Okay so you jumped on the full-time RV bandwagon. Or decided to go van life. You bought the rig. Maybe you renovated and decorated it. You learned what black and gray water tanks are. Or learned where you go to the bathroom as a van-lifer (side-note, I am still genuinely confused about this! We thought about going smaller and doing van life but I didn’t think we could make it without a bathroom on board.) You set a route (or at least a vague idea of where you will be going). And then you look at prices for most RV camps (especially the nicer ones with pools, WiFi, and lots of space) and realize you will blow your budget in a month if you stay at paid places every night. Enter boondocking.
Boondocking (for those, like me, who had never even heard of this word before), is essentially dry camping. It is where you stay on land for free without hookups, generally without many other people, and without the price-tag.
I had no idea how to get started boondocking as we were planning our 8-month RV journey with our newly remodeled Winnebago Brave RV. Thankfully, as with anything in today’s world, there’s an app for that. Well, two actually.
The first is Harvest Hosts. Pretty much the coolest app out there for RVers. Really though, I am obsessed. Harvest Hosts is a network of over 700 farms, wineries, breweries, golf courses, museums and attractions across the country that allow you to park your rig on their land for free, generally just for one night. You pay a yearly fee of $79 (or $119 to enjoy overnight stays at over 300 golf courses across the country). And while the hosts don’t require you to pay anything to park, it is generally suggested that you patronize the business in some way. Some of the golf courses do require that you play a round, but you can often find pretty inexpensive tee times later in the afternoon.
In our view, being able to stay and getting a bottle of wine, round of golf, or some craft beer, is better than simply paying to park somewhere. (Though there is something to be said about the convenience of hookups, and we generally pay for an RV park at least once a week, even just to drain our tanks, fill up our water, and interact with the travel community.)
So far, we have been able to stay at wineries, golf courses, a roadside diner (along with many other truckers), and an alpaca farm. Yes, an alpaca farm! If you are ever in Silt, Colorado (a small town just outside Vail) you MUST go to Sopris Alpaca Farm. Come for the adorable alpacas, and stay for the incredible scenery, gift shop, and the nicest owners. This place is a true gem, and we are so happy we stumbled upon it on our way to Fort Collins, Colorado. If you are a Harvest Hosts member, be sure to add this to your list! The owners are so accommodating and the view is hard to beat.
If you are interested in joining Harvest Hosts, be sure to use our promo code to get 15% off your yearly membership! Also give them a follow on Instagram - they post some pretty amazing pictures. And please reach out with any questions about how we have enjoyed using it!
The second app is called Campendium. Campendium is a great free resource for all things camping, including free camping sites. The app also has information and reviews about all types of camping, including RV parks, state parks, and free sites. We find the most value in the free site information. Once we got outside California, we were able to find some gorgeous public land sites. Our two favorites were in Utah - one just outside Zion National Park and one just outside Bryce Canyon National Park.
Both had designated spaces with fire pits and flat ground, which was great for our 31’ Winnebago Brave. The one outside Zion was a little more crowded, but we had a nice large space to ourselves and getting in and out was no problem. The one just outside Bryce Canyon (less than 5 minutes from the park entrance) was a little more dicey getting in and out, only because it had been raining and was a little muddy (and because our stair was malfunctioning and was nearly taken out crossing over a cattle-guard). But we managed fine with our large rig and woke up to seclusion in the forest. Really amazing.
These apps have been lifesavers for us (and helped us graduate from literally pulling over on the side of the road to park and getting absolutely no sleep because we were so anxious about being illegally parked - yep, we spent two sleepless nights in California this way). They have given us such dynamic experiences on the road, helped us stay within our budget, and allowed us to meet wonderful people, both hosts and fellow-campers alike.
Do you have a favorite boondocking spot? Tell us below!