I have a bunch of apps that I use while on the road that I wanted to share with everyone. Vanlife and road tripping is easier and more enjoyable with these tools. I use many of these every day!
So, here’s a list of my favorite vanlife apps in order of how often I use them or how valuable I think they are.
Did I miss an app that you use on a regular basis? If so, I’d love to hear from you so I can add it to the list!
Certainly one of the essential apps for vanlife is the aptly named Vanlife App. Their mission is to be the only app you need. You can see nearby vanlifers to connect with, find a camping spot or locate services like a dump station or propane filling station. It’s an ambitions project that is getting better all the time. Users can also sign up to be hosts which I’ve done at my place in Panama. Since the app is very community centric it becomes more valuable as more users sign up. So, I’d encourage you to download it and create your account! There is even a way to indicate that you’re a “dreamer” of vanlife if you haven’t yet hit the road.
This is pretty much the best app for finding places to camp – particularly off-grid or boondocking sites. iOverlander seems to have the most extensive directory and this is likely due to the fact that it’s user-generated. Everyone who uses the app can contribute spots as they find them and, of course, others can review our leave updated information about spots. iOverlander has global coverage but I’ve only used it in the USA and I find the listings more robust in the western parts of the USA. This one is an essential!
This is another great camping spot directory. In comparison to iOverlander, it tends to have more commercial campgrounds and RV parks and therefore has better coverage on the eastern side of the USA in my experience. One of the features is a way to show all the “camping-friendly” stores like Walmart or REI that generally allow free overnight camping which is great for camping in urban and suburban areas.
In addition to places to camp, fuel (gas, diesel and hopefully charging stations in the future) is the other nearly daily need. GasBuddy is the best app for finding fuel near you and comparing prices. Totally worth having! According to their website they have “real-time fuel prices at more than 140,000 gas stations in the United States, Canada, and Australia”.
I use OpenSignal to do two things. The first is to test my cellular data connection with their speed testing tool. This helps me understand which data provider is working best in any particular spot. I generally travel with some kind of Verizon option and Google Fi. Then, I also use the app to see what kind of network coverage I can expect in any area. They use the speed test information to build fairly accurate and up-to-date coverage maps. Since I work on the road, it’s often really helpful to know roughly what to expect in terms of data connectivity in a particular area!
The Ultimate Public Campgrounds app is a great way to find low-cost public (non-commercial) camp spots across the entire United States, including Hawaii and Alaska. According to their information, they currently have over 39,000 total campsites in their directory of which over 19,580 of the campsites are free and over 23,650 of the campsites are $10 or under.
The link above is to the Android version, here’s a link to the iOS version.
Cost: $79.00 per year
How does free camping at a winery, brewery or beautiful farm sound? Harvest Hosts is a network of over 1,100 such places that welcome campers. The idea is that you get an awesome place to camp where you can sip on great wine or beer or perhaps eat some delicous locally-grown produce and the host is likely to gain a new customer. It’s a really great win-win. Even though you have to pay $79 for the annual subscription, if you use the app even a few times a year it pretty much pays for itself. If you follow my link and enter the discount code HHFRIENDS15 during checkout you’ll save 15% off your subscription.
This is a fairly new app to me so I don’t have as much experience with it as some of the others but so far it’s a really great tool. Roadtrippers is a way to plan an itinerary for a road trip (hence the name) and find interesting attractions or things to do along the way. Kind of a mapping tool combined with an Expedia-like directory of things to do in any area. You can also share your trips with others for some level of collaboration.
I have listed this one last because it’s sort of a nerdy thing that not everyone would have a use for! BlueDriver is an OBDII “scan tool” that you buy and plug into your OBDII port which is a standard “data” port that is available on all modern cars and the thing that a mechanic would use to read any engine or failure codes. Once you have this you can download the BlueDriver app and either read these kind of engine codes for troubleshooting or create a real-time dashboard of various things like coolant temperature, RPMs and so on.
This one isn’t an app, but it’s a very cool website if you’re ever stuck off road or just need a jump. The website allows you to post a “recovery request” with your GPS coordinates and connects you with one of their volunteers for a recovery in real time. There is no charge for this service – instead they rely on sponsors, partners and, of course, their volunteers. They started their service in the Pacific Northwest a few years ago and now have thousands of volunteers across all 50 states! Amazing.