Top 10 Reasons We Prefer Roadside Camping

After 67 days living on the road in an RV, we’ve decided that we like roadside camping better than camping in a campground or RV park.  Roadside camping is where you pull your RV off onto nationally managed land and camp.  Most national forests, national preserves, national monuments and bureau of land management (BLM) land allow roadside camping, whereas national parks do not.  Roadside camping goes by several names, such as dispersed camping and fire ring camping.  Some also use the terms boondocking and dry docking to describe roadside camping but these terms really mean that you’re not connected to electricity and water and that you’re living off the resources contained within your RV, and this can occur in campgrounds as well (see #6 below).

Regardless of which national entity manages the land, the requirements for roadside camping are pretty standard.   There are really only 3 rules.  Your RV must be:
1. At least 200 feet back off the road,
2. In an established (previously used) site,
3. And not within 1/4 mile of a tourist attraction or campground

We’ve tried roadside camping in the Mohave National Preserve and in the BLM land that borders Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.  We enjoyed it very much.  Here are the top 10 reasons we prefer it to staying in a campground or RV park. (Reminder: click on any picture to see a larger version and hover over any picture to see the caption.)

Roadside camping in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Top 10 Reasons We Prefer Roadside Camping
10. Solitude – There are no other people within miles of us vs. having neighbors on all sides as is the case in an RV park or campground.

Shadow and Darby wander freely.

9. Dogs Run Free – We just open the door and let Darby and Shadow out because they stay within a few hundred feet of the RV, never roaming very far.  In an RV campground, we must walk them on a leash, and they must always be on a rope when sitting outside the RV.  In addition, the dogs do what they do naturally: guard the RV which is very much appreciated in remote roadside camping locations.  If someone drives up to the RV, they bark to let us know we have an “intruder.”  In a campground, poor Darby and Shadow get confused when we tell them to not bark at every person or dog that walks by.

Roadside camping in Mohave National Preserve

8. Quiet – It’s so incredibly quiet way out in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a quiet even we have rarely experienced.  We love listening to only  the sounds of nature, such as coyotes, owls, rain, wind, frogs and crickets.

7. Run the Generator Whenever – Campgrounds have hours when you can run the generator to cook or charge up laptop batteries, such as 7-9 a.m. 12-2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.  When roadside camping, if say, Timm’s laptop is out of battery power (that never happens!) at 11 p.m. and he’s in the blog-writing mood, he just turns on the generator.

6. Free – Roadside camping is free, whereas campgrounds charge a per night fee of between $12 and $40 per night.  This may not seem like a lot but it adds up day after day.  There’s nothing better than free.  Not only that, but many campgrounds charge a fee even if they don’t provide electricity and water.  For example, in Valley of Fire State Park, the fee was $20 per night to camp but with no electricity or water hookup.

5. No Reservations Required – With roadside camping, you just show up in a spot and if no one is in it, it’s yours.  Most campgrounds fill up, especially on the weekends, so advanced reservations are usually a good idea.

4. Privacy – Because there are no other people within miles, we don’t have to close the shades at night or worry that we’re bothering the neighbors in any way.

Theresa, Shadow and Darby look down on the RV while hiking (small white dot in valley below)

3. Close to Hikes – The sites we’ve camped in are close to the hikes we want to do.  Several hikes, we were able to walk out of the RV onto the trail or blaze our own trail up a mountain.

3rd roadside camping spot in Mohave, moving closer to hikes and along the route we wanted to take

2. Flexibility – When roadside camping, if we’re having fun in a pretty area with nice weather, we can just stay an extra day or two and don’t have to get permission from anyone.  Or, we might move the RV down the road to a new campsite that is closer to a hike and that moves us along the route we’ll drive later.

And the number one reason we love roadside camping…

1. Breathtaking Views – We’ve found some amazing campsites, surrounded by 360 degree views of mountains or canyons.  Timm has done a great job researching and finding options for roadside camping on the web.  So far, we’ve been lucky to find the sites he picks unoccupied. Spectacular!

Beauty all around in Mohave

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