Disbursed camping, dry camping, bob-tailing, or boon-docking means different things to different people. In general, it is camping in a location where electric, water, and sewer connections are not available. This broad definition includes everything from camping at a commercial campground, parking lot, or driving out into the back country and pulling off the road. The land management agencies refer to it as disbursed camping or long-term visitor use.
For most 4x4'ers, driving out into the back country and pulling off the road is the desired activity. We love driving to a secluded location and finding a nice place to spend a night or few days.
The term dispersed camping is used is used by agencies to describe camping anywhere in OUTSIDE of a designated campground. Dispersed camping means no toilets, no treated water, and no firepits are provided. There are extra responsibilities and skills that are necessary for dispersed camping. It's your responsibility to know these before you try this new experience.
Where can I disperse camp? Each Forest Service Ranger District Office or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Field Office maintains information about local disbursed camping opportunities and rules that apply. Typically, dispersed camping is NOT allowed in the vicinity of developed recreation areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas or trailheads. While spots along stream banks or lake shores are desirable, most National Forests have restrictions about camping close to the water's edge.
In general, disbursed camping is permitted on public lands where previous camping has occurred.
Whether you use tent, trailer or motorhome, this type of camping is not for everyone. At night you have total silence and darkness. Depending on your location and distance from a major city, TV reception may be nonexistent and radio stations may be few. If you plan on hiking, stick to well marked trails. Be prepared with a topographic map, compass, hiking boots and anything else necessary to support yourself in the back-country. Always carry plenty of drinking water.
The downside to disbursed camping is that you must plan everything in advance. You won't find a picnic table waiting at your site. Plan everything from where you will sit to where you will wash. There is no running to the store for something you forgot. You pack in everything you need. And, be sure to pack out everything you packed in!
On the positive side, you will be rewarded with star-filled skies at night.
A few disbursed camping tips:
Travel on back-country roads is not the same as the interstate. Many are unpaved, single lane, and contain numerous pot holes. Keep it slow.
Fire is a real danger in many areas of the country. Be prepared and have all required implements on hand. Some areas require that a shovel and rake be available at all times. Also, often a campfire permit is required.
Remember to pack out everything you bring in, there is no trash service in the back-country. What you may think is biodegradable (paper cups and plates) may actually take months or years to degrade. When using biodegradable cleaning products remember to follow these guidelines:
- Do not set up camp closer than 100 feet to a water source, such as a stream or lake
- Do not wash anything directly in a water source.
- Bury all organic waste in "cat holes", at least 8 inches deep.
Use a Porta Potti instead of digging "cat holes" for the human waste. As there are no sewer lines in the back-country, you will need to properly dispose of the potti contents. With the chemicals used in most porta pottis - do not dump this into a "cat hole", dispose of it properly.
An alternative to the chemical portta potties is the PETT (Portable Environmental ToileT (http://www.thepett.com/). The PETT uses single-use degradable waste (WAG) bags which gel the waste and neutralize odors. These bags can then be disposed with normal trash.
RESPECT PRIVATE LAND
The land ownership patterns around public lands are patchy. Often, public lands intermingled with private land. If you see "No Trespassing" signs, please respect the lands of private owners. When driving, riding, hunting, or hiking on public lands, know where you are.