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After living a life on the road for around 3 years, we now consider ourselves experts in finding the best free campground. If you add the fact that we have only paid for about 4 nights of accommodation – boondocking is our specialty. There are many aspects you should factor into your decision about where you should spend your time in the woods.

Whether you are looking for a new unplugged experience, or just want to find some of the most secluded campgrounds, going off the beaten path works wonders for your mental health. Since we travel with dogs we prefer public sites rather than private ones where we don’t have to keep them leashed all the time. We have been asked so many times how we find the sites we stay at so we thought we’d let you all in on all of our secrets.

This is for weekend warriors and Vanlifers alike. No matter where in North America you are these tips will help you find the best campground near you. Some places are going to be easier to camp in than others. Depending on where you are going, there are certain things you should know.

Not in North America? Check with local bylaws for rules on camping. When we were road tripping through Scotland they have a freedom to roam act that allows you to camp on any public land.

Free Sites

There are tons of land that you can camp on for FREE in North America. If you are in Canada most “Crown land” is free to camp on as well as any forest service roads. For example, 94% of land in British Columbia is considered Crown Land. This means the government owns the land. The USA has a similar thing called BLM land. This is land that isn’t owned by a single person. It is owned by the government, considered public land, and is free to use.

Not all maps will show you where this is or how to get to it, but trust us it is some of the best land to camp on. Some of this land is simply that, bare land that you can set up a tent or park your van on. The cool thing about this land is that you will find campgrounds that have everything provincial, or state, parks have. This can include picnic tables, fire pits and even outhouses. Don’t expect electricity or running water though.

* A few things to consider:

  • Do your research to see if there are any fire restrictions in your area. If there are you can be fined for starting a fire. It is your responsibility to find this out. This is especially true in Canada where there are fire restrictions every single summer in most places.

  • For both Canada and the USA, there is usually a stay limit, typically around 14-21 days. This, at least in our experience, isn’t strongly enforced but rather a way to keep it fair for all campers to get an opportunity to experience the site.
  • There are no garbage services at these sites. It is your responsibility to pack out what you pack in. Keep in mind that someone has been at your site before you. If they left the site a mess you’d be upset, so treat your space with respect. One thing that is great to leave behind is the extra firewood you didn’t use. This is always a welcomed surprise for the next camper or RV.
  • Rangers and police do not usually patrol these areas. This doesn’t mean that they are dangerous, it just means you have to be courteous to your neighbours. For example, don’t party until 2 am right beside a family with young children.
You may also like: Why You Need To Care About Sustainable Travel

Recreation Sites (Canada)

Recreation Sites and Trails are a halfway point between completely free off-grid sites and Provincial/State Parks. They usually come with a small fee per night – usually in the $15 – $20 range. Rules are usually more relaxed at these recreation sites but also have fewer amenities than at Provincial Campsites.
Their website is a great resource to find areas that have a lot of campsites. These are nearly all first come first served so we recommend finding areas that have a few Recreation Sites close by – there’s nothing worse than having packed and drove to the site only to find out that it’s full.