A woman holds up plastic debris that has been littered along the coast line.

The Death of Boondocking

RVers have enjoyed boondocking in epic places across the country for decades. However, not all who embrace the camping lifestyle behave themselves. There may be only a few bad apples, but the behavior of some boondockers may be ruining it for the rest of us. 

The future appears ominous when it comes to boondocking, and it’s only a matter of time before it flatlines. So is this the death of boondocking? Let’s look and see!

A woman holds up plastic debris that has been littered along the coast line.

What Is Boondocking?

Boondocking is camping on public-use lands. Boondockers need to provide water, power, and dispose of all waste.

There are thousands of spots to boondock all over the country. Some of the most common locations for boondocking are lands the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS) manage and maintain.

Is Boondocking Safe?

Safety is always critical, no matter what type of camping you’re doing. Boondocking is typically no less safe than any other type of camping, but you’ll still want to take a few security measures. 

Always communicate with loved ones where you plan to camp, especially if it will be in a remote location with limited cell coverage. Giving them a general idea of your travel plan can help them know where to start if they need to come looking for you.

You should make sure you have locks and that you’re using them. Please don’t leave valuables out and make it as difficult as possible for anyone looking to walk away with your possessions. If a thief wants to get to something, they’ll find a way. However, making it difficult may cause them to think twice.

Don’t blame us, but these are the seven worst boondocking spots in California.

Can You Boondock Anywhere?

You can’t boondock anywhere you want.  There are typically restrictions on where and how long you can boondock, even in public-use lands.

Some only allow camping in established campsites or a certain amount of feet from the road. Depending on the location, you may need to acquire camping or use permits to use the land.

It is your responsibility to research and know the requirements for camping in a particular area. Pleading ignorance typically won’t fly with rangers and law enforcement. Reach out to the governing agency of the public lands if you have questions or need clarification.

Why Is Boondocking Dying?

There are a few significant reasons boondocking may be dying. Let’s look at them and what we can do to help avoid the death of boondocking. Let’s get started! 


Boondockers can reduce the amount of trash they create,  but they can’t wholly avoid creating waste. However, they can control leaving it behind and making sure they properly dispose of it. Many of the best boondocking sites are trashed by guests not picking up after themselves.

The agencies that manage these lands don’t have the time or resources to pick up after guests. Using these lands means taking responsibility for cleaning up. It’s typically easier for governing agencies to close or restrict access to manage trash. 


One thing that will shut down boondocking fast is vandalism. The agencies governing these lands are responsible for protecting these lands.

Acts of vandalism do precisely the opposite of protecting the lands. We’ve seen petroglyphs defaced, racist spray paintings and boulders vandalized on public lands all across the country.

Vandals looking to leave their mark and destroy property ruin it for others. Due to the vast amount of land, agencies can’t police all areas all the time. These situations are sad to see as some vandalism is destroying historically and spiritually significant markers for natives.

Permanent Camps

Some boondocking locations are popular options for permanent camps for homeless people. Once things get out of control, it’s challenging for the agencies to regain control without entirely shutting down camping.

In some cases, it could result in shutting down boondocking sites for a year or two, but in others, it could take several years or result in an indefinite closure.

Permanent camps in these areas create unsafe situations for those looking to recreate responsibly and can destroy the land. The land needs time to breathe, and extended stays in a specific area can increase the wear and tear on the ground. Sometimes the agencies have no other option but to shut down camping for everyone.

Overuse hurts boondocking spots. Could apps like Campendium be to blame for the demise of boondocking?

How Can Boondocking Avoid Extinction?

The key to helping boondocking avoid extinction is picking up the slack of others and reporting abuse. Most boondockers respect the rules and regulations; however, a handful can ruin it for others.

Boondockers must pick up trash when they spot it, whether or not it’s theirs. We encourage everyone to raise awareness of cleaning up trash on public-use lands and respecting the land.

If you see someone abusing the land, report it to the appropriate agency. Whether it’s a fire during fire restrictions or destroying the land, we need to do everything to protect lands used for boondocking.

If not, the days of boondocking will fade into the distance, and we’ll be stuck camping in crowded campgrounds again.

RIP Boondocking

We hope that boondocking can avoid extinction. However, the future of boondocking isn’t looking good. We frequently see stories of boondocking sites getting shut down or new restrictions.

With campgrounds becoming more crowded, many can no longer use public lands. We all must educate our fellow boondockers on how to recreate responsibly.

Have any of your favorite boondocking locations been shut down?

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