Spending the Night at Camp Walmart

For someone who isn't a big fan of Walmart, I sure have spent a few nights in ol’ Sam’s parking lot. That big blue sign can be a welcome sight after one too many hours of night driving. An absolute must-have is the Walmart Locator (atlas/map book). It will greatly reduce your stress as you head into that strange town after dark and it's worth every penny.

People who boondock at Walmart often say they spend more inside the store than they would at a campground and maybe that’s true. I do believe in sharing the love so we’ll usually go in and grab a few groceries or maybe something from the hardware or RV section. Once, in the middle of a downpour, I ran inside, bought a big roll of Gorilla Tape and patched a hole in the roof that was leaking on our heads.

Depending on where they’re located, Walmart is usually okay with overnighters. They state it clearly on their corporate website and unless the locals stir up trouble, you’ll nearly always get a night or two. Let me clarify that last statement: Walmart clearly doesn’t care but in a number of towns, the local commercial campground owner has enough weight for there to be an ordinance that prohibits camping anywhere but a licensed RV park. If that’s the case, there will be signs that say overnighters are not allowed. It doesn’t matter what the reason, if the signs are there it probably isn’t good to stay because who wants to wake up to an early morning knock on the door from a security guard?

With that said, I’ve had this conversation with few cops that I’ve met in towns like this and the general consensus seems to be that it doesn’t matter how many signs are up, the parking lot is private property and unless the property owner (usually Walmart) calls them specifically about the RV then they will not police the ordinance. Walmart managers that I’ve had that same conversation with appear to be of the opinion that the signs are just something the company had to put up to be in compliance with local law and unless there’s any trouble, they are far too busy with what’s going on inside their store to be worried about a quiet RV in the back 40 of the parking lot.

I’ve spent plenty of nights where the Walmart security guard has patrolled all night without a word. There have also been times when the vibe just didn’t feel right and we made the decision to move on. In all our travels around America, a security guard at the Walmart in Oakland, California was the only one that asked us to leave. The moral of the story is the same as always when boondocking in town: find a quiet corner, don’t make a big production out of it and the chances are you’ll be fine.

Enjoy your evening at Camp Walmart and like any other campground, please don't forget to leave it as you found it so that it will be there in the future for others to enjoy!