Dispersed camping is a great way to unplug and get away from it all. You’ll often find yourself deep within a National Forest, no cell signal, just you and the surrounding wilderness. However, before you head out make sure you make use of some of the incredible apps that make dispersed camping that much easier in 2023.
We’ve created this guide to share what we think are the best dispersed camping apps to help you plan your trip, find your campsite, and navigate once you’re there. We often use a combination of all these apps when on a camping trip and are sure you’ll find them useful for your own dispersed camping adventures!
Let’s get started
Dispersed Camping App Guide
- Best Overall Dispersed Camping App: Gaia GPS
- Best for Dispersed Campsite Reviews: The Dyrt
- Best for MVUMs: Avenza Maps
- Best for Free Campsites: FreeCampsites.net
- Worth A Mention
Find Your Next Dispersed Campsite
Learn how to find the best campsite locations BEFORE you head out. No more showing up to crowded sites with all the good spots taken!
Easily identify camping areas
Find free camping on public land
Use offline apps to locate sites
Learn through video tutorials
Best Overall Dispersed Camping App: Gaia GPS
Although not a camping specific app, we think the suite of features that Gaia GPS offers makes this the best overall app for dispersed camping. A robust set of map layers including several that help you find dispersed campsites along with an easy to navigate interface makes this our top pick.
Best Overall Dispersed Camping App
Gaia GPS is our to go dispersed camping app. Find forest service roads, see public land boundaries, and access multiple high-quality basemaps all in a single easy to use package. This is our top pick!
Our favorite dispersed camping friendly features in Gaia GPS include:
- Public Land map layer: This map layer shows an overlay of publicly owned land so you’ll never have doubts about if you’re setting up camp on public property.
- Offline map download: Download the area you plan to be camping for easy navigation, even without cell phone service.
- Multiple map layers: This is one area that really sets Gaia GPS apart. The public land layer, USFS road layer, and excellent Gaia GPS topo map all make it easy to find campsites.
- Great for other activities: Beyond simply finding a dispersed campsite, Gaia GPS is great for planning activities on your trip. This includes finding hiking or biking trails, finding services, and even locating water sources.
When planning a dispersed camping trip, our first step is typically to open up Gaia GPS and navigate to the general area we are interested in camping in. Then, we overlay the public land map layer to ensure we are camping on public lands. Finally, we typically add the USFS MVUM layer to identify forest service roads, which almost always allow dispersed camping.
Then, once we have a good sense of where we’d like to camp we download all the maps for easy offline navigation when we’re out on our camping trip!
Find Your Next Dispersed Campsite
Our online video course will teach you everything you need to know to find your next free, dispersed campsite.
Learn how to find the best campsite locations BEFORE you head out. No more showing up to crowded sites with all the spots taken!
In this course, we’ll show you how to research free, public campsites, read USFS maps, locate public land, and plan your next dispersed camping trip.
- How to find areas that allow free, dispersed camping
- How to use public maps to narrow down your search
- How to use online apps to identify where camping is permitted and view the surrounding terrain
- How to view your exact location in relation to camping opportunities when you’re out looking for a site – even without cell phone service!
- Confidently plan your next camping trip
Best App for Dispersed Campsite Reviews: The Dyrt
The Dyrt is the most downloaded camping app out there and for good reason. Find campsite reviews, custom maps, driving directions, and offline navigation all in well-designed and intuitive interface. Although not specifically geared towards dispersed camping, you’ll find tons of dispersed campsites in the app and be able to access reviews from campers who have stayed there before.
Best for Dispersed Campsite Reviews
The Dyrt PRO is a great, camping specific app that has tons of useful features. For dispersed camping we love the campsite reviews, and ability to download maps for offline use. Try it out free for 7-days below:
The top features that The Dyrt offers for dispersed campers include:
- Dispersed Campsite filter: You can search specifically for dispersed campsites in the Dyrt by using their excellent campsite filters.
- Campsite reviews: The Dyrt really shines by providing actual reviews from campers who have stayed there before. This type of intel is invaluable for dispersed camping where the quality of campsites can vary greatly.
