It’s amazing what tools and technology are available in the palm of your hand, today. While the idea of roughing it and going with the wind has its own appeal, the reality is that it’s pretty handy to have access to information and social connections digitally, when van camping.
This is especially true for those who are truly living the full-time vanlife, but even if you’re just renting a campervan temporarily and getting a taste of that vanlife, utilizing the digital tools available to you can still improve the quality of your van camping adventure.
Apps That Are Handy for Vancamping
A number of apps have risen to the challenge of solving various problems and making life on the road just a bit easier.
- FreeCampsites.net – This is really the biggest, most popular and go-to resource for finding free campsites. The database is huge, but unfortunately they don’t have an app. You’ll just have to use their website; it may not look as slick as some others like Campendium, but it’s full of great spots.
- iOverlander – This is an awesome and extremely popular app for finding free spots to camp, or boondocking. Beware, popularity comes with competition for campsites!
- FreeRoam – This app actually shows you on a map where the campsites are, which is super handy. It also includes a lot of user-generated data, which can help you get more info and avoid unpleasant surprises when you get there. For the cherry on top, the company that runs the app is a non-profit.
- Campendium – This is another great app for free campsites that is extremely clean and well-built, but only exists on Apple devices. However, you can still use their website, if you’re a die-hard Android user like myself.
- Others – Some other useful apps that show campsites, parking lots where you can boondock, and camping resources like REI stores are AllStays Camp & RV, RV Parky, and Park Advisor. They all do more or less the same thing, so you can pick whichever one suits your fancy.
Connecting with Community Digitally
Of course, vanlife is quite the social media phenomenon, and one benefit of that is that there are tons of ways to connect on Facebook, instagram, and other platforms, where you can potentially find other nomadic sorts to meet up with and connect, which always makes a van camping adventure more interesting and fulfilling.
A good rule of thumb is to go specific in your search; you might find someone nearby on a general van camping group, theoretically, but it’s much more likely if you’re looking at groups or hashtags that are more local to the area where you’ll be traveling and camping. Of course, you should take reasonable precautions when meeting up with strangers, such as meeting at public places.
Beyond concrete groups and hashtags, you can also search for posts that contain the area you’ll be camping, the keyword vanlife (and similar), and filter by recent dates, to find those who are probably nearby. Then just give a friendly shoutout in the comments, or maybe even send a direct message if you’re feeling confident.
Aside from these general social media connecting strategies, here are a few groups that are more or less regionally specific, that you may find useful:
- Asheville Vanlife Rally – A vanlife rally that happens every September, in Asheville, NC. Even if you won’t be there during the rally, you may find some local nomads to connect with.
- Descend On Bend – Another similar rally that takes place in Fall, in Bend, Oregon.
- Go-Van – This one is specific to Canada, and hosts various events.
- Midwest Vanlife Gathering – This is a Springtime event in the Midwest region, every May.
- Rubber Tramp Rendezvous – If you’re looking to get away from the cold in Winter, the climate is mild at this event in Quartzite, AZ, and a wide variety of road warrior nomads meet here every January.
- Vanlife Connections – This one takes place several times a year near San Diego.
Vanlife Diaries – This is an organization that hosts events around the U.S. and Australia.