Dispersed Camping on Public Lands, It's Wild and It's Free

Waste Management

The phrase "pack it in, pack it out" sums up the policy on garbage while dispersed camping. There are no trash cans in the wilderness.

Always leave a campsite as pretty or prettier than you found it.

RVers are no exception to the rule. That means no dumping of black water or gray water in the wild. Do the right thing and find a dump station instead.

For tent campers without a porta-pottie, it's advised to dig a 6 inch deep "cat hole" far away from creeks, lakes, or springs. Toilet paper should not be buried as wildlife will often dig it up later...and burning it could start a forest fire. It should be packed away in a plastic bag instead.

Dispersed Camping in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona
Dispersed camping in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona

Bears

It's thrilling to see a bear in the forest while out hiking. Seeing one at your campsite is another story though. That can be down right terrifying...especially if that bear scarfs down all your hamburgers and hot dogs!

Joking aside, if there's a bear at your camp it's looking for one thing. Food! When camping in bear country it's crucial to keep a clean camp.

Always store food and odorous items like toothpaste, soap, and toiletries in a bear proof container if possible.

At the very least, store food out of view and not in plain sight. Bears have learned to recognize food containers, coolers and water bottles so keep them out of view. Store these items inside your RV or in your car's trunk.

Bears that learn to rely on food left out by careless campers often become "problem bears." These bears lose their fear of humans and may become aggressive. The sad truth is that many of these problem bears are destroyed each year.

Pets

If you bring Fido along, don't forget the leash. While camping in the Sonoran Desert on BLM land near Quartzsite, Arizona I met a man out looking for his dog. He'd been looking all day and the dog was nowhere to be found.

The Sonoran Desert is one heck of a place to lose a pet. It's essentially a wilderness that stretches on for miles and miles. Most dispersed campsites are just as wild.

Like people, pets can become disorientated in unfamiliar surroundings. If you're camping with four legged friends, keep an eye on them.

In some areas, pets must remain leashed at all times.

Enjoy the Silence

I can tell you from experience that there's a ton of beautiful scenery to behold in our big backyard. Isn't it time you experienced our public lands for yourself?

I won't waste any more of your time then. Enjoy, and have fun camping the way camping was meant to be, wild and free.

Dispersed Camping on BLM land in the Eastern Sierra, California
Boondocking on BLM land in the Eastern Sierra, California

Public Land Websites

Find public lands and learn more about dispersed camping by visiting these official government websites.

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