“Where are you going to sleep?!” This is the question everyone asked us before we moved into a van. Friends and Family were concerned for our safety and well-being. We have been living in our van for six months now and we have been happily surprised at how easy it is to find a sleep.
Some nights are harder than others, but Dylan and I have always found a place to sleep in our van. I want you to feel confident hitting the road in a van or in a car camping situation. Below is my comprehensive guide to finding free places to sleep in the van for the night.
You Might Also Like These Posts:
Table of Contents
Ultimate Van Camping Guide
Terms You Should Know
Whether you’re a full-time van lifer or you’re just going on a car camping trip for the weekend, you will need to know how to find places to sleep. People use plenty of different strategies to find a good spot. Below I’m going to tell you about the most important terms when it comes to van or car camping. Always remember the Leave No Trace principles when you camp.
Boondocking refers to parking somewhere where you are fully self-sufficient. When you boondock, you are staying in a place where there is nowhere to hook up to for electricity or water. So, you have to bring everything you need with you. Always remember to pack in and pack out everything you use to camp.
Dispersed camping is one of our favorite ways to camp. The term refers to sleeping or camping on public land away from all facilities. There are plenty of public lands owned by the Bureau of Land Management and in National Forests where you can disperse camp. Make sure to read all signs and follow the regulations when you park in these places.
Some van lifers and RVers will stealth camp for nights at a time. Stealthing means that you are blending in and are camping in places that are not designated for overnight parking. People try to make their vehicles inconspicuous so that people don’t notice them staying the night. This could be in a parking lot or street parking in a city.
Apps to Find Free Camping
Today, there are plenty of apps you can use to find free places to sleep in the van. These apps often will tell you about places to boondock, disperse camp, or find a paid campsite for the night. We try to save money as much as possible and typically find places we know we can safely park overnight. Sometimes we end up at Walmart and other times we end up in forests surrounded by nature. Below you’ll find a list of apps that will help you find free places to sleep in a van.
This is by far our favorite app to use on the road. All you have to do is scroll to the map area where you want to sleep.Then you can scroll through and click on the icons to see the spots and get reviews from people who have slept there. We usually use the icons with the tent and the moon for wild camping and the one with the building icon for free spots in parking lots. Along with free places to sleep, this app also shows you where you can refill water or take a shower, which is helpful for life on the road.
This app is relatively new, but it’s changing the game. They aim to make it easy for campers to find everything in one place. On this app, you can search for campsites, water fill-up spots, meet ups, and even find other campers in the area to hang out with. It’s a great app to add to your van camping portfolio.
We have used this app to find good campsites. The app only lists actual campsites in areas with occasional Walmart parking lots. On the East Coast, most of the listings cost money, but we have found a few that are great and free on there!
Unfortunately, this website does not have an app yet, but I have used it for many years. Again, you can search the map on the homepage for free places to sleep. Campsites will appear and you can read reviews from people who have stayed in the past.
This is one of the most tried and true sites for RVers. They update both the app and the website in real time. You may find that you can find more spots for vans on iOverland, but only because this site lists places where RVs can fit. It has plenty of users and reviews on places to stay.
The sole purpose of this app is to give more people access to boondocking and free camping. We have found a few sites here that haven’t been on the other apps, but it hasn’t been our most reliable source for campsites. We find though when looking for a place to stay, the more apps we use, the more likely we are to find a great spot!
Now that you have all these resources there’s nothing stopping you from car camping or finding somewhere to stay for the night. We use a combination of apps to find the perfect place and we have had amazing campsites that we have loved!
Was this guide on finding free places to sleep in a van helpful? Let me know in the comments and pin it for later!