How To Think Like An Explorer And Find Great Campsites

Karen Blue and her family sitting around a fire while boondocking in a forest

Do you know where some of the most popular boondocking spots are in North America? With hundreds of reviews and photos on apps like Campendium, these off-grid locations aren't hard to find. As RVing and camping continue to gain popularity, many of these places are becoming less remote and more crowded. But as responsible RVers, it’s critical that we think like explorers in order to find new locations, and protect them from depletion and damage.

When thinking about what makes a great explorer, traits like curiosity, preparedness, self-reliance, respect, confidence, and risk-taking come to mind. In this article, we’ll use these traits as a guide to help RVers find some new, epic boondocking and camping locations.

  1. Explorer Trait #1: Curiosity

    If you’re interested in boondocking near a specific location or place, an easy way to start the process is to search the name of the location and “BLM district office” or “Forest Service office.” Navigate to the map tab of your search and find the office that is closest to your preferred location. From there you can find the local office’s website, with direct links to dispersed camping maps, travel alerts, fire restrictions, and fun activities to do in the area. You can also search for other land agencies in the area that offer dispersed camping, including State Trust land or the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

    Karen Blue looking up BLM land on a laptop

  2. Explorer Trait #2: Preparedness

    Once you have a good idea of where you want to go, you’ll need to gather information about weather, road conditions and where to get supplies (food, water, propane, gas, etc.). You can always read reviews online but a skilled explorer should also seek input from a local. A quick call to the local ranger's station can lead to a wealth of information. Ask about current and forecasted weather, as well as road conditions. Be sure to let the ranger know the type of RV you have, the length of your RV (including your tow vehicle) and what your comfort level is for driving on uneven or narrow roads. This insight will help the ranger guide you on where to stay and how to get there.

    Karen Blue's husband unhitching their Airstream from their truck

    If you aren’t able to speak with a ranger directly, then look at your boondocking location using Google Earth and Google Street View. This can show you any paved or dirt roads, bridges or tunnels, and possible places to turn around. Check out the surrounding area on the map to see where nearby grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations are. When possible, scouting your location ahead of time is always a good idea. When we get close to our boondocking site, we like to park our travel trailer nearby and then walk or bike the roads to gauge the safety and conditions. There is nothing worse than starting down a road with your RV, only to discover that it is impassable due to flooding, large ruts or fallen trees.

  3. Explorer Trait #3: Self-Reliance

    As explorers, it’s important to have a sense of autonomy and to know your own limits—especially when you’re boondocking in remote locations. The first step is to decide how long you want to stay. The amount of supplies and resources you bring with you will vary if you’re planning to stay two days or two weeks. Keep in mind that most public lands have a 14 day limit. From there, figure out how much water you’ll need to bring and how much waste your RV can store. There is no dumping on public lands so you’ll need to plan accordingly.

    The next consideration is power. With no access to power or electricity, how will you manage your batteries? If you have solar, will you also need a back-up generator? How big are your propane tanks? These are all important questions you’ll need to ask yourself.

    Karen Blue checking power levels inside her Airstream

    The last consideration is your safety and overall comfort level. Do you have the necessary tools and equipment in case you get stuck? Shovels, recovery tracks and air compressors are all great things to have with you when boondocking. How comfortable do you feel backing up or turning around, especially on narrow, dirt roads? How will you communicate with someone in case of an emergency? If there is no cell coverage at your boondocking spot, do you have any alternate options for getting in touch with someone? Before you leave on your trip, it’s a good idea to inform someone of where you’ll be staying and how long you’ll be gone.

  4. Explorer Trait #4: Respect

    Some of the best explorers are also conservationists (think John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt and Henry David Thoreau). Explorers understand that land and wildlife need to be protected and respected. Here are some easy ways to be respectful when RVing:

    - When you’re in bear country, don’t leave any food outside your RV.

    - Never leave your fire unattended or smoldering.

    - If there are other boondockers or campers nearby, be respectful of their space. Only run your generator as needed and try to limit how much you run it during the daylight hours.

    - Always pack out whatever you brought with you. And if you see someone else has left trash behind, pick it up.

    The general idea is to leave a place as close to its natural state as possible. Be an example for others and remember that we are all guests in these natural places.

    The view of the desert through Karen Blue's Airstream windows

  5. Explorer Traits #5 and #6: Confidence and Risk-Taking

    When it comes to boondocking, these two traits go hand-in-hand. It requires confidence to step out into the unknown, and it can be risky to put yourself into a situation with no prior knowledge and limited resources. Confidence is built by slowly taking small risks over time. The best piece of advice is to start small—try boondocking in a local campground first to see how long your tanks and batteries will last. Or go boondocking with some friends to a highly-reviewed spot so you’re not alone the first time. With some proper planning, your confidence will build and your risks will be minimal.

    Karen Blue boondocking in a forest

Time spent in natural environments has many proven benefits. And there are hundreds of boondocking spots and campsites out there that are just waiting to be discovered. Find your new favorite spot, be responsible and safe while you’re there, and take pride in being a modern-day explorer.

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers are the most popular type of non-motorized RV. No doubt you’ve seen one pulled down the highway hitched to a car or pickup. Travel trailers come in all sizes including tiny jellybean-shaped models with a chuckwagon kitchen in the rear to the massive house-on-wheels with picture windows and a sliding glass patio door.

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