How to Go Free Camping in the US

Camping is a great way to explore the outdoors and get closer to nature. But traditional campgrounds can be crowded, noisy, and expensive. Free camping might be the way to go if you’re looking for a more peaceful and budget-friendly camping experience.

Free camping, also known as boondocking, dispersed camping, or primitive camping, is camping outside designated campsites or RV parks, usually on public lands. This post will cover everything you need to know to go free camping in the US.


Research Free Camping Options

Before you go free camping, it’s important to research your options. Not all public lands allow free camping, and some have restrictions or require permits. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the US Forest Service, and the National Park Service are good places to start your research. You can also find free camping spots on websites and apps like, Campendium, and iOverlander and websites run by enthusiasts such as Outdoor Scott.

Check the Regulations

Once you’ve found a free camping spot, checking the regulations is important. Each public land management agency has its own rules and regulations regarding camping. Some may have time limits, fire restrictions, or other requirements. Ensure you understand and follow the regulations to avoid fines or other penalties.

Pack Appropriately

Free camping usually means camping without amenities like toilets, water, or electricity. Therefore, it’s important to pack appropriately for your trip. You’ll need to bring enough food, water, and supplies to last the duration of your stay. You may also need to bring a portable toilet, a water filtration system, and a generator or solar panels for power.

Leave No Trace

When camping in the great outdoors, it’s important to leave no trace of your visit. This means packing out all your trash, including food scraps, and disposing of human waste in a designated area or burying it in a hole at least 200 feet from any water source.

You should also avoid damaging vegetation by sticking to established hiking and camping trails, and avoiding creating new ones. Additionally, be respectful of wildlife by keeping your distance and not disturbing their habitats. By leaving no trace, you can help preserve the natural beauty of the wilderness for future generations to enjoy.

Be Prepared for Emergencies

When you’re camping in remote areas, it’s important to be prepared for emergencies. Bring a first aid kit, map, compass, GPS device, and satellite phone or emergency beacon. Let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back, and check in with them when you return.

Practice Safe Campfire Use

Campfires can be a great way to stay warm and cook food, but they can also be dangerous. When you’re free camping, make sure to practice safe campfire use. Build fires in designated fire rings or on existing fire scars, keep fires small, and never leave a fire unattended. Make sure your fire is completely extinguished before leaving the area.

Respect Wildlife and Other Visitors

Free camping often means camping in areas where wildlife is present. It’s important to respect wildlife and their habitats. Don’t feed or approach wildlife, store your food and trash properly to avoid attracting wildlife, and give wildlife plenty of space. You should also be considerate of other visitors. Keep noise levels down, don’t park or camp too close to other people, and be respectful of other people’s privacy and space.

In conclusion, free camping can be a great way to explore the outdoors and save cash on camping fees. However, it’s important to research your options, check the regulations, pack appropriately, leave no trace, be prepared for emergencies, practice safe campfire use, and respect wildlife and other visitors. By following these tips, you can have a safe and enjoyable free camping experience in the US.

Plan Your Route

Once you’ve researched your options and checked the regulations, it’s time to plan your route. You can use online maps and guidebooks to find free camping spots along your route. You should also plan your driving and hiking routes to avoid damaging fragile ecosystems or endangering wildlife. It’s a good idea to have a backup plan in case your chosen camping spot is full or unavailable.

Choose the Right Vehicle

When free camping, you’ll need to choose the right vehicle for your trip. If you’re camping in a car, you may need to bring a tent and other camping gear. If you’re camping in an RV, you’ll need to find a spot to accommodate your size and power needs. You may also need to bring extra fuel, water, and propane depending on the length of your trip.

Consider the Weather

When free camping, you’ll be exposed to the elements. It’s important to consider the weather when planning your trip and packing your gear. Ensure you have enough warm clothing and gear for cold nights and rain, and bring plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent for hot days. You should also check the weather forecast before and during your trip, and be prepared to adjust your plans if necessary.

Learn Basic Camping Skills

When free camping, you’ll need to have some basic camping skills. You should know how to set up a tent or RV, start a campfire, cook over an open flame, and navigate in the wilderness. You should also know how to read a map and compass, and have some basic first aid skills. If you’re new to camping, consider taking a camping course or going on a guided camping trip to learn these skills.

Be Respectful of the Environment

Free camping can have a negative impact on the environment if not done responsibly. It’s important to be respectful of the environment and minimize your impact. This includes packing out all your trash, burying your human waste, and avoiding damaging vegetation or disturbing wildlife. You should also stick to established hiking and camping trails, and avoid creating new ones


In conclusion, free camping can be a rewarding and budget-friendly way to explore the outdoors in the US. By following these tips, you can have a safe and enjoyable free camping experience while minimizing your environmental impact.

Remember to research your options, check the regulations, pack appropriately, leave no trace, be prepared for emergencies, practice safe campfire use, respect wildlife and other visitors, plan your route, choose the right vehicle, consider the weather, learn basic camping skills, and be respectful of the environment. With these tips in mind, you can have a successful free camping trip in the US.

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