A Million More Boondockers?? Good Idea?? Bad Idea??

(After the post on the new rules of “Residency’ in the Coconino NF, I got many letters encouraging me to stop promoting vandwelling. They said I had contributed to the extra enforcement. I asked my good friend Randy his opinion about that, and was so impressed I asked him to write a guest post–this is it. I will write my own response in the near future. To read more of Randy’s musings go to his blog: http://mobilecodgers.blogspot.com/)

A million full time Rvers are now on the road—most of us boondockers—sustainably comfortable without hookups for long periods.  We love our freedom to move about the continent—-“letting the night overtake us everywhere at home.”  We sing out loud our songs of the open road—for our friends to hear—-and often invite them to join us.

But sometimes we wonder about the consequences of a million more boondocking Rvers on the road.  We envision our favorite spots crowded with rigs or closed down from over use.  Suddenly we feel our lifestyle threatened.

Is this a reasonable fear??   I say no!!  And I accept this opportunity Bob has offered to make my case:

I say a million more will enhance our lifestyle rather than endanger it—-for a very good reason:  demand creates supply. Both  cars and camping places  multiply when demand increases.  Even  FREE camping places will multiply because a million more minds will be searching for them—finding new niches, inventing new styles, games (like geo-caching)etc—-some we have not thought of before.  (shrinking small towns across America might be induced to invite us in for our exciting company and for the dollars we spend)

Quartzsite, AZ is the classic example of boondockers making a town rich.

Already, 100,000 of us gather each year for 2 months or so in the valley around Quartzsite—-clustering here and scattering there, as we choose,  living happily—across a vast bare desert— because we require only minimal infrastructure.

That’s nearly a tenth of our total numbers in just one spot. How many  hundreds of valleys in the West lie vacant with no RV’s in them? I have camped many times—in places where no lights could be seen on the horizon.


This is a view of our national forest near Springerville, Az—-countless thousands of acres available for free camping at an elevation of 9000 ft.—no need for anyone to swelter the summer away.

Admit it my fearful friends—-there is space a-plenty for countless millions of us.

 And if you should desire a permanent high country camping place—-

An example of very inexpensive land for sale to Boondockers near Show Low, AZ.

An example of very inexpensive land for sale to Boondockers near Show Low, AZ.

consider this  huge failed development near Show Low, Az—(approximately 10 miles by 10 miles) with  thousands of very inexpensive—one and a third acre lots—that sell for 1 to 5 thousand each

A new style of boondocking has been invented by 20 or so of my friends here.  They purchased cheap lots of land close together in this high country–(6,500 ft) —perfect for cool summer  getaways-where they enjoy the  company of fellow Rvers.


Here is one of the 20 –settled comfortably on their lot. 4 ladies went together and shared a lot—the cost to each—about $1000.

Imagine a hundred or so of these RV hide-way niches scattered across the West– with reciprocal visitation privileges.   The next million Rver could make this a reality.

RV clubs like the WINs (http://rvsingles.org/) routinely route a hundred or more on grand inexpensive circuits.  (As I write this, they are collectively enjoying the sights of Wyoming  http://lifeontheopenroad.blogspot.com/).

Modern electronics now connect the remotest nooks of our continent such that we have as much connection or disconnection as we choose.

We current boondockers  know a great and powerful secret—-a secret that is quickly being leaked:  mobile living can be very inexpensive!  Millions now drudging away at jobs they hate—-could be quickly free—-to live the life they have imagined. They already have enough money to live this lifestyle!

And if a million of these unhappy souls were to shuck their jobs and expensive habits to join us on the road—the whole world would be better off: To begin with—a million jobs would suddenly be available to the unemployed—-and the new mobile million would soon find themselves consuming only a fraction  as in their former lives.

The proper fruit of the industrial / technological revolutions should be less drudgery, shorter careers, more freedom,  mobility, better connectedness, and more comforts.  Most all of my friends are now living these glorious lives. They are enjoying the juicy fruit of the tree of technology.

I say to my friends, fearful of inundation: reconsider!  Welcome the newbees—share your wisdom—as someone once welcomed you and wised you up.

As with love—this wonderful life must be shared to fulfill itself.

Try as you will—you cannot imagine how wonderful the future will be—any more than a cave man could imagine the joys we now experience.


