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Dispersed Camping: A Guide To Getting Way Out There & Camping For Free
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Dispersed Camping: A Guide To Getting Way Out There & Camping For Free

Ah, camping! Appreciating the beauty of nature, breathing the fresh air, playing in the dirt – and listening to the loud people in the campsite next to you spoiling your solitude…ugh. If you love to sleep under the stars, but aren’t a big fan of the close quarters in developed campgrounds, it’s time to try dispersed camping!

The freedom of dispersed camping

You know what the biggest benefit of dispersed camping is? It’s free! That’s right, unlike developed campgrounds where you have to pay a nightly fee, this is a completely free way to camp. So if you’re looking to save some money, dispersed camping is definitely the way to go.

Dispersed camping also gives you the freedom to just show up and camp, without worrying about trying to reserve a spot. As long as you’re on land that allows it, you can stake your tent. Of course, this also means that if the place is popular, you might have to drive around for a while to find an open area.

sunski dispersed camping site

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Dispersed camping also means freedom of space in many places! You usually are able to spread out and separate from any neighboring campers because sites aren’t designated. You can even find a secret spot in the trees or set up your tent to wake up to a great view.

Doing it right

While dispersed camping is less regulated than paid campgrounds, that doesn’t mean it’s a free for all with no rules! It’s important to keep these rules in mind even though they might not be posted when you arrive.

First of all, you can’t just dispersed camp anywhere. Certain land is designated for it, and some land–especially private land–is off-limits. Most Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forest Service land is available for dispersed camping. You’ll often be able to find sites where people commonly camp. There are maps on both the BLM and the National Forest Service websites to help you figure out where you can dispersed camp.

dispersed camping on a cliff

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If you see a site that looks like it has been used for camping before, you should set up your tent there. Using an existing dispersed campsite is better than destroying plants and other nature by creating a new site. You should also always follow Leave No Trace principles – camp on durable surfaces 200 feet away from water and pack out all your trash. (That includes toilet paper!)

Also, be careful with campfires and observe all fire bans in the area. Sometimes you will find camping sites with makeshift fire rings constructed out of rocks. You can use the fire ring if there is not a fire ban. Otherwise, you may need to simply stick with your camp stove for the night.

Level up your game

While dispersed camping sites might not have the amenities of developed paid campgrounds, you can still make your campsite super comfortable. All it takes is simply bringing the right gear.

Definitely bring your camp chairs, since you won’t have a picnic table to use. In fact, if you have a little camping table, that could come in super handy, too. A hammock also makes a great place to lounge if you’re camping in an area with trees.

Make sure to bring your own bathroom supplies, since undeveloped camping does not supply bathrooms. Baby wipes are awesome for keeping your hands clean when you’re roughing it in the dirt. Be sure to bring trash bags to pack out everything when you leave.

dispersed camping couple sitting on top of a car

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Now grab your gear, get out there, and enjoy the freedom of dispersed camping!