Van life apps are essential to making the most of #vanlife. These are the best of the best when it comes to nearly every aspect of living in your van!
The recent transition towards remote working has made living in a van more common than was previously possible. With the trend increasing, new websites and mobile applications catering to a transient lifestyle have emerged.
Covering everything from route recommendations to the best places to camp, to finding Wi-Fi to saving money at the pump and more, van life apps are invaluable tools for living a nomadic lifestyle on the road. You should consider them just as crucial as other van life essentials you’ll pack away in your van.
Vanlife brings with it lots of challenges. But knowing what kind of services are available nearby can help you plan a way to overcome these challenges.
A good Vanlife app can help you navigate when you’re lost, connect to others when in need, locate the best overnight camping spots, find a place to refill your water or propane and a whole lot more.
Our list below is the tip of the iceberg for what is available in 2022. But each of these apps offers us invaluable information regarding whatever it is we are looking for.
Without further delay, let’s get into our top van life apps for 2022.
Must-Have Van Life Apps for 2023
As the van life community continues to grow the number of apps and helpful resources for van dwellers will continue to grow to meet new needs in creative ways.
In the meantime, here are the van life apps we use most frequently to find places to park overnight, refill water, propane and groceries, trails to hike and even modern necessities like free Wifi and public showers.
BEST APP FOR...
APPLE / ANDROID
You may not find yourself using all of these camping apps on any given day. But having them in your quiver is great when the time comes that you find yourself in a bind for camping – and it will!
Whether you’re searching specifically for completely free camping or would like to find a formal campground where you can plug in, shower and relax for the evening, each of these apps has its own unique way of helping you find the best place to overnight park.
We usually use some combination of 2 or 3 of them anytime we’re looking for a place to camp.
iOverlander is an App and Website with massive popularity among van lifers recently.
It is particularly useful for the vanlife community because it is not limited to just the US, Canada and Mexico and it helps you find virtually every resource you need as you travel.
You’ll find data points literally all over the world.
So whether you’re driving the Pan American Highway or just moving around the US, iOverlander will easily become your go-to app for virtually any needs you have with life on the road.
The beauty of this app is that other people are able to share sites, wild camping and water fill-ups on the app itself. As iOverlander is user-generated someone has stayed at or visited each spot on the app. Further, later users can update information based on their experience.
In this way, you can find the most up-to-date information on a variety of places marked in the app. Plus, if the information is not accurate when you arrive, you can easily post an update to help future travelers out.
But beyond finding places to camp, iOverlander gives you helpful information on dump stations, propane and water refill, mechanics, laundry, grocery stores and restaurants and so much more!
The downside is that it is user-generated and not all campers have the same idea of what makes for a good (and legal!) camping spot. So you do have to vet some of the sites and make a judgment call from time to time.
iOverlander is free and has offline use capabilities as you’ll often use it for finding free camping spots in places off the grid. It provides everything from Walmart parking lots to national forest and BLM land in the app.
The Dyrt has 40,000+ camping campsites around the world that include reviews, tips, videos and photos by others who have stayed there.
Listings also provide contact information and average ratings and you may filter by category including facility amenities and proximity and whether it has RV spaces or not.
Basic use of the Dyrt app is free. But there is a pro version that will allow you to view listings offline, plan your trip and receive substantial savings on campsites and supplies.
It also unlocks free dispersed camping options not available on the free version.
You’ll also find loads of different perks such as a community forum and a magazine full of stories and information to inspire your next trip or destination.
You can share stories with others to provide more up-to-date information about your vanlife experiences with life on the road.
If you’re interested in a free campsite hosted by like-minded travelers, Boondocker’s Welcome is your best bet. For a $50 annual membership, you’ll gain access to over 3,000 global sites where you will camp as a guest of private individuals who open their property to you.
Most of the hosts are fellow travelers who know how challenging it can be to find a great camping spot. And many hosts have gorgeous property that makes it hard to stay just one night.
You will also find that a high percentage of hosts offer various amenities, from water and power to WiFi and even full hookups. Typically, you do need to contact the host a few days in advance. So it’s not great for last-minute camping.
But if you’re looking to tap into the local experience with someone who understands van lifers of all sorts, you can’t go wrong with Boondocker’s Welcome!
Harvest Hosts is a great camping app that, like HipCamp, offers unique camping opportunities virtually anywhere you travel in the US. For an annual membership, you gain access to the app and website to be able to find hosts suitable to your wants and needs.
Harvest Hosts is unique because, as the name suggests, it is centered around farms, ranches, vineyards, distilleries and other non-traditional small businesses.
You may find yourself camping in a field of alpacas in Montana, surrounded by fields of lavender in Washington or on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania.
The majority of the time, these places are free with the assumption that you will be patrons of their industry.
The downside is that the membership costs but for $99 /year you will save a lot of cash and campsite fees (sometimes up to $50/night) so the membership pays for itself with a few nights’ use. Use this link to save 15% on your membership.