I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

44 comments on “A Million More Boondockers?? Good Idea?? Bad Idea??
  1. Laurie says:

    Randy love you, love your blog especially the heartfelt post you wrote this week on ‘discovering the good in good-bye’ http://mobilecodgers.blogspot.com/2013/07/discovering-good-in-goodbye.html at the Summer Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.

    Yet, I have to beg to differ with your theory that “Suppply creates demand” for that principle applys to only where things are bought and paid for. The majority of boondockers choose the lifestyle because they do not want to pay for parking their rig on private or public land.

    So while the mobile millions may take to the road creating a need for more overnight parking spaces we do not want to pay $30 to $60 a night for the privalege.

    And if you do the math, the pressure put onto public lands if a million more were to take to the forests would be increased just out of public interest because chance of damage to public property and fire risk would increase substantially with what I feel would be increased ‘gestapo like’ tactics now being demonstrated in the flagstaff area of the NFS to remove ‘full-time’ boondockers from the forest.

    I think the recent ruling this week banning ALL overnight parking in the San Diego area further validates my point.

    However, I do believe not is all lost and if boondockers do not want to be policed by the powers at be or prefer not to deal with the hassle of moving every 14 days it does give us as a community the opportunity to band together by creating alternative ways to develope living spaces where we can live freely, inexpensively and in community with other kindred spirits.

    The community of Rv’ers in Show low provides a prime example which could be replicated in other areas where industry or farming has died and there is land to be had for cheap.

    Last year I almost bought a very beatiful lot in Show Low and what stopped me was that the community of people I most resonate with is not represented in that area at this time.

    I would be very interested in joining in an endeavor where other like minded individuals like the kindred spirits we travel with in the ‘Quest for Community Caravan’ or meet with at the Summer and Winter RTR’s were to join together to buy individual or collective plots of land so we could create a mobile village where people could come when they wanted to save on living expenses when the cost of gas soars or to just take time lightly away from the need to be on the move every 14 days which is required on public land.

    As a full-timer I would like the security of a place to call my own if I were to fall ill and need a safe place to recuperate and one where other kindred spirits with a similar vision were creating a supportive community as we do in ‘The Quest for Community Caravan’ and at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous Gatherings where we really do cultivate engaging as a ‘family of friends’ sharing our skills, love and knowledge with each other.

    When I was in Show Low you could pick up undeveloped lots for as little as $1000. If anyone wants the specifics on the community there you can friend me on facebook at:


    “Make the journey worthy of the destination”

    Celebrate Life!


  2. Vonbrown says:

    Very well said Randy, I agree whole heartily. See you in AZ. Peace.

  3. Tom says:

    What a great perspective, thank you for sharing it.

  4. Kim says:

    Thanks Randy. And Bob. My concern is the way the increased numbers of boondockers treat the land. And the wildlife. Maybe I’m a pessimist but I see litter and trampled habitats. More people, more destruction.
    Kim recently posted…Good Deal School BusMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Kim, that is a valid concern. However, it has been my overwhelming experience that it isn’t the vandwellers or RVers that do the destruction, and if they do it is a tiny minority. over the years I have made it a point to examine the campsites left by other vandwellers and RVers everywhere I go. It is very rare for me ot find them a real mess. Full-timers seem to truly respect the land. The biggest problem is with tent-ers and ATV-ers who are city folks making a rare trip to the desert or forest. They are the pigs.

      The over all affect on the environment will be 1000 times better if those million leave there homes for public land. Why do I say that? Their carbon foot print will drastically drop!! The earth can easily handle more litter (the wind, sun and rain will eventually take care of litter) but the amount of carbon being pumped into the air is nearing a critical level.

      • Fred says:

        I agree with the first half of your comment Bob. It is the permanent people who generally have more regard for the environment than the once or twice a year folks. I only agree with Randy’s statement of a million more would be better IF they were responsible boondockers and not a bunch of wart hogs. Unfortunately, as usual, it the actions of a few who will undoubtedly make it more difficult for the many of us who are responsible.

