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Old 11-21-2020, 07:29 AM   #1
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Boondocking trade off

When my wife and I wandered across North America on our 6 month road trip to Alaska, we had planned on doing a lot of boondocking. Things changed as we explored various free camping options. We all have different comfort levels in choosing a place to park for the night but we found many of the free options were not as secure as we wanted them. We felt sleeping in a Walmart parking lot was a bit creepy . We also realized the isolated free spots in the desert also attracted some people living on the “edge”. We avoided the crowded desert places like Quartzsite which were safer because of the crowds but were turned off by the masses of humanity. It wasn’t till we got up into the far north that we felt relaxed about boondocking. The trade off in the wilderness is the bears. They need to be considered at any remote spot. We traveled without pets so had to remain vigilant about potential uninvited guests, especially at night. Overall we loved boondocking but were choosy about where we spent the night. I’m sure others will scoff at our paranoia but it all worked out for us. My point is that “free” camping comes with strings attached.
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Old 11-21-2020, 08:25 AM   #2
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As a boondocker there is nothing good out here. There is good reason to fear the dark and desolate places. Best to stay in campgrounds. I'll take one for the team and stay out of the campgrounds.
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Old 11-21-2020, 08:39 AM   #3
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If you are worried about strange people in the desert spots then you are camping too near a large city. We have never been threatened in 40 years of camping but we almost never camp within 30 or 40 miles of a city. We did have one odd occurrence when we were driving in a National Forest and suddenly found ourselves in a 'Rainbow Family' encampment. We got some very hostile looks and gestures. The rangers finally forced them out of the area.
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Old 11-21-2020, 10:21 AM   #4
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I’m sure others will scoff at our paranoia

Yep. I'm not exactly sure why you are posting this in a boondocking forum. If you're trying to "warn" about 'people living on the "edge"', I'd say the audience here has already established their own comfort levels and this is the wrong venue.

I've found that I prefer to interact with 'people living on the "edge"' than the majority of suburbanites and city dwellers. Found them to be, at the very least, generally more transparent than most of my neighbors in suburbia. The adage, you can't judge a book by its cover, rings very true here.

I run, backpack, tent, and cowboy camp in bear country. Staying in my RV by contrast, generates very little concern.
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Old 11-21-2020, 10:41 AM   #5
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We did have one odd occurrence when we were driving in a National Forest and suddenly found ourselves in a 'Rainbow Family' encampment. We got some very hostile looks and gestures. The rangers finally forced them out of the area.
Just as a side note: while tent-hiking years ago, I wandered into a Rainbow Family large yearly gathering. It was like all of the hippies I remembered from my youth got together to camp and make tie-dyed T-shirts and smoke pot.

After a few hours of mutual side-glances and suspicion, I found them to be a fun, friendly group. It was like wandering in to a Deadhead meetup.
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Old 11-21-2020, 10:46 AM   #6
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My experience with boon docking would be the opposite I would say RV Parks have trade offs.

Bears are no big deal, I have them in my back yard all the time. Do not leave trash/food out and they will never bother you. In all but very rare cases if they see you they will turn and run away.
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Old 11-21-2020, 11:45 AM   #7
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My experience with boon docking would be the opposite I would say RV Parks have trade offs.

Bears are no big deal, I have them in my back yard all the time. Do not leave trash/food out and they will never bother you. In all but very rare cases if they see you they will turn and run away.
For some reason I just got the image of a ding-dong running after the bear with thier selfie stick for that me, me, me moment.
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Old 11-21-2020, 11:57 AM   #8
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For some reason I just got the image of a ding-dong running after the bear with thier selfie stick for that me, me, me moment.
No kidding. That usually takes care of itself also
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Old 11-21-2020, 12:47 PM   #9
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Speaking of bears brings back the memory of a writing I saw somewhere during our AK trip about how to tell what kind of bear was here by looking at it's scat. Black bear scat is full of the normal things they eat, berries, etc., Brown bear scat contains bells, whistles, and remnants of pepper spray containers.

