Name a more iconic way to spend time with family or friends than camping. You can’t. Well, maybe you can, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more environmentally conscientious way to get away. According to the 2017 North American Camping Report, sponsored by private campground network Kampgrounds of America, the pastime is on the rise—more numerous, more diverse, and younger campers are pitching tents in parks and forests this year. Those who camp are getting out more often, too: From 2014 to 2016, the number of people camping once a year has fallen 10 percent, while those camping twice or thrice has grown by 12 percent and 36 percent, respectively. So, why not join them? The question is, where to camp? And what kind of al fresco experience do you seek? How do you even know what you want?
These questions can be daunting, but don’t hang up that bedroll just yet—the internet has a broadside of services to help find your place in the great outdoors.
Ultimate Campgrounds offers an unpretty but robust campsite-finding tool. It catalogues information (updated monthly) on noncommercial public and government-owned campgrounds, regularly verifying more than 27,000 in the United States and 4,100 in Canada. Ultimate Campgrounds’ free basic map service boasts a bevy of useful information: drinking water, toilet/shower situations, price tiers, RV sites, months open, etc. If you’re willing to shell out a few dollars, their paid options—available for $3.99 on Android and iOS and $5.99 on macOS—offer filters for elevation, nearby hiking trails, and other criteria. (The Canadian mobile app is $1.99, and the military campground app is free.) The interface won’t win any design awards, but it’s clear that love was put into the service. Virtually gander into the app’s overflow menu and you’ll find a section called “Campground Courtesy,” a near-1,600 word essay on the etiquette of roughing it. Ultimate Campgrounds does not offer direct booking, but lists contact information for most sites.
The antithesis of Ultimate Campgrounds, Hipcamp offers a modern, laid-back, and romantically millennial campsite booking service. The site is marked by spacious use of photography, sans-serif fonts on clean white backgrounds, as well as AirBnb-reminiscent layouts—and M.O. Hipcamp works with private landowners (“hosts”) to facilitate rental arrangements for campers looking to pitch a tent, park…