        However, I do not completely concur with the second paragraph. The people who leave the messes and trashed places out here in the boonies and forests, and probably do so in the city as well, would and will continue to live like pigs and most would resent you telling them that it ain’t right. I have politely mentioned this to some along the way and their demeanor changed like how dare I even think of telling them what to do. I really didn’t, but even mentioning it offended them. I DON”T want those people out here. While it may be true that their carbon footprint is less, why do I want their mess clogging up the beauty of my chosen place of enjoyment for the moment? I don’t. Somehow, I don’t think you are going to train these folks, no matter what you day or show. A million more LIKE-MINDED RESPONSIBLE dwellers would be fine, but we both know that ain’t gonna happen.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Fred, I understand your point of view entirely and agree. When I am out in the forest and desert and come across huge piles of garbage I am outraged. It is really a horrible thing they are doing.

          However, I am going to stand by my original point and this is why: the single worst thing humans are doing is pumping greenhouse gases into the air–but when 90% of you read that sentence you react with a yawn and boredom instead of outrage. Why are we outraged over a few piles of garbage but couldn’t care less about greenhouse gasses–WE CAN’T SEE THE GREENHOUSE GASSES!!

          In our extreme shortsightedness, we only care about what directly affects us NOW. And yet the honest truth is other than being ugly to a very few of us who go out onto public land, the piles of garbage are doing very little real environmental damage.

          On the other hand, the greenhouse gases that we can’t see or smell are doing huge, massive, possibly irrevocable damage to the entire planet and all life on the planet. But you and I could care less about them because they aren’t affecting me NOW in a way that I can directly see.

          I honestly believe that if another million boondockers left the city and lived like you and I with our solar and minimal carbon footprint, the planet would be much, much better off–even if there were a few more piles of garbage!!

  5. LaVonne says:

    Sounds good to me — except for, you know, human nature. We do have a habit of ruining everything we touch. But a million more boondockers could never come close to what civilization and development are doing to the environment.
    LaVonne recently posted…The Complete Flake Goes CampingMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Absolutely right LaVonne!!! While litter is ugly and horrible, nature can deal with it on such a limited scale. But the damage the American dream is doing is global on a colossal scale!

  6. max says:

    simply put —-» hallelujah

  7. Rolf Fritschi says:

    Yes, Green Peak is nice. There are many other good boondocking places near by. I guess you never will quit to spill the beans. Just kidding, or maybe not!

  8. Rob says:

    When there is enough of anything to be noticed it becomes a “problem”. Problems are dealt with. It can be mice, ants, cockroaches or anything people don’t like to see. There are some places right now where RV’s are already seen as a ‘problem’.

    Double the number of full time RV’s? Take a look at where you are now, imagine twice as many. All shapes, sizes, beliefs, morals & economic means within your view right now.

    Twice as many RV’s residing in the various national forests and BLM lands will be noticed. It will be noticed that they are “residing” there, it will be noticed that they don’t pay property taxes, it will be noticed that they are ‘different’, it will be noticed that they are ‘free” and it will be called a ‘problem’.
    Rob recently posted…Workcamping as a way of lifeMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Rob, you make a very good point that I can’t refute. Like most things in life, this is not a simple issue. Every action has a reaction and some of the reactions are good and some are bad. You point out one of the bad ones and we are seeing some fall-out from it already.

      But (there is always a “but” isn’t there) at this point I think the positives outweigh the negatives. Only time will tell if that remains true.

  9. Thanks Randy and Bob, this is great encouragement for the RV lifestyle!
    greenminimalism recently posted…Top 5 Deathbed Regrets and Why I Won’t Be Having AnyMy Profile

  10. Curtis says:

    “Welcome the newbees—share your wisdom—as someone once welcomed you and wised you up.”

    I am one of these newbies and hope Bob and you all don’t stop, many of us need your help to get where you are.:)

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Curtis! To my mind, it is hard to condemn someone for treating others they way they want to be treated.

      In my moment of need, I hope someone reaches out to me with wisdom and encouragement, even if it does harm to them.

