When I first started trying to find campsites – especially dispersed sites – I got a lot of “we just wing it” answers.
And we have a lot of friends who use first-come, first-serve sites all the time.
However, it’s not my favorite way to do things (at all). I am way too much of a planner to have absolutely no idea.
I mean, what if we drive for 3 hours and never find anything and it’s 8 pm?!
Maybe when we get a campervan, I’ll feel differently, but for now, I get so stressed out not having any idea what’s going to happen. I have to have a LITTLE bit of a plan!
But, recently, we were determined to give dispersed camping a try. It’s free and generally more secluded – which is a massive win in 2020 if you ask me. But, there’s definitely some uncertainty that comes with not having that site reserved, especially if you’re a planner like me.
Thankfully, there are a few tools to help find dispersed campsites (and, really, any kind of campsite!). But, with so many options out there, it can be a challenge to sort through the apps that are worth it (and the ones that aren’t).
Luckily, we’ve already sorted through – and tossed out – a bunch of them and compiled this list for you.
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The Best Camping Apps & Tools
Best Camping Apps
Roadtrippers is our FAVORITE app for planning trips. Whether we’re heading on a traditional road trip or a camping trip through National Parks, it is incredibly helpful.
One of the best features is the ability to download maps for offline use with the Plus plan, which has been so useful when we’re navigating through areas that have little to no signal. Check them out here and use code: STOKEFAM for $5 off!
HipCamp is pretty sweet. You can find pretty much any kind of campsite to suit your fancy. I love how many unique camping destinations they have available. You can even sort by campfires allowed here!
Want to camp on a llama farm? They’ve got it. Maybe a ranch is more your style? I’ve seen that too. Prefer a secluded corner of someone’s private property? Totally an option as well! Every time I search on here, I find fantastic options. Grab $10 off your booking and try something unique.
Recreation.gov is the app you’ll want to use if you’re looking to book sites on federal land. Think National Parks and National Forests. You’ll also want to look early for your sites here as they book up often 3-6 months in advance for popular areas.
The Dyrt helps you find campsites, no matter how you like to camp. You can find everything from cabins to RV to tent sites on this app. PRO features also give you access to discounts on camping, gear, and advanced features like offline search and downloadable maps.
Reserve America is a great app for finding campsites in State Parks, RV Parks, as well as Private Campgrounds. When you use their search feature, you’ll be able to sort by campgrounds and day use as well as filters such as Federal, State, County, and Private sites.
Best Free Camping Apps
Campendium is an excellent website and app that lets you search for free (or paid) campsites. Sometimes they are dispersed, sometimes they are pull-offs perfect for RVs, and sometimes they are true campgrounds. But, you can use their filters to drill down what you’re after and read reports from other campers who have camped there. If you choose to become a supporter, you get ad-free searching, cell service filtering, and map layers, but you can use the most essential features for free.
Freecampsites is very similar to Campendium with fewer bells and whistles. It feels a little more clunky to use, but it still lets you choose a location to search, and then you can use the legend to figure out what kind of campsites are available in the area.
If you’re looking for more free camping apps, you may also want to check out the apps listed under the best boondocking & dispersed camping apps.
Best Boondocking & Dispersed Camping Apps
Avenza Maps is an app that allows you to download maps from official sites. Some are free, like most of the road use maps from the forest service and the BLM. Others are premium paid maps. But, the beauty of Avenza maps is that it works with your phone’s built-in GPS tracking to help you navigate your location and can help you pinpoint available dispersed camping.
ProTip: Download your maps, such as a BLM or USFS road use map. They should have a legend, table, or section that details where dispersed camping is allowed. Once you have narrowed down a couple of options, you can head to a satellite view of Google maps to get an idea of what the spot is like – shaded, full sun, by the river, etc. It’s not perfect, and you still might have to do a little hunting to find the ideal site, but it helps to narrow it down a lot! We used this, Gaia, and Google Maps to find this campsite. (And, it was free!)
Another great app that allows you to search for campsites is iOverlander. You can search the map and filter for the type of site you’re looking for. Once you click on the icon, a brief description will pop up, and you can click for additional info. I love that in this app, you can get real advice from people who have actually used these sites, and often even images, which is a huge help when you’re trying to choose the best spot!
Gaia GPS has quickly become one of my absolute favorites. Although you won’t find the same reviews from individuals that you’ll find on other sites, you can get the most accurate GPS and topographical information from this app. You may have to do a tiny bit more digging to find your spot here since you don’t have the reviews, but it’s the most accurate I’ve seen and one of the easiest to work with in terms of layers and land-use maps.
With the premium membership, you can have all your maps offline and have access to layer premium maps. The way we use this is that we layer a road use maps and land-use maps to ensure we’re in a spot where we are allowed to camp with a topo map to get the lay of the land. You can even swap over to a satellite view to get a better idea of what the area looks like from above.
Psst…it’s also spectacular for hiking!
BLM and USFS Websites
Okay, this one isn’t officially an app, but you can use your favorite browsing app to the site, so I think we can count it. 😉 And, besides, it’s definitely a valuable tool you’ll want to use.
Once you’ve done a little research for where you want to be, you can double-check with the BLM or USFS to ensure you’re headed somewhere that’s open and okay to camp. Especially during fire season (and with all the closures this year), it’s a good idea to double-check that your destination is open to be on the safe side!
If you don’t have a premium map like Gaia, after you have an idea of what location you’re heading to, you can use Google maps to get a satellite view of the area. Keep in mind, though, if it’s heavily wooded, you may not get the best idea of what the site is really like. Also, it doesn’t really give you an idea of road conditions, and sometimes forest roads can be challenging (or impossible) to navigate without 4WD or AWD.
Best RV Camping Apps
Harvest Hosts has one of the coolest ideas I’ve seen! Members pay a super reasonable yearly fee for Unlimited Free overnight stays at TONS of sites across North America. I’m talking everything from Wineries to Farms to even Golf Courses and Country Clubs. It literally pays for itself in just 2-3 camping nights, depending on the membership level you choose. There are so many gorgeous spots to stay – click here and head to the location gallery if you don’t believe me. I seriously can’t wait until we have our own RV, so we can use this. And I’m excited that they have given us a special link to get you 15% off your membership.
Okay, I know we included this one in the Best Camping Apps category already, but I really think that it deserves a place here too. I mean, any site that has options for RVs on Horse Ranches, Lavender Farms, and private spots with mountain views is a win in my book. Grab $10 off your booking here.
An indispensable tool for RV owners, AllStays has a website and an app that allows you to sort through a massive database of campgrounds and other crucial information. With the free version, you can sort by things like Public Lands, Army Corps, hookups, showers, accepts big rigs, and more.
With an upgrade to AllStays Pro, you get additional features such as full-screen maps on the website, bridge clearances, RV washes, additional dump & propane locations, steep road grades, and much more.
Final Thoughts on the Best Camping Apps
When it comes to camping, finding the perfect site for your trip is crucial, and using the right camping app or tool makes it a million times easier.
Well, that and making sure you don’t forget the important stuff. 😉 Be sure to check out this blog post where we go into exactly what you need to take camping and share a free Camping Checklist.
Have you found any other camping apps you can’t live without? Let us know in the comments.
Related Camping Posts
- What to Bring Camping (A Beginners Guide to the Essentials)
- Camping Etiquette 101: What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Do
- Camping in Oregon: Everything You Need to Know
- How to Find the Best (and Free!) Unique Campsites