The first time anyone buys a recreational vehicle they will ask where can I live in my RV for free? Regretfully, living costs something, to begin with. But, you can live in some nice places for very cheap if you know where to look. For digital nomads, this can become a dream come true.
To find the right spot, you will need to consider three things:
And all three are necessary. If you don't work online and you can't retire just now you will need to find places where you will be able to work and live at the same time. This will somewhat limit your choices. But, if you are free on the resource side, you will just need to find a way to locate a good spot.
Knowing your laws will be essential because while a lot of people have no issues with boondockers, municipalities and states might. People living in their RVs are unpredictable and not a part of the existing community. If you plan on staying somewhere for longer, good PR will be worth gold, and knowing the legal boundaries will save you just as much.
Finally, while the idea of living from your RV insinuates that you will be ‘’living off the grid’’, that is not always the case. You may stay off the grid for a while, but you will need to have access to power, water, and waste disposal. Food and other supplies are also something to consider.
Top Places to Live In My RV for Free
There are no exact places when it comes to living in your RV for cheap. Rather, there are three categories that you can consider depending on your specific situation. Almost all States will have all three available, but in some places, each can be better or worse for conditions.
In each case, it will be necessary to call in advance and ask about all of the conditions and fees. On some parcels of land, you will be allowed to stay indefinitely for free. In others, you will need to move after a certain period. Third groups will charge you a fee, usually costing the least overall but often being crowded.
The final choice will always be yours, but make sure you make an informed one.
#1 BLM Land
Not to be confused with the social movement, BLM land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency that holds most of the public land across the country. Across the western United States, there are currently 264 million acres, or 412.500 square miles, of land managed by BLM that is prime real estate for boondocking.
In most cases, staying on this land will be completely free. You might need to move from time to time, and some land will have seasons off where it is not safe enough to camp for longer.
But, the land is free for a reason, as there will be no external amenities or nearby resources. All of the power, water, and waste management you will need to organize yourself. Ideally, you will want to have a solar panel and some water filtration in place.
For most boondockers, this is not an issue because you would need to drive your RV to the nearest civilization for food once every two weeks regardless. That would be the opportune time to refill and restock.
Generating income in such land is tricky. Often the internet connection will be bad and there isn't any work to be done in the parks. So, unless you find a good spot for mobile internet or are retired, you might need to scratch this one off the list.
#2 Private Land
This has become increasingly common for a lot of boondockers, including those who haven't picked this lifestyle as a choice. Private land you can permanently camp on can be yours or belong to someone else who will let you stay there for some reason.
A lot of people have realized that there is a lot of very cheap land off the grid, and some have even inherited theirs as an old homestead place that is no longer in function. This can not only be the best option to live in your RV for free forever but can grow around your RV to a regular homestead.
Managing waste, power, and water will depend on the location. Some places will be near a grid and you can make your own attachments in accord with the municipality. You can also take large waste tanks that can take months or even years to fill, especially with filtration.
In a lot of cases, you will also have relatively okay internet here so if you are a remote worker it can be the best place in the world. Aside from that there is often farming, but that requires a bit more expertise and some starting capital wouldn’t be a bad idea.
That staring capital is also the biggest issue here. Unless you have someone willing to let you live on their land indefinitely, you might need to purchase your own. That will set you back a couple of dozen grand even in the booniest of boonies.
But, if you have that covered it is an awesome idea.
While this option technically would also count as private land, you are staying here for a reason. Also, it might not be as permanent as the two others. Namely, workamping is when someone who did get private land is willing to call you in and offer you a connection to your RV for power, water, waste, and even gas if you are working on the land.
Such an option might seem like serfdom to some, and it is quite similar, but it is also one of the best ways for novice boondockers to learn the tricks of the lifestyle. These campsites will usually house the owner of the land, who will often also live from their RV, as well as others.
If you can find a good community, this can be a great experience. And, some have lived in such camps for years and even decades, becoming a true community.
Finally, unlike with regular leased land, if you have a conflict with the community here for any reason you can just pack up and leave, as you are on wheels. Finding a new community to avoid conflict or simply have a change of scenery is very easy online.
Everything about Living in Your RV for Free (or Almost Free)
Each person is different. Some of us embrace the wilderness and have very few demands when it comes to luxury when boondocking. For those who spend their working hours watching the LCD screen, it may be a good change of pace to do some landscaping in the sun amidst the country air.
But, others might want their amenities and more social environments. In those cases, you will need to find a more organized place that will offer the things you want. I want to know where can I park my camper to live well, not simply to survive.
Thankfully, modern RVs and campers are basically flats on wheels with every luxury one would need in an apartment. If you know how to take care of your resources, you can have a better existence and a happier life boondocking than one would have in a shoebox apartment in the city, for a small fraction of the cost.
