Our lives have become so rushed that many people find the only way to enjoy a rest break is to seek the peacefulness, fresh air and open skies of nature. However, with ever-increasing numbers of people heading to developed campgrounds, chances are such breaks will take you from one overcrowded life to another.
Dispersed camping is the perfect answer to get away from it all. However, make sure you understand what it is — or rather, what it is not. Don’t expect luxuries or being welcomed by a camp host. Dispersed camping happens outside of any developed campground. There are no bookings to be made — you choose a remote spot and give yourself over to nature. Dispersed camping is all about not encountering any other campers while you’re there.
Some say nothing offered for free can be worthwhile. Not true — almost all National Forests, Wildlife Management Area and Bureau of Land Management Districts offer free camping outside of their traditional camping sites. There are few rules and even fewer amenities. If you do the necessary legwork, you could discover campsites that are like unique gems. Talk to the ranger of the area to learn where the best spots hide.
Whether you plan camping in a tent or parking your RV at your chosen dispersed camping spot, be prepared to find no toilets, ablution blocks, or outdoor showers because you will not have running water and electricity. There will be no food storage facilities, and when you pack, keep in mind that you won’t have access to groceries or other stores. Some spots have fire pits and tables but do not expect it.
Be careful not to trespass on private property. You can check areas available for dispersed camping on this interactive website provided by the U.S. Forest Service, showing maps of all the national forests.
The rules for free campers could vary, but a few ground rules apply overall.
Understand that fees payable at campsites are used to pay for maintenance, rubbish removal and other services. Thus, it is up to free campers to minimize their impact on nature. That includes destroying your fire ring, removing your trash and bury or take away your temporary bathroom.
The Leave no Trace policy includes the following guidelines:
I bet once you’ve experienced dispersed camping you’ll be hooked. A friendly warning — Do not lose sight of the dangers posed by bears, cougars and mountain lions.
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