Dispersed Camping It isn’t a household word. I was having a conversation with a guy from work, and I was telling him about a dispersed camping trip I was getting ready for. He was looking at me as if I was nuts. He had no clue what that was. I decided I would write this post to him. Hope to see you out there.

Dispersed Camping is a saying that people use for camping anywhere in a National Forest that is not inside of a managed campground. This style is very basic. Normally there is no water besides creeks or rivers, No toilets so walking and digging a latrine is necessary, no tables fire rings or any other amenities that normal campgrounds usually have. In addition, cleanup is especially important. This to me is a very special kind of camping and I enjoy it very much. Let us dive a little deeper into the recreation of Dispersed Camping.

Roughing it

People who enjoy dispersed camping fit into two main groups.

You have your penny pinchers who love to save money by not paying for the reservation fee or parking fees. In addition, will deal with the lack of amenities during the evening then drive to the nearest campground to wash up or use the toilets.

The other kind is nomadic at heart. They are the kind of people who love to be outdoors. Live within nature. Typically have no issues with solitude, and self-reliance is a key feature of their personality. The lack of a toilet or fire pit is not a real concern.

Ask yourself. Are you able to “Rough It” if it meant you are saving 20 bucks a night? If so, you are a minority. Because of the Primitive style of dispersed camping a little more skill and responsibility is in order. It is ideal to know how to camp in this style and be able to respect nature and not ruin the areas for future campers.

A rule of thumb is that you always bring out more than you brought in. That means do not leave your trash, and if you can, take out any that you see. Before heading out to try your hand at this extraordinary experience please be advised of the rules and regulations of the region. They are in place to ensure people stay safe and that nature stays intact.

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Dispersed Camping Areas

Dispersed camping in certain locations is acceptable in national forests, such as the Department of Natural resources (DNR), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). You can research your areas on their websites to find out if there is any closure or emergencies happening at the time.

Campsites in these areas are first to come first serve that means you might need to get out of the house a little earlier if you know you’re heading to a more populated area.

Depending on the region you live in the days allowed to camp in the same spot is limited. Ten to fifteen days in a thirty day period is the max I believe. However, it does vary so make sure and plans your trip accordingly.

Campfires in Camp

Campfires permitted in designated camping spots only. We all know what the price can be if a large fire is sparked from a campground. More rules, regulations, and the possibility of them closing down the areas for a very long time or permanently. In a designated dispersed campground, gathering natural firewood is not legal. Purchasing your own wood on the way to the camping spot or bringing it from home will be the only way to have it without receiving a fine if caught.

This “primitive” style of camping is wonderful, and if you are into it then great. If not that is great too. Just remember in developed areas, you cannot clear brush and debris to set up a camping spot. You must use the designated area for tent camping. Known as a best practice, do not set up a camp closer than 150-200 feet from the water source. You can intimidate wildlife from its natural drinking and resting areas.

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Needed Items Two plastic baggies One latrine shovel or digging device (stick) Toilet paper (leaves or other natural elements) This is what a lot of people is the biggest difference in dispersed camping and regular campground camping. Even in a pay to play campground, the bathrooms are disgusting. There are many more germs in one of those pit crappers than there ever will be out in the woods. I am just saying.

I get the comfort of a toilet, compared to a tree. Believe me. I am married and have four kids and I know that taking them along on a dispersed camping trip is not the best of choices. My children 12, 11, 11, and 2 and my wife do not think a tree or bush is the best place to go potty. I totally understand. It is not user-friendly for one. You run the risk of soiling yourself on accident if you are not very experienced at the whole crapping outside thing.

I repeat this but stay 200 feet away from any water source, when going to the bathroom. You will want to find a nice flat area. With soft soil so that digging a hole will not be too difficult. Next, you need to decide if you are a squatter, a tree leaner or a catcher. These are the three main styles of doing the deed when out camping without the toilet. I suggest not to squat that gets tiring after a bit. Once you figure out your plan of attack. Locate the drop zone and dig yourself a hole, about eight inches wide by eight inches deep. Go ahead and do your doo at this point. Once finished do not forget to cover it back up with dirt.

Some places allow the burial of the toilet paper but most areas do not. So you must fold it up and stash it in the first baggy. Then stick it in the second one for good measure and dispose of in your trash haul out when you leave the area. That was Easy right? That part is a key factor in may peoples decision not to go dispersed camping, believe it or not.

 Water use

If you are fortunate enough to be around a water source, try not to disturb too much of the area and if you notice game trails or resting areas leave them be. I hope that you can bring your own drinking water so you do not have to boil or treat any to keep hydrated. If need to get your drinking water naturally. You will need to be extremely careful of where you gather your liquids.

Check that there are no feces in the surrounding area. Along with carcasses of animals that might have gotten sick. That is not a good sign. Luckily, nowadays they have straws that filter the water while you are drinking it. Just remember to boil your water. Once brought to a boil. One minute of rolling boil will purify the water. If you are in higher elevations though like 2000 ft. or higher you will need to triple that time.

Trash out pack out

When you are super fun time is over, and you have had all the relaxation you can take. it’ll be time to pack up camp and head back to civilization. YAY! (Sarcastic). Your camp cleanup is probably the most important aspect of your camping trip. The more you can take out, the happier everyone will be.

In addition, the forestry departments will not have any ammo to close down the campgrounds. Make especially sure that your camping spot is perfectly clean. No beer cans, paper plates, or little propane bottle caps. (You would not believe how many of those I have found over the years). If possible, try to remove garbage that was there as well every little bit helps.


I live in the Pacific Northwest and I am very lucky to have cascade mountain range and the Pacific coast mountain range on both sides of me. It makes for excellent recreational endeavors. The region here is going to be different from the region in Utah. I have linked local sites, but I am sure you can find what you are looking for, now that you have finished this article.


Please let me know in the comments if you have experienced dispersed camping, in your region. In addition, how it probably differs from mine. I would love to hear about it. To finish this article I just want to say, do not let the wilderness scare you. Go out, explore, and stand in a meadow or at the base of a mountain. Hopefully, in the future, we will be able to remember all this beauty.

I do hope my children will be able to share the wonders that lie out there with their children. At the pace, the forests are disappearing right now they might not have that chance. So for now;

Have fun. Explore. Relax.

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Hi, Dennis and Shelly Jackson here, we are the faces behind Campsite Planning. We are parents of 4 great kids and a little dog. And we are sharing some of our experiences with the site. I hope you enjoy and please do not hesitate to contact us for any reason.


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