Jim Hammill: Boondocking is NOT a dirty word

Boondocking is enjoyed by many

Boondocking is enjoyed by many

We Roadtrekers are quite different from the rest of the RV industry. In fact, while Roadtreks offer the basic functionality, it has always been our major focus to allow our owners to “dry camp” for reasonable periods of time. Of late, we are very focused on environmentally responsible and long term “off the grid” touring and living.

We are not basic RV units. We don't need plugs, and we don't need concrete pads. We can stay for extended periods, and we don't need those hookups. We have off the grid capability, and we use it.

This has become recently a focus point for many private campground owners, who seem to resent and attack both this company and Mike Wendland for promoting that lifestyle. And frankly, I am not in the mood for mediation on this topic. We have the right to travel and camp, and campground owners do not have the right to take money for nothing. Our units don't need their amenities. We may choose to use those amenities. And we do, a lot. But we don't have to, and nobody will tell us that.

Boondocking is not a dirty word. It is an enjoyable choice, just like choosing to stay at a campground that has amenities. A choice. And no campground owner should have the ability to take choice away. We have rights.

When we buy a Roadtrek, we didn't sign up to sustain every campground owner with our dollars. We do use campgrounds frequently. And we spend a lot of money in them. And then, when we choose not to, we don't expect to be attacked for using the functionality of our highly engineered units to enjoy traveling with low cost and flexibility.

We do reward the non campground businesses that allow us to overnight, by spending money there.   We are usually parked for eight hours, maybe nine or ten, and we don't carry kids, and we don't have slides that take up two or three spots. We are clean, and quiet. And we spend money in the community. A lot more than the campground owner charges. Fuel. Food. Repairs. Laundry. Clothing. Hardware. Books. We sight see and visit museums and stay in hotels. And the campground owner simply competes with some of those activities, and is therefore attacking his indirect competitors through us.

Roadtrek has recently seen much online action from angry campground owners who resent the word Boondocker. And those owners have no idea where you are camping, they have no idea if they were personally affected. Some just hate the word and the concept that someone would actually sleep in a vehicle in a parking spot, that they are NOT paying for.

Mike Wendland and Roadtreking.com has been attacked for running a site that promotes boondocking. Campground owners are threatening him, and threatening to stop advertising with the FMCA if he doesn't stop this type of reporting.

Well, the FMCA represents motorhome owners and manufacturers, not campground owners. We need campgrounds, and we like some of them, and we like using them when we decide to use them.

While we have some shared interests, manufacturers and campground owners and RV owners have mostly divergent interests.

And campground owners, our Roadtrekers are your customers. Don't attack your own customers. That's a huge mistake. Especially if they don't need you, and our owners don't need you all the time.

I am going to continue engineering, building and selling Roadtreks, and making them better and better all the time for boondocking, which I think is a sweet word, and a wonderful pastime.

I have asked Mike to create a page here that tells all Roadtrekers what communities have ordinances against RV parking, and what communities allow it. We also need to know what campgrounds welcome Roadtrekers, and what campground owners don't.

We need a lexicon to compare routes and we need a list of businesses and places that welcome us. That's important.

Maybe our next model should be called the Boondocker.

– Jim Hammill




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  • Marty

    Great article Jim !
    My wife and I have a have a 1987 190V which I have fully equipped for boondocking. We camp fully independent of any hook ups. We love to Boondock and not just because it’s free. It’s more the feeling of independence. We love the fact that we do not need a campground. We also camp at campgrounds with full amenities which we have also enjoyed. One of the greatest pleasures of a Roadtrek or any other class B are the options available to you. If we are traveling and just need a place to rest, the Walmart parking lot works just fine. If we are staying a few days we will find a local campground. In the end where we stay is our choice.

  • Jim Rinaldi

    While I do not own a Roadtrek (I have a 35 foot Class A) I wholeheartedly agree with the opinions expressed here. I also enjoy occasional boondocking, and when travelling will stay overnight at a Walmart rather than a campground. When I do that, I do not put out my slides or in any way “set up camp.” I leave early in the morning, after having breakfast at the MacDonald’s inside the Walmart, and checking to see what supplies we might need to purchase there. Keep up your mission!

