What is Boondocking?

We bought our camper specifically for boondocking. Its been our favorite way to travel. But what exactly is boondocking? Is it different than dry camping? Or what about that moochdocking?

It can be confusing for anyone new to the mobile camping lifestyle to encounter so many similar but different terms. If you try asking “what is boondocking” in any Facebook or Reddit group, you’re likely to start a massive feud that only stops when the mods lock the comments.

Don’t let that discourage you from exploring boondocking. Instead, let’s run through some basic terminology.


Boondocking is dry camping far from people, resources, or society. That means camping without the conveniences of campgrounds. There is no water hookups, 30 amp electric, or convenient dump stations. At this point, boondocking probably sounds miserable.

white and yellow van under starry night
Photo by Evan Chasteen on Pexels.com

Why would anyone want to boondock? Its quieter. Its often more scenic. Its usually free. Personally, its what I always imagined camping to be. Not a weekend spent at a campground with electrics scooters and TVs but nights spent looking at the stars and listening to nature’s symphony.

Boondocking itself can be used to describe other types of camping like dispersed and dry. I personally use the term generically if I am parked or camping anywhere without hookups.

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping is camping done outside of campgrounds, commonly on public lands. There are usually existing sites from previous campers but there are no permanent amenities. Campers are spaced out, or dispersed, through the public land. It can be far more private than staying at a campground.

Camping at Lake Meredith in Colorado

Public lands for dispersed camping are managed by the National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Department of Fish and Wildlife. There are other government agencies that also manage public lands but those are the big three.

Dry Camping

Camping without hookups is referred to as dry camping. That means there is no water spigot or sewer. Water must be hauled in, either by filling the fresh water tank in the camper or by bringing in jugs of water.

For longer dry camping, a large water bladder is a convenient way to haul water.


This is the RV version of couch surfing. Moochdocking is parking for free usually in a private driveway. Boondockers Welcome helps to facilitate it. Making friends with other boondockers can open up driveways across the country.

Stealth Camping

Not every business or even city is friendly to overnight stays. The idea of people sleeping in a van or an RV in a parking lot conjures up visions of a homeless invasion.

vintage green and white volkswagen van
Living that van life

To avoid any such negative connotations, more discrete vehicles may be able to pull into another otherwise inaccessible spot for the night. Think parking garages or city streets. Leave this to vans and SUVs. A big fifth wheel camper pulled by a diesel might be a giveaway.


You have a van. You park it somewhere. You sleep in it. You’re vandocking.

white ford transit van on greenfield
Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

Vans are an extremely popular choice for boondocking. With available space, they are versatile vehicles capable of accommodating most needs.


Also called Parking Lot Camping.

parked white motorhome
Photo by Matt Hardy on Pexels.com

Isn’t this one fun to say? Sure, its basically moochdocking but at Walmart. I would include any store or restaurant in this as well as casinos and rest stops. Barreldocking at Cracker Barrel is a favorite for us. Always call ahead to verify that overnight parking is allowed (some areas have ordinances banning it) and always be respectful.


Have you heard of any other confusing camping terms? Or maybe another name for boondocking? Let us know in the comments.

If you’re reading to start boondocking, read about my first attempt at Teal Pond or waking up to cows in Colorado.

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