Camping is an inexpensive activity that requires some initial investment. The truth is that camping can be done for free. If you are a frequent camper or have limited time, the recurring costs of camping in national parks and state parks can quickly add up.
If you didn’t know, there are many areas across the country where you can camp free of charge. They’re much easier than you might think. You can find your favorite campsite (and it’s free!) with a little bit of research and preparation. Here are some places to look.
Except for a few limited exceptions, camping in National Forests or Grasslands can be done completely free of charge. They are easily accessible by car, RV campers, and backpackers. The US Forest Service may even have access roads that lead to camping areas.
A Motor Vehicle Use Map is required for anyone who uses a vehicle, whether it’s a car, camper or truck. It will include a fun acronym (MVUM) and show the location of access and service roads. These maps can be obtained at the ranger station, or downloaded beforehand from the National Forestry Website.
Are there any restrictions?
Yes. The Forest Service has regulations regarding dispersed camping in order to preserve the forests and continue to provide free camping. These regulations may change, so make sure you check with the Ranger and Online.
* Dispersed camping and developed campgrounds are available. If you have the option, make sure you camp outside and at a reasonable distance from any developed campsites.
* Leave no trace. This is a good idea wherever you are, but it may not be enforced as strictly and may require more preparation and effort.
* You must collect firewood from fallen or dead trees. Seasonal restrictions may apply to campfires.
* Extended stays of up to two weeks are common.
Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management oversees land for more than preservation. Therefore, not all BLM land is suitable for dispersed camping. They will be found in grasslands and deserts of the American West. It will be displayed when you enter lands managed by the BLM. However, some areas may not be marked on all maps making it a little more difficult to locate.
It is easiest to find suitable camping areas on BLM lands by visiting their website. This site includes a tool that allows you to locate approved camping sites, and also provides convenient access to service roads.
Are there any restrictions?
Yes. You should first verify that the land isn’t under BLM control. They administer water, mining rights, and grazing rights. This makes it unsafe (or dangerous) to camp on.
* BLM may have more strict regulations about where camping is permitted.
* Stays of more than two weeks are not permitted.
* You can’t interfere with the resources of BLM lands. This includes practicing Leave No Trace, and making sure that your camp is at least 100 feet from water sources.
What you’ll need
It is possible to camp on National Forest or BLM land for free. This is a great way of taking advantage of the great outdoors’ natural resources. You will need to be prepared because they aren’t as well-developed as National Park or State campgrounds. These are the things you should know:
* A map. You can use apps to navigate to free camping. However, they might be difficult to use without a signal.
* Water. If you don’t have running water at your site, it is unlikely that there are any amenities.
* Additional trash bags and toilet paper. You must properly dispose of all trash and TP. You should have the containers to transport it with you.
You can make camping trips completely free by doing some research and planning. It’s important to know where you are, how to get there and what you will need to do while you’re there. Although it is more difficult, getting in and out can be so rewarding.