    • Yan Seiner

      Val:

      What we object to are bills like this one: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_124th/billpdfs/HP009802.pdf – lobbied for and pushed by the Campground Owners Association with the express purpose of driving people to stay at commercial RV parks.

      These bills are popping up everywhere and there has been a long-term organized push by the local and national Camground Owners Associations to pass these bills at city and state levels.

      The Campground Owners’ Associations are attempting to regulate what other private property owners choose to do on their own private property to benefit themselves. That’s wrong.

      I understand that campground owners often struggle and the recession has not been good for business. But this is not the way to solve business woes and your associations have to expect pushback from those of us affected.

  • Well said, Jim! I am proud to be a Roadtrek owner, and appreciate the ongoing support evidenced here to allow us to enjoy our Roadtreks “off the grid”. We do spend a lot of money in the communities through which we travel, and a list of communities that welcome “boondockers” is a great idea. Thanks for standing up to those who want to bully us into paying for services we don’t always need or want.

  • Campskunk

    i spend ALL my money in the communities through which i travel – i’m a fulltimer. i have had some really good experiences in campgrounds – after a week or two waaaay out in the national forest, i like to come into town, do laundry, clean up, and generally have a day of beauty. i don’t hate campgrounds, any more than i hate towtrucks – when i need one, i’m glad they’re there. i just don’t need one every day.

    the RV industry is changing – people used to go out in vehicles so primitive they had no batteries. everything was dead until you pluggd in. four years ago i modified my vehicle to allow me to boondock for extended periods and hit the road, and now that evil Jim Hammill is selling new Roadtreks that would put my homebrew boondockmobile to shame. it’s getting crowded out here in the wilderness 😉

  • shari groendyk

    Well I didn’t realize there was a backlash against boondockers by the campground industry. How short-sighted of them. We are their potential customers for goodness sake. We bought our Etrek for the very purpose of camping out in the middle of nature, without being surrounded by other folks. Of course it’s nice to sometimes have the amenities of a campground, but to think that the campground owners would actively put up road blocks for us to engage in independent camping, is maddening.
    Mike, if you start a campaign against their campaign, you know we will all jump on that bandwagon to let them know we will not be cowed by them, and we WILL call out their names for the rest of the rv community to see …. Keep us informed, please.

    • Val Brochner

      There is no backlash against boondockers. We don’t care and realize that sometimes people just want to pull off the road for the night. We have only spoken out about the articles that make a point of knocking private RV Parks. Why keep bashing us over and over? The man can stay wherever he likes, we don’t care, and we don’t make any city ordinances, the cities do that. We just want these gentleman to make a living on their own merit, and leave us alone.

  • Great piece, Jim. The “boondocking” capabilities of my RS are the very features that prompted me to buy it seven years ago. Just this past week it was put to the test and, as it always has, performed like a champ.

    I’ll be looking forward to seeing Mike’s posts regarding those communities which don’t allow “boondocking” at places like Walmart and, I’ll add to the list if I find any places not already on the list.

    Thanks for creating such a great line of RVs.

  • David

    “…and we don’t carry kids…”. What’s that supposed to mean? We travel around with our three boys, and often one or two of there friends in our Roadtrek RS all the time. Your statement is abrasive at the least and even somewhat offensive. As if carrying kids is a bad thing.

    I remember a great article Mike wrote about traveling with kids and grandkids, touting how versatile their Roadtrek is.

    I also read last week “Double-income-earning families with 2.2 children are the new typical RV buyers with an average age of 35 to 54.” Recreational Vehicle Indiana Council. Quoted from rvtravel.com

    I don’t understand why you defend Roadtrekkers for boondocking by negatively commenting on RVers in general for “carrying” kids.

    BTW, we boondock quite often with our kids. They love it just as much as us. Its not always about the money. For us its more about the seclusion.

    • Campskunk

      Jim Hammill has kids- three of them – and they go camping with him. Read his other stories. http://roadtreking.com/hiding-cougars-rv-adventures-boys/ What he’s talking about is the Roadtrek buyer demographic in general, not any one owner in particular. The most typical Roadtrekkers are a retired couple – empty nesters.

    • Yan Seiner

      There are kids and kids, just like there are campers and campers. I’m the guy that wrote the travelogue about traveling with 4 teens. We boondock with kids, and never have a problem, but quite often we see kids behaving very badly in campgrounds while the parents do nothing. Kids who run through other people’s sites, who hack down trees, who leave trash on the ground, who scream and yell and play hide-and-seek at 2 AM around your rig.

