How To Find 0 cost or Low Cost Camping Sites
Any seasoned traveler will tell you the cost of hitting the road can add up quickly. From overpriced gas to pricey meals and attraction tickets, stretching your dollars when exploring the world can be tough.
But what if we told you there’s a way to experience the great outdoors without breaking the bank? Enter free camping!
In this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know to get started with free/low-cost camping- from where to find the best spots, what gear to bring, and more. So grab your backpack, lace up your boots, and get ready to hit the road. Adventure awaits!
What is Free Camping?
Free camping simply is the art of camping overnight in your RV, camper, tent, or car without paying a dime.
Free campsites are typically found in undeveloped areas. These campsites can go by many different names, including boondocking, primitive camping, dry camping, and dispersed camping.
For some, the appeal of free camping lies in the cost savings alone. For others, it’s the thrill of roughing it without amenities or the opportunity to camp in more remote locations than traditional campgrounds allow.
But whichever way you look, free camping is a unique and exciting way to experience the great outdoors. The various types of free/low-cost camping you may want to know include:
the most well-known term for free camping, encompasses all camping styles without paying fees. This term is commonly used on online forums and by RVers, road trippers, and other long-term travelers in the US.
Also known as wild camping, dispersed camping is an exciting way to enjoy the great outdoors. And without spending a dime. The term is officially recognized by the National Forest Service (NFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
This makes it easier to locate free camping sites. For those searching for the best free campsites, it’s recommended that you call the ranger at the location and inquire about dispersed camping.
Using the specific search term, you can also find information about dispersed camping on US government websites.
Stealth camping involves being discreet and blending in with your surroundings in parking lots or neighborhoods to avoid detection and show respect to locals.
Note that some adventurers prefer to remain undetected while enjoying the great outdoors. This is known as stealth camping.
Also known as wilderness backpacking, backcountry camping is the ultimate test of your survival skills.
To make the most of this challenging and rewarding experience, consider packing lightly and efficiently, leaving behind all unnecessary items that would only weigh you down.
Ever heard of wild camping? It is the way to go for those seeking a more exhilarating experience. The term is not familiar to everyone but is largely popular in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Wild camping is similar to backcountry camping- it only takes things to the next level. It’s an actual test of your survival skills. It involves venturing further into the untamed wilderness, where no designated camping areas or facilities exist.
You’ll rely solely on your instincts and survival skills to make camp and endure the elements.
Ways To Find Free and Low-Cost Camping Sites
FreeCampsites.net is a helpful website that scours the country to locate spots to pitch your tent without shelling out big bucks.
But be warned. Some sites may be difficult to access as they’re often tucked away in remote locations, accessible only by canoe or after a long hike.
While some sites listed are associated with large stores offering camping facilities nearby, many are free.
And for affordable options, FreeCampsites.net lists campgrounds that charge minimal fees, sometimes as low as $10, or even offer occasional free sessions.
However, be prepared to forego the comforts of modern conveniences, as these sites often lack amenities and may be located in unconventional places.
But for those willing to rough it and seek adventure off the beaten path, FreeCampsites.net is the perfect resource for finding your next outdoor escape.
Discover a treasure trove of over 13,000 picturesque public camping sites across the vast United States and Canada expanse with USCampgrounds.info.
The site provides a comprehensive directory of state and national parks, serene forests, pristine reserves, and historical monuments that welcome camping enthusiasts with open arms.
Be sure to pay close attention to the map and keep your eyes peeled for the elusive white symbols that denote campsites with a nominal fee of $12 or less.
While some may think these campsites lack amenities, most campers’ experiences have proven otherwise. You may find that some of the best-kept secrets lie within these budget-friendly camping havens.
Embark on a daring adventure of boondocking with the help of Boondocking.org– a treasure trove of free, off-the-beaten-path camping sites nationwide.
Curated by an active boondocker, the site boasts an extensive database of hidden gems that offer an unbridled sense of freedom and exploration.
This exclusive collection of local camping sites is not your average run-of-the-mill database. These are the secret spots that only the savviest and most seasoned campers know about.
You’ll discover some truly unique locations, such as abandoned private campgrounds where the gates are left open for intrepid explorers to take refuge and city parks with campsites with a limit of just three days.
Such unconventional camping destinations offer a unique trip far from the humdrum of typical camping spots.
Remember, databases are only a starting point for your boondocking journey. Always conduct further research and remember that the information on these sites is subject to change and may be viewed differently by others.
So, Where Do You Find Free Camping?
