With the economy heading south faster than a migrating mallard, many of us (including your beloved blogger) are bone broke. That shouldn't stop you from enjoying the splendor of the natural world. I've compiled a few tips for traveling for close to nothing. I'll present these tips in a bit of a series as I write them. Today's tip is:
Tip 1: Camp for Free
For the last couple of years I've been camping for free maybe 75% of the time. Here in the US, you can do this in almost any national forest. When you're planning your route, keep an eye out for national forests. While driving through a national forest on a highway, you'll typically see several dirt roads leading into the forest. Pick any one of these, drive up it a little distance till you find a place to pull out and camp. It's that simple.
Well, Almost. There are a few extra things you need to know and bring if you choose this dispersed camping option.
First, there are often restrictions and rules you should know about. This is particularly true when it comes to building a fire, so it is a good idea to check with the USFS website to familiarize yourself with these regulations. In general, use common sense when building fires: don't build them when it is excessively windy or dry, don't build them next to trees, don't build gigantic infernos, etc.
Second, if you plan on camping in a national forest, you will need to bring toilet paper, a shovel (to put out your fire and dig a hole to do your business), and plenty of water. You should also consider bringing a chair. Remember, all you're getting is a piece of land. There are no services.
Finally, I do this in my sedan which is pretty low to the ground. This sometimes makes it challenging to travel the dirt roads. While not required by any means, vehicles with high ground clearance make life easier--particularly if it is raining or snowing. It's a good idea to have a backup campground in mind in case the dirt roads become impassible.
Dispersed camping is not for everyone. It is a very primitive way to camp. However, it is unquestionably my favorite way to camp. You have the wilderness to yourself, free from traffic and loud neighbors. There are no distractions, no buildings, no bathroom lights shining on your campsite through the night... This is the way to experience the solitude of nature!
I'm relatively new to dispersed camping. I'm sure many of you could add valuable advice to this post. Feel free to offer any suggestions.
Up Next: Cook for Free