How to Properly Moochdock In Your RV

Moochdocking is a great way to park your RV for free and spend quality time with friends and family.

If you’ve ever had a friend crash on your couch for a few nights without expecting anything in return, you’re probably familiar with the concept of couch surfing. For RVers, the equivalent is called moochdocking.

What is Moochdocking? Moochdocking is RV camping on a friend or family’s property for free. This might mean parking in their driveway, on the street, or somewhere on their land. Moochdocking does come with some risks like ticking off grouchy neighbors or getting a citation for parking illegally but with a little bit of advance planning, it also has some big rewards: free camping all over the country and getting to visit loved ones.

Follow neighborhood rules. It’s a good idea to start by figuring out these two things. Will your hosts HOA allow you to park an RV on the property, and will your RV fit into the moochdocking site? If possible, ask your host to send you some pictures of the property. Make sure to get shots of the road leading into and away from the property, the driveway, the exact spot you plan to park, and any cables, wires, or trees that might hand down and get in the way. In addition, take a look at google maps for another layer of added protection.

Parking on a Street. When it comes to moochdocking, you are not just limited to your host’s driveway. You may also be able to park on the street in front of their house. Again, you need to know if there are any restrictions for doing so. And as reliable as your host might be, don’t take their word for it. Double check the laws yourself. Getting a citation or waking up to a police officer banging on your door will definitely put a damper on your moochdocking trip.

Privacy. Another thing to consider with this particular set up is privacy. A StreetSide spot may lack privacy and your very presence might bother or inconvenience the surrounding neighbors. to help with this, have your host speak to the neighbors before you arrive and make sure they’re ok with it. If possible, try to find a spot on the street that is quiet, secluded, and easy to navigate. This way, your RV will be out of the way of other cars and can avoid backing up or backing in easy and easy out.

Don’t get stuck. If you lucky, you may be able to moochdock beyond the street and driveway spot. Do you have friends that own a farm or acreage? Or maybe family that lives along a stream or quiet country road? While this may seems like a dream moochdocking scenario, there are still a few things to be aware of. First, find out if the land you are planning to park on is soft, sandy, or prone to flooding. And second, make sure there is enough room for you to turn your RV around. Getting stuck in the mud or having to back out of a site are not ideal situations.

Hookups and Courtesy. In addition to finding the right site to moochdock, you also need to have a plan for powering and dumping. Will you plug into your host’s electrical outlets, run off a generator or rely on solar panels? If you plan on plugging into your host’s power source, make sure you don’t run all of your RV appliances at once and trip a breaker in their home. RV’s with 30 or 50 amp services, you will need an adapter to plug into a standard 20 amp residential outlet. When moochdocking, it doesn’t hurt to bring your own fresh water. Even if you plan to hookup at your host’s house having extra water in the freshwater tank could come in hand. And remember to NEVER empty your tanks at your moochdocking site. Instead, find a dump station your way out. That is one way to ruin a friendship and get uninvited forever. (Unless you get to stay at our host’s with full-hook up like in our video here. How to Moochdock.)

Final thoughts. If your host is family or close friends, you could probably stay longer than 3 days, just don’t wear out your welcome. And don’t forget to thank your hosts for their hospitality. Even better, show your thanks by giving them a small gift.

Some of the Best Tips To Stay Safe While Boondocking In Your RV

The main question we are asked when boondocking is “How do you stay safe?”

For some, the thought of spending the night alone in an unknown, off-the-grid place can make you feel frightened. So many things could go wrong. If we let our imagination run wild, it will tell us about the hundreds of situations in which we are not safe — rather than how we can stay safe.

There are a few things that we do automatically to keep ourselves safe. We’d like to share with you the basic steps we take to keep safe so you, too, can enjoy this great lifestyle.  Many of these are things you can do if your doing a overnight stop while traveling but you can use versions of these while boondocking for multiple days at a remote location.

Prepare Ahead.  Safety usually starts before we leave our current location. We know that many people love to fly by the seat of their pants and just drive until they find somewhere that looks good to stay. We prefer to have a plan for the day’s travel, and we research potential spots around our destination.

