How To Camp For Free (With 5 Examples)

Not everybody wants to spend a lot on camping. Some people like to make such trips spontaneous, adventurous, and equally budget-friendly.

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Not everybody wants to spend a lot on camping. Some people like to make such trips spontaneous, adventurous, and equally budget-friendly. And what better way to do that other than going for a free camping trip?

Free camping has always been a popular option, especially for people who like to go on such trips frequently. Because let's be real, you can, and should, not spend so much money on a recreational activity so many times a year, right? Plus, it gets kind of boring going to the same places over and over again.

But apart from having economic benefits, free camping has certain other perks as well. Today, we will discuss all those advantages along with how and where you can camp for free.

Table of Contents

The benefits of free camping

As discussed above, free camping has several functional aspects that contribute to its years-old and still rising popularity. Let us discuss the major ones in detail.

  • It's free!

The first and primary reason why people opt for this camping style is that it saves so much money (obviously!). However, choosing free camping options over private camp spots is not "cheap" anymore; it's smart. Because if you have been camping recently, you would know how ridiculously expensive some of these campsites have become.

People who like to go on camping trips several times a year or every other week surely do not want to spend a hundred bucks every time, right? This reason is the primary one why they stick to free camping. You get to choose what you do and do not want to pay for, and such liberty is not available in paid camping experiences.   

  • You get your privacy

Another essential facility that paid campsites do not usually provide you with is privacy. If you like to have sleepovers and social interactions with strangers, you'll probably be happy about it. However, if you wish to have your privacy and maintain your personal boundaries, being in such an environment will not be the most comfortable for you.

In contrast to public camping sites, your free camping spot is, most likely, only yours to use. This factor offers you complete privacy, whether you want to camp alone or with a bunch of friends. And if you are an introvert, you will get your maximum alone time with raw nature and peaceful quietness.

  • Everything is au-natural

Speaking of raw, you can enjoy pure nature without any human alterations made for camping purposes. The condition is that you select the right scenic free camping site. While many public camping sites are mostly natural and green, they are manipulated here and there to create space and a proper environment for comfortable camping experiences.

Even though many people favor this human-made alteration, some like to have an entirely natural camping experience. For many, the entire point of going camping outdoors is to get away from human interaction and human-made technology. For these types of people, finding an untouched, natural, scenic spot is the best option.

  • It has a kick to it

Campers are more likely to be adventurous. Spontaneousness is invariably a great way to add excitement to any trip. Unfortunately, paid camping sites are not always available for such sudden plans. In these situations, free camping sites are most likely to be ready.

Plus, there are only so many public camping sites in a particular city or state. However, free spaces are plenty in number, and you can never run out of new areas to camp. A new site every time makes your experience exciting, fun, and more adventurous.

How to find a spot to camp for free

While it may look intimidating, finding an open place to camp is rather easy if you choose the right techniques. Some of these popular and helpful ways are the following:

  • Google it!

Of course! Is there anything Google can not help you with? There is a wide variety of information that you can find online. From free locations to their accessibility, you can find everything on the internet.

Just remember to use the right phrases and keywords to get the targeted results you need. Mention the area that you're limited to as well as other essential details.

For example, if you're looking for a spot in the USA's national parks, the most appropriate way to search for one is to type in "free national park camping sites in the US." The point is to stay as specific as possible to get the relevant information you want.

  • Apps and online social networks

It's 2020, and social media is more than just entertainment, gossip, and news now. Many camping and traveling enthusiasts have accounts and public platforms specifically to provide information regarding access to free camping spots. Furthermore, several other downloadable applications allow you to navigate and look for open camping spaces in a particular radius.

All you must do is visit the app store on your phone and look for appropriate applications. Download them, enter your desired location, and the type of place you prefer. Then, you can choose from a variety of options.

  • Ask a camper

The best way, and probably the most reliable one, is to ask someone who has already been on such trips. They will have several options for you to choose from and will give you all the necessary information regarding these spaces. This information includes what you should be looking out for, what problems you might face there, and the perks of that location.

Having fellow campers in your social circle is, thus, always a good idea. Ask them for recommendations, advice, and about their experiences so that you can learn from them and not make the mistakes that they made. This way, you will be more prepared for your trip and what it brings you.

  • Go with the flow!

Again, if you're the spontaneously adventurous kind, get your camping stuff together, stuff everything into the car, and start moving. Drive in the direction that you feel will have lots of opportunities and keep driving until you find a suitable place.

However, make sure you check the surroundings nicely and thoroughly before you set camp. For this, there are certain things that you can keep in mind as a criterion. We'll look at them one by one in the following guide.