      At least in my experience most of us who boondock at least understand the Leave No Trace philosophy and respect nature, and that goes for our kids as well.

    • Gail Kapusnick

      I took it as meaning not needing playgrounds, bounce houses, sandlots and all the other amenities that parks that cater to families generally provide. I could be wrong though.

  • K&L Flanders

    We’ll never forget boondocking at Cabella’s! They even had a dump station! We spent $250 on waterproof jackets in their store!

  • Laura HP

    Great article. We are in a dynamic market full of all kinds of changes. Change is scary to folks. I’m sure the buggy whip mfg community had disparaging remarks for Henry Ford…but he pushed on. Business owners, to stay viable in the marketplace, must embrace the changes their paying customers want…or they go out of business. There is room for all kinds of camping options. Put a “drive-thru” lane of sorts in campgrounds…charge a fair price…promote it…watch what happens! Thanks for leading the charge.

  • danrapson

    Small companies and small people no longer appeal to me. If the campground owners can’t figure out a business model that allows them to stay in business then they should fail. And they will and they are. When people in this country want to get away they don’t want to park within 15 feet of another ‘house’.

  • Ruth

    Excellent! Apparently there is no one at the city council meetings to explain to them that they are cutting off their nose if they attempt to exclude boondockers and that is a shame. I wonder if it would be worthwhile to share an informative email with the mayor’s office when we come across these unfriendly municipalities? Just write a friendly note explaining what boondocking is and since they have decided to ban it (against the wishes of the companies who actually own the land) why you will not be spending money in their town. Sometimes a little friendly information goes a long way.

  • Jane & Pat Dunphy

    Well said, Jim Hammell! We have often thought that these campground owners could make a bit more money and serve those of us ‘getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ by providing a limited number of low-cost ‘no-facilities’ spaces. We don’t like paying the big bucks to roll in to a campsite at 8:00 pm and roll out at 9:00 am, having not used the shop, the swimming pool, or even the bathroom! That’s just one of the ways we ‘Boondock’, but it’s a frustration.

    That said, I don’t agree with those who pull into our local Walmart and put out the sliders, BBQ’s, carpets, deck chairs, etc. That is not cool!

  • Excellent and I love the idea of creating the page with the list of communities that ban boondocking ! I posted this link on Campskunk’s civil disobedience article-it might be helpful-a parking rights council run by Good Sam
    http://www.goodsamclub.com/parkingrights/Default.aspx

  • Val Brochner

    No one attacked you or your writer for boondocking. I said we’d rather not have the company of someone who doesn’t want to be in our park. Boondock all you like, what we think is wrong is that you write articles like the one above “Campings Filthy Secret” and so on. Why not make your living promoting your great product instead of making unfair and untrue comments that could affect the life and business of someone you’ve never met or done business with. Seems if your machine was that good and your reporter had something interesting to say you wouldn’t have to stir up controversy to get readership. Just as we don’t lump all boondockers together, we’d like the same simple courtesy from you.

  • Mr. Hammill, my http://www.OvernightRVParking.com website (which costs $25/year for a access) currently lists more than 11,000 specific locations in the USA and Canada, showing where Overnight RV Parking is and is not allowed. This includes one-night stays at Walmarts, Cracker Barrels, Flying J’s and similar businesses. We also list many BLM areas, and we include publicly and privately owned campgrounds which charge $20/night or less. What can I do to help compile and/or host a freely accessible lists of “Anti-RV” cities and towns in the USA and Canada?

    JIm O’Briant
    CEO & Administrator
    http://www.OvernightRVParking.com

    • Lisa

      That would be great, Jim!

    • Gail K.

      Jim, I wrote a long response about this but I think it disappeared into the interwebs. I’m a member of your site and what I think would be a great addition would be little “no parking” symbols on towns that have anti-rv ordinances in place. While this info is noted in the listings for Walmarts and such, it would be great to have the marker on each town that you learn of, even if it doesn’t currently have an ONP listing so I know not to stop there. (Plus I don’t necessarily click on the listings if I’m just stopping to shop or get gas.) I’d rather spend my gas and food $$ in places where I’m welcome. Plus apparently some of these places even harass/sticker/ticket rvers who’ve just stopped to shop or for lunch or dinner! Who needs that?? Maybe the person who had the rvunfriendly site could share the database since their site is defunct. I think this would be a great addition to your site.

