These are some of our most used apps while traveling in our van! I’ve split them up into three categories based on how often we use them and how well they work. A tier is the apps we use the most, followed by B which is apps we use sometimes, and finally C which is apps we rarely use but nevertheless still have for that one time you do need them.
If you’ve read any other van life blogs then you’ve probably heard someone mention The Dyrt. This is an app loved by campers because it makes it so easy to find a campsite. You can filter everything from ways to get to the site, hookups, rules, prices, and even cell service. When you find a site that is in the right location, you can tap to see pictures and reviews posted by other campers; most of the information about the campsites actually comes from other campers reporting to the app. The app also gives you a direct link to availability and where to make reservations which is a useful feature. If you want more features then you can pay $34.99 (as of August 2021) for an annual pro membership. This gives you more features of the app like offline use and access to discounts at some campsites! We think this is one of the apps that’s definitely worth the purchase if you camp often or are taking a long trip.
Click here to explore The Dyrt
One of our favorites apps if definitely Harvest Hosts! If you don’t know what Harvest Hosts is all about, it is an app than congregates a large selection of places to stay overnight in a van or a big rig like a class A RV. You pay an annual membership of $80 (as of July 2021) and you get access to breweries, wineries, farms, and museums all across the US to stay at! For an extra $20 you can upgrade to include golf courses. We love Harvest Hosts because it is very easy to find a place and request a stay using their online reservation system. If you stay at places in urban areas then sometimes the parking is just is a parking lot but if you look for places a little of the beaten path then you can find magical sites! Although the camping if “free” after you buy then membership, Harvest Hosts asks that you buy something to support the business and recommend at least $20. This is fine by us because most campsites are at least $20 anyways and this way you get camping as well as goodies from where ever you stay. If you decide to stay at a Harvest Host then you have to have a self contained camper (no tents!) and be sure to allow at LEAST 24 hours for the host to respond and accept the stay. You got to be a little ahead of yourselves to have time to request another place if one is full, we found that at least three days out is usually enough. We have stayed at several hosts while traveling and they are always easy to check in and park and the hosts are always extremely nice and accommodating to any needs! You can’t use the app offline however which is slightly inconvenient at times.
Click here to learn more about Harvest Hosts
If you hike then chances are you know about AllTrails. We use AllTrails to find the best hiking trails around us. There are many items that you can filter when looking for trails. We mainly use it to find trails that allow dogs because there is nothing worse than getting to a trailhead and finding out dogs are not allowed! The app also allows you to look at pictures of the trail and reviews from other users which helps us make a decision about what trail to hike for the day. There is also a pro version of this app which allows you to use the app offline and shows a map of the trail so you don’t get lost on some of the more confusing trails. The app also helps you find trails for biking, horseback riding, and more!
This app allows you to download maps for offline use. We don’t use this super often but when you are in the middle of a huge dead zone it comes it very handy so you don’t drive in the complete opposite direction. It’s about 8GB to download the whole United States and while we wouldn’t use it as our main navigation app (because Google Maps is still much better), it brings a nice piece of mind knowing that we always have a way to get around.
This little app simply shows you the cheapest gas near you within a close radius you set. This app has saved us several times from buying gas at a station that’s sometimes 30 cents more than the one down the street! One of our main expenses in gas so this app can be a lifesaver. The app also has a feature where you can set the route that you are travelling on and see where the cheapest gas is along your route.
The official National Parks system app. This shows you all the parks, monuments, and historical sites near you and provides a complete list of things to do, things to see, tour info, amenities, news, and important park info. You can also save this information for offline use, thanks NPS! Unfortunately we don’t use this too often because most parks are very unfriendly to dogs and don’t allow them on most trails so we don’t spend too much time in the national parks.
This is another app similar to The Dyrt where you can find primarily free camping rather than paid sites. You can filter out by BLM and forest service land and find those sweet unknown campgrounds deep in the backcountry. There is more variety of free campgrounds on this app compared to The Dyrt so if you want free camping this app is for you.
Another camping app, this one is mostly user added spots that are mostly free! The app also allows you to find nearby showers to use, drinking water, and laundromats. For those times that you can’t find a place to fill up water which happens from time to time, this app comes in handy. This is by far the best app to find free overnight parking and wild camping. Get this if you are on a budget!
This is a vanlife community app that lets you set up a profile and meet up with other vanlifers. It also shows vanlife events which have vendors and other community members all there with the intent of talking vans! The downside is this app is not very populated which kind of defeats the purpose of a social media app 🙃.
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