I have learned a lot about finding free campsites after spending nearly 2 years on the road. Whether you call it ‘boondocking’, ‘wild camping’, or ‘dry camping’, the important part is being free. In the past year I have spent almost no money on campsites, it does take some effort find the free sites, and sometimes they are out of the way, but I cannot imagine going back to paying for campsites. Below are the resources I use to find free campsites, if you know of any more, please let me know in the comments.
Websites to find free campsites
Freecampsites.net – This is my go to resource when looking for campsites in a new area. I will copy/paste the GPS coordinates for all the campsites in an area and put them into Gaia GPS (mentioned below) before I go out to a location.
Campendium – This site is similar to freecampsites, but is more geared towards the RV crowd. I still find it very useful to find free sites by applying the filter to not show paid sites.
Overnight RV Parking – If you are stuck near a city with no public lands around, this is a great website to use for finding casinos, gas stations, fairgrounds, etc. that allow overnight stays. Tell them I sent you (David Kingham, [email protected]) to get a free month off your subscription.
Boondockers Welcome – I just signed up for this site as I have heard great things about it. Other RV’ers open up their property for you to stay for a night or two, it sounds like a great way to meet new people and stay at safe places.
Days End Directory – There is a lot of good information in this directory, but it is painful to use. You get one PDF for thousands of sites all over the US, most do not have GPS coordinates, just vague directions. On the website there is a map with locations sort of marked in the general area. I have never found this to be useful personally, but I know some people use it.
Apps to find free campsites
Boondocking This app is not a complete resource by any means, but I have found some sites in the strangest places where I would not have looked otherwise.
Ultimate Campground Project – The companion app to Boondocking that is a complete resource to actual campgrounds throughout the US. There are a number of free campgrounds out there, so I go into the filter and only select free campsites.
Allstays – Very similar to the above app, occasionally you will find a site that is not listed in the others.
eBooks to find free campsites
Shunpikers Guide – These guides are absolutely fantastic for finding boondocking sites in the Southwest, I have found many sites that would not have known about otherwise. It takes some work to sift through the long PDF’s, but it is worth it.
My Boondocking Guide – Coming soon, go to the link to be notified when it is released.
Finding Public Lands
There is massive amounts of public land with free camping that has not been documented in any of these websites or apps, when you start looking around you realize there is too much to document. Below are the resources I use to find good areas for boondocking.
Gaia GPS – This is my favorite app on my iPhone, period. It is meant for marking waypoints, recording tracks, etc. like a full on GPS unit. You can download or ‘stream’ maps from a variety of sources as well. The most useful map layer for finding free campsites called ‘Public Land’, in the screenshot below you can see the purple area is the public land layer, which I have overlaid on the USGS topo, and the satellite imagery to find a campsite that is not mentioned anywhere else. Note: to adjust the transparency you must pay for Gaia Pro, which is well worth it in my opinion. Otherwise you can still look at each map layer individually.
Public Lands – I have found Gaia’s information more reliable than this app, but it may be something you want to check out.
Motor Vehicle Use Maps – These maps can be a great resource to find areas where dispersed camping is allowed. There will typically be a note on the map stating the rules of dispersed camping in the area. This map is helpful to find the name of the area your looking for. PDF Maps is a great app that allows you to download the maps to your smartphone along with a variety of other maps for national parks, etc.
Go into the local Forest Service or BLM office and ask the rangers for recommendations on areas to camp for free, they are typically very helpful. Some National Parks like Death Valley and the Grand Canyon have some free campsites within the park.
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