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Boondocking... Maps are your Travel Agent


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The majority of trailer owners who own a trailer capable of Boondocking off the grid... have no idea how to find or locate a Boondocking Site.

Western States were once defined as being west of the 100th Meridian.  These States have the majority of 'Public Lands'. These are Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forest System (NFS), State Lands (usually School Section 16 in each 36 Section square miles and of course National Parks, Monuments, Historical Sites, etc.

Boondockers looking for Public Lands have some very good references available.  The most detailed are those sold by the United States Geological Survey as Quadrangles.  Some outdoor sporting shops sell them as well for local needs.  These are for very detailed maps for small areas.

For myself, I find the Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer very handy for States we are exploring.  They will indicate in colors various land ownerships.  City, town, Indian Reservations, BLM, NFS, School Sections and Private Property within public lands.  The scale on most are one inch covers 4.7 miles.  Some vary and the scale is printed on each map.

Roads are consistent as to Highway Interstate and State, County and all season, improved and unimproved BLM and NFS to jeep trails.  After exploring an area, you will understand there are differences from those who mapped New Mexico and those who mapped Wyoming.  So... experience is learned by actually doing some unplanned side trips.  These 'side trips' are where you set up a Base Camp with your trailer and drive further into a remote area to discover those... hidden Gems that you may visit often over time.

Often campsites in public lands are marked on a map.  One may be displayed on the map, but ten may be located on the way.  It appears to be random, but if marked on the map, the campsite may have a water pump and a pit toilet.  Some have a picnic table. Some have... nothing but pullouts with gravel.

An Oliver can manage about any of these easily.  Once a trailer is longer than 25 feet it becomes more difficult as these older camps are intended for smaller trailers used before 1980... or 1950.  Often there are 'hunter camps' that have open areas that the largest trailers can easily move around and find ample room for one to twenty trailers.  Experience is 'King'.

There are Geological State Maps sold by each State if you are a rockhound.  The BLM and NFS sell maps of their area offices and sometimes in the general area with their road marked with a number system.  The longer the number, the worse the road... kind of plan.  At times the smaller roads no longer have a sign.  It fell apart decades ago.  But, still the maps are very handy.

Always mark your camping spot on the map. We add the elevation, as well.  Describe the location and if you liked it... or did not.  It can come handy if you want to quickly stop on a trip through the area years later.  We use our previous locations, frequently.  Some locations we revisit often.

What are your map preferences?  How does it work for you?  Has a map taken you to lakes, rivers and creeks that you would have not visited?

Early explorers recorded their travels before roads and maps.  They made accurate maps and sold them to those wanting to travel west.  Much like the Oregon Trail... many discovered better routes and sold maps.  Technology has improved maps. GPS is wonderful... if you recorded the location for future reference. Great for get togethers and reference.

Edited by BoondockingAirstream
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I do not care for the Delorme atlases, I find them to be WAY less useful (recreationally) than the Benchmark ones. Unfortunately there are only 13 western states available. I have all of them except for Texas and Alaska. 

https://www.benchmarkmaps.com/atlases

However, they are a great tool for research and a final backup in case my electronic devices fail. I use 1/4” stick-on colored dots to mark points of interest and major turns. 

My iPad Mini 4 has a number of camping and nav apps on it. I have tried most and deleted many.... The one I most recommend is GAIA Premium ($40 annually) since the Layers function lets you add just about any kind of info, like Forest Service MVUM (Motor Vehicle Use Map) data, which will tell you where you can and cannot drive. I can’t stress enough how important this is. GAIA is OTH pretty rotten for simple road navigation.

The other app I use all the time is Pocket Earth Pro. The basic app is free, the Pro upgrade is $5 and adds topographic maps. For just driving away from urban areas where your cell phone is dead, it is wonderful. The graphics are very pretty and the thing that sold it for me is the user adjustable font size. You can make the city and town labels almost any size you want, and they are dynamic. When you zoom out they get bigger too, so older eyes can easily read them. All other similar map apps I have tried do not have this feature. Map downloads are quick and simple and you can use the app anywhere in the world.

