Why Rent A Campsite When You Can Camp For Free?
Question 1: How much are you paying to camp?
Question 2: Has it been worth it, or are you looking for a cheaper way?
Don’t get me wrong… Paid campsites definitely offer some familiar conveniences to new or occasional campers or those who want their RV lifestyle to resemble a “rustic resort”…
But I’m guessing since you landed on this page that like many long-term or full-time campers, you’re getting tired of the expense.
Considering that even if you're able to find an under-$25/day long-term campground, you're still looking at a monthly budget that resembles renting a room in the city. If you can afford it, that's one thing. But if you're trying to stretch a small fixed income, the monetary outlay -- not to mention other inconveniences of sharing an popular campground with city-folk -- must be starting to wear on your patience!
Did you know that it's completely possible to camp for free?
It's true! There are tons of free campsites, along with many under $12. Many of them are on public land, and they vary in the type and amount of "hookups" (approaching NONE)... but they're totally free to use.
Here's an example of a free campsite:
Chiriaco Summit - Chiriaco Summit, California
(1 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5, rated)
A free dry camping area behind the General Patton Museum. No facilities at campsites. Fuel, gift shop, post office, mini-mart, and restaurant nearby. Check out the website for more services and facilities. Look for sign "Free Dry Camping" at east edge of museum parking lot directing you to camping area behind museum. Multiple camp sites areas along several east-west dirt roads. Dirt roads OK for cars/RVs. Some freeway noise, but site is out of sight of service road....
Here's a $6/night campsite:
Corn Springs Campground - Desert Center, California
(7 votes, average: 3.29 out of 5, rated)
Camping Fee: $6/night. Nine camp sites including one group site is available with tables, grills, potable water, and shade ramadas. Handicap accessible vaulted toilets are also available in this campground. The 10 miles of gravel road to the springs from I-10 is very rough: average speed about 12 MPH. The Corn Springs Campground is located deep in a canyon of the Chuckwalla Mountains, and is situated by a stand of more than 60 native California fan palms. This oasis supports abundant wildlife and is an important stopping place for migratory birds. Corn Springs was a major occupation site of prehistoric Native American Indian groups....
If you hadn't already gathered as much, these listings are reproduced from an online directory chock full of cheap and free camp grounds.
It's called: FreeCampsites.Net
Most of the cheap and free sites are in the scenic wilderness of the Desert Southwest of California and Arizona, which respectively have 218 and 124 listings apiece. Most other states have between 10 and 40 $11/day and under sites listed. Many also accept the usual discounts.
So if the thought of giving your a shot at casual or long-term "boondocking" is sounding appealing, check out the directory, and see how much "rent money" you can begin saving every month, while seeing a bit more of the country you may have been missing all this time!
UPDATE: Over the past months full-timing in the Southwest USA, I've personally gotten A TON of great leads on FreeCampsites.net. But over time I've noticed that the sites listed tend towards the "standard" sites that anyone can find, if you just go to the local forest ranger's office. What you won't tend to find listed there are THE BEST Free Camping Sites in an area, simply because regulars aren't likely to advertise their favorite boondocking camps for the whole internet!
If you're interested in a list of personal Top Free Campsites in AZ, NM, TX, UT, CA, and NV -- including favorite destinations like the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Sedona -- you'll want to check out this collection of Free Campsite guides from Frugal Shunpikers: