14 days is the popular answer to how long you can boondock on BLM land. However, this is not entirely true. Officially, there is no single answer that applies nationwide. Each BLM Field Office is tasked with determining how long you can boondock within their jurisdiction. Many field offices use the 14-day limit, but some go as low as 3 days, while others don’t specify any limit at all.
How Long Can You Boondock on BLM Land?
The Bureau of Land Management as a whole does not specify how long you can boondock on BLM lands. Instead, they defer that responsibility to each individual field office or conservation area. Most field offices and conservation areas do not actually specify a maximum limit. But there are many others that do. Most of them adopt the more familiar 14-day limit, and then require you to move away at least 25 miles and do not come back for 28 days. There are some that limit you to just 7 days, and some that go as low as 3 days.
In order to find out for certain what the actual time limit is, you have to contact the field office or conservation area that governs the land you’re interested in camping on.
So Why Does Everyone Say There is a 14-day Limit?
The 14-day limit was a popular choice for several BLM field offices because it represented an even number (a two week period). Many camping bloggers got confused thinking that this was a national policy, and began publishing this information as if applied everywhere. It got picked up on social media, YouTube videos, and it just grew from there.
However, very few bloggers and YouTubers bothered to check the actual BLM regulations on camping. It turns out, the BLM is very clear in its rules that it defers this responsibility to each individual state office, field office, or conservation area…
§ 8365.1-2 Occupancy and use.
On all public lands, no person shall:
(a) Camp longer than the period of time permitted by the authorized officer;
The fact is that many field offices have not even specified a time limit. These offices don’t have a problem with boondockers staying too long. The 14-day limit is largely an unwritten rule with many field offices.
The BLM Rarely Enforces Time Limits
The BLM doesn’t seem too concerned about campers boondocking too long on their lands. BLM rangers rarely keep track of which campers came in, and which have stayed too long. They just don’t have the manpower to canvass hundreds of thousands of acres, day after day. They instead spend most of their time going after bigger fish, such as illegal hunters, illegal miners, marijuana farmers, illegal structures, etc.
In fact, the BLM rarely patrols their “public lands”. These are lands not otherwise designated for any specific use.
Will You Get in Trouble for Boondocking Too Long on BLM Land?
No. Many boondockers camp in the same site on BLM land for weeks at a time. Sometimes even months. They rarely get questioned by BLM officials. If you were to get questioned by BLM officials, it would be because someone else filed a complaint about you. That might be for making a public nuisance, for shooting your guns in a reckless manner, lighting off fireworks, or cutting down trees. As long as you keep to yourself, you could camp in the same place for months and never be bothered.
The only time when you might get questioned for staying too long is if you are camped in a developed campground. In that case, it would usually involve a campground host telling you that you’ve worn out your welcome.
Should You Ignore Time Limits?
No. You should always be aware of how long you can boondock at any given piece of BLM land. You should always keep track of how long you’ve been there. And, you should always keep a watch out for BLM rangers and officials, just so that you’re aware if any of them are monitoring you.
If you are boondocking in an area that is very crowded with other campers, then be courteous and move out after the official time limit, or 14 days. That would be the polite thing to do. However, if you’re camping on BLM land, and there are very few other boondockers around, then feel free to stay longer.