To those of you that have $100K RVs, this blog probably won’t provide many useful insights. But, if you’re like me, and your outdoor trips are run on a tight (borderline nonexistent) budget, then this blog will help you out. I have spent six months living in my car traveling around the west. I have found certain strategies work well to avoid having to pay camp fees every night. Here are a few tips for camping out in your car without any headaches.
National Forest Land and BLM
B-L-M! B-L-M! B-L-M! I’m a big fan of camping on BLM land. Almost nobody cares when you do. I have a Benchmark atlas of Utah that I used all of December to find pockets of BLM land. Delorme also puts out a gazetteer, but it does not have the same level of detail as Benchmark. National Forest boundaries can also provide you solid places to camp. However, people like to build their vacation homes near these boundaries, and they do snobby things like block off access to old forest service roads or call in guys trying to camp out with their black lab.
Late to Bed Early to Rise
If you can’t find public land and you don’t want to pay fees, simply avoid the busy times at campground. I like to show up at a camp spot after the sun goes down, sleep in my car, and leave before the sun comes up or immediately after. Camp hosts are usually retirees that aren’t about to wake up in the middle of the night and snoop around trying to catch someone cheating the system. And, rangers usually get to work around 7 or 8 am, then make the rounds looking for obvious squatters. I have paid for one campground in 6 months of car camping. The only time I ever got a ticket was when I woke up late and hung out in the parking lot for two hours with my dog. The ranger drove by and caught me red handed. Rookie move out of a veteran player.
As a last resort you can stop at a rest area on the interstate and find a nice looking trucker to crawl into bed with. All jokes aside, sometimes you have to sleep at a rest stop. The lights will shine through your windows. And, it always feels to me that there is a sex trafficking ring being busted, but at least you can brush your teeth. So you got that going for you, which is nice. If you’re just going to find random exits to camp, avoid agriculture areas where you think the farmer might live just up the road. If they’re anything like my dad, they’ll call your ass in.
Thanks for reading. I hope this helps out a bit with finding campground,