Walmart is a popular overnight layover for road-weary, RV travelers. Affectionately known as Wallydocking, it’s a great way to rest without having to pay an exorbitant price to stay overnight at an RV park or campground. Unfortunately, stringent city ordinances are making it harder to take advantage of this popular freebie because local RV parks and campgrounds are losing out on valuable business. Indeed, one news outlet recently reported that only 58 percent of Walmart stores still offer it. This lower percentage might be a good thing, however, because as we experienced recently, Wallydocking can sometimes be a nightmare when inconsiderate RV owners take advantage of this generous perk. Remember the old 80s TV show, Nightmare on Elm Street and Freddie Krueger? Yep, our recent RV visit to Walmart was kind of like that.
We were totally spent after a 10-hour day on the road, seeing the sights in our new Roadrunner truck camper. It was dinner time and Rock Springs, Wyoming, looked like as good a place as any to get some takeout and much needed shuteye at Walmart. When we arrived at Walmart only one other RV was parked there, a small class-B owned by a couple from Phoenix who were on their way Yellowstone National Park. With a rambunctious, 11-week-old Pug with us, we opted to park in the back of the parking lot next to a freshly-mowed swath of grass. With a few trees positioned in front of us to the west—providing much-needed shade—it was the perfect Walmart parking spot, or so we thought.
After dinner, I climbed up into the cabover to relax and catch up on the news and read a few emails. I soon drifted-off into happy land, only to be awakened 30 minutes later by the wife who nudged me saying that the rock bed just inches from us had just got sprayed with a heavy dose of Roundup. I hate that stuff. The weed killer invariably gives me a colossal headache. Staying in our “prime” Walmart location, obviously, was no longer an option, so we relocated the rig a good 50 feet from the greenbelt. Surely, we were safe and comfy for the night, or so we thought.
Soon, the sparsely populated parking lot began to fill up with vehicles for the night. First, a travel trailer arrived, then a large class A motorhome, then a massive fifth wheel. Eight more RVs trickled-in as the sky started to darken, then a half-dozen truckers pulled in with their heavy loads to get some much-needed rest. Even the adjacent dirt parking lot was filling-up with 18-wheelers with idling diesels.
Summer can be a hit or miss affair when it comes to overnighting at Walmart. This is due not only to the heat, but also the summer crowds. We can handle temperatures in the low 80s with our two, strategically located 12 volt fans, but some people can’t and need to run an air conditioner. Then there are those who have to run a CPAP machine and don’t have the 12 volt battery system needed to power one throughout the night. All of this usually means one thing—the dreaded generator. Not a problem when there’s enough distance between you and other RVs, but this wasn’t the case on this warm summer night with a dozen RV packed together like sardines.
Like a low-hanging cloud, the noxious fumes from the 18-wheelers and the generators began to thicken over the now crowded parking lot. Predictably, the two fans in our camper began sucking-in these offensive fumes. Even the wife, who rarely complains about such things, was getting upset. So at 2230, I threw on some clothes, hopped into the truck, and slow rolled the rig to the opposite side of the parking lot where only one small class B was parked. Ah, peace and quiet. Was it to last? Fortunately, it was. We ended up getting a good night sleep and were able to get some much-needed supplies from Walmart the next morning.
So what’s the moral of the story? When staying at Walmart, be prepared for the worst, or at the very least be prepared to move. The fact is overnight camping at Walmart can be a welcome respite from the road—we use Walmart a lot when driving long distances in unfamiliar areas—but it can also be nightmare when crowds and inconsiderate RV owners visit. One thing we’ve noticed over the years is that some RV owners like to be near other RVs when it comes to boondocking in unknown locations—you know, birds of a feather flock together—this means when things become too crowded you might have to move to another spot in the parking lot or leave the Walmart parking lot entirely.