It is always a good idea to read past reviews for each spot where you intend to stop. If anyone has experienced issues with security or break-ins, then we will likely pass on that area and keep looking. We check Google Maps to find out as much information about the location as we can and to look around for other possibilities.  Having a plan gives us peace of mind.

Listen To Your Gut.  We have a rule in our RV that if one of us has a bad feeling about a spot or a concern about safety, no matter the reason, we do not question it. We move on. What is interesting is that if one of us voices a concern, quite often the other person was thinking something similar.  Communication is important here, so don’t let your desire to park and sleep override the need for safety. Make sure you travel early enough in the day that you’re not too tired or it’s too late, or too dark, to move on.

Do not Level Up.  Avoid using leveling blocks or put out your slides if possible, as you may need to drive away in the middle of the night. So, we make sure to park somewhere flat, so blocks are not needed while boondocking.

Hide Away.  This can be one suggestion that you have to Listen To Your Gut.  Many times, we park out of sight of main roads and public areas wherever we can. This prevents us from being an easy target for someone passing by and willing to take advantage of an opportunity. Hiding away also gives us the comfort of being able to peer out a window to ascertain the cause of any noises we may hear.  However, if your gut is telling you something different either move on to a different location or we park directly below a light, so our RV is lit up. 

Safety In Numbers.  If you can’t hide, then try to park where there are other RVs nearby, as there is definitely safety in numbers. If you arrive at a reasonable hour, introduce yourself to your neighbors so they know you are friendly and that you can both look out for one another during the evening. Make sure, however, that you keep a respectful social distance from other RVs.

Have A Plan B.  Once you’ve settled in for the evening, have a backup plan for where you might drive to should you have to move quickly. We’ve had to move in the night occasionally (due to bad weather), so knowing a safe second location is so important. 

Park To Leave.  Park your RV so it is facing forward and has a clear unobstructed exit, preferably with an open space in front of you rather than a single track. And plan for what you might do if your Plan A exit is unexpectedly blocked.  Also keep in mind, if you are parking on grass of any rain in the forecast as you may get stuck in the mud. 

Preparing The RV.  Every night before going to bed, we make sure everything outside is put away at night: chairs, awning, doormat, and the garage doors are locked and dead-bolted.  Make sure the keys and alarm fob are beside the bed for easy access.  Put the computers, wallets, and valuables (passports, documents, and drivers’ licenses) in a locked safe. Most of these things tend to stay secure in any case, but if we’ve had them out for some reason, we make sure they are returned before hitting the hay.  Close the curtains on all the windows. We avoid putting up the reflective/insulating screens as these take longer to remove and can cause a lot of condensation on the inside of the windscreen, especially in colder weather. Removing condensation in a hurry is not a quick task.  Sleep with the door to the bedroom open to hear if anything is happening outside.

There are always going to be places where you feel 100 percent safe and other places that feel less comfortable. When we are in those places, we take some extra precautions to make it harder for anyone to break in. We lock the external deadlock on the main door. This prevents someone from breaking the external lock and entering the RV.

Tips On Leaving The RV Unattended.  Here are a few tips about what we do when leaving our RV alone in a remote location.  Our first tip is don’t leave your RV in a remote location. Try to move it to park somewhere more public with other people around.  If for some reason you have to leave your RV unattended, then I suggest you ensure that the area feels safe to leave.  Close curtains in the RV so no one can look in and see what contents are easy to get at to steal.  If you have any hesitations, then simply drive to another parking lot, for example, a supermarket parking area.

Our Number One Rule For Night Time Is …Do not open the door to anyone. Period.  If someone is knocking at the door and is persistent, and you want to respond, talk through a closed door or window. They will still be able to hear you. But under no circumstances should you open your door at night, and definitely do not leave your vehicle at night.

Another RVer told us a story of when he had someone bang on his door. He yelled back in his strongest, angriest voice, “why can’t everyone leave me alone!” He said this stops people immediately because they think you are angry, have already been disturbed, and might be a danger to them.  If for any reason you have a need to knock on the door of another RV during the night, make sure you announce yourself and what you want.

With all this talk of safety, you might ask us how often we have had an issue. The answer is never. We have thankfully not encountered any trouble. I put this down to doing the safety measures listed above and being super prepared.

