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Apps to find free campsites, outdoor recreation or campgrounds.

Camping is a fun, inexpensive way to travel the country, or at least kick back in nature for the weekend. There are a number of free smart phone apps, both on the Apple store and Google Play, that you can use to find a free campground. As there are many public parks and other campgrounds that you can visit for free!

The apps are great for visitors/campers/travelers to use. Unfortunately, fees at paid campgrounds can really add up. It's not uncommon to fork over $20, $35, or even upwards of $50 for one night at a campsite! These smartphone apps can help you get away from those costs, and find a free campsite with them.

While paid campsites often offer handy amenities like restrooms, water spigots, and hot showers, they can also eat into your budget. Sites at paid campgrounds also tend to be closely packed together, so if you prefer seclusion when out in nature, you may be desperate for an alternative. After all, you'd probably rather hear birdsongs and babbling brooks than your neighbors yakking loudly into the night.

Thanks to a vast and intricate public lands system, the United States is chock full of world-class campsites that won't cost you a cent. These apps (for both iOS and Google Android) will help you locate these treasures! Many of these sites feature unparalleled mountain views and idyllic creekside settings. You can even find top-notch campsites right outside of National Parks, allowing you to enjoy these astounding areas without having to reserve an in-park spot half a year in advance!

It sounds pretty good, but finding these campsites isn't always so easy, especially for the uninitiated. When driving down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, it can be difficult to know where you can legally pitch your tent. Fortunately, there are some great apps that can help you navigate the landscape.

The Best Apps to Find Free Campsites

1) iOverlander

This popular app is a favorite amongst van-lifers, campers and other nomads, and it's easy to see why. iOverlander, which was created by a non-profit organizations, allows users to input the coordinates of free campsites on public lands, along with photos and a description. Other users can add comments and photos.

 

 

 

iOverlander is great for quickly finding a site in a new area, and the app is free to download and use. The user comments are especially helpful, as people often leave helpful information on road conditions, flooding, or mosquito levels. It's one of the best apps for quickly finding a campsite in a new area.

The one downside is that, due to the app's popularity, campsites or parks sites listed in iOverlander are far from secret. You may face some competition with other campers. In fact, many long-time campers refrain from listing their favorite spots for fear of them becoming overrun. Nevertheless, the free iOverlander application is a great starting point and will usually help you find a spot to pitch your tent, pull up your camper, or hang in your van for the night.

2) The Dyrt

The Dyrt is a repository of all sorts of campgrounds: free, paid, public, private, tent-only, RV-only, glamping, yurts, and everything in between. If you want to save a buck, this easy-to-use, intuitive app makes it easy to filter for free campsites. There are also free user reviews on the campsites.

Simply zoom in on the area you want to camp and set up the filters accordingly. The Dyrt is an excellent app for finding hidden gems and scoring that perfect weekend out in the woods without paying a cent.

3) OnX Offroad

An all-around great app, OnX Offroad definitely takes a little more skill and knowledge to use successfully. While OnX Offroad doesn't show exact campsite coordinates, it does show land borders and classifications. This app will tell you if you're on public land -- like National Forest where it's legal to camp for free in most cases -- or accidentally trespassing on private property, in which case you should refrain from pitching your tent and move along.

 

 

 

 

You will need to pay for a subscription, but the app comes with enough features to make the cost worth it. There is also a free trial subscription for this app. OnX Offroad allows you to download maps for offline use. This is invaluable for navigating remote areas when your cell phone is out of range. OnX Offroad will help you find hidden spots the iOverlander users won't know about. It's the perfect app for finding idyllic spots that are off the beaten path.

4) Additional Apps to use

The top three are above. But there are others to try as well. They include a free app on Recreation.gov, which only lists federal government sites, including National Parks. There is also Tentrr for sites that have to do with tents, including Glam Tenting! Another option is AllStays, which focuses on free RV campgrounds and locations for more “mobile” campers.

Some Extra Tips to Find Free Camping

Knowing how to find free campsites opens up a whole new world of possibility for outdoor adventurers. Here are a few added tips to help make the best of your free camping excursions, including how apps like Freeroam can be used to help you find a free campsite or save money.

\1) Land designation matters

In general, lands that are managed under the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allow free camping in one spot for up to 14 days. The FreeRoam app for I phones and Android phones can help you find these territories. Or try the USFS & BLM Campgrounds on iOS.

With this in mind, be aware that some National Forest and BLM areas restrict camping access altogether, have shorter limits on camping stays, or only allow camping in designated clearings along certain roads. It's a good idea to check in with the local ranger office or agency website to make sure of any camping restrictions, or FreeRoam helps with those rules as well. States and counties often manage public forests, but camping restrictions can vary wildly between jurisdictions. Always do your research on a local area before heading out

2) A high-clearance vehicle can help

One advantage of developed, fee-based campsites is that they usually have well-maintained, paved roads. Free campsites don't often offer this luxury. When scouting out free campsites using your smartphone, expect to travel down rocky, uneven, and rutted roads.

A standard commuter car may get you into some of these spots (depending on the skill of the driver), but you risk getting stuck or having to turn back before reaching your destination. A high-clearance vehicle that can contend with gnarly road conditions will increase your access to more and better sites.

 

 

 

 

3) Pack it in, pack it out

There's no trash service deep in the woods. Be respectful to the nature around you and future campers. Always pack up and carry out your garbage, and apps such as Boondocking can not only help you find free campgrounds (nationwide and in your local town) but they also have information on trash clearing sites and restrooms.

No one likes arriving at a serene spot in nature only to have it spoiled by beer cans, plastic, and paper plates, even if they are using the campground for free. As a general rule, try to leave an area nicer than you found it. Be respectful.

Closing Thoughts on Camping for Free

Free camping isn't just a great way to save money; it also opens you up to wonderful campsites with more seclusion and great views. The apps and resources noted above can all be used to help you either (1) find a free campground or site to go to or (2) help you save money. Running water and toilets is a pretty great feature of paid campgrounds. However, once you discover the world of free campsites that are located in all parts of the US, it's hard to imagine camping any other way.

By Jon McNamara

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