We actually had this happen to us last summer at the Walmart in Aberdeen, Washington. We pulled in late afternoon and found a nice secluded spot in the back corner of the Walmart parking lot. Fifteen minutes later a class-A motorhome pulled-up right next to us with his front window facing our dinette window. The parking lot was practically empty, yet here was an motorhome literally parked just 6 feet from us. This wasn’t surprising knowing how some RV owners are. What was surprising is that the owner had the unmitigated gall to fire-up his generator when we were there first and had all four of our windows wide open.
Generators… if only those who use and operate them around others knew.
Fortunately, when it comes to “urban boondocking” there are better overnight alternatives than Walmart. We actually prefer parking at a Cracker Barrel or at a Bass Pro Shop—less people, less crowds. Due to COVID-19, the Cracker Barrel we stayed at a few weeks ago delivered our meals directly to our camper. You can’t beat that. And the great thing about a Bass Pro Shop, of course, is that they have fresh water spigots, excellent camping gear, and a terrific selection of outdoor clothing. Absent one of these—or a vacant parking lot—we’ll have to be content with an occasional overnight stay at Wally World. We’ll just have to be on the lookout for Freddy Krueger lurking in the shadows with a generator and a container of Roundup in-hand.
Have a Walmart story of your own? We’d love to hear about it here in the comments section.
For me Walmart is the last resort to stay for a night’s rest. Several posters laid out valid points for a business to restrict or ban any overnight stay. The two Walmart in Anchorage, Alaska in 2017 banned all overnight stays due to all the trash left behind by “RVers”, I’ve seen this first hand and yet you have the Fairbanks (2015 and 2018) which has employees living in their RVs for months in their parking lot.
I do agree with ardvark: “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us”!
When I’ve needed the occasion to overnight at a walmart in the past, I used to look for the most inconspicuous out of the way spot to park for the night.
Last year I had a bad experience doing this. I was parked on the far corner near a fence line. Someone started tapping lightly on the side of my camper around 6:30 in the morning (I was already up checking email and getting ready to hit the road, etc.) I glanced out around the shade, and saw 3 guys wandering away. But a few minutes later they came back and were looking like they were eyeballing what they could get into in my rig. My dog started barking that time, luckily and they backed off again.
I basically immediately jumped in the truck and hit the road a few miles down the road.
Long story short, If I have a need to stop overnight at a walmart again since then, I make a point to park much more conspicuously out in the open where there’s more traffic, other people around, security patrols, etc.
A few days late but still here. Pulled into Walmart aver travelling 14hrs from central BC to Portland to pick up some supplies and spend the night. Came back to the truck to find our people loving Bloo Hound terrorized and paranoid with fear. Would not leave the truck for the camper resulting in me to sleep with her in the truck. Now no one is allowed bear the truck as she will defend lt from all who try, even known family members who she grew up with.
Not all Walmart over nighters are kind and considerate, some are down right mean. The only ones to have done it where other campers who came after us, as we where there before others showing up.
Might have been the license plate that caused this , but most West Coast Canadians are friendly and helpful by nature. Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident to have happen down South. We have travelled far down there with no problems when boondocking away from others.
Yep, been there, experienced that. Even more annoying than having someone pull up tight to you in WM and crank the generator (when nobody else is running one) is the guy who pulls up next to you in a remote camping area and fires it up to watch videos. For hours. Yep, we moved. What’s great about truck camping is that it’s a lot easier to move than it was when we were in a motorhome.
I am relatively new to truck camping so maybe I bring a little different perspective on the free overnighting. I would not think of trespassing on private property and set up camp without permission because I do not want someone settling in for the night in my back yard or the parking lot of my business even though it is in a rural location. For this reason, when I am traveling and thinking of shutting down for the night I make it a point to go into the business, ask for permission and ask where they would like me to park. I have not been refused and usually find customer service or management to express surprise and appreciation at being asked. I save my shopping or, when possible, refueling for those businesses.
There is no right for me to park on their property and some businesses are posting their “No Overnight Camping” policy right in the parking lot like the Cabelas in Billings, Montana has done. I find that ironic considering they sell camping equipment and supplies.
