This is a rough demarcation of national forests and other public areas, so be sure to respect private land at the fringes. Use the Google Earth mode and zoom function to get an idea of roads and landscapes. Use a paper map.
Primitive, Dispersed Camping
This is where paper maps come in handy. Choose one of the options listed below or stop by the ranger station for a local map. These will help you identify roads, trails, potential obstacles, and water sources. Talk to a ranger. These folks are full of useful information and are usually happy to share advice. Get firsthand tips on where to go and what to avoid. Head into the wilds with a sense of adventure and an open mind. The spot you pick on the map might be perfect or might not. Remember the journey is the destination.
If it was just about rolling into a spot and setting up the tent, there are plenty of campgrounds meant for that. Camp up, camp down. Read more…. Camping away from designated campgrounds takes extra effort; here are some ways to find great spots. National forests : There are nearly limitless opportunities in National Forests across the United States.
Primitive Camping Checklist: A Beginner's Guide | SkyAboveUs
When you use the woodland as a toilet, please be at an acceptable distance from the campsite and leave no traces. Informations of the camp sites are unfortunately only available in Danish, but here are a few useful Danish words:. Find out more about cookies. English Experience nature Sleeping outside in nature.
Sleeping outside in nature The Danish Nature Agency welcomes you to spend the night in the nature areas owned by the Danish Government. We can offer you four different ways to spend the night: Sleep on the forest floor You are allowed to sleep on the forest floor on a mat, in a sleeping bag, with a blanket or tarpaulin, a hammock or the like. Small campsites Lille lejrplads Our small campsites are meant for single occupancy, families and small groups.
One easy solution would be to bring along some dehydrated meals. Look over our Complete Camping Food List to get even more ideas. We all tend to get dirty, especially if we are spending a lot of time outside. But if no public or private shower options are available, what can you do? A lack of toilets in primitive camping areas is what gives people the most anxiety when it comes to free camping. The whole process is nowhere near as bad as it seems. Make sure to bring a good strong shovel especially if you will be digging in a particularly rocky area.
Make your hole at least six inches deep and ensure that it is at least feet from a water source to avoid contamination. In most of the popular free camping areas, there are designated dispersed campsites that are often cleared and flat. However, in other less visited sites, the terrain may not be quite so friendly to tent campers. If you are primitive camping where there are no designated areas, look for sites have been used by other campers in the past. Not only are they usually more accommodating to tents but you will have much less impact on the environment. If there are no previously used sites that you can find available, look for an area that is generally clear and free of rocks and stumps.
The goal is to disturb the area as little as possible. Unruly neighbors are unfortunately just a part of life. And dispersed camping is no different. The best thing to do is move to another area if at all possible. If the people near you are causing a danger to you or the environment, you always have the option of calling the rangers or the managing office of the area you are staying. If neither of those options is available, phoning the police to report the behavior may be the next option. But another important part of dispersed camping is cleaning up your area.
Camp for Free on Public Land: ‘Dispersed Camping’ 101
We know many not all free camping areas do not have restrooms or showers available. But most do not offer trash cans either. This means that any waste you carry in, or create while you are at your campsite, will need to be carried back out. This is not as challenging as you may think. The rule of thumb should be to bring as little packaging as possible. Remove outer wrappers and cartons and use reusable containers when possible to cut down on the waste you have to haul out of free camping areas.
Remember to bring a trash bag with you and another bag for recyclables. Keep in mind that while you are at your campsite it is important to store food, garbage and anything that has a fragrance, where animals cannot reach them. Use a bear canister or hang a bag containing these items between two trees. Most paid campgrounds offer potable water or at least a camp store where you can purchase packaged water. And they also may have pumps so you can collect water to use for washing dishes.
But at dispersed campgrounds, neither of these is typically available. Count yourself lucky if your camping area has a nearby stream or other water sources that you can use. If you know for certain that the area has an ample water supply, you can choose to bring a water filter to remove any bacteria, viruses or parasites before drinking it. There are also tablets you can use to treat the water to remove these germs. One of our favorite water filters is the Katadyn Water Filter, read the full review here.
Remember, just because there is a stream or river on a map, does not mean that there is water flowing at that time. Although a river may appear on the map for that area, the riverbed may be dry when you arrive. Especially in a warm, desert location, this could be very dangerous. The other option is to bring your own water. Do an estimate of the amount you will need for the time you will be staying.
Always overestimate to be safe. You can purchase packs of individual water bottles, gallon jugs, or large 2. Dehydration is very dangerous and should be taken seriously. Even well maintained public and private paid campgrounds can have some very rough terrain and pothole-pocked roads. A lot of dispersed camping areas are notoriously rough on vehicles, RVs, and cars alike. Many roads are made of compacted dirt that has suffered from years of erosion.
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This is where research really pays off. An online search, a few questions in boondocking forums, and a call to a rangers office could save you from hours of struggle and irritation. Find out if the roads are passable with any vehicle, or if you will need a car with 4WD. Ask about local weather conditions and if they have affected the road conditions. We keep hearing in the media that smartphone use is an epidemic and people are spending way too much time scrolling on their screens.
But smartphones and the internet have become a major part of our world. We use them for communication with others including emergency communication , for directions and maps, for knowledge and research, for documenting and even for things like clocks and flashlights.
Unfortunately, given the remote nature of many free camping areas, cell phone service and cell data are almost non-existent. While the good news is that you will have no choice but to commune with friends, family and nature, the flipside is you need to be more prepared. Bring maps. Lots of maps. You can get them online and print them at home , you can get them from local rest areas and welcome centers, and from the rangers office.
