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Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Boondocking 101 from TCM and Whazoo's version

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Posted: 12/10/10 06:03pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Truck Camper Magazine has a good article on boondocking, followed by a few thoughts of my own on the subject and 2 links to a Whazoo trip report from the summer TCM edition. Toot toot.
Truck Camper Magazine

The little pictures get larger by clicking, if you didn't know that already.
Whazoo's Funundrum Part 2

Whazoo's Funundrum Part 3

Boondocks is a word that conjures up images of truck camping in hard to reach areas far from civilization. At least as far as one can get these days. It doesn’t really have to be hard to reach, that only adds mystique to the term. But the word itself has me wondering, what is the real meaning of boondocks and where did this all American word come from?

Looking a little deeper I was surprised to find it wasn’t American to begin with. In the Tagalog language spoken by an ethnic group of people in the Philippines it’s spelled bundok and means mountain. Brought home and used as slang by American soldiers from the Philippines in the early twentieth century they used it to describe a very remote brushy area.

Boy, was I wrong with my imaginative definition. I thought it had something to do with Daniel Boone and how he used to dock his canoe in some wild and hard to reach areas of Kentucky. Did you know that Daniel Boone once owned most of Kentucky? But that’s another story, I’m easily side tracked. I should have known though as boondocks would have been spelled boonedocks.

So the word bundok from another language is brought to America and made into a very unique and individual American slang. It seems to fit as truck campers are unique individuals who enjoy camping in...boondocks.

In our modern day English language it’s perceived as a plural noun preceded by “the”. When my wife asks where we’re going camping and I tell her the boondocks she knows not to bring her hairdryer, as in no hook-ups. I can also see it’s derivative as being a verb. “We’re not just going camping, we’re boondocking.” As well as an adjective, “we are boondockers.” I just love the way we can slang words around here, and they can even be unceremoniously shortened as in the boonies. So much for the English lesson of the day, let’s head for the boondocks.

When trying to pick a spot in the boondocks I usually go first to the memory banks. Of course I cheat a bit having been to many places in a Jeep over a lifetime of camping and exploring before owning a truck camper. Even then the memory can run a little lean and the places a little hazy. My wife and I have taken to writing down the location of an inviting dirt road seen while on another trip or drive. If we think fast enough we make a waypoint with our GPS to come back to later. If we have time we’ll take that road just to see where it goes.

Certain signs have significant meaning to us. Like passing one that says creek, river or lake since I like to fish and we both love the sight and sound of water. It’s not rocket science but more like Las Vegas. It can be a gamble to turn down that road without knowing what it’s like. That’s why reverse was invented, for truck campers to back out of places. I’ve gotten real good at backing out with the camper, you just never know. But that in itself is the beauty, not knowing. Similar to opening a present and getting just what you wanted. Like that special place you didn’t know existed next to the creek where fish jump right into your frying pan. That is exactly why after every type of camping known to man, we now have a truck camper affectionately known as a “TC”.

Yet there are many roads we take that don’t pan out. My wife will tell you every time that it wasn’t a wasted effort, we would not have known otherwise. Yet the stories of “paradise found” are numerous and what we remember best.

The new fangled way to find areas of boondocking interest is the internet. Not too new fangled anymore, it’s a good way to get in depth knowledge of places once kept secret.
Forums, specific websites, or Google Earth all work great for me.

I personally could do without the computer until it comes time to plan a new trip or write about said trip. Accessing the internet through the computer has become my main reason for having one. Well, there is Photoshop and keeping in touch with friends but again that’s another story. It’s real exciting to research a new place to boondock on the internet. I see pictures that others have taken and want to see them for myself. Are you and I any different? Descriptions are not always spot on but pique my interest to the point of planning a trip to the boondocks. Besides, there are always those “other” roads to take on the way. Sometimes after picking an area off a website I’ll then go to Google Earth to see the landscape overall. I’ve discovered that even as good as the internet and Google Earth can be, that too doesn’t always work out for us. Getting to an area and finding the trees too close or low for a TC is always disappointing. Along with the wash we can’t cross without ripping jacks off the camper. I’ve learned to swallow my pride and go somewhere else usually as nice since it was unplanned. There’s that unknown factor again.

Books, I love books and have more than my share. Books on 4 wheel drive trips, backcountry adventures, magazines and newspaper clippings all have a place in my office. I browse them often and have a list I won’t live to see yet I can pick up a book and find another great place to boondock. A favorite Friday night date is dinner and the bookstore. We’re an exciting couple these days aren’t we. My two favorite areas are the travel book section and the magazine section on...travel. Specifically areas within close proximity to our city or state. In fact I find myself falling for the same edition with a new cover many times. Anyone need a brand new book on “Canyons of the Southwest”? I have three!

