A Case for the Campground (or, why it’s okay if you don’t plan on boondocking this year)

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If you hang out in RV social media circles, you probably have noticed the increase in boondocking, or wild camping, content. You might see an Airstream in the middle of a desert with snow-capped mountains in the distance. Or a Class C sitting at the edge of a rocky shoreline without another RV in sight. Blog posts offer GPS coordinates for remote, wooded locations, and many apps help you find isolated BLM lands on which you can park your rig.

The appeal is obvious. First of all, wild places are beautiful. RVers generally have a healthy appreciation for the natural world, so the more of it, the better. What is more romantic than having a beautiful place all to yourself? Secondly, these spots are free. For people like ourselves who want to camp as much as possible, a free campsite is a very attractive option.

And then there are the photos. In our increasingly visual social media landscape, how awesome is it to get pictures of your RV smack dab in the middle of nowhere, without the clutter of other rigs and people?

As solar energy becomes more ubiquitous, tanks become bigger, WiFi becomes stronger, and generators become cheaper, it is easier for the average RVer to enjoy the comforts of the RV lifestyle without the drag of a campground price tag.

The conversation about boondocking pops up in the RVFTA world on a regular basis. People ask us, when are you going to start boondocking? Why don’t you do it already? Don’t you think you are missing out on an amazing experience? Is what you are doing really authentic?

We have discussed this issue many times on the podcast, and in emails with our listeners. But most of the time, the question is framed in terms of what we are not doing…i.e. boondocking. But we actually look at the issue differently. Instead of believing that we are giving our kids a less authentic camping experience, we actually think we are giving them exposure to a remarkably valuable environment, and one that is difficult to find in our present day culture.

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Many people who boondock want to get away from it all, disconnect, unplug. Most of us feel this pressing need on a daily basis. We crave a break from the busyness, a bit of quiet amidst all the noise. The irony is, of course, that as we have become more connected on social media we have become less connected with our neighbors, our community members, and even our co workers.

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A recent article I read in the New York Times, Friends at Work? Not So Much, was talking about how as a culture we are underestimating the value of forming new friendships at work. When I can stay connected with my old friends on Facebook, why bother going through the hassle of getting to know Bob in the break room?

I, of course, immediately thought of the campground. In our opinion, campgrounds are not a necessary evil, a place to stay now until we can build up our courage to take our children out into the middle of nowhere. Campgrounds are actually places where a lot of things operate according to the pre-technology norms of 20 years ago. You are pretty much expected to wave and say hi to someone as they walk by. It is still considered polite to strike up friendly conversation with a stranger. And kids are constantly forming pick up games with children they met five minutes ago.

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Playdates? Not at a campground. You’ll just see a mob of kids moving from campsite to campsite. Sharing toys, making up games, and getting really dirty.

I understand the desire people have to get away from it all and find some peace and quiet. But in a way, I believe we have a little too much peace and quiet in our lives already. Too much time spent in front of screens with headphones in our ears, looking at pretty pictures that other people have posted on social media.

We don’t just love our RV. We also love and appreciate our time at public and private campgrounds, meeting  new people, having pleasant conversations, and connecting more with each other.

The pictures aren’t as pretty perhaps, but I’ve got the squeals of my happy boys as they enjoy an epic water gun war with a bunch of friends they just met. And that’s a pretty authentic experience to me.

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Have an opinion about the campground versus boondocking? We would love to hear it! Share away in the comments below…

See you at the campground. ~Stephanie

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The RV Atlas has worked with many of the most iconic brands in the outdoor industry. Here is a select list of our past and present sponsors and industry partners.

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