It doesn’t matter how you are traveling around. You can find camping quickly turns out expensive. With campsite admission, attractions, and travel, then your budget may not get you as far as you anticipated.
Luckily, there are many ways to extend your budget. One significant area is your overnight campsite costs. Our guide shows how you can go camping across America and make use of camping spots that cost nothing.
Now, your camping trip becomes more cost-effective, so read on to find some great tips for free RV camping or heading off the beaten path to find free camping areas.
What is Free Camping?
Before you stuff your backpack or load up your RV, it is wise to understand the different terms in use for camping without paying.
Here are the main terms you can find in use in different parts of the country.
Stealth Camping: The idea of this camping is to park up your campervan in urban areas and to blend in with your surroundings.
It may not offer the relaxed environment you want for a few day’s stay, but making use of parking lots, scenic viewing posts, or a local neighborhood can suffice for overnight parking while crossing the country on one of your road trips.
Boondocking: You will see this informal term used in any number of places online or around campsites when people are talking. Boondocking often refers to RVers, road trippers, or anyone who is on their long-term travels and makes the most of free camps.
It can encompass anything from camping in the National Forest to spending an evening in the local Walmart parking lot.
Dispersed Camping: From the three terms, you will find this the most formal. It is used by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Forest Service.
Both these use this term to refer to free camping. Many government websites use this term when referring to camping in non-developed areas, and in most cases, without a fee.
Depending on where you are looking to find free camping, you may need to call a local ranger station or authority. If you use the term’ dispersed camping’, then they will know what you are talking about.
One thing to note is anyone on road trips across the United States may find the number of dispersed campsites reduces toward the East Coast. Generally, the areas are more populated, and thus fewer locations to find free camping areas.
Where to Find Free Camping
Here are the main areas you can find how to camp for free in different regions. Not all will be suitable for every camper, yet it is easy to find the right kind of camping that will suit your trip.
Grasslands and National Forests
In the majority of cases, you can find you are permitted to camp free in any US National Forests, and any Grasslands for such purposes. Each National Forest may have different regulations, so checking ahead of time is highly recommended.
A National Forest is often located next to National Parks and outside any established campsites. Such areas are suitable for RVers, camping trailers, campervans, and a tent or car campers.
Be sure to have all your outdoor gear up to date because there is nothing offered in these areas. Not even the use of a picnic table, so you need your solution. How to find free campsites near me? Google Maps highlights these areas, or you can use the National Forest and Grassland locator on the U.S Forest Service Website.
Restrictions for these are:
- All camping must be outside developed campgrounds
- You need to practice ‘Leave No Trace’ camping – no trash or bathroom amenities
- Most offer 14 days camping limits in one month – check in advance
- Camps need to be 200 feet away from water sources or streams
Bureau of Land Management
BLM land is public lands that are mainly located toward the West in the USA. Like the above, you can camp outside designated campsites. However, the Bureau of Land Management doesn’t only tend to camping requests.
Two of their focuses are mining, and such fields are marked for grazing, thus leading to a bit more research required. BLM land is suitable to camp for free for, RV’s, trailers, vans, and car and tent camping. It can be harder to locate these in the same means as the above, yet you can use the BLM interactive map or apps such as FreeRoam.
The interactive map allows you to find free campsites and offers contact information, as well as. Restrictions for these lands are the same as for the above.
Technically not a free campsite, yet many Walmart’s across the country will let you stay overnight in an RV, camper, or another kind of self-contained vehicle. It makes sense to arrive late, leave early, and park as far away from the store as possible. You can easily find which Walmart’s allow overnight stays, though you tend to find stores in urban areas that may not allow it.
Alternative Camping Options
While traveling, there can be occasions when you can’t reach a free camp. You will find yourself in a predicament, yet here are some options that can help.
Rest Stops: Along highways, you can find designated rest stops. Such places are there for drivers to pull over and take a break from driving. Each state will offer different rules, and it can be hard work to find one, which allows overnight parking.
Truck Stops: Often built and designed for truckers, there are many which cater to RV’s vans and trailers. You can find truck stops suitable, as they offer places to eat and other amenities, although it is best to take your personal toilet paper.
Casinos: Not every location will have a local casino, and staying in these locations will be much the same as Walmart. It is worth checking in advance or asking before you set up camp for the evening.
You can find many resources that help you find where you can camp for nothing. One of the first things you come to notice is the number of locations where you can go, and in many locations, they are in the same areas as the more expensive established campgrounds you may have elected to stay. (Find the Best Tent for 14 People)