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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Interactive campground mapping system for boondockers makes the search easier

One of the more difficult things for boondocking enthusiasts is to pre-plan a trip with suitable overnight locations. While there is information on potential boondocking spots, far too often, it's spread out all over the Internet and it can take hours to ferret out the information you need.

We've found a single Internet site that may help alleviate some of the trouble. The web site, ultimatecampgrounds.com largely focuses on public lands, be they state, federal, county, or even municipal. Not only are there thousands of listings for the United States, you'll also find scads of entries for Canada, too.

When you initially bring up the home page, you'll "find yourself" centered in the U.S. You can zoom in, and "move the map" as you like to zoom down into whatever area you want to know more about. Zoom in closer and you'll soon pick out colored circles that correspond to broad geographic areas. Inside the circle you'll find a number, showing how many camp areas are in that region. Zoom in closer and colorful markers appear that designate camping spots in the area. These markers are coded to indicate management of the land.

For example, as of today, in an area running north from Bakersfield, California, up toward Fresno, then veering east, you'll find a region that contains 363 camping locations. Zoom in closer by clicking on that circled "363," and the number is broken into more circles. We clicked on a circle near Bakersfield and immediately got markers for several different site managers – county (both parks and a fairgrounds), U.S. Forest Service, and one operated by a utility company. Click on the marker and you'll get detailed information about location, costs, and "warnings." In our Bakersfield search, two of the campgrounds weren't suitable for RVs – glad to know that before we'd head out for those! In some cases, telephone contact information is included as well.

The ultimatecampgrounds.com site does not provide information on privately held RV parks. You will find information on state parks, as well as a host of other entities. If your trip planning takes you near any of the nation's big rivers, you can be sure you'll find info on Army Corps of Engineer parks.

So how is all this financed? The great thing about the map system is that it's free. If you want detailed data on POIs (points of interest) to enter into your GPS system, you can pay a $6.95 sign-up fee and download regularly updated POI listings. Those are updated on a monthly basis, and the subscription is good for a year. The site also graciously accepts donations from users who don't need the POI lists, but find the service useful.

In practice, we found that trip planning is better suited on a PC than on a portable device. While the system works on a device, it's a bit clumsier and can be a little frustrating to manipulate. For less than $4 you can download an app for your devices – we'll try it out and report back.

Like anybody else, we immediately started tracing out some of our more "familiar" routes to see if the site, "got it right." We found the system knew most of our favorite spots, and others we'd driven past before but weren't aware were there. We'll be field testing this system in the next few months and will report back with our field-findings.

Hear more from Russ and Tiña De Maris on their weekly podcasts on YourRVPodcast.com.

5 comments:

  1. Check out boondockerswelcome.com. It's a network of people world wide who offer a space at their home to boondock. We offer a space and when we travel stay at someone else's home for a night or two. We love it.

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  2. ulitmatecampgrounds.com <---This link does not work.

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    1. Thank you, simonsrf. It was not originally set up as a link, just an address a reader could plug into their browser. I've now set the first reference to ultimatecampgrounds.com as a link, so you can now just click on it to get to their website. RVtravel.com's new and highly improved directory of free and low-cost campgrounds will be available in a few weeks. Be sure to watch for it!
      Diane at RVtravel.com

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  3. Earlier in the article the word "ultimate" is spelled correctly. Further down, it is mis-spelled ("ulitimate", so copying & pasting it doesn't work.

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    Replies
    1. Right you are! Thank you for catching this typo. I've corrected it. Have a great day!
      Diane at RVtravel.com

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