You also must have a self-contained RV to be a member. So as long as you’ve got a toilet and kitchen inside your camper van then you’ll have no issues. And most hosts only permit one night of camping, which is usually all you need anyway.
- Premium Version: $99/year ($85 with this discount)
- Available on Apple & Android
- Download HERE
HipCamp allows you to reserve specific camping or parking options on private property. It is essentially the Airbnb or Vrbo of RVing, where individuals and businesses can list sites available for camping.
Although the app is free, this is a premium network that may or may not work out for your van life budget. But there are some unique experiences you can have while you camp that give it great appeal.
For example, you can park your RV in an Arizona camp with a distillery tour and craft distillery tasting.
Or spend the night on an alpaca farm in Washington where you can feed the animals while you’re there. The reservations are managed via the website, and you can find categories based on filters such as pet-friendly and under certain dollar amounts.
Some camping spots have more amenities than others so you can shop around to find the perfect spot with everything you’d want or need.
Campendium is one of our top go-to apps when it comes to finding affordable camping. The app allows you to filter not only the free camping nearby but also premium campsites as well.
The app also includes finding sources of water, RV dump stations, propane and more.
We like that you can read recent (or not-so-recent) reviews of locations and even view images that people have shared.
This helps us to determine if it may be too difficult to reach a particular site or if certain amenities may or may not be offered.
We also like that users can specifically indicate cell phone coverage from the major carriers if you’re looking to stay at least partially on the grid!
We find that there is some overlap between iOverlander and Campendium.
But that Campendium has more reliable reviews and more trustworthy campsites where you aren’t finding yourself stealth camping on a city street or someone’s front yard!
AllStays Camp and RV
The Allstays Camp and RV app is one of the various versions Allstays offers users. This free app is a great alternative or backup to any of the above choices.
Much of the options are the same when it comes to camping. But you can filter search results to include specific places and you’ll also find virtually every Wal Mart or Cracker Barrel on AllStays.
We also like that it shows rest stops on major interstates, which comes in handy in a pinch. And if you’re worried about road grades and mountain passes, AllStays is great for listing how steep and for how long you can expect road grades.
- Cost: FREE
- Premium Version: $9.99
- Available on Apple only
- Download HERE
Vanly is an app where couch surfing meets Airbnb in the setting of van life travel. It is another option where you can connect with hosts on private properties they list as available.
Although the app is free, camping will not be. However, if you’re in a bind and don’t want to stay at a campground then this is a great way to connect with hosts that are van life-minded.
Select a destination where you would like to travel and then you can sort through and filter options based on amenities.
Most spots are basic parking spots either in a driveway or on the street in front of the host’s residence. But this app provides great alternatives to stealth camping in busy areas such as in major cities and around points of interest such as national parks.
Both hosts and guests can post feedback after the stay and there is no expected interaction between the host and the guest unless they want.
Payment is handled by Vanly and the host either accepts or rejects the booking based on the basic information you provide and the availability of their spot.
Other Alternative Camping Apps To Consider
RV Parky – RVParky helps the user find RV parks, campsites, rest areas, a gas station, store and any other place to sleep. Each parking spot is marked on the map with pictures and reviews. We think it’s redundant to other apps like AllStays and Campendium. But it’s free and gives you an additional resource to use if needed.
FreeCampsites.net – Somewhat redundant to iOverlander. But as a user-generated platform, there are bound to be different selections that do not overlap with other apps. The downside is there is no mobile app so you need to browse on your computer or the small screen of your phone.
Google Earth – If you prefer some good old-fashioned pioneering into the unknown, you can rely on Google Earth to help you navigate to some of the most remote spots you could imagine. For the most intrepid van lifer who does not want to live within the confines of what others have suggested, there are still a handful of nomads who prefer to use Google Earth to trailblaze their own boondocking spots.
Apps to Help with Navigation
Having the best directions to help you get from Point A to Point B is important when you spend most of your life on the road. Doing so safely and in a timely manner is even more valuable.
We use the following apps to help us with navigation and driving-related van life tasks.
Google Maps is arguably the most common and best navigation app out there. It will help you find virtually any location in the world and allow you to see the details of that destination before searching for directions.
Then with the directions, you can filter to avoid highways and/or tolls and you are almost always given several route options to choose from.
The only reason real downside we’ve found with using Google Maps is that sometimes the accident and traffic information is not correct, or Google will try to re-route you to a better route even though the one you are on is the one you chose.
Otherwise, this is the standard go-to for using your current GPS location to find directions virtually anywhere.
Waze provides real-time, local road navigation and directions with alerts on imminent police checks, accidents or road danger.
The app is available for iOS and Android and is free to download in the App stores for iOS or Android. With Waze, information is populated by 140 million other users so you get pretty accurate updates in real-time.
There are ride-sharing options to connect with other people to offer a lift if you wanted. And there’s a basic trip planner as well.