  • Leaving next week for 2 months. Will gladly forward names of RV friendly or unfriendly places. Thanks Mike, for being willing to be a keeper of the list.

  • Darlene

    It is not always about campgrounds wanting the $$ from cheapskates like us 🙂 It is about safety. Living in a tourist town with large parking lots everywhere, it was a problem. The problem is always people taking advantage, abusing and not using commonsense. If they allowed it here, there wouldn’t be parking for those who want to visit the “tourist traps” 😉 You’d have kids running around parking lots, while mom & dad sipping wine or having a beer. College kids sleeping in their vehicles, etc. And, then you have your PIGS. No respect for anyone. You can’t say yes to some and no to others. We have become a world of “it’s not fair”, “that’s discrimination”, and sue happy people. If you allow one, you have to allow all. I’m not defending anyone, just giving another point of view. These communities who band RV’s from overnight camping may have had serious problems. It’s not always about forcing someone to spend their night at a campground, although, there are those communities too. When we see these signs, we are disappointed, but also wonder if its for their safety or ours. I’m more upset with campgrounds who charge B’s the same price as an A , C, TT, or 5er, or don’t want you because you don’t meet their standards. Then I say…isn’t America great!!! I don’t want to lose my “freedom to choose”. Some states allow “resting” in rest stops, some don’t. Maybe if they allowed it in all states, we would have less travelers seeking side streets or parking lots.

  • Neil

    Nothing more and nothing less than the almighty buck being chased by some greedy people who know as much about real RVing and boondocking and the great outdoors as they do about brain surgery.

  • Sherry Hooker

    David, I don’t think Jim was trying to make a statement against children, it’s that people with children are more likely to seek the private campgrounds or state parks that offer playgrounds, beaches, and the like, that help keep children occupied and happy while camping. We older folks without children seem to seek the solitude of boondocking.

    Since our little B isn’t equipped for boondocking we tend to camp in state and federal parks that don’t have playgrounds, beaches or golf courses. As a general rule we try to go when the parks are a little quieter, so we avoid week-ends and holidays. When we take our grandchildren we tend to search out parks with things they enjoy. Since my husband is a disabled vet and we are both over 65, we get great deals with the state and government parks. Being on fixed incomes we find it more appealing to pay for a week at these parks rather than the same for one or two nights in a private park.

  • Jim Hammill

    Hi folks, I travel and camp with my kids. But I do understand why residents would be concerned about Rvs parked at a walmart for several days with kids running around, as my kids can be a very active group. I think reasonable limits on boondocking are ok.

    Val Brochner, are you one of the campground owners that has been threatening to attack mike Wendland with the FMCa if he doesn’t stop allowing campskunk to write articles? Are you against free speech in reporting? He doesn’t like campgrounds, so what? I suspect your bill of rights allows him to prefer other places. Campground owners have no right to demand that articles be edited. That’s really an anti democratic approach, in my opinion.

    I bought a membership in OvernightRVparking.com yesterday and I can tell all of you that it is superb. I used it for a plan to camp I have this weekend. You should all join, and submit more info to that site to make it more comprehensive. It’s already awesome, and we should do more.

  • Judi Darin

    I also bought a membership for overnightrvparking – I bought it 10 days ago so paid full price, but it is well worth it, and I would have gladly paid a bit more. I’m starting out on a year long trip to wander Alaska and other states, and I will pass along information about communities that restrict our right to legally park in a spot of our choice. We’re not a bunch of law breakers, but if businesses allow us and welcome us to park in their lots, which they own, then so be it. For anyone to suggest censoring Mike’s opinions or reporting is ludicrous.

    I stay in private campgrounds as well as state and national parks, and have found so many private campgrounds inadequate. It’s disappointing to pull into a site and find you can’t put out your awning or slide because your neighbor is so close. Or your picnic table is on top of their sewer connection. If the private park owners want respect and our business, then they need to step it up. There are some lovely parks, but that doesn’t seem, in my experience, to be the norm.

    Val, are you a private park owner, and if so, where is you park?