What Do You Need to Live In your RV?
Figuring out what you need when living in your RV is identical to what you need living anywhere else. There is the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and it will work the same for everyone.
Primarily there are your physiological needs like food, water, warmth, and hygiene. Once that is secured, you will need security itself. If you are not a fighter and don't particularly care for the 2nd amendment that safety can be provided in numbers. Network with other boondockers and keep tighter ranks.
Further, even if you are armed to the teeth and dangerous at will, you will come to higher needs. Belonging, esteem, and self-worth are generally important to most humans and we should try to make at least some connections with the people living around us.
If you are living in a boondocking community or near other boondockers that might be easier as you have something that connects you. If not, it is always a good idea to reach out to others where you are staying and offer a friendly hand.
For the final step, self-actualization, you are on your own. Make a YouTube channel and record your adventures; write a book; make a painting… it is really up to you.
The best source of power for boondockers is the biggest nuclear fusion reactor in this Solar system, the Sun itself. If you have good solar panels in areas where sunshine is plentiful your dependence on external sources will be minimal.
But, you should always have more options.
You should always keep a gas generator with you just in case there is neither sun nor a grid nearby. That way you won’t need to waste gas for the entire RV just to fill up.
And, even then, if you are near a grid connection you should fill up your batteries just in case. It will most often be well worth it, especially in winter months when solar panels won’t produce as much.
There is drinking water, and then there is working water. Aside from your daily hydration needs, you will also need water for hygiene and cleaning the RV.
The best way to have water is to conserve it. Make sure you always use it effectively and waste as little as you can. In some places, you will be allowed to collect rainwater, and you should have a system in place to do so.
Similar to electricity, filling up every time you can, will usually be worth it. And, you never want to find yourself without water.
Depending on the size, an RV can hold between 15 and 80 gallons of waste. For most people, this will take a few weeks to fill up, but it can last as little as a few days.
For those living near civilization, this shouldn't be an issue. But, if you are boondocking way off the grid you should make sure to plan your waste dropping in advance. For this issue, it is always best to have the most conservative estimates and err on the side of caution.
Access to Amenities
Food, water, and shelter are not the only amenities you will need when living from your RV. One of the biggest non-physiological needs you will experience is the desire for entertainment and company.
If you are staying in relatively urban areas this will be easy to accomplish as you can always drive to the nearest bar, club, Movie Theater, or even a live show. But, if you are way in the backcountry you will need to rely on your community and the internet.
Such amenities, as well as something else you might need, should also be planned for as if they are a general resource.
Access to Food
In a country where way more people are obese than underweight, this might not sound like a particular problem, but it is. The issue isn't finding any type of calories that you can, but sourcing and keeping good food. Canned beans can only go so far.
If you are living from your RV you will want to have a good fridge there and learn how to prepare meals both inside and outside.
Especially in the circumstance where you plan to spend a lot of time trekking or working outside, a good and balanced diet will not only keep you fed and happy but healthy as well.
Security is not about guns or violence, but knowing how to spot an escalating situation as it is forming and act accordingly. The best fight will always be the one you have not partaken in, regardless of your preparedness.
For urban boondocking, this will mean learning to read the room and avoid unnecessary confrontations, as well as searching for community protection.
But, if you are in or near the wilderness you will want to invest in a good rifle. A bear or coyote might not care much for your diplomacy skills.
For safety, information, and entertainment you will be smart to invest in a good data plan and know its coverage. Especially in the western United States, rural parts are known for bad coverage so you will want to have an amplifier with you and choose a spot where you have a connection.
If you are working online as many are these days, such a choice will be obvious. But, even if you are not, you will want a way to quickly call someone if there is an emergency
Always Consider Legal Boundaries
When living from an RV, the question shouldn't be where can I survive and scrape by, but where can I live in my RV for free and live well. Free here is a relative term because it only removes places that will charge you daily fees for just staying there.
Here, the same question arises as with living anywhere else; what does the law say about this. Loitering and vagrancy laws in many places apply to boondockers, even though we have a place to live.
You should be aware of those lines and never cross them. The fines and charges can quickly pile up and leave you in danger of prosecution. And, if you get incarcerated, even for a short while, there is a risk of your RV or camper being broken into.
Better to be safe and always follow the letter of the law in the land you find yourself to the letter.
Despite many naysayers, you can live in your RV for free, or at least not pay for parking long-term. You can use public land, private land, or even enter one of the dozens of boondocker communities that are looking for help online all the time.
But, you will need to be aware of your needs and the ways how you will fulfill them. Not everything will be available in all places and you will need to prioritize.
If you follow the rules and have a plan, you can make a great life for yourself in your RV. In many ways, it can be a better life than most people who opted to stay in traditional housing have.