Freedom Camping Definition: also known as free camping and refers to camping on public land that isn’t recognized or labeled as a campsite. Very similar to wild camping, or disperse camping, you won’t have access to things like clean water, garbage disposal services, and other typical facilities.
You will, however, have access to beautiful scenery, peace and quiet of the natural environment, and access to public conservation land that few get to enjoy (or even know about).
Remember, these are not free campgrounds, these are free camping spots, you are solely responsible and a good idea to do a little research on the rules and regulations for each camping spot, not to be a nuisance, and respect these public areas and nearby private property.
Most importantly, follow the leave no trace principles.
Do not leave human waste or toilet paper unburied, don’t burn trash in campfires, and also don’t leave open fires unattended.
We want to keep these free campsites available for future generations.
Here are the places you can freedom camp that are often referred to as dispersed camping or wild camping.
Bureau of Land Management Open Lands (BLM Land)
You can camp on most BLM land for up to 14 days, even if there are grazing or mining claims unless otherwise posted.
BLM lands are mostly in these in these western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
These free campsites are essentially all of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Open Land, but with a few exceptions. You are unable to camp in areas where camping is prohibited. These areas will be well marked and are generally land that has been leased to corporations.
There are rules for freedom campers however, these are:
- You must drive on established roads, dirt roads, and trails. You are not allowed to drive your vehicle off-road.
- It is recommended that you camp in areas that were previously used, as evidenced by cleared land with tire tracks and campfire remains. If such an area exists and is open, please use this area and do not camp in areas that are not disturbed.
- However, you may camp in areas that are free of brush, trees, animal habitats, or archaeological remains. In other words, don’t root up brush and grasslands to make a new camp area.
- Camping is prohibited within 200 feet of a body of water, be that a lake, river, stream, or pond.
- You must respect the privacy of your fellow campers, do not be a nuisance. Here is the nuisance regulation.
- For more information and updated rules on BLM land here are some resources.
National Forest Land (United States Forest Service)
As with BLM land, you can camp for free on most National Forest land for up to 14 days as long as you are outside the vicinity of developed recreation areas (campsites, picnic areas, trailheads) or an area specifically restricted to camping and 200-feet from any stream.
Rules and regulations vary by district so Google the forest service land you will be visiting to get specific regulations and rules.
Use the link above to search for the forest land where you wish to camp.
State Forest Land
States have their own specific rules for Freedom camping or wild camping.
You will have to do some research on the state you plan on camping in. Here is a directory of each state’s department of conservation service.
National Wilderness Areas
Many National Wilderness Areas require permits for hiking and camping, but often only during peak recreation seasons.
Free camping is generally not allowed in National Forests (with exceptions of those with hiking permits), but go to the ranger station and see if the rangers can advise you on the best places to camp adjacent to the national parks.
Best Free Camping Apps
Here are the best apps to find free camping. Although, the apps might not be free.
- USFS & BLM Campgrounds
- Boondocking App
- Ultimate Public Campgrounds App
General Rule of Thumb for Responsible Campers
Please keep these in mind as you are searching for campsites.
Restrictions may be outlined at certain free campsites. Some examples include:
-Freedom camping is not allowed within a certain distance from the nearest town
-You may only remain on public land for camping purposes for a certain number of days
-Watch for signs that indicate wild camping is not allowed at that location
-Do not pollute any fresh water source with wastewater
Protecting a site where freedom camping is allowed is of utmost importance. It is the camper’s responsibility to take care of their garbage and clean up their area before leaving.
Freedom Camping Definition of Rules and Regulations
In order to experience a safe and successful excursion, there are recommended rules and regulations to follow. This includes:
-Checking your campsite prior to arriving to ensure you can stay there
-Reading the restrictions prior to arrival
-Do not overstay past restrictions on public lands
-Follow fire restrictions
-Do not use bathing products in natural waterways
-Do not feed the wildlife
-Take all of your garbage and waste with you when you leave
Use Leave No Trace (LNT) Principals
These principles should be top of mind at all times. Please follow them.