GAIA is for really hard core users, Pocket Earth will be useful for anybody. Try it out, see if you agree.

https://pocketearth.com/

That said, for routing on normal roads I use a Garmin RV gps. It is way better than the factory nav systems I have seen. Plus the maps are free and updated quarterly. My 2013 Toyota maps are pretty lame, and they cannot be updated without a very expensive trip to the dealer.

John Davies

Spokane WA

 

Edited by John E Davies
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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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Ray, good info.  For those of us less experienced in navigating off-road it’s good to learn from those who know.  I’ve also followed your latest thread on Airforums.  Always learning...

John, good info as well.  I assume you don’t need cell service to use the apps you discuss?  I carry an older Garmin to use when we’re out of cell coverage.  I’m thinking the paper maps discussed above might be worthwhile to have on hand.

Mike

Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram 2500 Laramie 6.7L Cummins Diesel

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3 hours ago, Mike and Carol said:

John, good info as well.  I assume you don’t need cell service to use the apps you discuss?  I carry an older Garmin to use when we’re out of cell coverage.  I’m thinking the paper maps discussed above might be worthwhile to have on hand.

Hi Mike, yes, the main advantage of such apps is that you can download maps when you are at home using high speed wifi, so when you are in the boonies, the data is already there and ready for use, there is no need whatsoever for a cell signal with its expensive cellular data.

Cellular driven nav apps like Google Maps work OK when you can connect. When the phone goes dead you need to have other map data to use. If you are using a tablet like an iPad, it must have a cell chip, otherwise the gps tracking doesn’t function.

OTH, Pocket Earth has Wikipedia data (links) that you can download. When in cellular range you can click an icon and get an immediate summary of the point of interest. It saves time since you don’t have open up a browser and search for it.

John Davies

Spokane WA

Edited by John E Davies
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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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Heres one for you guys.  This is literally the only reason I keep a smart phone at this point.  We started using it for hunting of course but now we use it for everything.  There are pockets of public land everywhere and its dead accurate in showing you.  We use it for simply pulling off the road somewhere or to find huge blocks of land to explore.  Downloading maps and adding POI's offline is awesome.  For example we can float 100+ miles down a wilderness river and mark all the best camps, hot springs, rapids etc along the way.  As soon as you log in once you have service it updates everything seamlessly.  Best app I've ever used and its nice to support our local Montana businesses.

https://www.onxmaps.com/

 

  

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1 hour ago, ahattar said:

Best app I've ever used and its nice to support our local Montana businesses.

https://www.onxmaps.com/  

That is a very fine app But if you plan to travel extensively it gets rather pricey at $30 per year, per state. How many states do you subscribe to?

GAIA Premium does have Hunting Maps (along with dozens of other types, like private and public boundaries, historic topo, geologic rocks, National Parks, forest fires, air quality, etc - a few of these layers are lame and for novelty use only IMHO) , but I have no comment on their hunting boundary detail since I am not a hunter and don’t use those layers. You get access to the entire USA data, you select the particular areas to download.

https://blog.gaiagps.com/how-to-go-hunting-with-gaia-gps/

I have around 30 gb of downloaded maps, as well as 1000+ personal waypoints, and lots of routes. They all sync with my GAIA website home page so I can’t lose them. Hopefully...

John Davies

Spokane WA

Edited by John E Davies

"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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Its $99 a year if you want the nationwide plan.  If you just want to dabble for a while, you can play the free trial game.  Its pretty easy to put your account on hold and just keep trying out each states free trial.  If you travel a lot or even a little really, the $99 a year plan is a no brainer in my opinion.  If you're just traveling a month at a time or less, its $15. 

It works on Iphones and android, beyond that I have no clue.    

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There are plenty of apps out there that do similar things, Onx is just the best user experience and most accurate I've come across.  Its very outdoors focused so fishing access, hiking trails, camp spots etc.  The private ground boundaries are super useful for hunting of course, but we use them all the time.  Just hiking unmarked trails or even looking for rural acreage to buy it allows us to walk the boundary lines with confidence.  People should try all similar apps and just get the one thats most intuitive to them.     