What a perfect free camping spot should look like

Not all free camping spots are perfect, and not all ideal camping spots are free. While you may have many options to camp free of cost, filtering them and finding the right place to settle is essential. And to select the spot that fits your requirements, certain things should be a part of your criterion. These are the following:

  • Private

If you are a private person and like to have your peace, make sure the spot you choose is not very popular among the camping community. Plus, the further away it is from a population, the more private and peaceful it will be.

Also, try to move as far away from roads and highways as you can. If people keep riding right by you, you won't get the quiet and solidarity you wanted.

  • Parking space

One of the essential things and trickiest situations are going camping and having nowhere to park your car. Thus, keep this particular issue in mind when you are looking for a free camping space.

Many national parks and other destinations have open gates but limited access to vehicles. However, when you pull off in a suitable free area, you can park your car nearby and access it whenever you want. Just keep it away from the road and make sure it is not blocking anyone's way.

  • Clean

Just because a specific land is free, it does not mean that it is ready for use and clean enough to spend the night. Inspect the area thoroughly and make sure it is good enough. You can do this better during the day so that you can adequately see everything.

  • Safe

The primary reason people like to go for paid camping sites is that some assure complete security of them and their belongings. This facility is not available on free camping trips. Ensure that the area you choose is safe from harm, such as theft and other assaults, and is also safe from natural hazards such as falling trees, lighting, high grass, and low branches.

  • Flat

Flat surfaces are essential for your comfort and the safety of your car. Even though it is sometimes tough to find a camping spot, keep this factor high in your preference list.

Different places where you can camp for free

  • Parking lots

Not all parking lots allow camping and overnight parking, but those that do are perfect opportunities to camp for free. These include Walmart, Cracker Barrel, and many others. You can camp in your van, spend some quality, alone time with yourself, and make the most out of your camping trip.

Remember to ensure that the business does allow overnight parking and follow its rules and regulations. Check with the company's management before you take any action and go camping. Building a campfire and a separate tent is not always a part of their "general public allowance."

  • National grasslands and forests

There are over 154 forests and 20 national grasslands in the United States alone, and most of them are great for camping. You can look for such local and national spots on your Google maps and social media networks. Pick the one that is the most feasible and attractive to you, and you will have your ideal free camping spot in no time.

  • Truck stops

Truck stops are famous for their facilities for stoppers and travelers. They offer showers, food, and bathroom facilities and an excellent spot to hang out and relax your legs in between journeys. But only a few people know that these stops are also a unique opportunity for camping. Again, you must talk to the authorities and management to ensure that you are allowed to camp there.

  • Resting areas

Just like truck stops, only certain rest areas allow overnight camping. Check with the state's authority and public signs to know whether you can access free camping space.

  • Casinos

This one probably never crossed your mind. Many casinos offer overnight parking for RVs. If you own one as well, you can take this opportunity to camp for free. Plus, you get access to buffets and free drinks whenever you want.

Some important things to keep in mind

All the above-mentioned free camping sites are great options in terms of accessibility and convenience. You must still follow specific rules when you go on unsupervised, private trips to such locations.

  • Don't be noticeable

Make sure no one is noticing you and that you are not a hindrance to anyone. Keep your stuff and your car out of the way, off the road, and quiet as to not disturb anyone else.

  • Lack of bathrooms

Along with all the perks and benefits of being on your own in an au natural environment, many facilities available in paid camping sites lack in the free ones. One of these essential facilities is a bathroom. Keep this information in mind when you think about camping for free, especially if you are a beginner.

  • No trash cans

Similar to the lack of toilets, there is also a minimum opportunity for dumping waste. There are no trash cans whatsoever in a natural environment, so you must take appropriate measures to keep this problem at bay. Bring your own little space for dumping waste when you go camping.

A disposable or trash bag will do. You can store your waste in it and either bury it or throw it in your car's back to dispose of when you leave.

  • Take necessary precautions and follow all the rules and regulations (fire and wood)

Indeed, private or free camping sights do not have the rules and regulations that public camping sites do. However, even government-owned or free-for-use land has its limitations. These, you need to follow strictly.

The most important ones involve fire precautions and appropriate safety measures during campfire-building. Plus, you are bound to use dead and dropped firewood only. Chopping off live trees to build a fire is a big no-no!

  • Be fully prepared

Remember that you will be alone on your camping trip and no camp authorities or other camping groups will be there to help you. Make sure you have everything you think you will need, including your sleeping bag, pillow, food, and toiletries.

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