  11. wheelingi says:

    TOTALLY agree with you on this one. In fact it’s so darn refreshing to hear this. I’ve always choosen to share all my boondocking info and yes, I’ve had commenters tell me I’m giving away secrets and will ruin it for everyone. My point of view is it’s public land, it’s there FOR everyone and I believe there’s more than enough space out there for all of us. Plus, not *everyone* wants to boondock….really they don’t. The ones that do are generally very respectful of their environment (it’s their living space after all) and respectful of others. I’ve always met the nicest folks in the boonies, I guess because we’re sharing a common bond and experience.

    wheelingi recently posted…3 Simple Steps To Protect Your RV During “Downtime”My Profile

  12. Walt says:

    I hope the pessimists in this debate do not win out. My wife and I hope to hit the road in a few more years. We do not wish to pursue this lifestyle out of economic necessity but because we no longer wish to be tied down in one place or tied to the responsibilities of home ownership. We also have friends across the country whom it would be nice to see again. Boondocking would make that more economically feasible.

    Keep up the great work, Bob, Randy, and everyone else who promotes this wonderful way of life.

  13. Boy oh boy! Well, I kinda agree with Kim and LaVonne here. Human nature is human nature and I’ve cleaned up campsites all over this country, after people who came before me. Personally, I go to the wilderness to seek solitude and wilderness, not “community.” As more and more people do the same, the “powers that be” will dig and build more and more road-side berms to prevent us from getting into the wilderness and herd us into smaller bits of land where they can find us and monitor us. As much as I would enjoy attending the occasional RTR, it always happens that people come in and park way too close to me, or box me in, with out even the courtesy asking if they can camp that close, because it’s “public” land and they can do as they please… so I move farther and farther away from the group of like-minded people I came to visit.

    I don’t know what the solution is, so I remain mobile and just leave when people crowd me, or pollute the air I must breath. It doesn’t make me feel very free to be forced to relocate all the time… I’d just like to go to the wilderness and relax and stay as long as I please, and then leave no trace. So, it is a paradox… Bob is doing a good thing for folk… but there will be a downside too.
    Charlene Swankie recently posted…Great Resources for Newbies to the Tribe.My Profile

  14. Frank says:

    I think your all making more out of it than there really is. The south west desert is huge in size made up of several states. There is plenty of room for boondocking what’s so hard about moving every 14-days. Don’t you want to see new sights and sounds. Plus there are boondockers that head north for the summer or are only boondocking on the eastern side that is also an awesome location for boondocking.

    Than there are boondockers that only want to camp in the city or Wal-Mart for real luxury. Maybe Wal-Mart can bring their breakfast out to them, walk their dog, and a foot massage please.

    Than there are thrill freaks like me, who like to camp at places like theme parks, water parks, zip-lines, museums, haunted mansions, light houses, ski resorts, zoos, AUNT Loo Loo who’s coo coo for coco puff, and thousands of other places and even other countries.

    So I’m sure there’s enough room for everybody, or you can head for the next frontier in your space RV to the MOON, MARS, or THE BLM’S ASTEROID BELT – Disperse camping please!

    Will ***sPaCE**** be big enough ?

  15. CAE says:

    I look at the homeless situation around me and I can’t help but think that these people are not buying a van and headed out to the boon docks. And when I mention living in a small space like a boat or a van, almost every person reacts with disbelief that it would be anything but very lousy.
    I think we’ll see massive societal unrest before we ever see millions of new van dwellers invading the boon docks as a life style.

    • Bob Bob says:

      CAE, I agree completely! Only the most desperate will turn to a van and only those with some money can get into an RV.

      It takes a lot of motivation to overcome the overwhelming level of fear that rules this country, not many people have it.

    • Jennifer says:

      I think that most people are too afraid and lazy to go out and live full time on the road. You must be flexible and open minded and that just does not describe most of the sheep out there. I don’t think that too many people will be rushing out to live on the road.

  16. Naomi says:

    I’m not even a newbie yet – I’m a wannabe. Love Randy’s post, and also loved the Alaska photos, Bob.

    Thanks to you both.


  17. jackal says:

    I’ve been roaming the countryside for a long time, but you rarely bump into me because I prefer solitude. And when I socialize, it’s with another person, not a group. I’ve never understood the over-socialized — the ones who are constantly on the prowl for groups, fairs, carnivals, organized events, etc. It’s as if a group is an emotional umbilical cord, without which they have no sense of well-being. I’ve known too many of these types, always drawing attention to themselves, none ever consciously aware of their subliminal motivation. You invite them over, and they believe they have license to bring a friend along, without ever asking, first. I simply have an huge aversion to over-socialized behavior. One can always spot the leaning a mile away — and the red pickups.