The United States and Canada boast a wealth of free camping options, but not all camping spots are created equal. From parking lots to national forests, there is a vast spectrum of convenience, beauty, and pleasure in the world of free camping.
Enter the magical realm of national forests – a sprawling network of public lands expertly managed by the USDA Forest Service. These stunning natural havens can be found in nearly every state across the US, with many (particularly in the western US) allowing dispersed camping.
But here’s the best part – national forest camping is not limited to RVs and vans. Tent camping enthusiasts can also rejoice and partake in the rustic bliss.
Most national forests allowing dispersed camping come with a 14-day stay limit, although this can vary from as short as one day to 30 days, depending on the location.
Before you hit the road, it’s always wise to call ahead or check the local regulations by stopping at the nearest ranger station.
And here’s a little secret – while free camping in national parks may be a rarity, many national parks are surrounded by national forests or grasslands. So, just drive a short distance out of the park. Find a serene spot in the national forest. And bask in the tranquility of nature’s embrace.
Bureau of Land Management
Ready for a unique camping experience that’s far from the usual? Enter the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A government agency that manages land in the open.
Usually, the desert landscapes of the western United States. But don’t be fooled by its stark surroundings. The BLM manages land for a multitude of purposes. These include recreation, grazing, logging, as well as resource extraction.
Here’s the kicker- free camping on BLM land is normally capped at 30 days, but the duration can vary depending on location. And while RVs and vans are always welcome, tent camping is sometimes allowed- though not always.
However, due to the diverse land usage range, you may wake up to a herd of cattle. Or a flock of sheep in your campsite. So it’s worth it to research beforehand to know what to expect.
Other Public Lands In the US and Canada
If you think national forests and BLM land are the only places for free camping in the US and Canada, think again! Other public lands scattered throughout various states and regions also offer secluded campsites for adventurous travelers.
State parks, county parks, city parks, trust lands, water management districts, and conservation areas- all have the potential to be your next camping destination.
Even smaller federal agencies like the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers have hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
But don’t expect these public lands to be uniform – amenities, access, stay limits, permitting requirements, and allowed camping types vary greatly.
That’s why it’s crucial to research and read reviews on sites like Campendium before embarking on your next camping trip. And don’t forget to contact the agency that manages these free campsites to ensure they’re right for you.
When it comes to a quick stopover on a road trip, overnight parking might just be the solution. It’s not quite camping but rather an option for staying in a developed area allowing overnight parking.
Places like Walmart parking lots, truck stops, rest areas, and even town parking lots can offer a spot to catch some z’s on the go.
However, don’t assume that overnight parking is allowed everywhere. Rules and limitations can vary widely, with some locations permitting it while others don’t.
Be sure to read all signage and ask permission from the manager if possible. Keep in mind that overnight parking is typically limited to RVs or vans. Tent camping is generally prohibited.
It’s good to know that overnight parking can be noisy and bright, and some locations may be less than ideal. Researching reviews and tips on sites like Campendium can help you decide where to stay.
Trust your instincts and plan to ensure a safe and enjoyable overnight stay.
What Essentials Do You Need To Camp For Free?
Since most free campsites do not provide amenities, preparation is key.
If you plan to camp in a remote and wild area like a National Forest or on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, bring water for drinking and washing, containers to store food, garbage bags, toilet paper, and a shovel.
Packing camp chairs and a table to make your stay more comfortable is also a good idea. Don’t forget permits if required. To camp responsibly in free campsites, it’s important to have a working knowledge of Leave No Trace principles, including properly disposing of waste.
However, if you plan on camping in places that allow overnight parking, for instance, a Walmart parking lot or truck stop, you will likely have access to a bathroom and maybe a place to dispose of garbage, making you stay more convenient.
Other Free Camping Considerations
Exploring the great outdoors and camping for free can be a thrilling adventure. However, it comes with its own set of challenges.
For instance, some free campsites may not have bathrooms. This can be inconvenient, especially if you plan on staying for a while- although options such as truck stops, or gym memberships offer shower facilities.
Also, keep in mind that many free camping locations have limited amenities. That means you’ll need to bring your own supplies and creature comforts.
Be sure to pack out what you bring in, and don’t plan on having a campfire without checking restrictions and permits and brushing up on advanced fire safety skills.
Cell phone service may not always be available when camping on public lands, so relying solely on your phone’s GPS may not be a reliable option. Instead, bring paper maps, just in case.
Finally, remember to respect Leave No Trace principles to preserve the beauty of nature for future generations.