Let's try to demystify the art known as "boondocking":
What is "Dispersed Camping"?
Dispersed camping, boondocking, wild camping, or free camping are all terms used to refer to camping in the backcountry, outside of organized campsites.
Sounds interesting, but what's the appeal?
1) Dispersed camping sites are often some of the most beautiful to be found.
2) Flexibility. You make your own site.
3) These sites are free.
4) Unique terrain, and sites are typically low-traffic.
5) Dispersed camping allows for as much solitude as you desire.
Short answer: the best place to start looking for dispersed sites is on land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or US Forest Service (USFS). Camping is permitted on BLM land and National Forest land unless specifically noted otherwise. Always make sure to check with the local office that deals with the area you are interested in camping in. Visit the BLM and USFS links below for help obtaining information:
Any rules to follow?
Common sense rules, but rules nonetheless: Do not camp within 200 feet of a water source. Make sure no part of your vehicle is parked in a road (many areas require you to be a specific distance from the nearest road). Always carry out 100% of your trash and dispose of waste properly, leave no trace. Use established trails and campsites if at all possible. Always use your head, beware of bears and other wildlife. Be extremely careful with campfires and try and reuse existing campfire rings if you can find them.
What else do I need to know?
If you're going to give boondocking a shot, it is essential to make sure your vehicle is equipped to handle the variable terrain these sites offer. 4x4 is highly desirable although not always a must. Ground clearance is essential. Be sure to bring an off-road self recovery kit just in case. Also be mindful of rain - inclement weather can turn your nice dry campsite into an inescapable mud pit if a storm comes rolling through.
ALWAYS respect the land and ALWAYS be good stewards of the environment! If any particular area is marked as closed to camping, there is a reason for it. Practice Leave No Trace principles at all times. Be aware of and respect the boundaries of privately owned land.
If you've never tried dispersed camping, you are missing out on an enormous freedom! These public lands belong to the people and are ours to enjoy. Respect them, and they will remain wild and free for generations to come.