What is Boondocking?
The word boondock originated early in the 20th century from American
military servicemen serving in the Philippines. It comes from a Tagalog
word for mountain bundog. They started using it to mean a rural, remote,
bushy area. When they came home they developed the slang word
The RV community adopted the word to use it to describe remote camping in rural areas. So if you were going fishing in your truck camper to a remote National or State Park, when you got there you were camping in the boondocks. Since you had no hook-ups, but were self-sufficient, you were boondocking. Then some people noticed that while they were driving for several days to get to the boondocks, they could save some money by staying overnight in the parking lot of a WalMart.
Since they had no hook-ups and were self-sufficient, they said they were boondocking. After awhile people saw that they could save a lot of money by not staying in RV parks and so they started planning their trips around WalMart stores, staying in their parking lots most nights of their trip. WalMart thought it was great. They picked up a loyal group of shoppers who obviously had extra disposable income.
On the other hand, the RV parks didn’t think it was so great. They were loosing a lot of business. So they approached the local city council and lobbied them to make boondocking (sleeping overnight in an unapproved place) illegal in their city. The cities wanted to protect the RV parks since they paid a lot of taxes on their land and income, and passed ordinances making boondocking illegal. They made WalMart post signs in their parking lot saying overnight parking was illegal. These signs are becoming more and more common across the country.
There is a rift in the RV community about exactly what is boondocking. The purists say, “Staying in a WalMart is not boondocking! It’s just cheap parking without hook-ups. Only a remote location in the woods is true boondocking.” And, technically, they are right, that’s what the word means. There is a better word for staying in a WalMart parking lot, and that word is Stealth Parking.
In these articles we will examine both styles of mobile living, starting with true boondocking in the countryside.