If you’re a fan of Google Maps then Waze isn’t going to blow you away. But it certainly helps to have it as a second opinion on route planning and scanning for accidents.
Gas Buddy is the best option to save money on fuel as you travel. Very rarely, if ever, do we fill up a tank of gas without first consulting Gas Buddy.
Gas Buddy is a comprehensive list of gas stations within a location along with the prices and amenities like restrooms or convenience shops. Each station is easy to read and add reviews and recommend any edits of an informative article.
By reviewing the app immediately before you drive into a gas station you can save easily save 5-10 cents per gallon by driving into a lower-priced option. Even if you don’t live in your own van, it’s a fantastic tool for your day-to-day life.
We like to plan our route first and then look for the best price fuel along the way. Sometimes we’ll even stop before we run out of fuel in the event the price difference is significant, such as between state borders.
Other Important #Vanlife Apps
Aside from covering the necessary camping and transportation facets of life on the road, there are loads of other van life apps that help you find WiFi and public toilets and put you on some of the best hiking and mountain biking trails in the US.
These are the apps we use for the other parts of #vanlife.
AllTrails is a free app that assists you to find the best hiking trails wherever you may be. You can search nearby trails and sort by the level of difficulty, distance or even dog-friendly trails.
We love AllTrails because it gives us a glimpse of what to expect on a trail. User-generated reviews and pictures help you determine whether you want to hike the trail or not.
Plus you are able to view the trail maps as you hike, an important feature for not getting lost while you’re out exploring.
Of course, we always recommend checking the official trailhead information and map before setting out.
But we’ve found very few discrepancies between what AllTrails suggests and what we actually hike.
For those van lifers who prefer mountain biking over hiking, TrailForks is the app for you.
With over 400,000 trails in 95 countries, Trailforks is the world’s largest mountain bike trails database. Contributions and monitoring is done in conjunction with local trail associations to ensure accurate reporting.
Access the latest trail conditions and status so you don’t go out of your way to find that a trail is closed to maintenance or dangerous due to weather.
Discover, save and then track routes using the app and share them with others who you think would enjoy them!
Gaia GPS is a navigation app in conjunction with your smartphone to turn it into a reliable GPS device. The free version lets you discover hiking destinations, plan trips and navigate with mobile services.
Upgrade for topographical information to get an idea of the steepness of the terrain before you set out.
You can also track courses if you are hiking, biking or otherwise exploring. And you can store waypoints with images to remember where you went in the past.
We couple Gaia GPS with AllTrails when we hike to ensure the safest hike we can have.
US Public Lands
Free camping and outdoor adventure activities are often at their finest on public lands, which are free and accessible to everyone. With the US Public Lands app you can search through any of the 650 million acres of public land in the US.
Find out which agency manages the land and access direct links to their websites to learn more about passes, fees, restricted access and camping limitations for stay.
This app is great for giving you an overview of the vastness of public land around you, nearly 1/3 of the entire US!
However, it does not indicate specific campsites or areas that are available for camping. You’ll want to consult other apps for specifics in that regard.
- Cost: $2.99
- Available on Apple & Android
- Download HERE
The Flush app is great if you don’t plan to install a proper toilet in your van as it helps find public restroom options within the area. It even has directions for you to quickly click and head straight for the bathroom.
When nature calls, find the perfect toilet from over 200,000 listed worldwide. The app will help you determine whether there are any fees or keys required to access them. And like other user-generated apps, you can read reviews and provide feedback or additional toilets for other travelers.
This app is less appealing, and less necessary, to any van dweller with a self-contained bathroom.
But if you are going bare bones in your van setup you’ll likely want to have this app in your mobile quiver.
Access to the internet has become a near necessity for most van lifers. Whether you are a digital nomad, or simply want to stay connected to the world (or reconnect to it once you come back off-grid) then WiFi Finder is the perfect application for you.
Crowdsourced from other users, WiFi Finder not only indicates the thousands of free WiFi options in any given area, but also it ranks them by speed.
Stop spending time (and money) visiting coffee shops with slow WiFi.
Pick out the best spots with the fastest WiFi and get back to work!
Other Apps to Consider:
WiFi Map – A redundant, or second opinion, mobile app to complement WiFi Finder, WiFi Map will help you find free WiFi when you need it.
Yelp – Whether you’re searching for a specific type of food to eat, or want to find the best food in each new place you visit, Yelp is your number one source for restaurant information on the internet.
National Park Service – Access the same official NPS maps you can get at the visitor center or park entrance without having to carry them around. Find trails, parking and other information with an offline feature.
Each year more and more people choose to live nomadic lifestyles across the US. And with an increasing number of van dwellers on the road, there are more and more creative solutions to help us find everything that we need to make life easier as we travel.
We’re constantly looking for the newest and best van life apps to make the most of our nomadic life on the road. Let us know your thoughts on what apps work best for you and any that we may have left off our list!
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