How We Find Free Campsites on the Road
One of the major perks of living in a van is being able to be completely self contained and off grid. We love not having to rely on campgrounds for facilities and electricity. Boondocking is our absolute favorite. There’s nothing like having a private campsite all to yourself, and not having to pay for it! Here are our favorite ways to find places to sleep on the road.
This is our go to app for boondocking. It can be used completely offline which is particularly useful when you don’t have service. It is also international, we utilized this app when we were in Costa Rica overlanding in a Toyota Hilux with a rooftop tent! You can set to filter established campgrounds or wild camping. It also shows useful spots like propane fills, restaurants, and water fills. It is crowd sourced and you can read through reviews of campsites.
Google Maps Satellite View
Eric is a cartophile so poring over maps is one of his favorite things to do. He browses for hours looking for clearings at the end of roads or near water. We found one of our favorite campsites in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this way. It is important to pay attention to who owns the land you are on if you decide to camp this way. While this method requires more effort, you can be rewarded with some pretty epic spots.
BLM Land and National Forest Land
Dispersed camping is legal in most BLM land and National Forest land as long as there is not a sign posted stating otherwise. You can camp at these sites for 14 nights in a 28 night period. BLM land is incredibly abundant in the Western United States. As always, follow leave no trace principles when practicing dispersed camping.
This is another tool we utilize when finding dispersed camping sites. It is a paid subscription which was first popular with hunters and has since become popular with the off-roading community. OnX Hunt shows property lines and land ownership so you can ensure you are camping in legal areas. This offers a lot of peace of mind when boon-docking.
Business Parking Lots
Though this is our least favorite, it is a reliable method to find a place to sleep for the night. Each individual location varies however in general, you can camp for free in the parking lots of Walmart, Cabelas, Casinos, and Cracker Barrel. We stayed in a Casino parking lot for 4 nights when we traveled to Pictured Rocks. While it is not the most scenic, it has great security! Some rest stops allow overnight camping however this varies from state to state.
As you can see, there are many resources to find free camping. Do you have any other methods for finding campsites? We have heard good things about Harvest Hosts and Free Roam, we hope to try those out in the future! As always, get out there and Create Your Own Roadshow.