Did you know there are thousands of places in the US where you camp overnight, or longer for free? That’s right, free. Read on and I’ll give you some free camping tips.
In this short article, I will show you where to find free overnight camping. I’ll tell you what you can expect. I will also show you what is expected of you along with some common sense guidelines.
It is good to know the location of free camping. If your final destination is far away, you can break your trip into shorter day journeys and save yourself money along the way. Campers on a budget can maximize their travel funds by “boondocking” in these free spots.
There are benefits beyond the financial aspect. When you travel long distances, you don’t know when you will be detoured by an accident or construction. A number of things can cause delays. Knowing free places to park will come in very handy if you have to stop short of your destination to get some sleep.
Free Camping Tips for Free Overnight Parking
There are thousands of places in the US where you can camp free for one night. These places are best suited for people traveling in self-contained RV’s, however I have heard of folks with folding campers and tents sleeping in their cars in some of these places.
You can camp free, usually for one night, in a variety of places. These include:
- Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and Costco
- Truck Stops like Flying J, Pilot and many others.
- Some Big Box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.
- Many Casinos
- Some highway rest stops.
- Some county and municipal parks.
The first thing to know is not all Wal-Marts, Sam’s Clubs, etc. allow overnight parking, but many will. You should always contact the manager on duty and ask. Some stores don’t allow overnight parking and in some communities there are laws prohibiting overnight parking of RVs.
Secondly, you are there to park and sleep, not to camp. In other words, you keep your slide rooms in, you don’t roll out your awning. Do not put out your folding chairs or ground mat. Don’t cook outside. Park away from store traffic. Never dump your holding tanks. Usually the stay is for one night.
If a store manager allows you to park, return the kindness and buy whatever you need from the store. You saved the 30 to 50 dollars you would have paid at an RV park. You need those items anyway. It’s a win-win.
Most of these free stays are primitive camping. There are no electric, water, or sewer hook ups.
Don’t forget safety and security. Get a good look at your surroundings.
You may be the only one on that parking lot at night. That is not usually an issue. Thousands of RVers park overnight on store lots every year without incident.
Parking lots are usually well lit. However, if you think it’s unsafe, your house is on wheels. Start the engine and go. It’s better to be safe.
Truck Stops Often Have Amenities.
Truck stops have many conveniences for campers. Many have dump stations and potable water. Some places may charge for this, but the cost is usually reasonable.
Just like Wal-Mart and other stores, its common courtesy to ask before you park.
Most truck stops have LP gas for sale. You can also get a hot shower for a small fee and there is usually a place where you can buy a meal, other common travel supplies are can often be found in truck stops.
If a truck stop allows you to park overnight, return the kindness and purchase your fuel and other needs there.
Truck stops are noisy. You have dozens of trucks running diesel engine. There are people going in and out all night. However, because of this truck stops are fairly safe and secure places to park and sleep.
Free Camping Sites are Easy to Locate
There are a number of books, web sites, and cell phone apps that can help you find free over night parking.
Here are a couple of websites:
Free Campsites – freecampsites.net has a searchable database of thousands of free and low cost campsites in the US and Canada. You simply enter the city and state (or, province) of where you want to camp and the database will free and low cost campsites within 100 miles of your search point.
The campsite locations are displayed on a map so you can see where the campsites are in relation to one another. The campsite icons are green for free campsites, red for pay campsites and blue for campsites where a permit is required.
Campers using the sites can post reviews and some campsites may have a lot of information about them. There may also be information describing road conditions and even pictures of the camping area.
Free Campsites has a trip planning function. You can plan your entire trip stopping at free and low cost campsites.
Campendium – Campendium.com. Campendium also has a large database of free and low priced camping in the US and Canada. In Campendim you select the name of the state of province in which you want to search and I shows you the camping locations on a map.
Beside the campsite locator, Campendium also has helpful articles on how to find free camping and a guide to boondocking. Campendium also has information on commercial and state RV parks, the location of dump stations, and other free camping tips.
The Allstays App is a Great Resource for Finding Free Camping
The top of the line Allstays App, Allstays Pro is an encyclopedia of free camping information. Along with its information commercial campgrounds, Allstays lists thousands of free camping areas. Allstays is a very valuable resource for campers. You can read more about Allstays here.
The Allstays app is available for IPhone, IPad only. There is Allways software available for the PC.
Want to Stay a Little Longer.
There are thousands of campgrounds where you can camp free for up to two weeks, and sometimes even longer. These campgrounds are located in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas, National Forests, National and State Parks. Even some city parks allow free camping.
There are many resources online that explain how to find these free camping areas. In a future article, I will explore this more completely. I will present free camping tips on how to find these camping places.
Enjoying the Beauty of Nature Without Busting Your Budget
Staying up to date on camping opportunities and technologies can help you enjoy the fabulous beauty of this continent without going broke. Camping is affordable for almost everyone.
Do you camp overnight in free places? Have you been boondocking? Do you have a question about free camping. Leave me a comment and we will discuss the many opportunities available to camp cheap, or even better, free.