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Old 08-07-2019, 07:51 PM   #1
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Default Boondocking on BLM land

Hi All -

Though I found a lot of info on boondocking when I searched the forum, surprisingly I didn't see anything specifically about boondocking on BLM lands. So here we go...

My wife and I will be leaving on our dream trip and heading "out west" in about 4 weeks. Some stops will include staying on BLM lands. I'm familiar with the basics like no hook-ups available, 14 day max. stay in one spot, don't crowd other campers, minimize use of generator, etc.

Question 1: How's security? As you know being B's we take our homes with us but is it safe to leave anything behind for the day to "reserve" your site or will it be gone when we get back? I know some people use cones or little signs. Does that really work?

Question 2 (not really BLM but...): Any high altitude issues I need to be aware of? I have a compressor frig. Any tips for that?

Any other advice/tips/do's/don'ts for staying on BLM lands?

Thanks! I know I'll have more questions.
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Old 08-07-2019, 07:57 PM   #2
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you could paint up a gallon milk jug and write occupied on it and set it in the site. Not much to lose there. That's not saying somebody still won't steal your site.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:37 PM   #3
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If you are talking about BLM dispersed camping with no fees I'm afraid you will be out of luck trying to reserve a site. There are no designated sites. It is generally first come first served as in a free for all to find the optimum spot. You can of course try but you don't want to leave behind anything of value. Maybe a milk jug as suggested with a painted sign is all. I wouldn't even spend money and carry an orange plastic cone to mark BLM land. With designated pay sites with picnic tables, prepared pads and maybe a fire ring, marking is more of a courtesy so seekers don't get excited or bothered guessing if the space is unoccupied.

Always be prepared to losing a mark. I lost a cone and a mat in campgrounds. Ironically they were high end full service private campgrounds. Especially don't leave anything where campgrounds have long term occupants. I think those people are scavengers.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:42 PM   #4
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I frequently boondock on BLM land but only in one place: the Cibola AZ wildlife refuge.......I have relatives who work there in the winter. You're out in the middle of sun...good for solar. And I never drive once I'm in a spot....they do the driving since they have a Jeep.

Hard to tell about safety. The area frequently has 2 or 3 other RVs camped in it and we're right across from the visitor center where there are about a dozen people living there 24/7. I did hear a noise one night, only to discover it was a wild burro. There sometimes are groups of young volunteers who camp in tents within the visitor center complex.

Normally we're in state or federal campgrounds. Some of those are pretty small in population also. Upper Tonto AZ only has c.9 spots and when we camped there last there was only one other camper. Not sure that was any less dangerous than BLM spot.
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Old 08-07-2019, 10:14 PM   #5
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We've camped on BLM and Forest Service land, left out tents and equipment and never had a problem with something being stolen. That said, I am not sure you can "reserve" a campsite just by leaving a sign. If you try it, I would make sure to date it clearly, otherwise there is no way of knowing how long it has been there or when/whether you are coming back.

As for safety, you are almost certainly safer stopped in a camp spot of any kind than you were driving on the road.
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Old 08-08-2019, 03:31 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnK View Post
Hi All -
Question 2 (not really BLM but...): Any high altitude issues I need to be aware of? I have a compressor frig. Any tips for that?

Thanks! I know I'll have more questions.

Our compressor fridge Novacool 3100 ran great at all altitudes up to 9000 ft. Seemed to be unaffected.
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Old 08-08-2019, 02:04 PM   #7
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There are a couple of Facebook Groups for Boondocking. Here's a link to one of them:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/freecampsites/
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Old 08-09-2019, 12:56 AM   #8
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No reason a compressor refrigerator would care about altitude.
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Old 08-13-2019, 01:05 AM   #9
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Thanks for the insights! Will keep them in mind.
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Old 08-15-2019, 04:19 PM   #10
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RE: altitude, the only issue we have run into at 10,000+ was our propane hot water heat (Suburban) and furnace (Propex) were reluctant to light at times. It seemed to help to leave the door to the HW open - may have been wishful thinking.

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Old 08-15-2019, 05:24 PM   #11
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Default Camping on BLM land

I have been camping on NFS and BLM land (Rocky Mtn area) for close to 50 years and have never had any vandalism or things stolen. Back country visitors are generally nice people and respect others property.

One thing to remember is that you can camp anywhere you like on BLM and NFS lands unless it is specifically posted against it. The NFS is good about such postings, BLM not so much. In fact you generally have to have a map of some sort to even know you're on BLM land. No signs.

I would say that trying to reserve a spot with a milk jug would be 50-50. First come, first served doesn't apply to milk jugs in my mind. I would probably respect such an effort if there were plenty of other sites.
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Old 08-15-2019, 05:26 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveJ View Post
you could paint up a gallon milk jug and write occupied on it and set it in the site. Not much to lose there. That's not saying somebody still won't steal your site.

I wouldn't honor a milk jug or a paper plate--especially if it wasn't dated with today's date. I'd honor a site that looked like it was being used but not one that looked like a reservation. (I've seen that on holiday weekends where someone went out before hand.)

If you need to mark the site because you're leaving for the day, I'd put up a cheap used tent. They've got to be available for almost nothing at thrift stores or garage sales. A milk jug full of water and an old towel on a bush would add to the scenario. Adding a sign with the date and your cell phone # (even if there's no signal) would help.
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Old 08-15-2019, 06:25 PM   #13
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An increasingly common problem in the west is locals or long-timers who go out and park a trailer on a spot days and even weeks ahead of an anticipated camping trip to "claim" it, usually to the frustration and anger of other campers who are denied access to the spot as a result (and even some area management regulations) . The wild west mentality is sneaking back into the way people claim use of public lands with an entitled "me first" and "you shuffle your feet, you lose your seat" attitude replacing respect and civility. So it is one thing to leave an established campsite to do some sightseeing for the day, and perceived as quite another to pack-up everything for that day of sightseeing and leave nothing else behind to show legitimate use of the place other than a sign claiming "dibs" on it...
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Old 08-15-2019, 08:02 PM   #14
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I believe some people take an old tent & set it up in their desired spot. Get a freebie or cheapie off Craigslist & give it a shot. Let us know if it works
Always a chance someone will steal it but that's a anything, anywhere, anytime type issue.
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Old 08-15-2019, 08:35 PM   #15
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I carry a hard copy list of USFS, BLM, and state ranger stations and visitor centers. The rangers will help you find areas where boondocking is allowed, provide maps, advice and may even recommend their favorite spots. These places usually also have clean toilets, garbage bins and potable water.
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Old 08-15-2019, 10:14 PM   #16
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Default Boondocking

We've spent the last 3 months boondocking NF and BLM land or staying with friends. We've taken down our kayaks, locked them together, left a cheap towel or such at the site, and left for the day. We've never had a problem.
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