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Whether you enjoy the outdoors or are looking to save some money on your next vacation, camping is a great option! If you’re not careful, you could end up paying just as much to stay at your campsite as you would staying in a hotel or Airbnb. There is a classic saying that the best things in life are free, and free campsites are no exception to this saying! There are so many beautiful campsites for both tent and RV camping that are as great as the campsites that charge $20+ per night! Here is my complete guide to finding free tent and RV camping in the U.S. no matter what kind of camping you plan on doing.
What is Free Camping?
Free camping is as easy as it sounds! It’s camping overnight in either your RV or a tent in a location that doesn’t charge for camping. While there are plenty of campsites that are similar to your traditional campsite, many of them are underdeveloped. They may be more along the lines of dispersed camping or primitive camping.
What are the Benefits of Free Camping?
One of the most obvious benefits of free camping is the cost. You can’t put a price on free, and free camping is just as great as it sounds, FREE! While this may not be true for all free camping sites, these will apply to most of the free campsites and RV parks out there.
You Can Camp “In the Wild”
While many of us enjoy being able to shower after a long hike or brush our teeth using the community amenities, you won’t find these in most of the free campsites. If you have an RV, you can take advantage of the amenities within your RV, but you won’t find dedicated campfire spaces or grills at your campsite. You will be in more of a remote nature spot without many people around you.
You Don’t Have to Be Near Other People
While making friends with other fellow campers and sharing the trails can be a great experience, if you want to get away from everyone and everything, this is a better option. Despite the camping being free, many people don’t take advantage of these free campsites because there are no amenities.
Do I Need to Bring Anything to Camp for Free?
What you will need to bring with you is going to vary based on how you are camping, and your campsite has. Many free campsites don’t have amenities, so you want to make sure that you have everything you need with you before you arrive. If you are camping in a remote or wild area such as a National Forest, make sure you bring these items:
- Garbage Bags and Containers
- Food Storage Containers
- Toilet Paper
- Camp Chairs
- Camping Table
- Permits (if needed)
If you are camping in an RV, many of these will be taken care of for you, but you still want to make sure you have these handy before you head to your campsite. Be sure to also read up on the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you are camping responsibly and disposing of your waste properly.
Where Can I Find Free Camping?
The United States has hundreds of camping accommodations, and some are better than others. Free camping can extend through a National Forest but also land you in the parking lot of a Walmart. There are many benefits to each type of free camping option, and some might work better for you than others. There are other types such as overnight parking, but I’m going to cover national forests and the Bureau of Land Management.
National forests are located on public land. Nearly every state will have at least one national forest, and many of them allow dispersed camping. You can camp in both a tent or an RV or van. Just be sure that you look into how long you can stay per the national forest guidelines. Read THIS GUIDE for more details.
Bureau of Land Management
This type of land is usually open land or desert landscape, but these areas are owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Many of these areas are used for recreation, grazing, and other uses. However, you can camp on some of these sites. Do a little research HERE ahead of time and see if you have any of these near you!
Business Parking Lots
OK – this doesn’t count as free RV camping ‘per se’ because you can’t necessarily set up camp and stay for a while. But if you need a place to stay overnight while on the road, there are quite a few businesses that will let you use their parking lots for free.
You can’t just pick any business because that may not be safe or legal. You need to ask first or confirm on the business’s website. And it’s a common courtesy to patronize the business while you’re there in exchange for their generosity. Some businesses offering free overnight RV parking are:
- Camping World
- Pilot/Flying J Truck Stops
- Other truck stops
If you’re planning your RV renter’s adventure, I suggest you take a look at these free RV camping options first. You may find that the best campsite for your family is a free one.
- Camping Tips for First-Time RV Renters
- 5 Ways to Save Money on Your RV Camping Trip
- 10 Reasons Why You Should Take Your Family Camping