As I mentioned in my How to Find the Right Camping/Glamping Site post, Grace and I love to "glamp" in hybrid camping/cabin type setups, often with all of the amenities for comfort but a rustic, pure getaway feel. But, sometimes we also just want to get back to basics and really experience the wild spaces all around us. This post is all about camping on raw land. Raw land means that there is no running water, plumbing, facilities, or anything other than beautiful views, starry skies, and a flat piece of earth to pitch a tent. There will usually be a dirt road or a semi-defined path to drive there (Grace has a Subaru SUV which makes things easy). This type of camping is "roughing it" quite a bit more than staying at a maintained campground, and there is also a safety factor to consider. For that reason, I don't recommend this as a first camping experience. But if you're feeling adventurous and don't mind going without the comforts of home for a night or two, it's well worth it! You just can't get this type of peace and quiet in any other camping situation. Below, I will share some of my tips for camping on raw land, as well as links to two bookable spots that we've loved.
Finding a place to set up camp: first and foremost, I should clarify that we don't just wander onto random vacant lots to camp. Believe it or not, there are private lands that you can book through sites like Airbnb and Hipcamp that offer acres of privacy and wilderness or desert to explore. Backcountry camping (outside of a defined campground) is also possible in parks such as Joshua Tree and Yosemite, though you will need a permit to do so and dogs generally aren't allowed.
For Labor Day 2016, we camped on a 1000-acre cattle ranch in Coarsegold, California (right outside Yosemite), where we were able to just drive around off-road to find our perfect camping spot and kick back and relax. Several of the photos in this post, including the one at the top of the three of us, are from that trip.
And for Memorial Day 2016, we camped in the Lucerne Valley (a dry lake desert) on a large piece of land with gorgeous and ethereal views. The desert-looking photos in this post are from that location. We loved it so much there that we are actually going back in a couple of weeks just for the day to do a photography/video project!
Basic questions: I'm not going to talk about it in detail, but of course a question that comes up is using the bathroom in nature. There's no magic to this--just bring the essentials like toilet paper and a small trowel/shovel.
Speaking of essentials, it is crucial to bring TONS of water when camping on raw land. A good rule of thumb is a gallon per person per day (include dogs in the number of people!), but I like to double that just in case some spills and so that you have extra to rinse off plates and cooking utensils.
Be very careful with fires, and check fire restrictions for the county where you're camping. When fires are permitted, we have built fires on raw land with a makeshift fire ring of rocks to keep it contained. But if you're unsure AT ALL, just don't make a fire. We have camped a few times where fire restrictions were in place and we had a great time without risking it. There are also plenty of yummy camping recipes you can make without a fire! Below is a photo of some "raw tacos" I made when we couldn't have a fire--I prepped most of the ingredients in advance, assembled at the campsite, and we ate them at room temperature. Delicious :)
What is there to do? I realize that this might not be everyone's idea of a good time. But if you're itching for some space to roam or to get out of your comfort zone, some of the most amazing experiences are waiting for you in these untouched places! A few of my favorite things to do when camping on raw land are: hiking right from our site, practicing photography skills in nature, kicking back in a folding chair and reading a book, and watching how much Casper loved roaming and exploring off-leash. A favorite memory is from camping on the 1000 acre cattle ranch--we woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of hooves. I will admit, I was a little freaked out at first. But looking out of our tent windows to see beautiful ponies surrounding us in the starlight was truly special. Casper actually slept through the whole thing-haha!
One other thing I have to touch on is safety. Having a dog, especially a large pit bull like Casper, helped us feel safe when camping in a remote area. But in general, camping with a buddy is a good idea, and letting people know where you're going is important. While it's easy to think of spooky stories when camping out in the wilderness, the biggest safety issue is one that you can directly control: staying hydrated and not getting too much sun. Casper has the right idea in the picture below!
I'm not sure if I could camp on raw land for days at a time, but it is a really cool and different experience for a night or two. It's also the perfect time to reflect on priorities and reevaluate, because you are unlikely to see a single other person other than the people you're camping with. I can't think of a better way to completely "get away from it all."
Wishing you happy and safe camping!