Every Van Dweller loves the word “free”.
Free coffee, free parking or the best one of all FREE CAMPING (all pictures of free camping sites)! Finding a place to park and sleep is an every night struggle. Sure if the glove box is packed with cash there is an endless supply of beautiful pay campsites to park your rig at for a night or two. But not paying $15 to $25 a night is a major reason why we us chose this life. Free Rent!
Misadventure Theory has been on the road for more than 2 months, driven over 6,000 miles across 7 States, 2 Canadian Provinces and have paid for camping a total of 2 times.
That being said, we now feel qualified to give advice on the best ways to find free camping spots! We’re not talking about the ol’ Wally World parking lot either.
Here are the Top 5 Misadventure Tips to finding Free Camping
Tip 1 – FreeCampsites.net
This site is awesome! Whoever created it, Thank You! It is the first thing we check when we are looking for a spot to camp or park for the night. Using the search bar is the quickest way to see if there are any free campsites by you and gives a general description about the campsite (or parking lot). The other great part is that the site is user generated so it is growing constantly as more travelers add their newly discovered free campsites! If you’re interested in staying at any of our campsites be sure and check out our account. But most importantly don’t forget to add in your own, go make an account and spread the free campsite love!
Tip 2 – National Forest Rangers
There are 154 National Forests in the United States that cover 193 million acres of land! Yeah that’s a lot! A long with these Forests come offices staffed with Rangers that are very knowledgable and usually willing to help get you off the beaten path. Stop in to ask a Ranger about the dispersed camping opportunities available in their National Forest. If you are not familiar with what dispersed camping is, follow this link Dispersed Camping so you don’t look like a complete newbie when you’re talking to Ranger Rick! The bonus of stopping at the office is getting the low down on other epic adventures to embark on while in the National Forest.
Tip 3 – Local Gear/ Bike Shop
Probably our favorite way of finding free camping is talking to the local adventurer at the gear or bike shop in town. It’s common knowledge that locals know best and if you ask nicely, like with a cold beer in hand, you’re more than likely to get the insider knowledge on the most epic views and free camping the area has to offer. Chances are the areas best single track, climbing crag or paddle spot is not to far from these local campsite gems. Best case scenario, they invite you over, grill up some steaks, break open your good whiskey and pass out in the van parked in the driveway.
Tip 4 – Visitor Center
Remember all those dumb buildings your parents would pull the car over at on family roadtrips? They have a name, Visitor Centers, and still exist in todays technological world. The staff are very helpful and informative about the area you’re about to explore. Explain that you like to avoid the over crowded and over priced campgrounds and they’re more than likely to point out a quiet spot to camp for the night. Bonus tip, they often have free water refill and dump stations! Score! Visitor Centers were huge for us in Canada as almost all had water refill stations and could point us in the direction of Crown Land (A fancy word for National Forest or free camping area)
Tip 5– Google Earth
The most time consuming tactic we have used, but most rewarding as well is to use that little app on your phone called Google Maps. Turn it on to the Satellite mode and start searching for every faint two track road your cracked smartphone screen shows. It is best to start by the National Forests or Recreation Areas as they usually have the heaviest concentration of old logging or backcountry roads. Make sure you upload your awesome finds on freecampsites.net so it is a little easier for the next weary traveler. The free campsite Karma will return the favor!
Now if all of these options fail and you’re tapped on time and energy, just cop out and go to a box store. Wal Mart, Home Depot, Lowes, Sams Club. Any of them will do. You might feel lame and have self guilt in the morning but it’s a relatively quiet spot that you won’t get hassled at.
Hopefully these 5 Tips will point you in the right direction for some amazing free camping! We would love to hear any of your tips we might have overlooked so leave us a comment and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE for more helpful Van Life tips coming soon!