Years of tent camping has left me with a desire to have significant distance between my camp and anyone else so I do not park next to someone else’s rig and I appreciate others who follow the same practice, however, there are times when it is not possible so I remind myself this is a free night and do my best to get through it. I am not a patient person and highly value my personal space and solitude so that can be a real challenge.
Another observation. Pick up your trash. I know I’m probably speaking to the choir but I cannot believe how much garbage I’ve seen and policed up even in remote places. Last year I was given permission to camp at a fishing access site by a Montana CO before the regular season started. After walking around the 5 or 6 other sites I went back to my camper and got a couple of kitchen garbage bags which I quickly filled up only to have no place to put them. Another visitor (Montana resident) checking out the river accepted the bags to dispose of. I got a beautiful place to camp, Montana got their sites cleaned up, and I got to meet some incredible people. The story of the wonderful three college students who camped at an adjacent site and shared their campfire will have to wait for another time.
My point, remember we are quests so let’s do nothing to wear out our welcome.
Although I may have worded it differently, the message I took away from Mike’s reflections was simply this. Camping at Walmart” is a microcosm of what is taking place across the country. There is a reason Walmart is changing it’s attitude towards overnight visitors in the same way wilderness areas that use to welcome us are closing sites. Camping, RVing, or whatever rubric what we do now falls under has changed and with it concepts like simple courtesy are rapidly vanishing. Shortly I suspect we will be adding Cracker Barrel and Bass Pro to the list.
Perhaps Walter Kelly stated it best in his 60’s “Pogo” comic strip, “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us”!
My two cents,
Thanks, Steve, good to see somebody finally got it.
The Cracker Barrel in Loveland, Colorado no longer allows overnight parking because a RVer decided to dump his black tank in their parking lot.
A nightmare? How arrogant.
Imagine taking advantage of a generous courtesy extended to RVer’s from the largest retailer in the world, then a few other RVer’s in a country of over 300 million show up to do the same thing. The horror is too much to bear.
Walmart can be an oasis after a long day. Walmart is not an RV park, though, and are in the retail sales business usually located next to high traffic corridors. It will more than likely be noisy. Hey, it’s free and they usually have some roasted chicken or pizza ready to go. You probably use their bathrooms a couple times, too.
You want to see the abuse of Walmart’s generosity? Go to the Walmart in Whitehorse, Yukon. Disconnected trailers sit for days or weeks at a time. There is limited parking for customers due to the mass of campers.
Worst abuse I’ve experienced was in North Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Canada, where the Walmart had just started letting RV’s stay again, in the parking lot. Some idiot actually built a wood fire directly on the asphalt. Fire department had to be called to put the fire out as the parking lot caught fire.
Want a better free night? Try staying in a truck stop with hundreds of semi’s idling. Or an interstate rest stop. Please don’t complain about a free over night, anywhere.
YES! Tried the Wally in Whitehorse for one night and oh, yes, not a good night’s rest. What really did it were the locals who would drive up and down the RV line holding down their horn buttons. When we headed back south at the end of the winter we had done a little research and found that the Pioneer RV Park up on the AlCan would let you stay one night free in their overflow lot. We filled the propane and had a chip in our windshield repaired as a ‘thank you’. (Nowadays, that overnight will cost $14.)
I have been in rest areas just off a main interstate full of vehicles and it was quiet and have also been in the backcountry and could hear a generator off in a distance. If you had gone to that Walmart the next night chances are it would have been quiet. It’s just one of those things that come with truck camping.
Well dude, you’re staying for free at Walmart. Sometimes you may encounter others that want to the same. Not like you’re paying for a campsite in a secluded area.
We’ve stayed at a few Walmarts and Cracker Barrels on our travels. Some were quiet, some weren’t. Never felt the need to write an article about it.
Come on Mike, you’re better than this.
Easy to understand why Walmarts are increasingly posting signs and no longer allowing overnight stops. If I recall correctly, close to 50% of Walmarts now no longer allow it and I suspect that trend will continue.