Weighing the amenities of an RV resort with camping in the rough


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Arizona

By Bob Difley

Living fulltime in an RV is the dream (or maybe the necessity) of many people as housing costs skyrocket, urban living becomes more congested, and streets and highways become clogged with traffic. What the RV lifestyle offers is the ability to change your status on a whim, given the options of living in an upscale RV resort with many amenities and activities, or boondocking in the great outdoors where you may not even be able to see a neighbor. One option can be used to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle and the other to free the mind from the clutter of civilization, or simply to save money (expensive resorts and campgrounds) to give finances a chance to even out. And what you do is totally your choice when you live in one of today’s feature-rich RVs. 

When the first self-contained RVs appeared on American highways, the concept of a full-service RV resort had not yet become the seed of an idea. Even the concept of a recreation vehicle, or house-car, for transportation as well as housing, completely independent of electrical, water and sewage systems, and self-sustainable – while seeing the wondrous scenic landscapes of this great and diverse country – was scoffed at and likened to itinerant gypsy wagons. But the self-sustaining independence for many of us would become the beauty – and lure – of RV camping.

But then campgrounds and hookups came along and the new mainstream RVers evolved from wanting to be free of tethers to RVers demanding campgrounds with hookups (and even more comfort amenities) wherever they wanted to “camp.” Campgrounds turned into crowded resorts with attractions to rival luxurious vacation hotels and spas – with price tags to match. And, in a very Darwinian evolutionary process, many RVers lost their ability to camp without life-supporting appendages.

But RVs did not lose their ability to camp without the life-supporting tethers. In fact, they became even more adaptable, efficient and practical for camping independent of support systems – well beyond the dreams of the early adopters.

Giant water tanks and waste tanks, generators, solar panels, high-efficiency electricity-storing batteries, full-size refrigerators, massive amounts of storage and pantries, efficient heating and cooling systems – and many other improvements – now make camping without hookups (boondocking) about as easy as staying in a full-hookup campground.

But many owners, though they know that their rig has these systems already built in, stay wary of camping away from the ease and predictability of the grid. Many new RVers are convinced something unpleasant will happen to them if they become too adventurous.

The truth is, if you don’t venture out away from conventional overnight options, you will miss out on one of the most fulfilling features of the RV lifestyle – the option to camp just about anywhere you want to on America’s public lands – in its forests and deserts, by streams, rivers and lakes, on Indian Reservations and Fish and Wildlife properties, on state and federal wildlife and forest preserves, and at water properties managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But wherever you decide to plop for a period of time, you can change your mind in a heartbeat. 

You can find Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle.