I grew up loving camping. In fact I was one of those adults who believed anyone who owned an RV was not actually camping. Which, honestly, I still believe. (That might be obvious since you know we camp out of a minivan.) However, I have definitely come to appreciate the amazing benefits of an RV. But, if you are looking to save a little, and sacrifice a few luxuries, I have compiled an amazing list of 13 ways you can camp for free in the good ‘ol USA.
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Benefits of camping for free
There are obvious benefits of camping for free. Like the fact that it’s totally free! You can save a ton of money traveling cross country, especially if you’re not planning on staying somewhere for too long.
When you want to see as many places as possible, sometimes it is highly beneficial to take it easy on your budget. Even if you are in an RV, you might be willing to sacrifice a few days without water just so you can save some money and still take in some beautiful, more peaceful views!
Downfalls of free camping
Like I mentioned, the biggest downfall of free camping is that this usually means you are cutoff from things like water and electricity. Even if it’s only for a while.
However, some free camping options can offer you amazing adventures and help you get some secluded time away to really enjoy by yourself or with your loved ones.
BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management. The Bureau of Land Management is a corporation that manages public lands that are mostly found in Western states like Arizona, California, Colorado. Click here to see a full list.
There are opportunities for paid-for camp sites that include hook ups and restrooms however, you can also take advantage of dispersed camping on these lands.
Dispersed camping means you can camp on BLM land for up to 14 days in a 28 day period. Meaning, you could camp for 2 days, come back later, camp again for another 7, but in a 28 day period, you cannot exceed 14 days.
If you are unsure of where camping is allowed, you can easily contact the BLM offices.
This handy-dandy website allows you to search for your desired camping location in order to find free camping sites near you.
You will instantly be given a variety of free camping locations in that area and are usually able to read a little bit about the spot and potentially see photographs of the area.
Check Freecampsites.net for camping near you.
In most cases you should be able to park and camp overnight in city and county parks. However, the laws are going to vary state by state so it’s important to check in with the city before setting up camp.
This is nice because you may also get access to restrooms should they have them an maybe some beautiful views to enjoy!
Yup. Didja know good ‘ol Walmart is even willing to let you camp out in their parking lot overnight? Of course, not all Walmarts are on board for this. You can check the list of party-pooper Walmarts here.
One thing to remember is to be respectful, check-in with the staff on best places to park, and maybe grab dinner there while you’re at it just to say thanks.
24 Hour businesses
Another option for free camping is at 24 hour businesses. This is more likely to be a safe place for you to camp out “off grid” for a night so you can hit the road the next day.
You could try to touch base with the business to let them know you’ll be there or just fly under the radar and see what happens.
Same courtesy goes though, be a good guest and if you’re able to, give some of your business to them!
Hotel parking lots
Another safe option for overnight parking is in hotel parking lots. This is most likely a location that you could easily sleep in overnight if you are on a long road trip, but it’s still recommended to check with the staff.
More than likely you are welcome to stay, and saying something is a whole helluva lot less creepy than just doing it without permission.
Camping for free in National Forests may be one of the most likely places that you’ll be able to sleep with amazing views all night long.
The camping guidelines for a National Forest are similar to those of BLM land. You can only stay for 14 days in a 30 day period. So be sure to be mindful of the time spent.
To make sure you are abiding by the rules, it’s best to check with your local Forest Service locations beforehand. You can do that here.
While I’m not quite sure what the difference is between grasslands and National Forest property, just know this is also an option.
The same rules are going to apply so be sure to check before hand with your local Forest Service.
Know any friends and family who might not mind you crashing on their property or in their driveway? Give ’em a call!
I know stuff like this is never an option for our family because Tom is very much not one for putting people out. We have major differences when it comes to what goes during travel.
If you are a fan of Airbnb and VRBO type stays, you can save $40 on your first Airbnb by clicking here, or you can take advantage of apps like Hipcamp that can potentially connect you with Airbnb hosts who are willing to let you camp on their land for little to no charge!
There is also a huge variety of Hipcamp options available at extremely affordable prices! Click here to get $10 off your first camp experience!
Campendium is another site designed to help you find camping locations near you. They are not all free, but you have the option to sort by ratings, category and price which goes all the way to zero!
So, if you are looking for additional affordable camping while on the road, just head to Campendium and make sure to adjust your price range accordingly!
If you are looking for paid for or free camping options, AllStays is yet another site you might want to check out. Again, they offer paid for camping options as well as local free places to camp!
There are over 37,000 camp sites listed on Allstays including National Forests, KOAs, Public Lands, Army Corps, City Park and casinos!
Did you know there is a chance that you could not only camp for free, but also get paid to do it?
There are places like farms and campgrounds that are willing to hire workers and let them stay on their land for free. In some cases, you may even earn wages.
For the most part, people offering workamping services expect you to stay for extended periods of time. If you’re curious about how to find workamping jobs, check out this post!
Good practices for free camping
This list from TheDyrt.com was the best list of free camping practices that I have found.
Always check with local ranger stations in the area you will be traveling for any specific regulations. In drier areas, fire bans are typically the most common.
Use a camping stove or fire pan rather than building a fire from surrounding resources.
For fires, ensure you only use deadfall for firewood. Never cut and burn live trees or bring firewood from another area.
Come equipped with a bucket, an ax, and a shovel for properly distinguishing fires.
Don’t create a new campsite if there’s one already available.
Be aware of any overnight permits and road conditions before heading out.
Follow any laws and regulations regarding pets in these wild spaces. Keep your dog on a leash if required.
Expect to pack out all of your trash and waste.
Do not camp within 200 feet (70 adult steps) from lakes and streams.
Always bury human waste in a cathole six inches deep and 200 feet away from any water source. Follow these guidelines for your pets, as well.
And of course, follow all Leave No Trace principles. We’ve touched on most of those above, but everyone can use a refresher.
You should also read up on the USDA guidelines for dispersed camping in national forests.Read the full article here
Make money while you travel
Wonkamping is one way you can make money while you are traveling, however there is an entire world of online business that can allow you to do the same!
Here are some of my top posts and helping you get started making an income from a laptop so you can make money while on the road!