Van lifers. Vandwellers. Overlanders. Nomads.
Whatever you call them, those stalwart souls who leave behind the trappings of the everyday and choose instead to live a life on the road are the unsung heroes of our time. In an age of more, they opt for less, taking only what they can fit on four wheels and finding solace in the wide open spaces where life meets living.
Still, a little modern technology never hurts—especially if it helps you discover your next destination, locate a flushable loo, or cruise to the nearest gas station when the needle gets a smidge too close to E. Which is why we put together this list of 12 must-have apps that road-savvy van lifers swear by.
1. Allstays Camp & RV (Parks, Boondocking & Camping)
Allstays Camp & RV is $9.99 to download and $34.95 annually if you decide to go with Allstays Pro. Its massive database allows you to search more than 37,000 public and private campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada, along with BLM land, primitive spots, military "FamCamps," and overnight-friendly stores, restaurants, and casinos.
Spotlight feature: Allstays Camp & RV is great about letting you know if you'll be encountering steep grades or low clearances along your route. While most of the data is available offline, you will need cell service for GPS and internet for the maps.
2. AllTrails (GPS Hiking & Biking Trail Maps)
If you're living the van life, chances are you love spending time outdoors, which means you're likely already familiar with the AllTrails app. Free to download, the app provides access to an extensive database of trail maps for hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and other outdoor sports. The user-uploaded photos and reviews are a nice touch.
Love a good upgrade? If you opt for AllTrails+ (just $2.99 a month), you'll get access to bonus features and benefits, including wrong turn alerts, extended map details, and 3D maps and flyovers.
3. Flush (Toilet Finder & Map)
This aptly named app is a favorite among those who spend a lot of time on the road—because sometimes, that homemade van toilet just isn't going to cut it. Luckily, Flush has you covered. Hop on and easily find the nearest public bathroom from a list of more than 200,000 available loos across the country.
The Flush app is free, with no in-app purchases, so you can rest easy knowing the next restroom is right at your fingertips.
4. FreeRoam (Free BLM & Public Land Camping)
Rejoice, boondockers. FreeRoam makes finding a place to park for the night a piece of cake—plus it has a really cool trip planning feature with oodles of helpful filters.
Designed for folks who live on the road, the app allows you to easily locate the best free campsites across the country. It includes detailed overlays for BLM and USFS land, along with information about road difficulty, cell signal, weather, low-clearance areas, and more.
If you're feeling a little more social, you can also find established campgrounds (both public and private) on the FreeRoam app.
Bonus: FreeRoam is completely free to use, and we love that they're a community-first non-profit whose mission is to "connect campers with nature in a sustainable way."
5. GasBuddy (Cheap Fuel & Rewards)
This app is pretty self-explanatory, but also incredibly helpful if your home requires constant refueling. Just open up GasBuddy and quickly find the cheapest gas prices in your area. You can even plan your entire route around those gas stations that will save you the most money at the pump.
6. iOverlander (Destination Database)
Another non-profit fave, iOverlander is a great way to find free overnight parking anywhere in North America (as well as Canada and Mexico), along with a host of other helpful amenities like dump stations, showers, groceries, and repairs.
From wild camping to Wi-Fi, iOverlander is continuously updated with new information from users on the road, making it one of the most widely used van life apps.
7. Libby (Library eBooks & Audiobooks)
We understand that life on the road sometimes gets a little… monotonous. (Looking at you, the entire Midwest.) After a while, even your favorite playlist or podcast is going to get old, so why not download a few audiobooks for the road?
Libby is a totally free app that lets you borrow thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, and even magazines from your local library (yay, libraries!) that you can stream or download for offline reading. All you need is a free library card and you're good to go.
8. Opensignal (Internet Speed Test)
One of the best things to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic was an appreciation (and respect) for remote work. Nowadays, countless "digital nomads" are taking their work on the go, pairing their love of travel and adventure with the jobs that help them pay the bills so they can keep doing what they love.
The Opensignal app is free and lets you easily test the speed of your mobile or Wi-F connection to make sure you'll be able to take that call, attend the next Zoom meeting, or submit that big project by deadline.
9. Sēkr (Road Trip & Camping Social App)
Sēkr claims to cover "all your outdoor travel needs in one free app," and we gotta say, they kinda nailed it. Formerly known as The Vanlife App, Sēkr is part campsite finder and part social platform, with bonus information about everything from local events and activities to hidden gems, Wi-Fi access, and mechanics.
Created by van lifers for van lifers, Sēkr is dedicated to making outdoor travel more sustainable, enjoyable, and inclusive. The free version of the app has a lot to offer, or you can upgrade to Sēkr+ (just $1.99 a month) for additional features.
10. The Dyrt (Tent & RV Camping)
The free version of The Dyrt app lets you search by city, state, park, and even U.S. forest to locate both public and private camping options. Though it offers fewer dispersed (i.e., not in an established campground) camping options, the listings are chock full of photos, videos, and super helpful reviews from other visitors.
Bonus: You can sign up for The Dyrt Alerts to receive a message when a spot opens up at a sold-out campground.
If you can spare $35.99 annually for The Dyrt PRO, it's definitely worth it. With the PRO membership, you get everything the free version offers, along with a road trip planner, discounts at PRO campgrounds nationwide, and access to PRO maps, which includes dispersed camping options for BLM and USFS land.
11. Upside (Cash Back - Gas & Food)
Gas and food are two of your biggest expenses on the road, so why not earn a little extra green from the things that you buy the most? Upside is a great way for van lifers to earn cash back at more than 50,000 gas stations, restaurants, and groceries stores across the country.
The Upside app is really simple to use—just upload your receipts and claim your deals immediately. Bonus: The cash back rewards show up pretty quickly in your account, and you can cash out using PayPal, your bank account, or a digital gift card.
12. Vanly (Van Life & RV Camping)
Sometimes you just need a safe place to pull in for the night–—and Vanly can help you find it. Vanly is pretty unique in that anyone with a spare bit of space and a willingness to share can list their location on the app.
Using the Vanly app, you might find a secluded hilltop campsite or just a small space in a private driveway where you can rest up for the night. Some sites are bare bones while others offer amenities such as access to showers, toilets, and Wi-Fi.
Overall, Vanly is a neat idea and growing in popularity among van lifers. It's free to download and also features helpful reviews from other travelers.