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safe solo boondocking


 Jim McGarvie
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My wife and I have been RVing for about 45 years, and about 90% of the time have been boondocking. But that has always been camping in the desert or the forest with a group. We are about to take a trip in Arizona during which we will want to stop overnight and are considering boondocking, probably west or south of the Phoenix area off of the I-10.

I am interested in experience and suggestions. We would consider rest areas, Walmarts, or just out in the middle of the desert somewhere.

Thanks.

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Have you looked into Harvest Host or Boondockers Welcome?

We Bought into Harvest Host ($79) a year. Haven't used it yet but hope to as 1 night stays are their thing (free), just ask that you purchase whatever the farm, winery, brewery is selling. Or you can add on Golf which allows you to golf or most courses just ask you visit the pro shop and grab a polo. It's a great way to shop for gifts to give to family. 

Boondockers Welcome seems a little different, some hosts want you to come in and hang out, not my thing, but most sites they will leave you alone. I haven't investigated them as much.

After a night at a Pilot, A night in a Rest area after the Wife freaked at the though of spending another night at a pilot, I grabbed Harvest Host as an outlet if we are somewhere we are unfamiliar with.

Youtube Traveling with Robert. He has stopped at more that a Few Rest Areas and Walmarts on His trip from Florida to Quartzsite a few years back. Long video, like 2 hours, but he chronicles it pretty good. 

 

RVerTv on youtube has been all over AZ and stopped many places as well.

 

Edited by JDCrow
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13 minutes ago, JDCrow said:

Have you looked into Harvest Host or Boondockers Welcome?

We Bought into Harvest Host ($79) a year. Haven't used it yet but hope to as 1 night stays are their thing (free), just ask that you purchase whatever the farm, winery, brewery is selling. Or you can add on Golf which allows you to golf or most courses just ask you visit the pro shop and grab a polo. It's a great way to shop for gifts to give to family. 

Boondockers Welcome seems a little different, some hosts want you to come in and hang out, not my thing, but most sites they will leave you alone. I haven't investigated them as much.

After a night at a Pilot, A night in a Rest area after the Wife freaked at the though of spending another night at a pilot, I grabbed Harvest Host as an outlet if we are somewhere we are unfamiliar with.

Youtube Traveling with Robert. He has stopped at more that a Few Rest Areas and Walmarts on His trip from Florida to Quartzsite a few years back. Long video, like 2 hours, but he chronicles it pretty good. 

 

RVerTv on youtube has been all over AZ and stopped many places as well.

 

Thanks, JD. I will check out your tips.

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We spent 8 years full timing.  While traveling, we would spend the nights at a Walmart or even better, a Sam's Club.  As far a boondocking in a remote place, I would not recommend it especially in these days and time's.  I kept in the back of my mind the safety of the place we would stay at, and the ability to get help if we broke down. 

JMHO, and experiences, Chuck B

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We, too, boondock quite a bit and have done so in every state (except Hawaii), all ten Canadian provinces, and one territory. Our "normal" travel across country is to boondock 2-3 nights and get a CG for one. It works for us. Some comments...

I looked into Harvest Host but was told by several people that they ended up parking in a lot of mud. We've never joined. If I was going to pay someone to park, I'd pay a campground. 

We have stayed at over 1,000  Walmarts or Sam's Club and a bunch of rest areas.

I consider the Day's End Directory (daysenddirectory.com} the best "Guide" for finding boondocking spots. For me, Google is second.

I NEVER stay at a truckstop. The "big rig" drivers have to get off the road (by law) and I don't want to get in their way.

Except for rest areas, I ALWAYS call and check to see if overnight parking is allowed. If I can't reach anyone, I do not stay there.

While we boondock for convenience, you can save a lot of money, too. 

Good luck.

 

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We have been 'solo' boondocking in AZ for years now every early spring before going north. AZ, in my opinion, is a prime boondocking place. Never felt in danger and most everywhere we have some distant neighbors in the same boat and often times we make new friends to see again down the road. We take it over cramped resort any day and city parking lots are the very last choice. Never stayed at a gas station. We carry defense equipment and have a dog to keep watch over us but never has been necessary. Plenty of BLM around I 10 and 95, our favorite stays.

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Trust me truck stop was last resort. We were blown off the road in Topock Az and Weed Ca. Most, if not all CA rest areas are closed. 
 

And yes, it’s sucks to be a Trucker. Electronic hours of service logs make pulling over NOW. Critical. They park wherever they can. The paper logs we used to run made it pretty easy LOL

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I found truck stops to be too busy and too noisy. Also, I don't want to get in the trucker's way anymore than I have to. That said, Home Depot and Lowes are good alternatives to WalMarts.  Be courteous, get permission if possible, DON'T LITTER OR DUMP, and spend a little money in the store if possible. Another alternative I've found is church parking lots. Except on Sundays, (Saturdays, depending) they are very accommodating. Same courtesy as outlined above.....Dennis

@Jim McGarvie Depending on how far south you're going, there is an awesome Elks Lodge in Willcox...D

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2 hours ago, JDCrow said:

Trust me truck stop was last resort. We were blown off the road in Topock Az and Weed Ca. Most, if not all CA rest areas are closed. 
 

