Boondocking And The State Of The Economy
Q. With the state of the economy I expect the number of boondockers to go up substantially, not out of choice, but out of necessity. Will this (1) decrease the access to boondocking sites and (2) decrease the safety of boondocking?
A. Very good questions, Robert.
Regarding access to sites - I do believe that more travelers, especially those with RVs equipped for boondocking, will seek out cheaper options to campgrounds.
Boondocking or dispersed camping is often permitted almost anywhere on BLM and forest service lands but it's requested that we camp in pre-existing campsites. If most of these sites are already taken, I don't think it would take long before people create new campsites and so the availability of sites in these areas would not necessarily be affected greatly.
Not just the current state of the economy but also the average age of the population (baby boomers retiring and wanting to travel in whatever way they can afford to) will affect this.
I presume your concern about safety is not actually related to more travelers using boondocking sites(which, if you believe in safety in numbers, could be a good thing). Maybe it's in reference to the possibility of homeless people moving onto public lands.
Most of the free boondocking in the USA is on public land that's owned, policed, and regulated by federal agencies such as National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, and Corps of Engineers. Camping in one location is generally limited to 14 days. I imagine this rule was put in place to eliminate those wishing to set up "permanent" campsite homes.
I doubt that the homeless would find some of the more remote and scenic areas where we boondock economical enough for them since they're often so far away from cities and population centers that it's a long, expensive trip into town for supplies.
If the American economy were to fail to the point that there's a lot more poverty and desperate people, I think there will be greater problems than this. It's not just boondocking and not just camping and traveling that will be less safe. Every activity and virtually every location will become greater targets for crime.
Even if a depression produces something similar to the "Hobo Culture" of the thirties, I believe that, just like in that era, there will be bad and good among the "hobos." (Not to mention, plenty of material for good songs and movies.) Being poor doesn't turn everyone to crime. In fact, sometimes it provides the motivation required for major change in a system that is no longer working.
Personally, I find some comfort in knowing that, if money gets really tight, we could sell our house and live in our camper, staying at a combination of campgrounds and boondocking sites, or travel to wherever we can hope to find some honest work.