“Half of all campers say camping has a great deal of impact, both in general and for themselves, in decreasing stress levels and allowing them to spend more time with their families. In fact, camping is credited for contributing to emotional and physical health and overall healthier lifestyles,” states to the 2019 North American Camping Report.
We wholeheartedly agree, but with camping and RVing being a growing trend, not to mention a huge draw the past couple years, there are more people than ever on the road and at the campgrounds. Some folks may feel the need to get away from the crowds in a new or different way.
Campgrounds, parks, and resorts offer comfortable sites and plenty of amenities, but boondocking or wild camping can offer RVers an alternative. Basically, you go camping where there isn’t a campground – and you still get to enjoy your RV.
You aren’t connected to electric, sewer, or water, so you need to have a plan for those, whether you’re supplementing or going without. You also aren’t near a developed campground that comes with vault toilets and picnic tables. No, boondocking, is just you, your RV, and nature.
Dry camping – no hookups – is actually a great way to get a taste of boondocking without plunging in head-first. One night of dry camping may also become necessary at some point, such as on a way to another destination where you have a reservation or out of necessity such as bad weather. While dry camping isn’t considered boondocking, it can be done in a pinch at a Walmart parking lot (“wallydocking”) or at a unique location such as a winery, farm, or museum through Harvest Hosts (membership required).
Perhaps you’re just fine with the neighbors at the campground and appreciate the amenities, yet you want a break or feel the desire within you to go on an adventure, with your RV to return to. Then secure your trailer or rig and embark on an overnight in the wilderness with just the gear you can carry on your back.
- Several state parks in Michigan offer hike-in sites that are set away from the modern campgrounds, yet are still within reasonable reach if you need amenities such as shower facilities. You carry all your gear with you that you will need and set up camp at one of these sites. Some hikes are short, a quarter mile, while others are one to five miles (depending on how remote you want to go). Sites are separated by natural foliage as well as distance, so you get the space and privacy you crave. You do need to make reservations for state parks, even for hike-in sites.
- Maybe you want to try dispersed camping, meaning you want to camp in a state or national forest and choose where you want to camp. There are no specific sites – and no fees. To do this, you first need to Each national forest in Michigan – Hiawatha, Ottawa, and Huron-Manistee – all have individual sets of rules for this type of camping. The basic rules are as follows:
- Your campsite can be located on state-owned land but cannot be within a state park, recreation area, or game area.
- The campsite must be located one mile from a rustic campground.
- A camp registration card (available as a PDF from the Michigan DNR) must be placed prominently at the campsite.
- Follow state land rules.
- Another option is backcountry camping. Again, sites are designated by the National Park Service that are far from roads and developments. Porcupine Mountains has 63 sites, Sleeping Bear Dunes has a few scattered across the north and south, Pictured Rocks has 14 backcountry campgrounds with various sites in each, and Isle Royale has 36. Craig Lake State Park, Champion, Michigan, has 22 backcountry sites.
- Then of course, there’s backpacking. This is a step up from all other options discussed so far. It’s usually more time and more involved. You are in the wilderness for days and set up camp each night depending on how far you hiked that day.
Of course, if you love the leisurely pace after setting up at a campground, you can reduce the crowds by camping during the off-season or during the week instead of the weekend. Camping locally, too, by picking a campground within an easy drive from home, can give you the option to set up camp on a whim. Flexibility can be your best friend.
Likewise, choosing a smaller campground rather than a larger one will reduce the number of people, though it could reduce the number of amenities. It can be a trade-off, but which would you prefer: smell what’s cooking at the site next door, or enjoy a quiet evening by the campfire and gazing up at the stars. The size of a campground can make a difference in your camping experience.
Regardless of whether you camp at a private campground, hike-in site, backpack, boondock, or dry camp, you should follow Leave No Trace principles. Don’t clear areas to make a campsite, utilize what has already been provided by nature.