Since 2015, the number of camping households in the U.S. and Canada has increased by 77%. Covid camping, as it was being called, made booking a spot at a conventional campgrounds virtually impossible at times. Private, state and provincial campgrounds were all booked solid with this influx of new campers travelling the country looking for a campsite. This burgeoning interest in camping and RV’ing created a new wave of camping interest called off-grid camping or boondocking.
KOA Camping Stats
According to Kampgrounds of America (KOA) who tracked eight years of continued growth in camping, the pandemic fuelled thousands of new campers. A 2022 KOA survey found that camping has become a mainstream, widely adopted leisure travel option. Not only did 40% of leisure trips result in camping, but 80% of all leisure travellers choose camping for at least some of their trips.
New ‘Camping’ wave
Off-grid camping is a brand-new wave of camping where you are disconnected from services and amenities found at RV parks, or developed campgrounds. Born partly out of necessity from a uncontrolled bookings at established campgrounds, off-grider’s have become the RV anti-establishment’s way of ‘beating’ the establishment at their own game. Off-grid is to camping, what the Smiths, B-52’s and the Cure were to the music industry of the early 1980’s. New, exciting and completely different. Welcome the ‘new wave’ of camping!
Outdoors Guy Camping
As a seasoned campers, my wife and I visited a few of our favourite KOA kampgrounds of the past couple of years, but had to give this new off-grid camping experience a try. I have a family lake property in the mountains, which offers no services at all just an amazing view of the lake. We hauled our 26-foot travel trailer to the property and set us for the weekend. Our first off-grid experience was so enjoyable, we returned to that spot regularly all summer long. This new camping wave has me convinced!
In keeping with the law of supply & demand, the Internet got in on the Boondocking action with a handful of reference sites and Apps available for download. As Plato dubbed ‘necessity as the Mother of invention’, overcrowded and overbooked campgrounds have led the way for a modern revival in ‘getting away from it all’, in the form of Boondocking.
Sites like FreeCampSites serve as a great reference for those looking to investigate this new phenomenon. The site includes updated maps of all tried and tested ‘free’ camping spots for would-be off-grider’s to give it a try. Locations in Ontario, Canada, for example like a crown-owned boat launch in Cochrane, or property on the White River Information Centre. You may also camp free, according to those who tried it, at the ‘Old Scout Camp’ in Temagami, and at Alexander Forest Provincial Park.
Crown Land Camping Rules – Canada
Canadian citizens and people who have lived in Canada for at least seven months of the preceding 12-months, may camp for free up to 21 days, on any one site in a calendar year. This ensures camping spots are available to others and serves to reduce environmental impact. Remember to always follow restrictions posted on signs. Should an area be posted ‘no camping’ because it is restricted or a conservation area, you cannot legally camp there and could be fined. Move on and find another spot!
Dispersed Camping rules -United States
According to the US Bureau of Lake Management, camping on public lands is referred to as dispersed camping, and most public lands are open to dispersed camping, as long as it is not in areas posted “closed to camping,” or in some way adversely affects wildlife species or natural resources. Dispersed camping is generally allowed on public land for a period not to exceed 14 days within a 28 consecutive day period. In addition, campers must not leave any personal property unattended for more than 10 days (12 months in Alaska).
Off-grid Camping Equipment
Off-grid camping is essentially flying by the seat of your pants with no amenities, or services, so you need to plan ahead and be prepared. I recently purchased a large Generac generator powerful enough to run my entire trailer, if need-be, but still portable enough to haul in my truck. A reliable water source is also necessary, so we fill several bottles at a nearby spring to have in the trailer. The spring we use is tested regularly for potability so I know it is safe, but for your first off grid trip, I suggest bringing fresh water from home just in case. Or read my feature on securing a potable water source.
Off grid campers with bathroom trailer/RV facilities onboard, require a black water tote or ‘suitcase’ as I call it, to flush and transport your black water waste. Unless the spot you find to camp has an outdoor toilet and you wish to use the facilities in your own trailer, wastewater must be stored and transported to a dumping station.
Backroad Map Books is a wonderful resource that produces a variety of mapping tools with off-grid campers in mind. Their maps are waterproof, tear-resistant and designed to fit in your pocket or pack as you get down and dirty in the backcountry of Canada and the United States. The site also offers digital topographic maps and other useful tools that would surely come in handy for the new wave of camping.
Wikicamps is a great app for anyone who plans to go off-grid. The database is constantly growing and being updated with the latest information about sites across North America . It includes an active ‘user forum’ where you can ask questions and share experiences with other people who use the app. Wikicamps also works offline with the ability to download user content. It includes information about roadside rest areas, free camping plus other points of interest like campsite accessibility.
Enjoy your off-grid camping experience and perhaps we will run into one another off-the-beaten path.