Is wild camping legal in the USA?

In today’s article, we will discuss: Is wild camping legal in the USA? We will review the places where you are allowed to camp freely in the USA, but also give you some advice for safe camping. 

Is wild camping legal in the USA?

Wild camping is legal in the USA in the following places:

  • National forests and grasslands;
  • On BLM lands.
  • It is possible to camp on any private land, provided you have previously received the owner’s agreement. It is therefore forbidden to camp in a private place without authorization.
  • Wild camping is tolerated in the public domain, outside the influence of roads and public thoroughfares, provided that there is no prohibition.

Wild camping is practised in isolation, outside a specially equipped campsite. Wild camping is in principle tolerated but regulated in certain areas in the USA. There are therefore regulations to know and respect. Very often, the bans have ecological, environmental, aesthetic or public safety and health reasons. Those who do not comply with these regulations are liable to fines.

Where is wild camping illegal in the USA?

Certain places may be prohibited by general or local regulations. Wild camping, even temporary, is prohibited:

  • on the shores of the sea and in inscribed or protected sites;
  • on roads and public roads;
  • in classified or pending sites;
  • in the protected sectors, in the field of visibility of buildings classified as historical monuments and of parks and gardens classified or registered and has been the subject of a protection perimeter, as well as in the development areas of the architecture and heritage or, where they exist, in the architectural, urban and landscape heritage protection zones;
  • less than 650 ft around water points collected for consumption;
  • in nature reserves.

Wild camping rules you must follow

When wild camping is allowed, it is subject to compliance with a number of rules designed to protect the environment. The most important are:

  1. Remain discreet and favour a light installation (not cumbersome). In general, it is best to avoid areas prone to flooding, large open spaces and the proximity of large trees that may attract lightning. Sitting below or on the edge of a rock face is also not recommended.
  1. Do not leave any food or rubbish lying around.
  1. Limit noise and light pollution while learning about the regulations regarding campfires and barbecues.
  1. Erase all traces of one’s passage upon departure.

Essential advice for successful wild camping

In this section of the article, we will share with you some essential advice for successful wild camping. 

  1. Take into account the wind: When choosing the site for wild camping, the wind is a factor that should not be overlooked. The location chosen must be sheltered from the wind. To do this, you must take into account the vegetation of the place. It could be an effective indicator to show you the strength and direction of the wind in the area.
  1. Watch for water currents: Before deciding where to camp, ask yourself if there is a risk of flash floods? In a desert area, the presence of rocks that seem to be rolling means you are in an area of ​​rapid flooding. We must therefore avoid hollow places and opt for a site far from a watercourse.
  1.  Watch out for dead branches: In the forest, one of the basic rules is to look upwards to make sure that there are no dead branches that could fall at any time in a strong wind. These are the things that can make you widows or widowers in record time.
  1. Avalanches: If you set up a wild camp in snowy weather, you should avoid certain locations, especially avalanche areas. They are characterized by the absence of trees and many other plants. Camping in these places is a suicidal enterprise.
  2. The place of the camp: The place you have chosen to camp in the forest may be the playground of dangerous animals. It is for this reason that you should take the time to look around the area where you wish to sit to make sure that there are no animal tracks.
  1. In the mountains: When wild camping on a mountain, the place with the right temperature is between the top and the bottom. At low altitudes, it is extremely cold and higher up, there is too much wind.
  1. Dripping trees: To make sure that nothing will fall on your camping shelter, you should check where the drip lines of the trees are. So beware of where the snow comes off the tree, for example.
  1. Provide shade: The sun is at its peak at noon and it is difficult to know where it will be in the late afternoon. That’s why in a hot desert area, prioritize shade. To do this, you must make sure that the shelter installed provides optimal shade.
  1. The swampy areas: When choosing your wilderness camping site, absolutely avoid swampy areas. They are a breeding ground for insects like mosquitoes. These places are also home to snakes and several other species of reptiles.
  1. Lightning: A strong storm is usually accompanied by lightning. You should therefore avoid setting up your campsite under a large isolated tree. Take the time to think carefully about the most secure location before making your choice.

Things to consider if wild camping in an RV

Although you can sleep wherever you want, you still remain dependent on a vehicle. So, unlike wild camping with a tent, for example, you won’t have quite access to all the spots you want. You can always provide a tent in your RV if you want to go on a hike.

In addition, you still need to be vigilant about where you park. Indeed, wild camping is not allowed everywhere and the fines can be high. Always remember to check beforehand that you are not on private land or even in a nature reserve. If so, better move to another location!

To find out where to sleep, you can look on the Park4night app. It is a community site and application for all people who are in an RV or van. We explain to you HERE how the site works. You can also find places to camp with road surfer spots.

In any case, wherever you are, always make sure to respect the place where you sleep. Indeed, do not leave your waste when leaving in the morning and do not disturb the local flora and fauna. We don’t have fun collecting plants or making too much noise, remember that you are a visitor first and foremost.

Conclusions and final tips

Wild camping is legal in the USA and a common practice for many travellers. Some people do it out of necessity; for example on a long trip, they will make overnight stops (called a “transit stop”) at Walmart or rest areas because the purpose of their trip is the destination. Others, on the other hand, do it out of a taste for adventure; they then settle where they stop, as they wish.

In fact, more and more caravanners are turning to boondock for the experience. whether it is for freedom, for necessity on a long journey, for a taste for adventure by choosing places that offer more privacy or to save money.

Have you ever been wild camping? Let us know if you have any comments or questions on the content!

FAQ on Is wild camping legal in the USA?

Is staying off-grid safe?

Staying off-grid in an RV is safe if you follow basic rules and take some safety precautions. Anyway, try not to cut off all forms of communication with the outside world; let your loved ones know where you plan to camp so that help can be directed to you if something goes wrong.

What is the best RV for wild camping?

The best RVs for wild camping are  Class B RVs and camper vans, as they are smaller vehicles and better to manoeuvre off-road.

How long can you wild camp in an RV?

You can wild camp in an RV as long as you still have water, food and until you have to dump your RV tanks. 


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