Who doesn’t love reliable free camping apps? And by “free camping apps” we’re talking about apps to help you find free camping (not free apps to help you find camping… see the difference?… although most of the apps we list ARE free). There are a ton of apps and websites available to help you find RV parks and campgrounds, but finding places to camp for free can be more challenging. That’s why it’s reassuring to know that you have considerable resources available at your fingertips, not only for folks who are new to camping, but even for nearly exclusive boondockers like us.
So today we’re talking about the benefits of boondocking and taking a deeper dive into the best free camping apps to help get the most out of your camping experiences.
Benefits of Boondocking
If you’ve never boondocked (camped off the grid without hook-ups), you might not realize how wonderful it can be or how much a free camping app can help with your boondocking plans.
Although “boondocking” is a term that can also include any place you don’t have access to hook-ups, such as a rest area, truck stop, Wal-Mart parking lot, or even a Forest Service campsite with no services, the classic definition of boondocking refers to remote, scenic areas out in nature. In other words, the boonies.
Boondocking gives you access to enjoy some of the most fabulous natural vistas available. You can truly get away from it all in a way that a crowded campsite with full hook-ups simply can’t replicate.
Now don’t get us wrong – we still love to hook up at an RV resort or at an established campground where we have access to unlimited power and water, a sewer connection for long hot showers, and a place to dump our tanks. And we take full advantage of those from time to time. Like most other RVers, we do appreciate a nice campground.
But we’ve been full-time RVers for nearly 2 decades, and the boondocking bug bit us right from the start. We’ve had hundreds of amazing boondocking experiences over the years, and to this day we definitely fall into the “avid boondockers” category. In fact, we’ve boondocked in several countries — Australia, England, Italy and most recently, New Zealand!
So, why do we love boondocking so much?
Free or Low Cost
Boondocking is usually free or very inexpensive. That’s partly because you’ll usually be camping without amenities (no clubhouse, showers, laundry, pool, etc) or hook-ups (no power, water, sewer, or even a dump station). However, there are other “amenities” as a trade-off to the expense of a fancy campsite with full hook-ups.
Remote, Beautiful Areas
Using free camping apps to find hidden gems of nature can lead you to some of the most spectacular campsites you’ve ever experienced.
Boondocking locations tend to be more remote. So, if you love pristine natural environments, you might appreciate the serenity and the sights that only boondocking in nature can provide.
Boondocking requires you to disconnect from conveniences. But once you learn how to camp in a self-sufficient manner, you can really enjoy the best of boondocking.
You can, as we do, harness the power of the sun by investing in solar panels and lithium batteries to provide for your power needs. And if your RV isn’t equipped to carry a sufficient amount of water to sustain your needs for long periods, you can buy food-grade, collapsible containers or larger water bladders that allow you to stay off the grid and self-sufficient for longer stretches of time.
Or if black/gray tank capacity is your issue, there are “blue boy” totes that are designed to allow you to offload from your RV so you can transport it to a dump station. Great for those times when you’ve nabbed the PERFECT spot and don’t want to have to move the RV just to dump.
Best Free Camping Apps for the Avid Boondocker
Now that we’ve established what boondocking is and how it can enhance your camping life, let’s take a look at seven of the best free camping apps to guide you to some fantastic boondocking spots. Keep in mind that most of these apps are free (or very inexpensive), but all of them will help you to find free camping! ????
Whether you’re interested in boondocking at national parks or discovering remote locations throughout the country, Campendium is your (and our) go-to guide. You can quickly locate public lands and national forests by following Campendium’s color-coded map or find dump stations and parking lots for an overnight stay during a long road trip to a new destination.
Campendium provides numerous firsthand reviews from fellow travelers which can be immensely helpful in determining where you do – and don’t – want to go. If you’ve never visited a location before, the shared experiences of other campers are great information to have before you commit to staying there and set up camp: what’s the largest size rig that’s been there (and reviewed), what are the access roads like, and (maybe most importantly) how’s the cellular connection (broken down by carrier)!
Founded in 2008, Ultimate Campgrounds helps to locate more than 45,000 public campgrounds throughout the United States and Canada. The app allows you to zoom in on each cluster to view more detailed information about each location, including GPS coordinates, the number of sites available, and any reviews users may have submitted.
Updated monthly, this free camping app provides you with thorough and precise information. It’s usually the second app we use to find free camping… if Campendium didn’t have one for us. We love how super easy it is to zoom around on the map.
You can use it on your laptop via their website… but we prefer the app on our smartphone/tablet. The apps aren’t free, but they’re not expensive, either. Android users can purchase a single app that gets you listings in the US and Canada. But for iOS, they’re separated into two distinct apps (US version and Canada version).
Offering reviews, resources, tips, and contests, The Dyrt is your source for all things camping. From their homepage, you can simply type in where you’d like to camp and get a wealth of information, including photos, reviews, contact information, and amenities.
