How to Find Overnight Camp Spots When Living in a Van
Living in a van and exploring the open road can be a liberating and exciting experience. However, one of the challenges of van life is finding a safe and comfortable place to park and sleep for the night. Here are some tips for finding the perfect camp spot when living in a van - coming from years of combined experience living and traveling in vehicles!
Research before you go
It’s never fun to be left without options after sunset. Before hitting the road, research your options in the areas you plan to visit: different campgrounds, RV parks, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands etc.
There are many resources available to help you look for places that offer amenities you may need, like bathrooms, showers, and electricity, or those that are pet-friendly. Websites like freecampsites.net and campendium.com are great resources for finding campgrounds and RV parks. Some of the most popular apps include iOverlander and AllStays Camp and RV.
Tap into shared knowledge
There are a variety of apps and social media groups dedicated to van life and camping, where people will share their experience. These can be great resources for finding hidden gems and getting real-time updates on campsite availability.
Look for dispersed camping options
Dispersed camping, also known as boondocking, is camping on public lands without developed facilities. You may have heard you can stay legally for free in the US in National Forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management), this is mostly true, as long as your stay doesn't exceed 14 days within a 28 consecutive day period, and within a 25-mile radius (called the "the 14-28-25 rule"). Please note that not all public land is necessarily open for camping. Here again, it is worth planning ahead!
This can be a great option for those looking for a more secluded and peaceful experience. Please always be sure to check for local regulations and specific guidelines with the local land management agency — especially with regards to campfires!
Stay at people’s places
Staying at someone’s place can be a great option when you need certain amenities, or you are in an area with little to no campgrounds, or during high season.
Sēkr has a CampShare feature that allows hosts to list their property. Otherwise, Hipcamp and Tentrr list campsites on private properties, while Harvest Hosts lists spots at Wineries, Breweries or Farms across North America.
Be flexible & respectful
Sometimes, the best camp spot is one that you find unexpectedly on the road. Be open to new opportunities and have backup options in case your first choice is full or unavailable.
Last but not least, always be respectful of your surroundings and the people around you. Remember you are a guest where you are visiting: follow posted rules and regulations, and leave the campground better than you found it!
The 7 Leave No Trace principles
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Starting with these tips, you'll be well on your way to finding the perfect camp spot for your van life adventures. If you are new to this, as for everything in life you’ll soon be surprised at how easy it becomes after a little while.
See you on the road!
The Simpler Ways team