If you’ve ever had a friend crash on your couch for a few nights without expecting anything in return, you’re probably familiar with the concept of couch surfing. For RVers, the equivalent is called moochdocking.
What Is Moochdocking?
Moochdocking is RV camping on a friend or family’s property for free. This might mean parking in their driveway, on the street, or somewhere on their land. Moochdocking does come with some risks—like ticking off grouchy neighbors or getting a citation for parking illegally—but with a little bit of advance planning, it also has some big rewards: free camping all over the country and getting to visit loved ones.
Follow the HOA
It’s a good idea to start by figuring out these two things: Will your host’s homeowner association (HOA) allow you to park an RV on the property, and will your RV fit into the moochdocking site (without cracking into a telephone pole or a mailbox)? If possible, ask your host to send you some pictures of the property. Make sure to get shots of the road leading into and away from the property, the driveway, the exact spot you plan to park, and any cables, wires, or trees that might hang down and get in the way.
Parking on the Streets
When it comes to moochdocking, you are not just limited to your host’s driveway—you may also be able to park on the street in front of their house. Again, you’ll need to know if there are any town or HOA restrictions for doing so. And as reliable as your host might be, don’t take their word for it. Double check the laws yourself. Getting a citation or waking up to a police officer banging on your door will definitely put a damper on your moochdocking trip.
Another thing to consider with this particular setup is privacy. A streetside spot may lack privacy and your very presence might bother or inconvenience the surrounding neighbors. To help with this, have your host speak to the neighbors before you arrive and make sure they’re okay with a parked RV. If possible, try to find a spot on the street that is quiet, secluded, and easy to navigate. This way, your RV will be out of the way of other cars and you can avoid backing up or backing in—easy in, easy out.
Don’t Get Stuck
If you’re lucky, you may be able to moochdock beyond the common street and driveway spots. Do you have friends who own a farm or winery? Or maybe some extended family that lives along a stream or down a quiet country road? While this might seem like a dream moochdocking scenario, there are still a few pitfalls to be aware of. First, find out if the land you are planning to park on is soft, sandy, or prone to flooding. And second, make sure there is enough room for you to turn your rig around. Getting stuck in the mud or having to back out of a site are not ideal situations.
Power, Water, and Courtesy
In addition to finding the right site to moochdock, you also need to have a plan for powering and dumping. Will you plug into your host’s electrical outlets, run off a generator, or rely on solar panels? If you plan on plugging into your host’s power source, make sure you don’t run all of your RV appliances at once and blow a fuse in their house. RVs with 30 or 50 amp systems will need an adapter to plug into a standard 20 amp residential outlet. These adapters are sometimes called dogbones (because of their shape) and can be purchased online. If you’re using solar, charge up the panels before you leave, or position them so they have sufficient sun exposure at your site (it’s a good idea to check the weather in advance).
When moochdocking, it doesn’t hurt to bring your own fresh water. Even if you plan to hook up at your host’s house, having some extra water in the freshwater tank could come in handy. And remember to never empty your tanks at your moochdocking site. This is a great way to ruin the friendship and get uninvited forever. Instead, find a dump station on your way out or take care of the dirty business back at your own homestead.
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” This is a good sentiment to keep in mind when moochdocking. If your host is family or close friends, you could probably stay longer than three days, just don’t wear out your welcome. And don’t forget to thank your hosts for their hospitality. Even better, show your thanks by giving them a small gift. To quote Mr. Franklin again, “When you’re good to others, you’re best to yourself.” And a bottle of wine is usually good for others.