5 rules of Boondocking. Yes, you can sleep in a parking lot!

Although our 11-year-old thought we might get arrested, we had an uneventful evening in a Target parking lot on Christmas night. It was our first boondocking experience, and it was easier than we expected!

1. Be sure to park far away from the main entrance

Walmart stores across the country do allow people to sleep in their parking lots with only a few exceptions. However, as we found ourselves driving late at night through northern Alabama, there was not a Walmart in our area. So, we tested out a local Target parking lot. Be sure to park far away from the entrance as you might get trapped by cars arriving in the morning. It is also more polite for the store.

Edit: It is important to call ahead to the store to be polite! We have actually never been told no, but it is a good practice!

2. Make a purchase

Luckily, this particular Target store had a Starbucks inside. We also needed to buy some medicine for a sniffily kid, so it worked out well that the store open right at 7 AM. It is somewhat of an unwritten rule that if you use the parking lot for the night, you should become a patron of the store in the morning.

3. Inverter and batteries make all the difference

While your RV does come with a basic set of batteries, it is unlikely to last for the night. We upgraded our batteries and also purchased an inverter to extend the use of electricity while Boondocking or camping off grid.

The battery box is a NOCO Marine Battery box. Brian cut the old single 12 volt battery box and welded added support angle iron for the weight and size of the box.

This inexpensive inverter is from Harbor Freight. It’s 2000 watts. There are better models out there, but we have had no issues with this one.

These small additions to our rig allowed us to stay overnight using the furnace in moderately cold weather, watching a movie, and running a few appliances. While you are still unlikely to be able to use the microwave or run a hair dryer, most other electricity uses will be OK.

4. What if we run out of water? Check this trick!

While it may not be for the faint of heart, you can reclaim your gray water and use it to at least flush a toilet. Brian found a large oil container, and we have re-purposed it to use for flushing a toilet while off grid.

Just as with any time you are handling gray water, you must be sure to maintain sanitary practices. We always use bleach and hand sanitizer to keep our RV a clean environment.

Savvy Amazon link!

Large Plastic Container

5. Dry shampoo, deodorant wipes, and hand sanitizer are game changing!

Small creature comforts can make a big difference especially if you have a long day of driving after your overnight camping in a parking lot. Since most freshwater tanks are pretty small, you might not be able to have a hot shower in the morning. In order to stay fresh and ready for travel, Candace always uses dry shampoo when showers aren’t an option. We recommend this brand: Not Your Mother’s Dry Shampoo.  Its well priced and works great!

You can also conserve your freshwater by using hand sanitizer. Deodorant body wipes are another great way to feel fresh in the morning before heading out.

A little cheaper on Amazon than in the store:

Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Refreshing Dry Shampoo Duo Pack 14 ounce

Reach out with any questions! Happy camping, y’all!

Published by brawnerology

We are family living in Texas, who LOVE to travel. We have been all over Europe, Asia, and Central America. Now, we are heading throughout the US with our children!

23 thoughts on “5 rules of Boondocking. Yes, you can sleep in a parking lot!

  1. We did parking lot boondocking all the way from SK Canada to South TX this winter. You have some great tips that we also used. Here’s another – the major truck stops all have showers, so we used their parking lots as often as we could. Happy and safe travels!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I didn’t realize Targets allow boondocking. We have used Wal-mart, Cabela’s, Sam’s Club, Cracker Barrel, but more recently have been opting for Harvest host or Boondockers Welcome, although those are membership sites. Also we never boondock for more than about 2 nights, so we don’t run out of water or power (we do have solar panels).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This one allowed it! I don’t think all do necessarily. We typically on do it when stopping from one place to another without a state park nearby. We love state parks, but sometimes they are too far off the road!


  3. Loved this blog! We just started traveling out of state a couple years ago and love it although we don’t get to do it often enough. There are some great ideas in this which I will try to implement the next time we are on the road.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers! We take our puppers everywhere, and she and I are training for a marathon. We are running a virtual race raising money for Australia’s animals affected by the fire. Love learning from dogs!


  4. Ha! BOONDOCKING! Thank you for introducing me to this excellent term. I actually know a climber in Japan who used to live like this all the time (we all called his little flatbed utility vehicle the “truck mansion”) but the level of sophistication you bring to this art is truly fascinating and eye-opening. Must tear myself away or I’ll get no work done today, but I’ll be back!

    Liked by 1 person

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