When it comes to camping, hiking, backpacking, overlanding, and exploring in general, there are a few major apps and websites you need to know about. They can make the difference between the trip of a lifetime and the worst campsite you’ve ever had.
Many of the top camping apps utilize the power of the people. By crowdsourcing information, they providing insight on a much broader level than ever before.
This post will cover some of the absolute best in camping apps and websites.
Apps to Find Campsites and Campgrounds
If you do any car camping or long expeditions in off path locations, iOverlander is one of the best camping apps you should have.
This app and website uses a vast crowd of adventurers to uncover dispersed (aka wild) campsites, established campgrounds, hotels, and many different points of interest. Need to know where to find water, gasoline, or propane? It’s got that too.
Best of all, this extremely lightweight software works offline! All of the markers are saved via GPS waypoints, and each one includes all of the check-ins from previous travelers. Some points of interest may have only one check-in and review, while others get regular updates with in-depth information.
iOverlander is becoming widely-known in the overlanding community and has a robust library of information across the globe.
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Campendium has a large library of RV Parks, campgrounds, and other campsites. Many users leave reviews and photos of places they stay, allowing you to be informed before arriving.
While I’ve found that it is focused more toward the crowd that prefers established campgrounds, this best camping app has some dispersed/wild/boondocking information. And I have encountered people on the road who have a strong preference for this over the minimalist iOverlander.
Another robust crowd-based software for finding dispersed and wild campsites is FreeCampsites.net. This website has been around for a long time and is regularly used by thousands of campers, making it one of the best camping apps and websites.
It will identify specific campsites and give you the knowledge you need to explore in areas unknown to yourself. The website is fairly basic, but setting that aside, it is an excellent resource to use before you hit the road or when you are in an area with good cell service or WiFi.
Finally, if you’re looking to stay in a Park, public-owned campground, or other public area, then Recreation.gov is where you should start.
Through this website, you can make reservations to most of the public parks and campgrounds throughout the United States. The vast majority of campgrounds allow reservations 6-months in advance, and quite a few get fully booked very early.
You can also obtain wilderness permits, tour information, and more information about public lands.
This relative newcomer to the camping industry, Harvest Hosts, has a unique take. For a membership fee of $79, you get access to over 1,000 locations across the United States where you can stay overnight. For free.
The locations include farms, vineyards, breweries, museums, & other attractions and properties. Most have large parking spaces for oversized rigs and can be a great way to see something different while on the road.
If you want to become a host, there is no charge and it may help drive customers to your onsite business.
Hipcamp is like the Airbnb of the camping world. Through this website and service, you can reserve camping locations on private land all over the place.
Some listings also include shelter, such as tiny homes, yurts, and other glamping-style adventures. The amenities vary greatly from property to property, so make sure you ask all of the questions you need to before booking.
Looking for ideas on where to go camping? If you’re near Colorado, we have a few you won’t want to miss!
Check out our post on Black Canyon National Park Camping to see a shockingly underrated Park. Or read about the Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping to climb the incredible dunes. If you want to stay closer to Denver, perhaps a quick trip to Red Feather Lakes or Camping Near Winter Park will be best for you.
Road Maps & Navigation Resources
Google Maps (And Offline Service)
Google Maps has been the gold standard of mapping since its launch in 2005. If you aren’t using Google maps, then you should consider switching since it is one of the best camping apps to have on trips.
One feature of Google Maps is often overlooked even by the most experienced travelers: offline maps.
You CAN use Google maps offline, as long as you download the map area you need before losing service. Simply go to the settings, then “offline maps.” Highlight the area you desire, and download. Here is a link to Google’s help section on navigating offline.
Waze is another very popular mapping service. Users can report a variety of situations through the app and share in real time with fellow drivers. It is a great way to navigate quickly and avoid traffic.
While Google Maps includes a lot of traffic information, Waze uses the data from its users to continually search for the fastest route. It will often re-route you during your trip if a shorter route becomes available.
