Where to Camp for Cheap?

Spending a night or more

There are many different criteria for choosing a camp spot if you are living full time in your rig. Don’t forget the advantages of being old … the senior  pass will reduce your National Forest campground costs by half.

  1. If you are on your way to a specific spot and just need a night

    1. Pilot/Love gas stations. Do not take up truck spaces. Good restrooms, great showers, open all night, relatively safe.
    2. Hotel/motel parking lots. Usually very safe if you pick a high end motel.
    3. Cabelas, Walmart, Cracker Barrel,  Bass Pro Shops and all night fast food places. This is a bit less sure. Ask first. Many towns have prohibited Walmart from letting people stay over night in their parking lot. Buy from the business, then ask for permission.
  2. If you want to stay for a week or more.

    1. freecampsites  This is a great web site. Most spots are for a night or three, but some are for longer stays. They rely on us (campers) to report back. Do it!
    2. National Forest dispersed camping. Go to fed site, pick a state, choose a forest, click on recreation, then onto camping. You can pay at a regular campground in the NF, or you can do dispersed camping. For example check out NC Nantahala dispersed camping. Also, go to the field office of the National Forest and as for their MVU map. Motor Vehicle Use Map. If there are dots next to the road on the map you can camp there for 14 days.
    3. USDA Grasslands dispersed camping. Many grasslands offer dispersed camping. For example check out Cedar River Grasslands in Dakota.
    4. BLM land. Wide open spaces for free camping and some paid campgrounds. Check out their site. This camping is great if you like being outside without many other people. Apache Creek
    5. This is a free site in New Mexico, with tables and a pit toilet. Great hikes, beautiful trees and lots of history.
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Living in a Truck Camper

I live in a shell from A.R.E. There are fancy truck campers from basic to filled with electronic goodies like televisions and microwave ovens. Here is a list of truck campers for small pick ups that I checked out before deciding on the shell.

capri camper
four wheel camper
Alaskan camper

Each company has different configurations and different prices and different options. All of my life I wanted an Alaskan camper, but realized that I would really need a larger truck and more money than I wanted to spend. With the fancy truck campers there is always the maintenance for winter, finding a place to plug into, dealing with port-a-potties, and paying the fancy truck camper off. With the shell there is nothing that ever needs to be done. Love that part.

Cooking inside of the shell is doable, but with a 20 lb tank of propane I do not want to cook inside. I have been thinking about getting one of those small canisters of propane, but I would still have to deposit the big tank outside. That will not work in Walmart parking lots, Cabelas or any other parking lot. Hmm. May have to give up the 20 lb tank. I certainly don’t cook as much as I thought I would.

These are some of the decisions I fussed with before starting off. After 5 years I am more than pleased with the final decision of an A.R.E. topper. Am still using the 20 lb propane tank. And still thinking about downsizing it.

Desert Camping

Desert Camping


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Travel With Sound

Most of the time I choose to drive 2 lane roads to  the next destination. Sometimes I can’t go the slow way. If I have to go on an interstate I need to play music and podcasts.

Before I start the highway driving  I set up the traveling music and down load podcasts. I am not thrilled with highway driving (too fast, eats gas, scary big rigs, much traffic). So to ease my mind, and calm the nerves I have assembled my road trip music. The bluetooth on the truck’s radio no longer works, so I bought a little bluetooth speaker. I plop that on the dashboard, go to music on the phone and get ready to drive the interstate highways.

Music for the road

I put it on shuffle and start the engine. Helps to pass the time and the nervousness. Then, once I have listened to the mix multiple times I switch to downloaded podcasts.

The podcasts :

Recode Decode, How I Built This, Reset, Good Food, The Moth, and Call Your Girlfriend. I am hooked on Ronan Farrow’s voice, so I even listen to The Catch and Kill.

Anything to take my mind off of the nervousness of going 75 mph down a big-rig-busy highway.

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Budgeting for Truck Camping

This trip, living in the truck, is my life’s dream. I need very little money. I have no credit card debt. I love to walk and investigate nature. I have a hard time thinking of ways to spend money. I sit, with a pair of binoculars, and watch the desert ants scurry. I stroke the palo verde bark. I am surprised by rabbits and road runners next to the truck. I eat bizarre food combinations. I pick up rocks and investigate them. Life is sweet.

As you may have read in past blog posts, I am now living on $495/month. I found out the reduction from $639 was because of mandatory health insurance.  (I had thought that here would be some kind of cut off point for the mandatory part of the insurance.) So. What to do? I pay $395 every 6 months for truck insurance. I pay $20 each month for mail forwarding. That is the extent of my bills.  I have deleted Netflix, Kindle Unlimited, and Amazon Prime. I will stop the blog when the year contract is up.  I will still pay for the New York Times. Seems that I need some kind of news reliability. Podcasts are free, so far. They provide hours of entertainment. That means that all I have to worry about is food and water and camping and gasoline. I have the full breakdown of the budget here. I love the scrimping and fussing with the budget. I feel that I am gaming the system somehow. So many years of traveling with a backpack and much tighter budgets has enabled me to enjoy life without a bunch of money. I have been lucky. I have the truck (thanks to R and S). I have a phone (thanks to R and S). Periodically friends send money, which I tithe, then celebrate with pizza (thanks Deb and Cindy). Friends have sent teas, ramen and sardines! I have boundless curiosity about the wild and wonderful places that I visit. And libraries offer free internet access and books to read. Today I took my first paid shower ($12) for the month. It pushes my “laundry, showers and camping” budget over the limit by $2, but the gasoline budget is under by $65. Food budget this month so far is under by $28, so stopping at the grocery store today is a must. Its almost the end of the month as I write this. I still have money in the bank, still have food to eat, and am squeaky clean!Social Security

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Cleaning Out The Truck Camper

Every once in a while I am impelled to take everything out of the back and sweep and dust and clean. The sleeping bags really need the sun and breeze.air sleeping bags

The drawers of staples need to be reorganized and cleaned. It has been several months since I gave them any attention. The coffee needs to go with the sugar, the catsup needs to go with mustard, etc. Also a good time to check on quantities. How many days can I go without shopping? What am I missing? What do I have too much of?

Cleaning out the pantry

And then I took out the runner rugs and swept in all of the corners. Found a bunch of these bugs. Glad to take them out.  I have no idea what they are, but they were barely alive. I carefully gathered them up in a paper bag and took them down the wash, wishing them well.

The major cleaning out of the truck  happens only periodically. Every morning I sweep the floor. I also make up the bed every day (not sure why). During this clean out I found that the runner rugs were starting to fall apart (the backs were delaminating and scattering black crumbs everywhere), I had way too many packs of crackers, way too little fruit, all out of fresh veggies. There was a little bit of butter left, but tasting more cheese every day.

What a treat to have the truck bed organized and clean. Phew.

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