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I bought the Boondocking in Southern Utah guide from Frugal-RV-Travel. I had read excellent reviews about the book, and I have to agree that the book is excellent. They list a bunch of boondocking sites, with directions and GPS coordinates. The cost was $17. 

They produce six different boondocking guides, on New Mexico, Southern Utah, Southern Texas, Arizona, California Sierras and Coast, and California Desert and Eastern Sierra. 

The guide comes as a pdf file. I loaded it onto my computer, iPad and iPhone. I put it in the Kindle app on the iPhone and iPad, but the iBook app works also. If I am driving, my wife will be the researcher / navigator, and she likes paper, so I printed out a double-sided copy and put in a report binder. The first version of the book I got in 2017 was the 2013 edition, and it was 140 pages long. They revised the book in 2018, and they send me a copy of the new edition. It is amazing that they sent me the updated edition for free! The new version is 166 pages. 

The GPS coordinates are hot linked. If you click on the GPS coordinates it opens up in Google Maps, either on the computer or on the phone. Very cool! 

I highly recommend these guides. 

Using the Boondocking in Southern Utah guide, I found the best campsite I have ever had, in Valley of the Gods in Southern Utah. The campsite on BLM land was free, so I definitely consider the $17 for purchasing the book money well spent. 

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David Stillman, Salt Lake City, Utah

2016 Oliver Elite II  Hull 164    |    2017 Audi Q7 tow vehicle. 

Travel and Photography Blog: http://davidstravels.net

 

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Thanks David,

What a great resource, and just what I can use.

RB

And the frugal website -how great!!

Edited by BackofBeyond

Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax 

"Die young - As late as possible"

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  • 5 months later...

With Covid-19, finding a campground is more of a challenge, as campground availability changes daily. I find it's best to call USFS/BLM for the most current public campground status.  We use FS/BLM maps (interagency maps with both agency boundries, campgrounds, roads, etc ) extensively in Oregon, since a big portion of the state is Federal land.  USFS Maps   BLM Maps.  These are not free, but worth the $$$ since they show GPS coordinates and topography; The GPS grid has helped us get "unlost" numerous times.  These roads generally wander, so it is easy to lose you bearings, thus a compass is also a good thing to have.  Most FS areas also have free MVUMs (Motor Vehicle Use Maps) - paper and often in PDF for download; I don't believe they are compatible with mapping apps. These show more road detail than what you get on USFS maps. I don't believe BLM has these or if BLM roads are designated.  It can get confusing when an area has both as the road numbering systems for these agencies is not standardized.  Still, calling a local field office is the best way get current information - open/closed campgrounds, facilities, water availability, road conditions, weather, dispersed camping regulations, fire restrictions, etc.  I have found that district offices are always willing to help.  Bottom line: we never go exploring without taking along some sort of paper map :classic_wink:

Ray and Susan Huff

Elite II Twin "Pearl" - Hull#699; taking delivery December 7, 2020

2013 F350 3.2l diesel Super Duty 4x4 long bed crew cab

2017 Leisure Travel Van Unity Twin Bed (sold)

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On 6/26/2020 at 10:38 AM, Susan Huff said:

.  Most FS areas also have free MVUMs (Motor Vehicle Use Maps) - paper and often in PDF for download; I don't believe they are compatible with mapping apps. These show more road detail than what you get on USFS maps. 

GAIA Premium allows downloading ALL the wonderful USFS maps, plus the MVUM layer. Without the MVUM you simply don’t know where to drive. What appears to be a main route will turn out to be a brush infested ATV track .... the popup Info window  for the road tells you immediately. I lay out routes in different colors, here is an example in ID with the MVUM layer also active.

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When you get out of the National Forest the Public Land and Private Land layers show you clearly where you can and cannot go. I quit buying those expensive paper USFS maps years ago, they just get torn, lost and outdated.... plus some states have so many different Forests (Oregon has eleven) that, realistically, at $9 each you just can’ buy them all.
 

