Free Camping Overview:
In order to get a good night’s sleep in any vehicle, you want to feel safe wherever you end up for the night regardless of if you’re alone or not. It’s definitely a bonus for some and a requirement for others to find free spots across the country.
Some people prefer camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land or dispersed National Forest campgrounds. Some prefer rest stops, truck stops or hotel parking lots.
In the Google Maps setup below, we have listed all the free campsites that we can vouch for. We’ll discuss in every description whether they feel safe enough to stay alone, or whether they’re too wooded or eerie. We know how important it is to feel secure wherever you end up.
Some people prefer to be near others and some prefer to be in the middle of nowhere.
In the descriptions of each site, we will make sure all of this is discussed, and some tips for the areas as a bonus. Happy camping!
Some of Our Favorite Spots:
Apps We Use On The Road:
iOverlander: This is probably my first go-to, as it tends to have the most campsites listed and is really easy to use. Users mark and review free spots they’ve stayed at, like rest stops, BLM, FS Roads, Casinos, etc,. The app’s host does a very good job at marking a site as “closed” if people have had issues with the places marked. Overall straightforward and a definite must-have on the road.
Free Roam: Although this is a paid app, I like it a lot because not only does each campsite get a 1-5 star review by previous campers (which no other app I’ve had does), but you can also filter out low rated campsites to find the best rated spots (which no other app does either). It’s also cool because the app has overlays that show BLM land and National Forest Land if you like staying in those areas. It is not as easy to use as iOverlander and it has less people using the app overall, which sometimes means it doesn’t have as many viable / reviewed options, but it was my absolute favorite for a very long time.
Freecampsites.net: (A website, not an app). Freecampsites.net is, for many people, the first place they go to find a spot for the night. I’m not really sure why it’s not ours, but it just never has been. I typically look first at iOverlander, then at FreeRoam, then at freecampsites.net. Overall really good amount of places and reviews, and easy to use.
Walmart App: Lots of people choose to stay at Walmarts because they’ve heard they’re free and that they all allow overnight RV stays. But that just hasn’t been true in our experience. This probably has something to do with the fact that we’re from California, and staying at Walmarts there is almost always a definite “not allowed”. This app does a good job of showing which Walmarts around you allow it, and which don’t. It’s really easy to use, and if you’re considering staying at any Walmarts, I definitely recommend the app.
AllStays: This is an app I’ve heard a lot of people use regularly, but we don’t have downloaded currently. We haven’t had any problems using the apps I have listed above, and we are familiar with them so we are definitely biased, but if you’re open to learning a new app, or if you’re starting from scratch, this is a Van Life favorite for sure.
All the Free Options I've Heard Of, Ever:
List of all the places I’ve ever heard of people staying (mostly legally) in the order of the ones we go to first, to the ones we’d try last.
(1): Bureau of Land Management Land (BLM): Our favorite!!
(2): National Forest Land / Dispersed Camping: Pretty close second…
(3): FS-###: Forest service roads, you can legally just sleep at any pullout on these typically dirt/gravel roads. Sometimes within National Forest Land, sometimes not, usually in the boonies with no service.
(4): Rest Stops: not all allow overnight parking, but the ones that do… gold.
(5): Walmarts: Good for not feeling alone, many are 24 hr, and you have a bathroom and grocery store at your fingertips in the morning.
(6): Truck Stops: good for showers in the morning.
(7): Any ol’ non-residential (preferably commercial) street: legal some states, not legal others, kinda like tossing a 100 sided coin, and 1 of the sides means a knock at 2am. That being said, no problems for us thus far.
(8): Hotel Parking Lots: Wouldn’t personally do this, we’d rather just stay on the side of any old non-residential road, but there are people who swear by this. NOT technically legal :).