If you have been following this blog through the years or attended one of my boondocking seminars, you know I recommend using the PublicLands.org website and/or app to determine the boundaries on federal land on which to boondock. Lately there have been a bunch of new apps coming out promising to be a boon to boondockers, (sorry I couldn’t resist the pun) supposedly listing thousands of places to boondock on public land. While I have been underwhelmed by their listings (one app only shows two designated dispersed camping areas in Montana, a state which is nearly 30% federal land), I have been impressed by their overlay maps showing federal land boundaries. 

FreeRoamGraphicThe FreeRoam app which bills itself as “The Ultimate Source For Boondocking And Public Land Campgrounds” does show a few dispersed campsites, but what I really like about it is the overlays of USFS (United States Forest Service) and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands which show much more detailed boundaries than the PublicLands site / app (see photos comparisons below). Now I can confidently see where private land adjoins public land without worrying that a boondocking site I have found using satellite imagery is not located on some farmers “back 40”!

Comparison of FreeRoam & PublicLands

A couple of other advantages FreeRoam has over PublicLands is that it contains information on all 50 states, not just the 11 western states and it loads much faster. The disadvantage is that it only shows USFS and BLM lands, while those two agencies control the largest amount of land open to boondocking, it doesn’t show National Monuments, Department of Defense, Bureau of Reclamation, National Wildlife Refuges and other federal lands that allow boondocking (aka dispersed camping). However, for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, USFS and BLM control hundreds of thousands of acres on which dispersed camping (aka boondocking) is allowed, so don’t let it stop you from giving it a try.

If you haven’t been following this blog through the years or attended one of my boondocking seminars, here is a short tutorial on how to find your own free dispersed camping spot on public land:

1 - Using the Free Roam app with the USFS and BLM overlays turned ON determine where there is federal land near the area you wish to camp.

2 - Turn OFF the overlays which allows you to view the satellite imagery better and scroll the area along the roads where you would like to camp looking for campsites which will be indicated by the presence (image) of a campfire ring and / or an RV.

3 – Visit their website or call the administering land agency to verify their “dispersed camping” guidelines for the area you wish to boondock.

4 – Navigate to the campsite using the app (make sure there is cell service available for your smart phone to get you there) OR determine the coordinates (latitude and longitude) of the campsite using Google Earth and load them into your GPS enabled device to guide you there.

Boondocking on USFS Land

Hopefully you will find this new app useful in locating your own secret boondocking hideaway in the Pacific Northwest or somewhere else in the 50 states that comprise the United States.

Your next opportunity to sit in on my boondocking seminar will be February 6th – 9th at the 2020 Seattle RV Show. I hope to see you there!

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave Helgeson
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.

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