Boondocking OR Beach-docking?

We had never boondocked before and were extremely nervous about doing it.  Could we make it without shore power or hooked to city water?  Could we boondock without solar and lithium batteries?

After the artic blast hit Texas and how we made it through that, we decided we needed to just do it!  So, we packed up and made our way to Brazoria Beach near Surfside TX.  When first arriving, we were cautious on where we drove and tried to stay as close to the dunes as possible.  We have heard of people getting stuck on the beach because of high tide and we did not want to be one of those people. Strong winds or storms can significantly elevate tides and create hazardous conditions along the Gulf Coast. Considering that we were also towing the car we were slow in picking our camping spot.  But we soon realized that the beach was hard packed sand as long as if you did not get too close to the dunes.  Also, after talking with the locals, the time of year we were there was common for low tide.  We highly recommend this beautiful beach (for Texas) because who does not love camping on the beach for FREE! 

We made it 4 nights before we HAD to leave to make our way near San Antonio TX so Dora could fly back to Iowa for a doctor’s appointment.  If we could have stayed longer on the beach we would have, and we are looking forward to going back.  You too can do it if you do some preparation. 

In our upcoming video Sunday, March 21 2021 we share with you our experiences while Beach-docking.

Other Beach-docking options:

We have compiled a few other boondocking options that we would like to share with you.  Many Texans flock to the beaches of South Padre Island to escape the summer heat.   But there are less-crowded beaches just a little farther north, where RV camping on the beaches of the Gulf Coast is permitted. Better yet, camping is either free or included with a low-cost entry pass.

Of all the free beach camping, Padre Island National Seashore provides the best opportunity to get away from it all – tune out the world and tune in to nature. At 60 miles long, this beach is the longest, remaining, undeveloped barrier island in the world. The beaches are beautiful and the surroundings all natural. Entry is $10.00 for a one-day pass or $20.00 for seven days.

Once in the park, follow the road past the visitor center to the beach camping area where you can camp for free. You may stay for 14 consecutive days and then leave for 48 hours before returning for a maximum of 56 days per calendar year. Just fill out a registration form for your vehicle at the entry kiosk when you arrive.

The farther down the beach you drive (usually conditions allow about 5 miles by regular two-wheel drive vehicles), the farther you will be away from any other people if that is what you are after. You will need to check beach driving conditions and be aware of the tides. This is true whenever you drive on a beach. We’ve seen others camping here several times in large fifth-wheels and even a few motorhomes.

Port Aransas requires a $12.00 annual beach pass is required to park anywhere on the beach except within the I.B. Magee County Park boundary. The pass is sold at the county park visitor centers, the local grocery store, and local convenience stores. It is a shame to have to pay to park on the beach, but it’s not so bad when you realize the pass also covers you for three nights of free camping anywhere on Port Aransas beaches with the exception of I.B. Magee County Park.

You can expect a lot more traffic than at Padre Island National Seashore, but the beach road is extra-wide, hard-packed, and maintained. On the main beach, the parking area is far enough back that you should not fear soft sand or the possibility of waves licking at our tires at high tide. Any size of RV should be fine here. If you prefer to drive and camp closer to the ocean’s edge, you can do so south of Beach Access Rd 1. Small campfires are permitted on the beach between beach markers 0 and 62.

Magnolia Beach is approximately 12 miles southeast of Port Lavaca. Located on an oyster-fishing bay, the beach is covered in broken shells – not the fine sand of the beaches of Port Aransas and the National Seashore. No matter what size of RV you are in, you should feel comfortable parking on this firm surface rather than the softness of a sand beach.  This beach can be remarkably busy with RV camping so if you want more a secluded area, this beach may not be for you.

 In the paved camping area, facilities include covered picnic tables, garbage cans, and public restrooms. The beach is clean and, although the restrooms are generally not very well maintained, they do have running water.

You can only walk the shoreline for about a mile before private property signs get in your way, but this shoreline is still relatively untouched by developers and tourism. It is a bit of a hidden gem and, so far, there is no fee or permit required to camp here. Although there is not a posted stay limit, we have been told that if you appear to be settling in for the long haul, you will be asked to move on.