Waze also includes additional social sharing information, such as the ability to chat with other users, send ETA’s to contacts, and more. It can even list some speed traps and red light cameras.
Maps.me is another mapping service & navigation tool that focuses on offline usage and options. It is a great alternative for camping navigation apps. It also offers travel guides to specific areas (free and paid options).
I do prefer Google’s overall mapping system, which is trusted by far more users, but maps.me is a very popular alternative while on the road.
CoPilot GPS has a lot of options geared toward large motor-homes and semi-trucks. It is an excellent RV camping app. If you have an oversized rig, this could alleviate many headaches by showing important information about road width, weight ratings, and more.
The annual subscription for this best RV camping app gets you voice-guided navigation and the ability to select routes based on motor-home/truck dimensions and load.
It’s important to have the right gear for camping. View our posts on Cool Camping Gadgets to liven up your campsite. Or see our Essential Camping Gear List for a complete list of everything you need to go camping.
Hiking and Backpacking GPS Apps
Google Maps is perfect when you’re on the road. But what about when you’re camping, hiking, biking, backpacking, sailing, skiing, or nearly any other outdoor activity? Then you need another type of best camping app.
There are plenty of options here too, but Gaia is quickly making it to the top of the backpacking GPS apps.
The free version of Gaia allows you to plan out your trip, setting specific GPS waypoints, endpoints, campsite ideas, and whatever other location help you might need.
But you must pay for Gaia’s real backcountry functionality: offline use. A paid membership also comes with Gaia’s extensive map catalogue.
Another great feature of Gaia is that it can sync across all of your devices. So plan it out on the big computer at home, then have that information at your fingertips on your phone or tablet while on the road.
AllTrails is another popular app and website for hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor adventures. It has an incredible amount of information for trails of all sorts, with lots of user ratings and reviews.
Most trails are rated based on difficulty and include various important details such as length, altitude change, and restrictions/permits to consider. It can also track you while you’re out in the wilderness, providing the real-time data you need to know where you’re at.
Just like Gaia, AllTrails requires a paid membership to access some of the most important functions, such as offline map downloads. With a modern interface that continually updates both the app and website, this is a multi-faceted software that can help you conquer the great outdoors.
MotionX-GPS is an excellent alternative for hiking and backpacking GPS apps. While the initial download is not free, it is cheap (under $5) and there is no ongoing subscription cost. It doesn’t update very often nor does it have the fanciest interface, but it will absolutely do whatever you need it to while exploring.
Just like Gaia and AllTrails, you can use a variety of different map types, you can mark waypoints, record tracks, and import/export GPX files. And it has the ability to use a manual tracking mode, in case you can’t obtain sufficient satellite connections or if you want to test your orienteering skills.
CalTopo is another very useful tool for camping and backpacking GPS information. It’s main function is a completely free website with an astounding amount of capabilities to plan any outdoor adventure.
I have regularly used CalTopo to plan out routes, print free maps, and establish GPS-based waypoints along my desired route. It has a treasure-trove of features for a free service: different marker colors and shapes, plus a variety of map types.
My favorite feature of all: you can import/export the data to other GPS programs (most often using GPX filetype). While it isn’t as seamless as Gaia, it absolutely does the trick.
Personally, we use CalTopo to map out our planned route, then we print out hard copy maps and share the GPX file with our Motion-X GPS app on our mobile devices. This is a cheap and reliable way to explore the backcountry.
The Best Camping Apps Summary
We’re lucky to be around in a time with the ability to share information so easily, GPS connectivity across the globe, and giant libraries of incredible campsites. No longer do you have to explore the outdoors blindly.
Find your ideal campsite on iOverlander, Campendium, or Hipcamp. Then use Google Maps, Waze, or Maps.me to drive there, even without cell service. And finally, flip on Gaia GPS, AllTrails, or Motion-X GPS to explore everything offroad.
Whatever camping app you choose to use, make sure you get out there and explore!
Do you have a favorite camping app or service which isn’t listed on here? Leave us a comment below to share!