Valid location required
Valid location required
Valid location required
Voices from the Road

Lessons in boondocking: Our first summer RV camping off the grid

We have been RVing full-time for 4 years, and this year we were extra excited to start our summer travels. We planned to approach our travels differently than we had in the past, which often amounted to overbooking and having too many dates and deadlines. We moved from our first home on wheels, a traditional fifth wheel, to a Keystone Fuzion toy hauler with two aspirations: to not overbook ourselves and to learn how to boondock (camping off the grid with no amenities or RV hookups). 

In early June, after planning out our basic route, we hit the road—excited, anxious, and ready for our boondocking adventures. 

Almost immediately, we hit a snag: We noticed that one of the leveling plates was missing on our center jacks. We had no idea how it happened, but we went straight into problem-solving mode. We ordered a new leveling plate, and, since we were already on the road, had it shipped to an RV park we were planning to stop at. First crisis averted.

Setting up camp

Our first boondocking location was near Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, in an area known as Tom’s Best Dispersed Camping. Even though we were in our fourth year of full-time RVing, we had previously only tried boondocking for a few days. To prepare for this new adventure, we talked to friends, watched YouTube videos, and downloaded apps to help us find potential boondocking locations and prepare for the unexpected.

The area was beautiful, with plenty of room to spread out for all types of RVs. As we drove into the forest on the dusty, heavily grooved road, I had to utilize all my driving skills. I wasn’t able to completely avoid the surrounding pine trees—their long, extended branches seemed to reach out just enough to wipe off the dirt on both sides of our rig.

We finally found an area that had been recommended to us as being “big rig friendly,” and after about 2 hours of maneuvering, it was time to set up camp. We learned some things about ourselves that will change the way we look for boondocking spots in the future. The main thing was not to get mad, listen to each other, breathe, and take breaks. No need to call a divorce attorney just yet!

Nature’s entertainment

After a restful night’s sleep, we woke up to amazing views of hoodoos and headed out to explore Bryce Canyon National Park. It was absolutely amazing and so picturesque. The crowds were not bad and we could have spent days hiking and enjoying the incredible views. 

A couple in hiking clothes with a scenic canyon view behind them

We spent several days amazed by the beautiful landscape of Bryce Canyon and the tranquility of boondocking just outside the park. Then it was time to continue on. Our next scheduled stop was an RV park near Yellowstone National Park, but first we needed to find our next boondocking oasis on the way. We stumbled upon Island Park, Idaho, which turned out to be a real treat. This time we kept it simple by parking in an easily accessible meadow. We set up our toy hauler patio area, also known as the porch, prepared a quick pre-made dinner, and enjoyed an after-dinner cordial.  

The view of the grassy meadow with the mountains as a backdrop was incredible. As the sun was starting to set over the mountains, the evening’s entertainment was just beginning. A nest of prairie dog pups was just a few feet from the porch’s edge. They started popping their little heads up, standing on the nest edge and running in and out of their dens. We chuckled and agreed that this is what camping is all about. 

Family time

Once we arrived at Yellowstone Holiday RV Campground, we had a few family members join us. Some of the main reasons we wanted a toy hauler were having an extra half bathroom, more sleeping options in the garage to accommodate visiting family members, and the overall space for privacy. We love when family and friends meet us on our journeys. 

After a day of relaxing and enjoying the lake near our campsite, our fresh water tank overflow valve started leaking water. Being connected to city water, this was not a good sign. We had to use the water pump and cycle between our fresh water tank and city water, while keeping an eye on the tank gauges, until we could get an appointment to have it looked at by a professional. It wasn’t a big deal, but we had to explain the situation to our guests. Luckily it didn’t faze them—they were just happy to be in such a beautiful and relaxing area. 

Four people seated on an RV patio and holding up their drinks

We had a great time exploring Yellowstone with our family. We saw geysers, waterfalls, bears, elk, bison, and antelope. The RV park was located on a lake, which provided us time to relax and enjoy some paddleboarding and kayaking.

Since we had more downtime, we headed off to Montana to spend time with a friend who is also a full-time RVer. We had a great time exploring and kayaking, and saw numerous bald eagles along the river banks.  

The importance of doing research

With our road trip goals in mind, we were trying to not overbook ourselves and be more carefree about timeframes and locations. We wanted to visit Glacier National Park, but realized that it was peak season and the park would be too busy.

We used apps and social media to find another scenic boondocking site located on the banks of the Hungry Horse Reservoir in Montana. This was a perfect location to take out the kayak and paddleboard. The only problem with boondocking at the height of summer is having to run a loud generator to get air in the RV. We gave up after a few hours and replaced the generator noise with cold showers to ease into our restless night of sleep. 

A couple with snow covered peaks and a blue sky behind them

The next day, we drove into town to get cell service. Trying to get a last-minute campsite this close to Glacier National Park was impossible, but we managed to get the last spot at a nearby Elks Lodge. That AC sure felt good with temperatures outside reaching the high 90s. We enjoyed a quick day through Glacier and did some white water rafting. This time we learned that advance booking is a must during peak times—do not show up to a very popular national park thinking you will just get in without first doing your research.

Lessons learned

Our road trip continued with two overnight stays in a Walmart parking lot. This was something we had never done before, and we were a little skeptical. Although we appreciated Walmart’s hospitality, both stays were pretty noisy at night—but when you’re in a pickle, you can’t be choosy, and we would definitely do it again.

Our boondocking experiences opened our eyes to a few things that we will be adding to the list of must-haves. We purchased a small power station that will allow us to charge anything along with running any medical devices. We also added a portable propane heater to keep the garage area comfortable for our guests. Next on the list are e-bikes for getting around while parked, and for scouting out the perfect boondocking location. We’re also actively researching a solar power system, which is at the top of our list.

An aerial shot of a truck and a trailer in a parking lot

We know people boondock all the time with way less and do just fine—but let’s face it, we are glampers. We want to be off the grid but not give up the things we are accustomed to. I’m not talking about watching TV (unless it’s football season). We both have enough hobbies that we enjoy doing together and separately, outside and inside. 

All in all, our summer travels were a success, and we really enjoyed our lessons in boondocking. We managed to keep our schedule open, but time still seemed to go by so fast and we learned so much along the way. Number one is to try to stay calm when unexpected things happen and enjoy the journey along the way. Every experience is a learning process, not a failure, and every beauty nature provides is a blessing. We can’t wait to begin our next journey.

Robin and Warren’s trip

Meet the Roadtripper

Robin and Warren Baxter