. While there is plenty of BLM land in the eastern half of the state, it’s really the national forest lands in the west that make Big Sky Country a winner. During the height of summer, you can easily boondock at 8,000 to 10,000 feet for cool comfort, and not have to fight to find a site. But one of its best kept secrets is all the boondocking along the Missouri River. You have the massive Fort Peck Lake in the east, and the very popular Canyon Ferry Lake in the center. It too has a lenient state trust land system, along with a lenient system of highway rest areas.

Key Tips for Camping Off-Grid


To summarize, here are some key tips to have a safe and fun off-grid camping experience.

  • Check the regulations of the area you want to camp in before you go to make sure boondocking is allowed

  • Come prepared with enough water and food; Know your limits for carrying gray or black water 

  • Use apps to find ideal spots to set up camp


Finally, when you are ready to rent the RV for an off-grid or an on the grid camping trip, please contact El Monte RV, who can line up the best deal on an RV that will fully fit your family’s needs. See the link for all the locations where you can rent an El Monte RV.

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«February 2024»


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