Some folks like to camp and others love to camp. But there’s a growing population who really love to get back to nature…way back. Camping off the beaten path can be an enjoyable and memorable way to get away from it all and get in touch with your wild side – the side that likes to be out in the wild. If that sounds like you, then boondocking (also known as dry camping) is for you.
Whether you are a seasoned boondocker or are looking to try dry camping, you’ll want to be sure you plan well for your trip. Planning is the way to stay safe! Let’s look at the best ways to ensure you have a fun, safe boondocking experience.
Is Dry Camping Safe?
Absolutely! Though the media likes to make you think there is danger around every corner, you’re more likely to run into trouble in the city or at your home than out in the middle of a National Forest or other remote location. Anyone else out in the middle of nowhere is probably a fellow boondocker.
That said, there are some unique risks:
You will be isolated, just you and those you came with. This may seem obvious since the whole premise behind boondocking is to camp in remote areas. Take first aid supplies along with extra food and water. The chance of danger is minimal, but accidents do happen. Make sure you know how and where to get help if the need should arise.
The standard camping tips like not leaving food or garbage out apply to boondocking as well. They are the best ways to avoid raccoons, possums & bears looking for a snack at your campsite. You may be surprised to learn that there’s a better chance of seeing a bear in a popular campground than out in the woods. In a campground, some other camper there will inevitably leave food out. Once they find a food source, animals will return. (You return to your favorite restaurant, don’t you?)
Restaurants and resources won’t be nearby, so be prepared. You won’t be able to order a pizza so you’ll want to bring extra water and food in case of emergency. Bring enough for an extra day or two just in case circumstances extend your trip. But most boondocking sites are within an hour or so of the nearest store.
First aid supplies and any medications you may need are also important items to bring. As the saying goes, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Chance also favors the prepared camper! So, chances are, if you are well-prepared for emergencies, you won’t end up having any!
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Speaking of being prepared, don’t forget to plan for weather changes. Doing your best to plan your trip around good weather will increase your chances of a safe trip. But weather forecasts aren’t always accurate, especially a week or so out; and a severe storm can ruin your trip. Be sure to pack weather-appropriate clothing and equipment. Depending on the season that could be rain gear or extra warm clothes and blankets during the winter.
Track Your Movement
While getting lost in a national forest isn’t likely, they are massive and it is possible. Know where the nearest trail is when you park. You’ll know how to leave when you need to. Keep a GPS with you (generally on your phone) and bring a backup charger. An old-fashioned map and compass may seem outdated, but could come in handy in the event you are unable to use your phone/GPS to navigate.
Be Ready to Rough It
Conserving your resources will go a long way in getting the most of your trip. However, by packing tools, dry goods and/or foods you can easily cook over an open fire, you will be prepared to rough it on the off chance you get stuck in the wilderness. It isn’t likely this will happen, but you’ll certainly be glad you have the resources if you need them.
Boondocking Safety When Traveling Solo
Sometimes being one with nature means just that…traveling solo. The peace and solitude of being by yourself out in nature may be just what you’re looking for. As noted before, there likely won’t be anyone else around. But play it safe and try to make it look like there’s more than one person at your site. You can put out a few chairs around the fire instead of just one. Bringing along your canine companion is a good idea as well.
You may also consider bringing defensive weapons like pepper spray. It is not likely that you will need it, but again, having it and not needing it is better than needing it and not having it.
When venturing out solo, let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return. Your family and friends will thank you.
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