Boondocking Safety

The Pacific Northwest offers numerous opportunities to boondock (aka disperse camp) on public land for free in your RV. State and Federal land agencies in the Northwest that allow boondocking include; United States Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), state fish and wildlife, Corps of Engineers and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) just to name a few.

Many RVers are interested in trying boondocking, but some are fearful of the unknown and believe the boondocks are not a safe place to camp. Our show director (Dave Helgeson) is an avid boondocker and teaches the Boondocking 101 seminar at the Seattle and Puyallup RV Shows. Below are some of the boondocking safety information he shares in his seminar.

Statistically speaking, you are much more likely to be a victim in your own home than in your RV for the following reasons:

First - A RV is much less appealing to a thief than a permanent residence, it is less likely to have the same amount of easily pawned appliances, jewelry or valuables that can easily be converted to cash.

Second - Camping down a back country road on public land makes you no more of a target for a crook than anyone who lives in a home on a remote country road.

Nothing to fear here but cows...

Third - Criminals are opportunists, they apply their trade where there is maximum opportunity such as urban areas, campgrounds and other places people congregate. Why would a criminal drive miles out of the city with the hopes of finding someone camped in the boonies to victimize.

However, being humans, statistics don't always alleviate our fear and safety concerns. Let’s look at some steps you can take to further minimize your odds of being victimized in the boondocks and make you feel safer:

1 - Place a sticker on your RV to indicate that an alarm system or guard dog is contained in your rig. Better yet, install a 12 volt alarm or take Fido RVing with you. A dog makes a great alarm system and no criminal wants to be bitten by one.

2 - Talk to other RVers that boondock on a regular basis. They will happily share their experiences and recommendations for camping in the boondocks, you will quickly learn there is nothing to fear.

No Criminals Here

3 - When boondocking alone, put two chairs, an extra pair of large men’s shoes and a large dog dish outside your RV door.

Show signs and extra pair of men's large shoes

4 - Park where there is cell phone service when possible.

5 - If you are a motorhome owner and feel unsafe where you are boondocking, keep the jacks up, awning in and your RV ready to roll. If you are threatened, you can just jump in the cockpit and drive away.

6 - Know your exact location before you need help. Be ready to provide a good description of where you are camped including the name of the road, milepost and your position relative to both. Better yet, capture the coordinates of your campsite via your GPS receiver when you arrive at camp and keep them handy to give to first responders if needed.

7 - Park out of view or in view depending on the circumstances and surroundings.

8 - If your RV is equipped with a wireless remote key fob, keep it nearby when camped. The panic button would scare away most any criminal. The honking horn and flashing lights can be seen / heard for miles.

9 - Carry a Spot Messenger or Garmin inReach. Regardless of cell phone coverage, both devices allow you to check in with family, let them know where you are camped and summon 911 services from most anywhere. The inReach has the added advantage of allowing you to receive a response as well.

Spot Messenger or Garmin inReach

Surveys indicate that more than half of RV owners carry a firearm with them. The choice to do so is totally yours. Some things to consider:

1 - Some RVers believe that by carrying a weapon, you’re very likely providing one for the trespasser to use against you or in their next burglary. If you do carry a weapon, are you prepared for the consequences of actually having to use it? 

2 - Within the borders of the United States, the Castle Doctrine gives you the right to protect your place of residence which includes RVs. However, if your choice of RV is a motorhome, please be aware there are some laws that might work against you. A couple of examples:

No person shall knowingly discharge a firearm while in or on a motor vehicle. Note: a motorhome is normally considered a motor vehicle.

→ No person shall knowingly transport or have a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle (insert motorhome for motor vehicle) in such a manner that the firearm is accessible to the operator or any passenger without leaving the vehicle.

If you choose to carry a firearm you are strongly encouraged to know the laws and how they vary from state to state.
As an alternative to a firearm, some boondockers carry less lethal protection such as mace, bear spray, pepper spray or wasp spray. Again, there are legal ramifications, so know the laws and act responsibly.

If you think rationally about camping in the boondocks, apply the steps mentioned above and give it a try. You will find the boondocks of the Pacific Northwest offer a very enjoyable and safe alternative to conventional campgrounds. The price is right too! Remember, no matter where you RV, if trouble is going to find you, it can find you anywhere.


Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.


+1 #2 Peter Hampl 2018-03-30 02:11
I boondock about 80+% of the time. I have never felt threaten. Versus a firearm I have a can of wasp spray near the back door of my RV. It shoots 20 feet and will disable any unwanted guests human or animal :-)
+2 #1 DB 2018-03-29 21:11
This is a total lie about firearms. The obvious liberal 2nd amendment hating author doesn't want you to know that you should get a Conceal Carry Permit and you can carry a loaded gun on your person or locked in your safe or whatever.

Total falsehood. Protect yourself. Get a CCP and get a nice pistol. I recommend a Sig P938 for carry.

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