The Dyrt is also available to us as a free app, but you can also opt-in to their upgraded Pro Membership for additional functionality, trying it first with a 90-day free trial (see below). When the free trial ends, you’ll pay just $36 per year for continued access to the Trip Planner, gear discounts, and more. With Pro, you’ll also be able to download maps and work offline. The Dyrt, with its extensive information on all types of camping areas and highly valuable camper reviews, is available on both iOS and Android.
Use the "Go To The Deal" button to access the website, then click the "Redeem Your Gift" button found there to start your FREE 90-DAY TRIAL (a credit card is required, but you can cancel at any...Show More
Use the "Go To The Deal" button to access the website, then click the "Redeem Your Gift" button found there to start your FREE 90-DAY TRIAL (a credit card is required, but you can cancel at any time).
NOTE: the discount code field should fill in automatically. If it doesn't, click "I have a discount code" and enter code RVGEEKS90 to start your free 90-day trial.Show Less
True to it’s name, FreeCampsites.net is free… and has listings for free camping, too. So if you’re wondering if you might need a permit to stay at a particular location, or how long you’ll be allowed to stay there, FreeCampsites can answer that question and much more.
Community is at the heart of this app since it relies strictly on travelers’ contributions for its information.
Regardless of the type of camping you enjoy, FreeCampsites.net can help you find some of the best places to camp for free. Access their listings via their free website, FreeCampsites.net.
Almost entirely run by volunteers, iOverlander is essentially a mapping project created to help fellow overlanders find the next location on their journey. Anyone can add destinations to the map. Users can also donate time or money to help keep the project going.
iOverlander shows you locations in Africa, Europe, North America, and elsewhere. You can view locations via map or list, and get information on GPS coordinates, amenities, and more. iOverlander is accessible online at their website or via their iOS and Android apps.
There are often locations listed in iOverlander that you won’t find anywhere else… but that comes with a word of caution for those with larger RVs like ours. Because of the “overlander” bent to this site, the places that are listed may require some fairly rugged offroad capabilities to access them, so be extra careful to scope that out before arriving.
6. OvernightRVParking.com (now part of ToGo RV)
Most RVers traveling to new areas and adventures have found themselves in the position of needing to stop for a night’s rest before carrying on to their destination. We don’t need to set up camp – we just need to stop for some shut-eye before we drive any further.
We use this app A LOT! It’s never let us down (i.e. no late-night knock on the door telling us we have to pack up and go). The only reason we didn’t place this higher up in the listings is because it’s in its own special category. It’s not about places to camp, but rather helps you find sites for free overnight RV parking, not camping. So don’t set up as if you’ve moved in: no chairs, no patio rug, leave the awnings retracted, etc. You’re there to get a good night’s sleep before you continue your trip to your final destination.
That said, OvernightRVParking can connect you with more than 14,000 free RV parking sites across the United States and Canada. And although access to OvernightRVParking isn’t free, we’ve subscribed to it for years because it relies on its subscribers to help provide up-to-date information on each location. You may learn how quiet the area was (did a train go by six times during the night or was there a party in the parking lot?), the feeling of safety (or not) throughout the night, whether the area was level, and pleasant surprises such as free public WiFi.
Search by city, state, zip code, or province to find nearby parking locations. OvernightRVParking is available on iOS, Android, and the web. And because it’s now a part of ToGo RV, you now get the benefit that a single subscription gets you so much more: trip planning with RoadTripper Plus, an RV-safe GPS, camping discounts, AND the full database of OvernightRVParking.
Upgrade your RVing experience with ToGo RV Plus. One annual subscription gets you access to Roadtrippers (a comprehensive trip planner), OvernightRVParking.com (for finding free overnight RV...Show More
Upgrade your RVing experience with ToGo RV Plus. One annual subscription gets you access to Roadtrippers (a comprehensive trip planner), OvernightRVParking.com (for finding free overnight RV parking spots), the ToGo RV-Safe GPS (for RV-specific turn-by-turn navigation), and access to savings on RV Tires (save up to 45% on major brands).
Save $10 on your subscription when you sign up using coupon code RVGEEKS.Show Less
Established in 2004 by a full-time traveling couple, Casino Camper locates casinos that allow overnight RV parking. Bonus features include information on parking etiquette, unique offerings such as a power pedestal or water at a few locations, a member discussion forum, and articles related to gambling. Parking for the night (or more if allowed) at a casino can be a fun change of pace, with access to gambling (if that’s your thing) or restaurants (hello all-you-can-eat buffet, don’t mind if I do, LOL!).
Access all this information and more at the Casino Camper website.
With These Apps You’re Free To Go Free Camping!
We hope you’ll find this guide helpful, and that you’ll load up some or all of the free camping apps we use, enabling you to step off the grid to see why we gush about boondocking so much.
Whether you’re interested in camping in remote locations as we do, or you just need a quick free overnight spot to rest as you journey from one destination to the next, these free camping apps will be very helpful to you. But we feel the need to add this warning: if you use these apps to find free or low-cost camping options once or twice, you risk becoming an avid boondocker, too!
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