    • Bob Bob says:

      jackal, humans are social animals, for 2 million years we lived in small kinship-tribes of 20-70 other people and our lives depended on each other. That’s a lot of evolutionary pressure to overcome and most of us don’t, we have a natural desire to be social.

      But we are all different and we can each live in any way that pleases us. Probably none of us can really understand the motivations and actions of others, but at least we can accept them and wish them well on their journey.

      • jackal says:

        Dogs, also social animals, had no problem, whatsoever, overcoming their own evolutionary pressure to band together in a pack, which behavior they have abandoned in favor of throwing in with a species not of their own. In the movie “The African Queen,” Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) lectured Humphrey Bogart about his drunken propensity: “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.” Too much of human nature today is junk, extinct behavior, which only makes sense for those who can not attach conscious thought to their actions. If wolves have so easily risen above evolutionary pressure, then why haven’t humans, too? While wolves in some parts of the world have gone extinct, dogs have flourished, not by clinging to other dogs but by throwing in with humans. I think a lot of human failure can be attached to the tribe, whatever flavor it comes in, be it religion, ethnicity, gender and, yes, even vandwelling.

        • Bob Bob says:

          jackal, at the base of our brain is what is commonly called the “lizard brain” because it is an extremely old part of our brain going back millions of years. It automatically controls a lot of our biological and even emotional functioning. We can try as much as we want to rise above it, but it’s simple biology, when we are threatened, it sends out adrenaline, and we react to it. Ask anyone who has PTSD how it feels when it happens.

          Modern humans are suffering PTSD from the shock of the incredibly fast rise of civilization and the industrial revolution. Like rats in an over-population experiment we will end up killing each other off.

          • jackal says:

            Right on! But I think the killing began with the invention of money, the mechanism that made it possible to screw fellow men by proxy, without having to feel the guilt. In this way, money is not at all unlike a gun. As Martin Tillman (James Coburn) said to his priest in “American Gun” (2002), in reference to killing someone with a gun: “Because it’s easy… requires no more effort than the blinking of an eye… and you don’t have to look the poor bastard in the face.” Still, biology shouldn’t justify extinct, junk behavior any more than it should justify rape.

          • Bob Bob says:

            jackal, you are 100% right. Agriculture led to cities, cities led to the accumulation of wealth, power and religious control. All the worlds ill have risen out of those things. If we get rid of civilization, those things will all disappear and their ills with them. Worlds problems solved!!!

  18. Cyrus says:

    Love this!
    Cyrus recently posted…The best experience of my lifeMy Profile

  19. Wayne says:

    This is probably more of a question(s), than a comment. I just bought a 97 Astro Van a few weeks ago and am in the process of getting it road worthy. Serious diff. issues. I would have liked to go Flagstaff, but couldn’t. I’m retired and have a place in Phoenix.

    All the camping in my lifetime has been in public campgrounds. I recently thought it would be nice to try your lifestyle but don’t understand what some of you mean when you say; “camp too close” “box me in” “pollute the air I breath” and otherwise general campground etiquette. Forgive my being so naïve. Maybe Bob could do a post on this subject for some of us. A few friendly guidelines would be nice.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Wayne there is no easy answer to that. One guy may need 100 yards between his rig and anyone else, another guy may need a 100 feet, and other guy may need 10 feet. I suggest 2 things: 1) Stay as far away from another rig as you can unless you know you are welcome to get closer, 2) Ask before parking. Asking is just common courtesy and solves problems before they start.

      That said if you run a generator, run an ATV, have a dog or kids or set-up a big camp, give lots more room.

  20. jackal says:

    For what it’s worth, van dwellers have risen above the disease of living in one place too long.

  21. bill says:

    another wannabee to the pessimists. so who do you choose to not share boondocking information with. the combat veteran that went to war for our fair nation, the carpenter who built the dams to supply your power and keep you family warm. the schools he built to teach your children, the doctor who delivered your first born. the fireman, the policeman. The list goes on!!!

  22. Bob Bob says:

    rob, I’m sorry I’m not familiar with the Show Low area. I didn’t write the article about it my friend Randy did. keep looking, hopefully you will find something.

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