John Davies

Spokane WA

Edited by John E Davies
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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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1 hour ago, John E Davies said:

GAIA Premium allows downloading ALL the wonderful USFS maps, plus the MVUM layer. Without the MVUM you simply don’t know where to drive. What appears to be a main route will turn out to be a brush infested ATV track .... the popup Info window  for the road tells you immediately. I lay out routes in different colors, here is an example in ID with the MVUM layer also active.

IF9D00124-5C51-4C57-BAF1-FE122D1ABB77.thumb.png.3b6a35e929488a594aa320c9e5c79d33.png
 

When you get out of the National Forest the Public Land and Private Land layers show you clearly where you can and cannot go. I quit buying those expensive paper USFS maps years ago, they just get torn, lost and outdated.... plus some states have so many different Forests (Oregon has eleven) that, realistically, at $9 each you just can’ buy them all.

Can it be used on a laptop instead of phone/tablet?  Do you know if Google Earth has the capability of adding MUVM layers?  

I guess what I like about paper maps is you can see the whole map without scrolling.  Maybe not ideal in a vehicle, but good at home or the campsite.  And they don't require power 😄

Thanks for the tip.
 

Premium membership is only $36/year -  around the price of 3 or 4 paper maps.  Might have to consider this.

Ray and Susan Huff

Elite II Twin "Pearl" - Hull#699; taking delivery December 7, 2020

2013 F350 3.2l diesel Super Duty 4x4 long bed crew cab

2017 Leisure Travel Van Unity Twin Bed (sold)

AZARCACOGAHIIDILKSLAMSMONENVNMOKORSCTNTX

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GAIA is for mobile devices only. I use an iPad Mini 4 Retina with cell chip (needed for the gps to function). An iphone running GAIA will integrate with Apple Carplay on new vehicles. Unfortunately an iPad will not, because of weird Apple licensing restrictions....

https://help.gaiagps.com/hc/en-us/articles/360041232334-Can-I-use-Gaia-GPS-offline-with-a-laptop-

For travel, especially off grid on bumpy surfaces, a laptop is pretty awkward and clunky, I tried in the distant past with a different application, and a usb gps antenna on the dash, and it was a grim experience. Any device needs decent storage. I have at times had as much as 40 GB of map downloads.

Here is an old pic, when I had a Ram 3500. I use the same mounting system in my 200.

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https://www.rammount.com/mount-builder
 

John Davies

Spokane WA

Edited by John E Davies

"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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I just subscribed to a year's premium.  It does work on my laptop, from the cloud, so you'd need to have Internet connectivity.  I find it much easier to do things from the laptop . . . . and I am addicted to spreadsheets 😀

Anyway, I'm anxious to play with it a bit . . . . . especially do some trip planning for our cross-country trek to pick up our new Oliver in February, 2021.

Ray and Susan Huff

Elite II Twin "Pearl" - Hull#699; taking delivery December 7, 2020

2013 F350 3.2l diesel Super Duty 4x4 long bed crew cab

2017 Leisure Travel Van Unity Twin Bed (sold)

AZARCACOGAHIIDILKSLAMSMONENVNMOKORSCTNTX

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  • 3 months later...

I learned about the Avenza maps app when I cruised out to Pawnee National Grasslands this spring.  I wanted dispersed camping, but the local forest service office was closed due to COVID.  Thankfully, they pointed me to free forest service maps on Avenza.  They show in great detail what areas are open to dispersed camping.  If you can boondock, dispersed is the way to go in the west.

https://www.avenzamaps.com/mobile-maps?campaignid=10221828697&adgroupid=102940455500&adid=453328850375&gclid=CjwKCAjwlID8BRAFEiwAnUoK1e_S1UVHaVpOOzhKxzPx9ByrWrbkUypIRjAtl3ENXqNyFO9sRcFw9RoCI58QAvD_BwE

There's an app for that!

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