How To Find Places To Disperse Camp W/Vehicle

Bob Mayer
4 min readSep 21, 2021
Off-road, Arkansas

The first leg of my recent road trip was across Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and into New Mexico. One of my goals, as it is every time I hit the road in the Wanderer, was to stay in the wilderness and avoid civilization except for the need to gas up.

As I noted in my previous post, I usually sleep in the cargo bed of the Wanderer. During this trip, I tent-camped only once. Using the cargo bay has a lot of advantages: it gets me off the ground on a smooth and level platform. It’s much faster than putting up and taking down a tent. I used a bug net over it several times until I got up to altitude. I never had to use the camping tarp to prevent rain, because the weather never threatened rain.

Here are keys I look for: National Forests, Wilderness Areas and BLM land.

National Forests generally allow dispersed camping, unless it’s specifically marked off-limits.

Understand that National Forests are not National Parks. A good example of that is when I did the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you’re on the parkway or the roadside adjacent, you are in a National Park. Dispersed camping there is a no-no, but they have well marked campgrounds (usually all spots reserved during high season and on weekends). But if the Park goes through a National Forest, as it does in many stretches of the Blue Ridge, if you get beyond the Park on a dirt road into the NF, you’re good to go.

Wilderness Areas all have different rules. I’ve found it useful to stop and google things ahead of me to see what the rules, especially state parks.

BLM land is land we all own out west. Dispersed camping is allowed there.

To determine boundaries, I use the Gaia App, which has as one of its overlays, a shading showing what land is what. This is often key as many National Forest contains private tracts. Also, often the public roads crossing privately owned land to get into the National Forest, aren’t marked.

Other options? Campgrounds. Some of these aren’t well marked. State parks often have campgrounds. National Parks have designated campgrounds or camping locations. Occasionally in a NF, along a NF Road, will be a sign “Camp in designated locations only”.

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Bob Mayer

West Point grad; Special Ops Vet; NY Times bestseller of over 80 books; for free books and over 200 free downloadable slideshows go to www.bobmayer.com