Boondocking for the First Time-Update


Ok, so first of all. We didn’t end up properly boondocking this weekend. A lot of things sort of came together that made it an unappealing idea. We did, however, learn a LOT this weekend. We only paid for a campground for one night and the rest of the time we slept in Walmart parking lots. So urban camping? Quasi win?

We went to Carlsbad Caverns and Roswell over the long Labor Day weekend. It’s only supposed to take about 7 hours to get there from Arlington, TX but our top speed is a whooping 55 miles an hour so it takes a fair amount of time more to get anywhere. So still within weekend driving distance.

There is a whole lot of nothing in New Mexico except desert (technically a lot of high desert, we looked it up) so we figured it’d be great for boondocking.


Around Carlsbad, NM there were a few spots of BLM land where we could hang out and camp. We decided on the Avalon Reservoir just outside of Carlsbad. Realistically, it’s maybe 5 miles outside of town. Tops. But it gets really rough, really fast and was surprisingly hard to find even with Google Maps. So after a few wrong turns, a lot of driving through nothingness, a mini panic attack on my part that we were going to “get stuck in the desert, get bit by a rattlesnake hiking out, and die in the desert”, and getting worryingly close to rolling the bus (I’m not kidding when I say it was rough going) we found the area for camping. And it kind of sucked.

It was not a very big area and there was already one group of people there with a giant 5th wheel. Which is fine, I’m not opposed to sharing space and all that. Clearly other people go there and it probably seemed so much harder to get to due to our own inexperience. My biggest issue with it was the trashyness of the site. There were beer and drink bottles everywhere. There was so much broken glass on the ground that I was concerned about letting Finn walk around. There were shotgun shells everywhere and every road sign that we had passed once getting a few miles outside of town was riddled with bullet holes.

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Cool. Is that like the local spot to go get drunk and fire off some guns?

The lake (it’s not a real lake, it’s a reservoir) was nice. I wouldn’t swim in it though-then again, I was raised in Florida and bodies of standing water are gross and dangerous there so I have a thing against swimming in lakes. I bet the sky at night was gorgeous.

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But we needed to go back into town before we could set up for the night. We had gone out with very limited supplies to make sure we knew where we were going in full daylight (I think that was a mistake-we should be fully supplied before heading out) so we needed gas for our generator and water. Did we want to go get all that and then come back out again? Deal with the shit roads twice and then stay in a broken glass filled campsite with probably a boatload of drunk and gun happy people?

Um no. We did not. We went into Carlsbad, ate dinner at the Red Chimney, and got a campground for the night. The owner of the Red Chimney, Edgar, was super friendly and even offered to let us camp out on the vacant lot next to the restaurant. But we were concerned about how loud the generator would be (still don’t know, we haven’t used it yet) and we were right next to a residential area so we decided to get a spot in a RV park instead. Really good brisket though.

What did we learn about boondocking?

  1. We need to do a lot more research before we go again. I’ve watched loads of videos and read about people boondocking and they make it look so easy and fun. We were clearly very unprepared. We’re missing some piece of information somewhere.
  2. We need to be fully supplied before we hit the road. Drinkable water is surprisingly hard to find (like gallons of it at a time). We can carry about 25 gallons right now. We have 3 6-gallon containers, 1 5-gallon container and we keep a cooler full of bottles of water while we’re traveling. We need to fill our water containers up before we leave our home base. We have no idea how well the generator will do. All that stuff needs to be tested out before we go.
  3. I need to calm down. I was so stressed out during this trip. Mike was a saint for calmly dealing with me. There was something about driving though the high desert nothingness that just really got to me. I think that anxiety tainted a lot of the boondocking attempt. I just could not calm down and relax and it made everything seem really big and scary.

Will we try boondocking again? Oh yes.



  1. I like your style! Conquer those fears!

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