I can honestly say that I like every kind of camping. Resort RV Parks, State and National Parks, backyard camping and now I can add, dispersed camping to that list. On today’s show I am sharing my first experience camping on BLM land with no amenities at all, including roads!
Last January I headed to Arizona to see what all the fuss was about. Hint -it’s the weather. Mid 70’s and sunny everyday and lows in the 40’s at night. In my mind, this is PERFECT camping weather. I muddle through the heat and humidity in New Jersey all summer long for a few weeks of this weather each fall, often accompanied by rain. In southern Arizona you can set your watch by this weather for weeks on end and RVers across the nation know it. They flock to Arizona each year after the Christmas holidays and camp for free on BLM land.
For those new to all of this BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management. It is land managed by the US Department of the Interior and comprises over 245 million acres. Some of these lands have actual campgrounds with bathrooms and water and electric all on them. Most do not though and are just come and get it spots. No hook ups, water, bathhouses or for the most part, even roads.
You locate these cost free campsites through word of mouth and by using the App, Campendium. Campendium is the most recommended source for off road camping by those actually doing it. I asked lots of people when I was out there how they find spots and Campendium was the answer 9 out of 10 times. With Campendium you will get a set of reviews and tips that are really useful when dispersed camping because Google Maps is often not available in the middle of nowhere and these old fashioned directions are a lifesaver.
Once you find your spot, be prepared for everything. You must bring everything you need in and everything you use, out. Leave no trace. I was ready for my first stop, Craggy Wash outside of Lake Havasu with full water tanks and empty holding tanks. I had a 100 watt solar panel and an AGM battery along with a full propane tank. I was hardly roughing it since I could take hot showers and have heat whenever I wanted. The perk of these sites is the stillness. Although others were there, they are not on top of you. There is a solitude that is hard to find when camping any other way. I completely enjoyed opening my shade at dawn and watching the sunrise with unobstructed views. I loved the long walks and just waving at fellow travelers. I loved the dark night skies without the lights from other RVs ruining the sky views. I mostly loved feeling truly ‘checked out.’
After I left Lake Havasu I headed to Quartzsite Arizona to see what the Big RV Show there is all about. Each years thousands and thousands of RVers meet in groups to do this show. I don’t know how many go to the show as just gather for the community and camaraderie. There are miles of roads with signs indicating the groups – Airstream Owners, Class A groups, Escapees and even Vegan RVers. The RV Show itself was hot, dusty and nothing I haven’t seen a million times but the gatherings were incredible. So many people enjoying the lifestyle, each others company and the fantastic weather and incredible sunsets Arizona offers each night.
There are a few rules, spoken and unspoken about this type of camping that everyone should know before they go.
There are a few rules spoken and unspoken among the community of modern day homesteaders that I’d like to share.
- Don’t crowd each other. There are 245 million acres available and people want their space! I was in an area with my friend and another friend texted that she was in my neck of the woods. I mentioned that someone was coming to join us and I was advised to ask my neighbors if it was okay for her to park in our little colony. There seemed like plenty of room to me but people want privacy, space and the feeling of being alone. When you are looking for a spot, it’s an unspoken rule that you leave at least 100 yards between you and your nearest neighbor.
- If someone has overstayed his welcome or not traveled the requested 25 miles between sites, you are quiet about this. No one rats another boondocker out.
- Don’t knock and introduce yourself to the guy next door. If people venture out and wave they will be giving you the signal that they are open to chatting. People were very friendly but they are there for privacy.
- Don’t take someone else’s space. Those who camp in Class B vans and motorhomes without towing a day vehicle leave their spot with a chair or two or something to mark the spot so that it won’t be taken by someone else.
- Never dump grey water (or any tanks) on a site. There is a temptation to dump grey water because you can actually use an outdoor shower and the water goes right onto the ground but dumping a grey tank is actually a ticketed offense but also, really frowned on by neighbors.
- Don’t play loud music. Keep campfires in a firepit or within a circle of rocks you’ve fashioned. Leave no garbage behind. Don’t walk your dog near other peoples sites. No one picks up after dogs on BLM land.
- Keep dogs on leashes. Not just because they will wonder to someone else’s site but because they could chase after indigenous wildlife.
- Leave your car hood open at night and a string of lights under the engine to prevent rats from chewing your wires. They are not visible during the day but they do come out at night. Many of the boondockers have solar lights for this purpose.
I really enjoyed my first adventure dispersed camping and I want to do it next year. In 2021 I think I will head a little further south toward Yuma and enjoy access to the many trails and parks in that area. So much to see, so little time!!
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