VIDEO: Confessions of a Wal-Mart Camper

Posted In: Uncategorized, Video

Q: How many times have you camped in a Wal-Mart parking lot?
A: I’m not sure exactly. Maybe a dozen.

Q: Is it safe?
A: Usually, yes. I’ve never felt threatened in a Wal-Mart parking lot. At times, I’ve even seen private security making their rounds, and thus felt an extra layer of protection. And most Wal-Marts have security cameras running at all times.

On the other hand, I’ve read stories in which bad things happen to good people in Wal-Mart parking lots. The first time we camped at a Wal-Mart, I was a little nervous. But my concerns were soothed by the presence of several other RVs and big rig trucks alongside us. One suspects the principle of “safety in numbers” applies here. Quite simply, most places are safe most of the time — especially if potential criminals know they are being watched.

Q: Is camping at Wal-Mart any fun?
A: Surprisingly, yes — Wal-Mart camping can be fun. I enjoy the “boondocking” (dry camping) aspect of the experience. You are responsible for providing your own water and electricity, so there’s an element of self-reliance.

Q: You save a lot of money camping at Wal-Mart, right?
A; Yes and no. Of course, there’s no question that you save the campsite fee (typically ranging from $15 to $45) you’d be paying if you stayed at a campground. However, if you want to use electricity for an appliance (TV, air-conditioner, or water heater), you will need to run your generator. So, with the price of fuel on the rise, the economics of Wal-Mart camping are affected. Sure, you may save a $30 campground fee. But if you burn $20 in generator fuel, was it worth it? Really, your savings depends on your generator usage.

Q: What are the downsides to Wal-Mart camping?
A: Obviously, the ambiance isn’t exactly Glacier National Park. You’re sitting in a remote corner of an asphalt parking lot. You will usually have the curtains drawn shut. You simply don’t care about taking in the view. In fact, you want to obfuscate it. 🙂

Since there are no hookups, you can’t empty your water tanks. And protocol demands that you don’t extend your awning, lower your stabilizer jacks, or unhitch your RV. It really is more like “overnight parking” than camping.

There are no amenities such as a swimming pool.

You usually walk into Wal-Mart and spend the money you “saved.”

And let’s face it, you’re not sitting in the Wal-Mart parking lot to meet people. Whereas RV campgrounds are friendly places, parking lots are not.

Q: What are the upsides to Wal-Mart camping?
A: It’s free!

Q: So are you for or against Wal-Mart camping?
A: Yes. 😉

Moderation in all things, including moderation — and Wal-Mart camping.

I see nothing wrong with the occasional night at Wal-Mart, especially when you are just passing through a town. There are times when I enjoy making a spur-of-the-moment decision, pulling off the highway, and getting some quality sleep at Wally World. But there is a cost attached to “free.” You sacrifice some pleasant, memorable camping experiences in the process.

So we won’t make it our primary choice of campsite. I’d rather support independent RV parks, not to mention state and national campgrounds. And when you factor in the cost of generator fuel, the savings aren’t that great any more.

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