What Is Dispersed Camping & Why You Need To Try It


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dispersed camping

Dispersed camping in the Coconino National Forest. Photo via Public Domain (NPS, Flickr)

What Is Dispersed Camping & Why You Need To Try It

Those that have been following my blog over the years know my wife and I are big fans of dispersed camping for a host of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • It puts us close to the activities we want to enjoy on public land
  • No reservations are needed, allowing us to come and go on our schedule
  • The price is right, as the “campsites” are free
  • Typically we don’t have neighbors
  • The campsites are often very scenic
  • We are surrounded by nature, not other RVs
  • It allows us to enjoy the night sky as there is seldom any light pollution


Dispersed camping refers to camping on public land in places outside of a designated campground. This means there are usually no amenities like at a campground (some popular dispersed camping areas may have toilets), so you will need to come fully prepared and self-contained. It also means you will need to leave no trace, and pack out everything that you brought in, including all trash.

This style of camping gives RVers the freedom to get out and camp on some of the most beautiful undeveloped (and unspoiled) land this country has to offer, and on your own schedule and terms. Isn’t that what RVing was meant to be?

Where is dispersed camping allowed?

Two of the largest public land agencies that allow dispersed camping are the United States Forest Service (USFS), and Bureau of Land Management, often referred to as the (BLM).

How much public land is available for dispersed camping between the USFS and BLM combined?  The two agencies oversee 437.3 million acres of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the entire United States which equates to over 19% of the whole country. That’s a whole lot of dispersed camping opportunities! 

How to find dispersed campsites

Finding boondocking sites takes a little planning, research, effort and most importantly using the right terminology when inquiring where you can boondock with your RV (or tent).  When you view a public land agency’s website and perform a search for “boondocking” you will likely end up with the message “No Search Results Found” across your screen.

The reason is public land agencies (state and federal) use the terminology “dispersed camping” when referring to undeveloped campsites dispersed across the land they oversee, not the term boondocking.

BLM land, National Forests and more can be found while planning your route on RV Trip Wizard. You can also get RV-safe GPS directions using the RV LIFE App With GPS. It’s also always a good idea to check out the street view and satellite view before you visit to get a better idea of what the back roads are like.

So the next time you want to discover your own secret hideaway on public land, perform an online search or ask a ranger where dispersed camping is allowed—you will be talking their language! 

Read more about dispersed camping:


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