Boondockers Are Sticklers About Definitions – Who Knew?


I was recently talking to some folks about the differences between boondocking and overlanding. As exciting as the topic might seem, it only interested me because I had to write a piece about it. During the course of my research, I discovered that some boondockers are sticklers about their definitions. Who knew?

Let me give you a basic definition of boondocking. From there, we’ll get into some of the nuances. Those nuances will reveal why definitions matter so much to some people in the boondocking community. Here is the basic definition: boondocking is RV camping without access to hookups or amenities.

For the record, I did not make up this definition myself. It comes directly from a conglomeration of online resources devoted to RVs and the RVing lifestyle. When I mentioned it to the folks I was talking to, some of them went off. It was like I had spoken the unspeakable.

Only in the Wilderness

To the most hardcore boondockers, such a loose definition is no different than lumping ropes and bungie cords in with cam straps – just because all three are considered truck tie-downs. More on that later. For now, you need to know that I was abruptly instructed by my research group that genuine boondocking only occurs in the wilderness. Oh yeah… and it can’t involve a developed campground no matter how primitive the site.

A true boondocker drives their rig out into a wiliness area where there are no amenities and no hookups. There may not even be any other people around. It is just the RV owner, their traveling companions, and wild nature.

Getting back to the tie-down example, all cam straps are considered tie-down straps. Yet not all tie-down straps are cam straps. As the folks behind explain, tie-downs don’t even have to be rope or bungie cords. They can be chains, cables, or just about anything else that gets the job done. Similarly, all boondocking sites are dry sites but not all dry sites are boondocking sites. Get it?

Boondocking That Isn’t

If you are thoroughly confused, please accept my apologies. I was confused at first, too. But I listened carefully to what my new friends were telling me. They managed to explain their thinking by giving me examples of boondocking that really isn’t. Here are a few of them:

  • Dry Camping – Dry camping (no hookups) at a developed campground isn’t boondocking because you still have access to amenities like showers and toilets. You probably even have a picnic table at your campsite.
  • Driveway Camping – Also known as mooch camping, driveway camping is parking your RV in someone’s driveway. You stay in your RV even without hookups.
  • Wally Camping – Wally camping takes its name from the practice of parking an RV overnight in a Walmart parking lot. A lot of RV owners consider this boondocking. Hardcore boondockers do not.
  • Casino Camping – Casino camping is a cousin of Wally camping. RV owners with a thing for slot machines and blackjack tables often stop for a night or two on their way through a gambling town. But parking overnight in the casino parking lot apparently isn’t boondocking.

To summarize, you are not boondocking if your RV isn’t parked in a wilderness location where there are no amenities or hookups. Anything short of that is just camping without hookups. Who knew? Apparently, I didn’t. But thanks to a helpful group of boondockers who are dead serious about their definitions, I am now up to speed on the whole thing. Mark my words. I will never use the wrong definition again. I hope.

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