As you know, I’m new to boondocking and free camping on public land. I’ve had several readers ask how I find free camping spots so I’m going to share what I’ve learned so far.
I’ll use my first and so far favorite boondocking location as an example. First-time RV Boondocking-A Memorable Experience.
My go-to when I start searching for sites is Campendium.com. Campendium has an app for iOS which can be downloaded here. They also have an Android app in development. If you’re an Android user, you can follow their directions and add an icon to your smartphone to use their responsive site.
To get started simply type where you want to find free camping in the search bar in the center of the screen and hit enter. I typed in Montana.
From here you can zoom in on the area you want to research. I knew my route would take me to the northeast corner of Montana so I clicked on the gold circle with the number 3 and zoomed in on that area.
Now you can click on all the little pins and see what the area has to offer.
The screen above shows eight locations where camping is available. You can go through the list on the left of the screen or you can click the link on the little window that pops up on the map.
The page for each location is a goldmine of information. You can read reviews that contain a lot of information. People will note the condition of the roads, the quality of the cell signal for each carrier, where it’s safe to take a larger rig, and any amenities available at the location. There are usually pictures taken by actual campers, a link to the official website, GPS coordinates, and more.
When you click the GPS coordinates, you’ll be taken to a satellite view of the area. You can zoom in or out as much as you like. The red pin shows the exact location of the GPS coordinates.
This is one area heavily zoomed in on and it looks very wide open. The thing is, you never know what you’ll find on these roads. There may be deep ruts, mud, big rocks, steep hills, or dips that can cause trouble for you. Using these satellite images, you can look around and see what the area looks like.
It’s a good idea to have at least one backup location in mind just in case the first doesn’t work out. If you’ll be in a really popular area like near a big city or a national park, you’ll probably want more than one backup site.
When you finally arrive at the location you’ve chosen, read the signs, check for any fire restrictions, or other bits of information you might need. Proceed with caution as you drive in. If you’re not sure the road is OK for your rig scout it first. Drop you trailer, disconnect your toad, or walk to see if it’s safe for you to proceed.
In this case, the main roads were in really good shape except for a lot of washboarding. The secondary roads varied in condition. The was deep gravel in places, steep hills, deep ruts from past rains and I could easily have gotten stuck of I wasn’t paying attention. With all that said, I’d have felt comfortable bringing a large motorhome in there. There was plenty of space.
Here are some of the apps and websites I like to use for planning my trips.
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