There are various terms that are common in the RVing and camping community that we’d never heard of before we got our truck camper.  Today I thought I’d talk about a few of those terms that describe how or where you’re camped.  If you’re new to camping, whether it be with a tent or motorhome, it’s a good idea to think about what you need/want out of a campsite before setting out to find one.  Do you need bathrooms?  Water?  Electricity?  If you don’t need those things, do you want to be in a campground with neighbors or somewhere secluded away from it all?  Being familiar with the terms I’m about to describe is super helpful when seeking information from Ranger Stations and BLM offices on where you can camp.  The more information you can give them on what you’re looking for, the more likely they are to give you a recommendation that fits your interests.  When we’re in a new area and stop by a ranger station or visitor center, we’ll tell them that we have a truck camper with 4wd, we’re not towing anything and we’re looking for a secluded dispersed campsite.  If we didn’t tell them that, they might just point us to the nearest campground which would be a totally different experience than what we were looking for.  Here are four common terms that define a type of campsite:

1.  CAMPING WITH HOOKUPS

A campground with hookups means there is the option for you to “hook up” to one or more of the following services: water, electricity and sewer.  The term full hookups means all three services are available.  It’s most common to find full hookups at RV parks.  State parks often have electric only sites or electric and water.

2.  DRY CAMPING

Dry camping means you are camping without hookups.  It doesn’t mean you are camped in a campground or not, you just are camped without being hooked up to any services.  Some campgrounds will have more than one option.  For example Ridgway State Park in Ridgway, Colorado offers the following three options:

Basic tent-only campsite: $20

Electric hook-up campsite: $26

Full hook-up campsite: $30

(These are summer rates.  A $7 per day entrance fee is required in addition to your campsite fee)

Most forest service and BLM campgrounds we’ve been to only offer dry camping options.  The amenities at those campgrounds are typically a few vault toilets throughout the campground, one dumpster and fire rings and picnic tables at each campsite.

3.  DISPERSED CAMPING (also known as primitive camping)

This is our favorite type of camping.  Dispersed camping is usually free camping on public lands outside of a campground with no amenities.  There is a certain amount of knowledge combined with luck that it takes to find these spots, which I’ll save for another article, but generally speaking you start by finding public lands then look for a previously used location to park at.  A good way to know you’ve found a campsite is when you see a rock fire ring.  National Forest and BLM are the types of public lands we usually seek to find dispersed camping.  Some other types of public lands we’ve found dispersed camping at are National Conservation Areas and National Recreation Areas.  National Rec Areas have entrance fees and sometimes also charge for their dispersed camping areas.  For example, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (surrounding the northern side of Lake Powell) offers a variety of primitive camping areas:

Stanton Creek, Hite, Farley Canyon & Dirty Devil: $12 per night per vehicle

Lone Rock Beach: $14 per night per vehicle

Glen Canyon NRA Backcountry: free

In addition to camping fees, a $25 vehicle entrance fee is required and is good for up to 7 days

4.  BOONDOCKING

Boondocking is more of a slang term that I’ve heard people define differently.  In my opinion it’s one and the same as dispersed camping – camping off the grid on public land, typically for free.

A few notes about the various types of places to camp:

  • BLM land and National Forests have a 14 day camping limit.  You may remain in the same spot for 14 consecutive days before it’s required to leave that spot.
  • All camping in BLM and National forests operate under the “Pack it in pack it out” policy or Leave No Trace.  All your trash should be taken with you and it should look as if you were never there.  The number of campsites we come upon that have trash scattered everywhere is disheartening.  Not only does Mother Nature deserve more respect but so do the people that come after you that would like to enjoy their public lands also.
  • Dispersed camping on BLM land and National Forest are available on a first come, first serve basis.
  • Every campground is different regarding reservable vs. first come, first serve sites.  Some have both, some only have one or the other.
  • Many campgrounds as well as National Forest and BLM roads that lead to dispersed camping are only open seasonally.  This can be one of the biggest challenges for us since we usually camp during the winter months.
  • Length restrictions may apply depending on the campground.
  • National forest and BLM roads come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are suitable for passenger cars and others require 4wd and high-clearance.  Be sure to read all signs and information provided to avoid getting stuck.

Online research is always a way to get a leg up on what you’re likely to encounter when setting out to find a place to camp.  When you get within the vicinity of where you’d like to camp, BLM field offices and National Forest ranger stations are also a great source of information.  We use Delorme Atlases to find the public land we’d like to seek out.  Motor Vehicle Use Maps provided by the Forest Service are a great tool as well.

Happy camping!

boondocking, camping on public lands, dispersed camping, dry camping, primitive camping, types of campgrounds, types of camping