You use your smartphone for most everyday functions, so why shouldn’t you also bring it along on your next camping adventure? With the help of a few apps, you can ensure a smooth trip in a tent or camper van.
Where’s the nearest camping site? Does it have free space? And where is the nearest WiFi? These are common questions camping enthusiasts face. Some go into the wild without knowing what awaits; others prefer to organise everything in advance. Whether you leave at the last minute or plan ahead, apps can make your trip go smoother.
Navigation software is essential. Google Maps and Apple’s Maps are particularly suitable because they show traffic in real-time, says Dominic Vierneisel from the camping journal Promobil. However, they don’t take into consideration limitations on vehicle height or weight, and drivers should be mindful of restrictions on the road.
To save money on petrol, campers can download Petrol (iOS), an app that shows gas station prices in France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Morocco; GasBuddy (iOS/Android) does the same for the United States, Canada and Australia.
Campers also have to bear in mind the cost of tolls. Vierneisel recommends Green Zones (iOS/Android), which includes information on tolls and diesel bans in all of Europe. Toll Calculator (iOS/Android) offers a similar service for the US and Canada.
Finding a camping site
Find the nearest location to pitch your tent or station your car with iOverlander (iOS/Android), a global database for camping sites and travel essentials like water points and mechanics. Campervan.guide (iOS/Android) contains information about 20,000 European camping sites. “Depending on the country, it can be worth looking at the local camping associations,” recommends Christian Guenther, manager of Germany’s Camping Industry Association.
Especially for those sleeping in tents, the weather can make or break a trip. Weather apps are therefore a must-have. Katharina Baus of the German camping journal Camping und Reise has a secret tip: “The weather app of the Norwegian Meteorological Association called Yr (iOS/Android) is minimalist and has a clear design,” she says. It contains all the useful information of the pre-installed apps and then some, with temperature, precipitation and wind forecasts.
Mobile Internet is becoming increasingly important for campers. Thankfully, there is an app for that: WiFi-Finder (iOS/Android) points travellers towards local hotspots. Android phones and iPhones also have a built-in feature to create portable hotspots that let you share your data with fellow adventurers.
But in general, it’s safer to assume that WiFi access will be rare. “Operators sometimes charge for WiFi use on camping grounds, and it can become quite expensive,” says Viktoria Gross of the German Camping Club. Travellers should consider that most apps don’t work offline and make sure to download the features that can be used without internet beforehand.
Campers who don’t want to miss their television series on the road can install a satellite dish on their caravan. Apps like DishAlign (iOS) or SatFinder Pro (iOS/Android) point the dish in the right direction.
Communication and translation
Google Translate (iOS/Android) is the classic solution to communication problems abroad. With its camera tool, it can even read road signs and translate them. Another option is iTranslate (iOS/Android), which can be used to translate voices and have conversations.