We have been traveling from coast to coast nearly every year since the late '70s, particularly from OR where we live to WV where we grew up, but also north and south to see things of interest and visit friends. I have always carried "protection" and we have nearly always overnighted in places of "opportunity". These include Walmart's (usually when we needed supplies) truck stops (after fueling) rest areas, (while traveling and for water/dumping) and picnic areas, or wide spots in the road. If we were staying any length of time we would find a facility that allowed that.

For example, on our 1.5 month AK trip we spent three nights at Chicken in a campground while my wife panned for gold (I got to refill the buckets), and two nights in a campground across the river from Dawson City while we visited there. Neither campground had hookups and where we stayed at in Chicken was more like a graveled parking lot. The one at Dawson was very nice and right by the Yukon river. The rest of the time we stayed in "places of opportunity". We we left our "protection" at home for the trip, but found out later that it was possible to take a shotgun along by getting the necessary permits from Canada early on.

We have never had a serious problem with bears or other predators, but I try not to do anything to provoke it. There were only two times that I felt threatened enough by outside happenings to have the "protection" close at hand (both near/in cities), but neither materialized, thanks to alert law enforcement. There was also a time when we left the TC parked near the French Quarter in New Orleans during mid-afternoon while exploring, and came back to watch a thief go across the crowded street with my shotgun in one hand and our camera bag in the other. One just never knows.

We still travel the same way and will continue to as long as we are able to. To be honest, I don't think it is as safe to do so as it once was because of many factors, but I don't think we'll change. For us it is simply easier and more convenient. No reservations, scheduling, time spent checking in/out, time spent driving to where ever the campground is, etc. It seems easier to just go.

Best of luck.

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Old 11-21-2020, 01:16 PM   #10
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As a boondocker there is nothing good out here. There is good reason to fear the dark and desolate places. Best to stay in campgrounds. I'll take one for the team and stay out of the campgrounds.


Well i don’t want you to have to go it alone so i’ll help you vacate the cg.
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Old 11-21-2020, 01:20 PM   #11
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Boondocking/drycamping almost exclusively for over 20 years, we'd have to say we have rarely felt uncomfortable. On the couple of odd occasions we have we've just moved on to something/somewhere else = simple. Yes it's changed exponentially as has the economy that has effected a lot of what we see going on nowadays but for the most-part we feel safer out in the boonies than in or nearer larger populated areas.

As for wildlife, treat with respect, keep a distance, discourage food odours, and make a little noise to not startle them when out in their territory. Just like humans there'll always be a rogue one out there somewhere.
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Old 11-21-2020, 02:49 PM   #12
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We also almost exclusively dry camp. Have never felt Walmart parking lots were creepy and while traveling we stay at one almost every night. We always ask and when we asked at one in Phoenix, the manager said it was OK but he wouldn't. We decided to spend that night at a near by Flying J.

We have found that AZ and CA offer the easiest dry camping. In our home state of North Dakota, while extremely rural there are very few places to dry camp and it is even worse in neighboring Minnesota.
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Old 11-21-2020, 02:54 PM   #13
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We do the bondocking and love it. I agree walmart parking lots are out. Last one was early 1990's. But we do free roadside camping. Where ever we camp, I feel safe, if I didn't I would leave.

Dry camping we do at lot at NF and SF dry campsites. Once we did the SP near Big Ben. No one was there but us. 1,000 feet to US/Mexico boarder. Nearest house 20+ miles. Once every few hours someone would drive down the road at night. No cell phone service for 10+ miles.

Bondocking out west is great

We normally mix up our camping between sites with electric and none electric. But Almost never full service, except when visiting DD and GK's in Punta Gorda. But come AC season it is electric CS's only. On our longer trips we dry camp or free camp %20-%25 of the time
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Old 11-21-2020, 04:58 PM   #14
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In our home state of North Dakota, while extremely rural there are very few places to dry camp and it is even worse in neighboring Minnesota.
It's been one of my greatest disappointments that my home state of Minnesota is one of the least friendly places for non-commercial camping.
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