Many people ask us how we make money on the road, and the truth is it’s tough to make as much being nomadic as you did while stationary. For that reason we’ve had to make every dollar go as far as we can make it. One of the biggest ways we do this is by saving some serious money on camping. First and foremost I’d like to emphasize that a completely off-grid system like we’ve got makes these campsites a lot more enjoyable. Secondly I’d like to also emphasize that free campsites are worth the detour because of the comfort you feel not stealthing it and being able to fully enjoy the area you’ve driven so far for. Lastly, I’d like to clarify that we bought a Keep America Beautiful Annual Pass, which is well worth the money. With that all cleared up lets get to the list!
Hanging in the mid west? We’ve got some good news. BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) is all around and has really relaxed camping regulations. 14 days of free camping, with campfires often allowed (but don’t leave them unattended). BLM asks that you move at least 30 miles between 14 day stays and don’t camp within 200 yards of any water source. True boondocking spots are out there a plenty but if you’re looking for a safer route, BLM also offers over 400 camp sites, you can check on more rules and locations on their website
FreeCampsites.net is an amazing resource to find and share free campsites around North America. These spots range from permit holders (in blue) cheap pay sites (in red) and full on free camping spots (in green). The website outlines a lot of other great camping resources on this list as well so it’s one of the first spots I check when I’m planning my route. You can read up on all the free camping you can find on their website
National Interagency Parks Pass
* I know this one isn’t technically free but hear me out. If you’re traveling for any extended period of time, like we are, it’s well worth the investment to get an Annual National Inter-agency Park Pass. It runs you 80$ but will grant you unlimited entry for your vehicle and occupants on all the National Parks (you’ll probably be visiting anyways). Do the math and you’ll find 3-4 national parks and the pass has already paid for itself. Now here comes the good stuff. With this pass you’re also granted unlimited entry to National Seashores, National Forests, National Reserves (many of which allow 14 day free camping) Basically anywhere controlled by a federal body that would usually charge a daily entry fee will wave their fees with this pass. In addition to this, many national parks that charge overnight camping fees will chop their fees in half (but not all so please check ahead of time by calling). The governing bodies are as follows: Bureau of Land Management http://www.blm.gov Bureau of Reclamation http://www.usbr.gov Fish and Wildlife Service http://www.fws.gov USDA Forest Service http://www.fs.fed.us National Park Service http://www.nps.gov US Army Corps of Engineers http://www.usace.army.mil
Water Management District
Heading to Florida? Don’t despair, there’s free camping everywhere! Check on the districts’ websites where you can reserve a free spot in a huge number of amazing dispersed camping spots. They have a variety of wild to semi hooked up sites with plenty of trails, rivers and lakes to check out, not to mention beautiful springs!
Northwest Florida WMD, Suwannee River WMD St. Johns River WMD Southwest Florida WMD South Florida WMD
http://boondocking.org is a database very similar to FreeCampsites.net and is searchable and savable by GPS coordinates which helps to be more exact about your camp sites. Really basic website but rich database, worth the search.
Travelling in Canada? there is an absolute mountain of Crown Land in Canada. So much so, that if you’re not in an urban center, you’re pretty much guarrantied to be near some Crown Land. Camping is free for Canadian residents for up to 21 days at a time and non residents can purchase a permit which varies in cost and regulations per province. Check the provincial website for more details.
So there’s definitely some options beyond Walmart’s parking lot, and there’s plenty of spots out there to get into nature and really enjoy the camper half of your van. As we continue to research and find more information, we will pass it along to you! If you have more resources PLEASE share them with us in the comments, I’d definitely appreciate that!