Then there’s the old fashioned way of finding great places to camp in the boondocks, by talking. We’ve come across countless boondocking sites by talking with other people. Specifically campers and my favorite, Forest Rangers. I’ve been known to chase a Ranger down on a bicycle to have a talk. Well only once but I do actually go to pains to talk with them. What a treasure trove of information they have, especially when you find a Ranger in a truck. You’re already both out in the “boonies” hopefully, and the elixir of fresh air seems to loosen their tongues. With a few well placed words of how you enjoy nature and picking up garbage left behind by others you will receive some of the best kept secrets known only to the Forest Ranger. I say this with all respect feeling to have missed my life’s calling as a Forest Ranger. They know the land like no other and will typically give you an honest assessment on your chances to make it in your TC to the boondocks in their jurisdiction.

Other campers are also a good source for places to boondock. I have a manilla folder full of hand drawn maps to boondock locations. We met a lady at a camp ground one time that walked with two canes. Who would have thought of her as a boondocker? Yet she took the time to drive us out to a superb area to camp miles away from the campground. We’ve continued to camp there for many years, you just never know!

Being located in Arizona I’ve heard it’s much easier to boondock in the western U.S. than the east with more open public land available. I still think that with research and camping in the off season some great boondocking is there for the taking. In that case boondocking could be as much a frame of mind as an actual achievement. And that’s where boondocking starts, as a frame of mind.

These are some brief thoughts on a most revered term in the truck camper world. I’m sure that somewhere ol Daniel Boone wishes boondocks was spelled with an “e”.

Thanks for reading,
Dave Rogers


* This post was edited 12/10/10 06:10pm by whazoo *


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Posted: 12/10/10 06:23pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

boondock can be a noun or a verb

Or to me anytime I'm avoiding campgrounds.

I have hiked parts of the Sheltowee Trail in KY.... Sheltowee means big turtle, the name the indians gave Daniel Boone. (Wilderness Trail)

And rafted the whitewater portion of the Cumberland River in KY at the Sheltowee Trace.

From now on I'll dedicate all of my boondocking to daniel Boone....

footnote... I was Daniel Boone in my 4th grade play.... in training I guess.

Thanks Dave...

PS.... I really like the picture.

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Artum Snowbird

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Posted: 12/10/10 06:30pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Many thanks to the master of the backwoods. You are indeed the promoter and publisher of some of the most verbally and visually rewarding trips that I have ever seen on this forum.

I can hardly wait to go boondocking again.

Mike and Carole

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Less Stuff


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Posted: 12/10/10 06:40pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We have found a hidden cost in Boondocking.

Our trucks electrical system is beginning to show symptoms of dirt roaditis. The transmission indicator is very dim so I only know what gear I'm in at night. Also the turn signals quit working. But on the last turn into the Chevy dealer it started working again and still is.(Honest true story)

Most vehicles start showing problems with enough dirt road miles. Yet thinking of the money saved Boondocking and the enjoyment we have had, we are way ahead.

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Posted: 12/10/10 06:57pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I was reading that article too this morning in TCM and I was amazed when I read 'bundock' pronounce 'boondook'

* This post was edited 12/10/10 10:19pm by Virgil_Diesel *



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Posted: 12/10/10 07:03pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanx Dave..yes boonedocking is a state of mind.

The best thing about TC'ers...is they are out there doing it...not just talking about it.

Life is short, keep moving, take something good from each day.


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Posted: 12/10/10 07:22pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great series Dave and amazing photography (and photoshop)!! We love Wyoming and the Grand Tetons/Yellowstone area. We have only camped at the RV parks in the fiver, but I'm getting my very own Lance TC from my DW, ummm I mean Santa this Christmas!! Anyhow, I would love some detailed info from the Wyoming portion of your trip if possible. The chance to get up to those remote spots has me itching to break the new TC in on Wyoming soil!! If you intend on keeping the location of these areas to yourself I would completely understand.



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Posted: 12/10/10 07:54pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Ssh, quit spreading the word! Folks are going to read this and start crowding our spots! Boondocking is all about staying under the radar... However, having said that -- nice article and pics, way to go Whazoo -- now you are famous! Expect folks to knock on your door "out there" and ask for an autograph....

- WR
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Posted: 12/11/10 05:59am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks, Whazoo!

Nicely done article! And, thanks for posting the links to Part II and III.


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Posted: 12/11/10 06:56am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Ditto. Very well done.


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