There was a time in history when camping – defined as setting up a temporary dwelling in a non-permanent structure – was something that people had to do when traveling over long distances or leaving home for periods of time. Today, however, it is most often engaged in as a leisure activity. This has meant that today there are permanent structures which serve as campsites, renting out accommodations or spaces of land to campers. The opposite of this has been the tradition of free camping, which is just what the name suggests it is.
And free camping isn’t a new or recent phenomenon either – it has been around for decades. It goes by many names, ranging from boondocking to wild camping and from dry camping to primitive camping. The significant difference is the fact that no campsite would be provided – one had to be made. This entails a load of extra skills on the part of the camper, not least of which is figuring out what type of terrain is best for camping on!
The Skills of Free Camping
Free camping can be illegal, but we are not here talking about sneaky ways to skirt around the law or to camp on private property or a campsite you haven’t paid for (though there are plenty of chancers out there that try this). Instead, free camping is the discipline of setting up your own campsite when you are out on the trail. It’s the discipline of finding a location that is suitable, with nearby provisions such as water, and for planning this carefully into your proposed route.
Free camping naturally entails that you bring along extra equipment. Free campers who go by vehicles usually employ roof racks and tie down straps such as those provided by Rollercam to secure extra equipment for the added challenges that free camping poses. This gets to the heart of free camping – you need to provide everything yourself.
How to Find Free Camping
So, having underlined the great importance of preparing and packing for free camping, here follows some tips for actually going about it. The most important thing is to find the location where you will camp. This can be challenging and there are many factors to consider. There are also legal issues like avoiding trespassing to take into account as well. Finally, how to find a free camp spot all depends on what type of environment you are camping in. It is best then to break down this aspect into the two main locations where free camping takes place in the USA.
National Forests and Grasslands
Free camping in the national forests is perhaps the easiest. To avoid trespassing, you can consult Google maps where boundaries are very clearly marked. Furthermore, the abundance of grasslands in these locations are all suitable for setting up camp – just consider nearby shelter if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
You are advised to only stay for two weeks maximum before moving to another location at least twenty-five miles away. Any developed recreation areas should be avoided.
BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Free Camping
Most of the land owned by the BLM is west of the Mississippi, which means it is usually flat and with nearby shelter, suitable for free camping. However, some locations here can be much more remote, meaning you will need to prepare for this. It is also legal to camp on BLM land, given the same restrictions as mentioned above.
There are other locations where you can free camp, but they are much smaller and more diverse. The best advice for these locations, therefore, is to seek local advice about permissions and suitability of the camping.