  • Jack

    As is made evident by the comments above, this is actually a self-correcting issue. We’ve experienced similar dynamics when boondocking, sailboat cruising on 4 continents (where anchoring out is invited some places, prohibited in others), and now air camping (with some public airports welcoming under-wing camping and others horrified at the idea). Once a little daylight is provided on this issue, such as is happening here and on relevant forums & message lists, the ‘problem’ will simply evolve into one of informed choice. Jim’s website & list is a good example of how – and why – this works. Just as RV’ers learn over time – by first hand experience and word of mouth – which campgrounds are decent and which are to be avoided. Some communities – e.g. small ones near inviting recreational destinations with limited camping facilities – might have a legitimate reason to prohibit overnight parking on public streets, altho’ this is far less extreme than a city council imposing restrictions on every private property owner as well. Just patronize who supports your overnight stops, stay informed and the rest will take care of itself.

    BTW I do think there’s a bit of a disservice being done in these blogs by weaving together two different RV practices. Boondocking is off-the-grid camping, usually referring to a stay of one or more days and ‘setting up camp’. Overnight ‘parking’ – so the crew can rest, eat and prepare for the next day’s adventures – really should be differentiated from it when discussing this issue. As I understand it, the issue is about preserving parking options. Let’s not clump them together.

  • Lisa

    Maybe we coin a new term for parking overnight without utilities in a parking lot type place, “boonparking”, maybe?

  • Walt

    Hello All
    Looking for a place to spend the winter……There is a place called Coyote Howls East in a little town called Why, in Arizona south of Ajo…. they have free Wi-Fi, water, showers,…Dance every Friday night, Movie every Monday night, Hikes every week, card games, craft sales once a month.. For the people that stay for the winter there is a free Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, you can volunteer to be a cook or server or clean up. not required but lot of fun….The price for all this is $550.00 for a year— your lot is held for you if you leave and come back….you may have a 8×10 shed on your lot for storage….we are currently spending the winter here now and have had more fun than any where else we have been…….the one thing you do need is solar power there is no electric hook ups they do have water at most sites… and 5 dump stations.. a small golf coarse (a tough one)…A DVD library, Book Library…Laundry……. All in all an nice place to stay. And if you need electric there is Coyote Howls west Walt & Mel
    all are welcome day week month or yearly
    http://coyotehowls.net/index.php

  • Dave

    We don’t have a Roadtrek but I agree with most of you. We have an old Eurovan CV and on our way back to British Columbia from a 2.5 month trip across Canada. We’ve only spent $10.50 on camping during the entire journey and that was at a provincial park in BC at the beginning of the trip. We’ve parked at Walmart, Husky, ONroute, and some city streets. One can do that with a Eurovan. We’re not rich – we’re on pensions. If I paid to stay in campgrounds I’d be out $1500 for this trip. That’s a lot of gas and grub. And that’s only at $20 per night, which isn’t the norm. We don’t need power either. WiFi is everywhere. The bottom line here for us is this —– it’s none of anybody’s business where we park. As long as we’re not on private property or parked illegally and only use the space to sleep, so what? Campgrounds can make their money somewhere else – not from us. I’m sure they get enough from all those bloated, slide-out, cumbersome mile-long rigs out there. IMHO

  • Laura P. Schulman

    Well, ya know, I’ve been camping since before I was born, and ever since. My dad was a WWII vet and expert woodsman. We didn’t even use pre-made tents. He constructed each one out of canvas. We slept in bedrolls on a tarp. Sharp rocks and sticks kept me awake all night. My own style of camping used to be a sleeping bag rolled up in a piece of plastic sheeting.

    That was then.

    Now that I’m effing old, I still don’t like neighbors, but I love driving my house. And I want to be able to take my house wherever I go. So I bought a Roadtrek.

    I’m upgrading from a 190P to a CS Adventurous with 4WD, because I like to go where I want to go. Even when I used to horse camp with a 33 ft trailer with full living quarters, hauling with a heavy duty Ram 4WD pickup, I went wherever I wanted.

    My M.O. is to stop in a campground once a week, dump my tanks, take on water, do my laundry, and head out.

    I full time, by the way.

    So the campgrounds get some money out of me, but I don’t owe them a thing. They provide me with a convenient service, and that’s what they’re for.

    There are plenty of big rigs for them to feed off.

    As for me…don’t fence me in!