Either write down or print out your research on the local area, especially phone numbers for the rangers and local authorities. Bring a wireless power station and keep it charged. Cell phones tend to run low on battery when they are constantly trying to connect to the nearest cell tower. If you know that the area has poor service, you can either turn your phone off or put it on airplane mode to save the battery until you need it.
And nobody takes this more seriously than boondockers and backcountry campers.
Primitive Camping Checklist: A Beginner's Guide
These preserved lands require great care to keep them pristine and beautiful. As the phrase implies, we want our natural areas to look as though we had never been there. And while this is important anywhere we go, we need to be especially careful in areas like national forests, grasslands and other conservation areas. Find the right free camping area for you can be a daunting task when you are just starting out. Especially if you are used to going to paid campgrounds. But it can be well worth the time and energy you spend doing some research.
Unfortunately, areas like the northeast, southeast, and midwest do not offer as many options as the western portion of the country. Campsites are in a lush wood forest. There are no facilities and no cell service in this area. Laurel Run Road , in Delaware State Forest, PA — This area offers spacious, quiet campsites close to a number of ponds, rivers, and streams for fishing. It also boasts picnic tables, fire pits, and a local swimming hole if you can find it.
Expect to see lots of granite escarpments and crystal clear lakes from designated dispersed camping areas. It is located right on the water. Permits and reservations are usually required. The sites all have grills and fire pits and are very quiet and well maintained. Cell phone service may give you trouble. This forest offers designated dispersed camping areas, so be sure to check their website.
Take the Highland Scenic Highway on the way to your dispersed site to see the sweeping hills across the area. French Farm Lake , near Mackinaw City, MI — Explore the city and stay in a semi-private campground with fire rings and a lake for fishing. You can park right on the canyon rim and see breathtaking views in all directions. Be careful, this area is notoriously windy. Shawnee National Forest , in southern IL — This is the only national forest in Illinois and offers countless recreational activities. It is filled with interesting historic sites, canyons, natural bridges and clear rocky streams.
While there you have to see the Garden of the Gods that features ancient sandstone cliffs and rock formations. It offers a nice dry area with good cell service and is located near the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Look for great views from nearby Point Sublime. Plenty of great RV sites. Beautiful, expansive, snow-capped mountain views.
Good for tents and RVs but watch out for mud during rainy times. There are not many free beach camping areas left. Here you can drive right onto the beach and it is quiet and private. There are no services or amenities at these sites. Truly secluded and off the beaten path. It has decent cell service and easy access. It is managed in conjunction with other national forests and grasslands.
It is home to the highest paved road in North America reaching 14, feet up Mount Evans. Only 5 sites that are first come first serve, but offer incredible views of the local landscape. This site is great for tenters and RVs and has excellent cell service. Keep an eye out for the mountain goat herds. The snow-capped mountain scenery and crystal clear lakes can be viewed from a number of hiking trails, including part of the Pacific Crest Trail.
To many, free camping sounds like an overnight in your car, an illegal foray into the woods, or an option reserved for survivalists. In truth, it is none of those things.
By camping for free in designated areas around our country you will cut down on travel and accommodation costs, allowing you to do and see more. As long as you are prepared, do your research and plan ahead, free camping is no more difficult than the paid variety. Thanks so much for the information on where to go for free camping and knowing the best places around the states. All the little things to know and do to make it a great adventure is helpful also. I liked the part about the National Parks and where to camp, it was very informative. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
Sign in. Log into your account. Forgot your password? Password recovery. Recover your password. Get help. Beyond The Tent. Why Free Camping? Here are our top 4 reasons you should give free camping a chance. Keeping Money in Your Pocket The obvious attraction to camping for free is that you save money!
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Tent Camping RVing and traditional primitive tent camping are both great ways to travel, get closer to nature and enjoy some time away from the daily grind. Free Camping in an RV When you think about long-term travel in your region or even across the country, RVs usually come to mind. Bathrooms One of the obvious advantages of bringing an RV is a bathroom of your very own. Sleeping on a Regular Mattress Anyone with the slightest hint of a back problem knows that a good, supportive mattress is essential every night.
Less Packing and Unpacking You may use storage bins, bags or a less organized system of toss-it-and-go. Hard to Stop Along the Way One of the major downsides to having an RV, or any camper that you trailer, is making stops along the way. Gas Tent camping can be done out of the smallest economy car available, depending on how much or little you bring with you. Need Flat Terrain One downside to tent camping is the ground is notoriously uneven and unmaintained in free camping areas. Apps and Websites to Find the Best Free Camping There are numerous websites and applications you can use to find free campsites all over the country and in Canada.
Google Earth Free This app and website are available on any device you use. US Forest Service Website and the National Forest Campground Guide free Both of these websites are excellent sources for finding out about national forests and public lands and researching the campground options there. Cat Hole — A hole you dig to relieve yourself in lieu of a toilet. Cowboy Camping — Sleeping under the stars without a covering like a tent. National Forests National forests are public lands that mostly consist of forests and woodlands.
Make sure to bring everything you need and take everything back out with you when you leave. Marked Areas — Certain areas may be designated for dispersed camping. Others may be marked to keep campers out of delicate ecological or hazardous areas. Make sure to follow the signs as they are posted. Stay Limits — Most forests have limits on the number of days you can stay in one site. They will often encourage campers who want to stay longer to move a certain mileage from their original campsite.
People Limits — Forests often restrict the number of people you can have at a campsite or occasionally require a permit for a large group usually over 75 people. Fire — Fires may be limited or prohibited.