Boondocking has a lot of benefits. Not only does it allow you to enjoy some of the most remote, secluded, and scenic areas available, but it’s also substantially cheaper than paying for an overnight fee at a full-service campground. While you might not get the luxuries of having hookups, shower houses, or a Wi-Fi connection, you will get the opportunity to camp for free without the crowds. But how do you actually find these free campsites that are supposedly scattered across the country? Like the answer to most things, all you have to do is Google it! Or Google Map it, to be more specific. For further details on finding boondocking locations with Google Maps, just follow these easy steps:
Step One: Understanding Public Land
There are three main places open to public camping and these areas include BLM land, state forests, and national forests. While BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) is limited to the western zone of the country, state or national forests can be found in nearly every state so no matter where you’re traveling, you’ll never be without options.
Step Two: Narrowing Down Your Area
Now that you have some idea of the spots you’re going to be looking for, begin your hunt for these boondocking locations by opening up the almighty Google Maps. Once it has loaded, zoom in on the state you’re planning on camping in (using the "map view"). Once you’re there, look for large patches of green. These green areas represent either state or national parks or state and national forests. Remember, for boondocking you’re looking for forests, not parks.
Step Three: Picking Your Spot
Now that you have an idea of the state and national forests available in your traveling area, select one that you’d like to stay at! From there, zoom in closer on the patch of green you’ve chosen to check out. Once you’ve done so, switch from "map view" to "earth view" by clicking the button in the lower left-hand corner.
Step Four: Finding a Campsite
Once in "earth view", you should be able to better differentiate between inholding land and land open for public use. Scan the screen and look for areas that aren’t heavily populated. Analyze the terrain of the landscape for feasibility of access and be realistic about where your RV is capable of going. Once you think you’ve found a viable spot that has established roadway access, grab the coordinates and plug them into your GPS.
Step Five: Arriving At Your Location
After you’ve followed your GPS directions to the relative area of your intended campsite, you’ll want to keep an eye out for signs notifying you of private land. Because inholdings will be present throughout any state or national forest, you’ll have to stay aware of your surroundings to make sure you’re not unintentionally trespassing on anyone’s land by setting up camp. Once you’re semi-confident that you’ve found a piece of public land that is also suitable as a campsite, put it in park and make yourself at home!
No matter where you set up camp, always remember the most important rule of boondocking which is leave no trace behind. Pick up after yourself and make sure you leave your site looking just as good, if not better, than it was when you initially arrived. Clean up your trash, stay on already-established trails and roadways, and always dispose of your waste at a certified dump station. Other than being respectful of private landholders and Mother Nature, just stay safe in the backwoods and enjoy your time in the great outdoors! Do you have another method of finding boondocking locations besides using Google Maps? Let us know by leaving a comment!