And yes, it’s sucks to be a Trucker. Electronic hours of service logs make pulling over NOW. Critical. They park wherever they can. The paper logs we used to run made it pretty easy LOL

 10-4,  I try to give the truckers a break anytime I can.  They are working making a living while I'm playing.   A few truckers are jerks about RVs, most are friendly enough when I'm friendly towards them.

 Yrs ago we spent the night at a truck stop, woke up the next morning with an 18 wheeler about 6 inches from my door.   I told DW he is telling us we don't belong here and I agree with him.  Big brother is riding along with those guys and he'll probably be riding with us pretty soon.   I hear the computer in our cars today knows everything and  they  tell it.

Edited by Ray Davis
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8 hours ago, Jim McGarvie said:

My wife and I have been RVing for about 45 years, and about 90% of the time have been boondocking. But that has always been camping in the desert or the forest with a group. We are about to take a trip in Arizona during which we will want to stop overnight and are considering boondocking, probably west or south of the Phoenix area off of the I-10.

I am interested in experience and suggestions. We would consider rest areas, Walmarts, or just out in the middle of the desert somewhere.

Thanks.

We have stayed in parking lots of many retail stores, casinos, and local city parks (small towns in the midwest).  We have defensive equipment with us.  Actually, the most trouble we have had is in a Walmart parking lot.  In general, I have always wondered if potential trouble won't be more apt to find you in a busy city (where there is more opportunity) than in a remote area with few potential targets.  We have always wanted to try more boondocking on BLM or other land.  We have been concerned taking a large rig to a more remote boondocking location.  It sounds like you have been able to successfully do just that.  How do you identify remote spots (BLM, desert, national forest, etc.) you can access with a large diesel pusher?

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Regarding BLM spaces/sites...  We RARELY use BML because of TV. My wife is a TV watcher (I'm not). We have driven our car through many BLM sites and found that most (of what we saw) were in/under the trees - perfectly nice sites but often blocking the TV dish (ours is on the roof of the coach). If the TV reception was okay, we would likely stay in BML sites but it typically doesn't work for us.

Please, no suggestions to watch local channels. She records nearly everything so she can fast-forward thru the ads.

The only other negative I can think of regarding BLM sites is that we have found that it was often challenging to drive to them as they were off the "beaten path."

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2 hours ago, David K said:

How do you identify remote spots (BLM, desert, national forest, etc.) you can access with a large diesel pusher?

Most of the time we hear about good camping areas from friends. We have often camped in our local national forests, and because of our proximity we usually scout out suitable sites in our Jeep before making the trip in the motorhome.

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15 hours ago, David K said:

How do you identify remote spots (BLM, desert, national forest, etc.) you can access with a large diesel pusher?

When I do advance planning research for staying a few days, Googling "Dispersed camping" will bring up ideas.  Then I access the forest maps online and save to my phone or pad.  And I'll cross check contour lines and Google maps satellite images.  I'll often call the ranger office number found on the maps and ask the ranger, and most times they may suggest some forest road #'s where others have boondocked.  Naturally I mention my "off roading" comfort level and the size of the rig.  Then they typically they won't suggest an area where Jeeps with tents hang out.  I'll often get close to the preselected area and then take the toad in to check it out in better "current" detail ... Road washouts, low trees, solar and satellite availability, regress, etc.

While "dispersed camping" may bring up blog posts of others, be sure to check how long ago it was (some areas may have closed in the meantime) and what equipment they have.  For example, Flagstaff took over and closed some areas but there still are great areas starting just west off the interstate < a mile thru 5 or 10 miles into the woods.

FWIW, I'll attach a few photos of some places (CA mountains, Jacob's Lake AZ, Flagstaff AZ) we've liked, and if you access the meta data in these photos you can get the gps coordinates to open in google maps. I.E. The CA photo is a couple miles past the crowded small and uneven sites in the "camp hosted paid" campground and is wide open easy access even with a 45 footer (which I'd have an extremely hard if not impossible time shoe horning around the paid campground 🙄, not to mention all the close noisy and smokey campers nor a pit toilet I wouldn't use anyway...)  The Flagstaff area is close enough to the interstate that we've used it for simple one nighter enroute stops as well as multiple night "get away from it all" quiet relaxation.  Flagstaff itself close enough for shopping and pretty close for dump and fresh water for longer stays.

YMMV.  I hope I haven't rambled too much.

 

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