If you are thinking about a camping trip this summer, some people will tell you it is already too late. The most popular campsites open reservations four to six months in advance, and spaces fill up quickly. That said, if you plan to camp in Rocky Mountain or Yellowstone in July, for example, you should make plans in January.
Combine the fact that it was already difficult to get hold of coveted summer spots before the pandemic with the flood of new campers and we have a shortage of campsites on our hands. According to the Association of the Outdoor Industry, camp attendees rose 28 percent last year to 7.9 million new entrants in 2020. A report by the RV Industry Association shows RV sales increased 43 from 2019 to 2020 Percent have increased. The global glamping market reached $ 1.8 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $ 2.35 billion worldwide in 2021.
“There are absolutely more people who camp,” says Jeremy Puglisi, author of the recently published book “Where Should We Camp Next?” and cohost the podcast campsite of the week. “But when people say there is no place to camp, it means that the most popular places to camp are booked on summer weekends. So yeah, you can’t get a seat on a Yosemite, but it’s still very possible to go camping. “
Puglisi recommends looking for lesser-known or privately owned campsites during the week, or finding a spot that cannot be reserved in advance. Take New York State Parks, for example. “Our campsites are in high demand, but there is still availability for 2021, especially on weekdays,” said Dan Keefe, New York State Office’s information officer for parks and recreation. “Summer weekends and holidays fill up quickly, but our smaller or less popular parks may be more available during times of high demand.”
Until recently, a limited number of privately owned websites controlled bookings at most public property campsites in the United States. So if you want to reserve a campground in a state or national park, you must search the calendars on Reserve America or Recreation.gov and hope to see availability. All of that is changing, however, thanks to a movement of new contractors pushing to open government data on real-time camping availability, as well as a flurry of new tech-savvy startups working with private landowners to rent land to campers, such as Tentrr and Harvest host.
This means that at some point we will be able to reserve a campsite in the same way that Expedia allows us to book flights and hotel rooms. That day is coming. Right now you have to be a little creative to find an open campsite in 2021. However, here are some websites that can help you.
Sign up for cancellation notifications
(Photo: Courtesy of Campnab)
When people cancel camping reservations, these vacant spaces are often quickly rebooked. If you don’t keep updating the availability calendar at exactly the right time, it may be impossible to snap up this site. This is the driving force behind Campnab, which was launched in 2017 and now scans reservation calendars at over 8,000 campsites in Canada and the US to check for cancellations. You pay a fee – starting at $ 10 – to receive a text message when the campsite of your choice is open on the dates you want. The site also recently added elusive backcountry permits.
“Camping primarily has a supply problem, but we see a lot of cancellations,” says Eric Karjaluoto, co-founder of Campnab. “In places like Yosemite, a newly canceled seat will be rebooked in less than a minute. So if you get this text alert, you need to jump on it to secure that reservation.”
The CampsitePhotos website, which displays specific images from over 2,000 US Forest Service campsites, state parks, and land, also has a campground support feature that sends email and text notifications when a fully booked campground Campsite is open.
Find a campsite on private land
(Photo: Courtesy Hipcamp)
Hipcamp is adding more and more private land campsites every month – from a vineyard in Michigan to a flower farm in Oregon – and the site recently announced a partnership with California State Parks to provide real-time data on campground availability in California’s coveted state Parks ( check out our favorite hipcamp site in each state here). Although you cannot book campsites in national parks through Hipcamp, there is a large selection of campsites near the entrances to national parks. The website helps you to find beach camping, campsites available tonight or this weekend, or campsites within two hours of your location.
If you don’t have your own camping gear, Tentrr is a great option. You can opt for the full canvas tents on private land, stocked with items like camping stoves and sun showers. The company is now also working with a growing number of state parks across the country. Unlike many other campsites, you won’t be overcrowded among other campers – each location has its own wilderness of its own. You can also search for places near certain outdoor activities, such as swimming or mountain biking.
Other private land options include Harvest Host, which offers RV camping at thousands of wineries, breweries, and farms across the country. It requires an annual membership fee of $ 99, but then camping is free. Or book a tree house, canvas tent or small house on private land through GlampingHub.
Look for backup options
(Photo: Courtesy Dyrt)
If the campsite you want to go to is full, don’t fret. There are other locations nearby that may still be available. The Dyrt is basically the tech version of the call-a-friend scenario. It has trusted ratings of campsites from verified insiders, campsites in every state, and filters like litter camping, dog-friendly camping, or camping near hot springs. As of 2019, the website allowed bookings at selected locations through its app or website.
Founded in 2014 by some full-time Airstream travelers, Campendium features photos and reviews of campsites across the United States. You can also find crowd-sourced reviews on topics like cell phone coverage, cleanliness, and noise. The location lists camping in state parks, national parks, national forests, private campsites, and popular and freely distributed campsites. You cannot book a campsite here yet, but every review has links to the official booking pages.
Search for privately owned or RV parks via Campspot, a reservation software for campsites that summarizes availability data from thousands of campsites. Or check out Outly, launched in 2018 by some aerospace engineers in Boulder, Colorado, which pulls analysis from sites like the US Geological Survey, state fish and wildlife agencies, and NASA for easy-to-search maps Create points. Search millions of acres of public land for scattered campsites or established campsites and filter for nearby water, cell phone coverage, or proximity to bike paths.
If you are planning on camping outside of the US at any time, then Campertunity lists campsites mostly on private land across Canada, while the Dutch startup Campspace has unique camping destinations in Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand.
Let someone else book the campsite for you
(Photo: Courtesy Pitch)
Portland, Oregon gear rental company Xscape Pod will ship rental camping gear – from tents to water filters to cooking kits – anywhere in the lower 48. New this summer, it features camping itineraries and custom itinerary planning in locations across the U.S. So your getaway gets planned, including booking off-radar campsites that you didn’t even know existed.
Pitch, a new app launching in early May, is set to help those in the greater Chicago area find a campsite and even set up a camp with everything they need. Most campsites are in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Wisconsin, less than two hours from Chicago. Campers get a campsite booked for them and then find a tent, sleeping bags, cooler, solar lantern and firewood (from 95 USD per night).
“When the campers are ready to go, they’ll call for ‘tent duty’ and the Scouts, as we call them, will come back to clean up,” said Emma Sheade, Founder and CEO of Pitch. “As soon as we are through our first year, we hope that we will have a bigger presence in the Midwest than on the West Coast.”
Main photo: AscentXmedia / iStock