'Round The Campfire

How to Boondock Safely

More from Outdoor Living Newsletter February Outdoor Living Newsletter
RV boondocking aka dry camping
RV boondocking

The boondocks used to be a place you didn't want to go - "don't go too far or you'll end up in the boondocks!" Boondocking, otherwise known as dry camping, typically involves parking up in a place with limited amenities. RVers may sometimes find themselves having to boondock in parking lots or public lands, especially in remote areas or long stretches of interstate where getting to a campground or RV park may take you too far off course.

Boondocking, when done sensibly, can be safe and a lot of fun, regardless of your age! Here are a few common sense safety tips to remember:

Pick Wisely

More often than not the reason you are boondocking is to avoid going too far off course. Therefore places like Interstate rest areas, Wal Mart car parks, truck stops and malls are likely locales. A good rule of thumb is to pick places that you would be comfortable visiting, by yourself by day. Graffiti walls, burnt trash cans, hypodermic needles littering the ground and broken windows are a sure sign of trouble!

Green tick Do look for well lit areas, places with reasonable foot traffic and even signs of other RVers.
Green tick Do ensure that you have enough space to park and exit your RV safely, out of range of passing traffic.
Green tick Do check for signs that prohibit overnight parking.

Make Use of Sunlight

Playing sleepovers in a parking lot or rest area will expose you to things that go bump in the night. Strange noises, the constant whoosh of highway traffic and even the occasional vagabond. Therefore ensure you time your journey, mapping it out or using your GPS, to arrive at least an hour before daylight begins to dwindle. It will give you enough time to familiarize yourself with your surroundings and also do all the necessary things to stay safe.

Green tick Do walk Fido before it gets dark.
Green tick Do a quick RV safety check and lock up outside storage panels.
Green tick Do (if you have a basic RV) use the public rest room facilities and get household chores done, like washing up plates and brushing teeth.

Be Aware of Stranger Danger

Your RV is surprisingly secure. There is typically only one or two ways to enter. Provided you have locked your doors to prevent intrusion, you have the upper hand in being able to drive off at a moment's notice. The key is not to expose yourself to unnecessary risk.

Red cross Don't allow strangers to "have a look around" - many passersby will take an interest and it is best to politely say no.
Red cross Don't invite strangers to stop by - most travelers are very friendly and you may have things in common. If you want to build that bond, exchange email addresses or arrange to share a campfire at the next campground.
Red cross Don't be rude to wanderers. Firm politeness and treating everyone with respect gets you a long way. Otherwise, you may find you have a flat tire or scratched paintwork in the morning.

Go in Pairs

Here's one to remember - if you do have to head out at night, make sure you go together. Twos are much safer than ones.

Green tick Do ensure you have well charged flashlights.
Green tick Do lock all doors, windows and hatches behind you, especially if you are stepping away from your RV.
Green tick Do carry your cell phone with you.

Don't Advertise

You can get so familiar with your RV that the "Jones Family from Alabama" sticker - with cut out figures of mom, dad, two little girls and cat - that is plastered across the back of your motor home becomes near invisible to you. But these will be very visible to others. These "advertisements" are what no-gooders look for. It is best to temporarily remove or cover up embellishments that give away too much information about you (e.g. name, age, status) or your belongings (e.g. avid collector of gold coins, we accept Visa platinum decal, "home on wheels" sticker - aka: everything I own is here for you to steal!).

Green tick Do a "double take" of the exterior to really see what your little additions say to the world.
Green tick Do bring tape and trash bags to temporarily cover up, if needed.
Green tick Do draw your blinds to lessen the temptation for peeping toms with sticky fingers.

Overnight boondocking can be a fun and safe adventure. Just be sure to use your common sense, take simple precautions and you'll be on your way, nice and refreshed.

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