- Offline mode: Reserved for paid members of The Dyrt PRO, you can download maps and campsite information for offline use. This is great when searching for dispersed campsites when you often don’t have cell phone service.
We think the best feature of the Dyrt camping app is the ability to read reviews prior to setting out for a specific campsite. These often give information on how crowded an area was, whether there was water or not, and even seasonal closures. There is nothing like first-hand experience when searching for a campsite, and the Dyrt delivers on this front!
We also recommend checking out their paid membership for only $35.99/year. You’ll get extra map layers and be able to download maps offline for easy navigation.
Best App for MVUMs: Avenza Maps
An often overlooked app that has some incredible features for dispersed campers is the Avenza Maps app. This free to download app is most useful for the ability to download (for FREE) geospatial National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Maps or MVUMs for short. Published by the USFS, these maps show the full network of forest service roads and often denote where dispersed camping is permitted.
Best for Motor Vehicle Use Maps
The Avenza Maps app is our go to source when using USFS Motor Vehicle Use Maps to find dispersed camping. These free to download maps are often your best source for finding campsites, and this great app makes it easy.
We like the Avenza Maps app for dispersed camping for the following reasons:
- MVUM downloads: Download and utilize the official US Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use Maps to help you find dispersed campsites.
- Simple interface: Although a very powerful app, we like how simple and easy to use the Avenza Maps interface is. Makes opening and navigating a breeze!
To utilize the Avenza Maps app to find dispersed camping you’ll want to open the app and search for the relevant National Forest you plan to camp in. In the results, you’ll want to find the MVUM for the specific area, often denoted by Ranger Districts, for your destination. Once loaded, the map is geolocated, meaning that it will show you exactly where you are.
Most MVUMs denote where dispersed camping is permitted by showing two dots on either side of the road. When you’re out in the woods simply open the map to see if you’re on such a road!
Best App for Free Campsites: FreeCampsites.net
It’s a little bit of a stretch to classify FreeCampsites.net as an ‘app’ even though you can find it in the Google Play store. While it will download and display an app icon, all it really does is redirect you to their basic, but helpful, website. While not specifically geared towards dispersed campsites, freecampsites.net is a goldmine of information on free campsites and thus a favorite of ours to utilize.
Best for Free Campsites
FreeCampsites.net is a great online resource for finding free and dispersed campsites. Often one of our first places to search you can count on honest reviews and an easy interface. Best of all, it is truly free!
We like freecampsites.net for the following reasons:
- FREE: This one is truly free to use. The website is crowd-sourced and there are no subscriptions or other fees to pay. Sure, you won’t get the features of some of our other picks, but you can’t beat the price.
- Tons of campsites: You’ll find more free and dispersed campsites on FreeCampsites.net than any other source in our experience. They all feature some basic location information and many have in-depth reviews from other campers.
FreeCampsites.net isn’t perfect when it comes to searching for dispersed campsites, but it is incredibly helpful. In addition to a plethora of dispersed campsites, you’ll also find intel on sleeping in Walmarts, Casino parking lots, and other creative places to spend the night.
While not every listing will be relevant for dispersed campers, we find that it has the most comprehensive set of campsites of any resource in this guide and is a good place to start before cross referencing with another app.
Worth a Mention:
Geared more towards the RV and Boondocking crowd, Campendium still has tons of dispersed camping areas with in-depth reviews on its website and in the app. Most similar to the Dyrt in our minds, we often cross reference reviews for specific campsites that we’ve found elsewhere on Campendium to be sure we’re getting a complete picture.
In general, the annual subscription won’t be worth it when comparing to some of your other options, but the free version is still great!
Although you won’t find any dispersed campsite listings on Recreation.gov, it is still a great app to have for those cross-country camping road trips where you may want to enjoy the amenities of a developed campground from time to time. Beyond simply reserving campgrounds, you can also see a list of first-come, first-serve campsites in a particular area which can be great for that last minute trip.
iOverlander is an all-in-one resource for vanlifers, roadtrippers, and overlanders. It includes not only dispersed and free campsites, but also good information on water sources, gas stations, cleaners, and everything you might need when out for a longer trip. For those who are dispersed camping for more than a few nights or on a larger adventures, this is a must have app!
There have never been more resources for planning a dispersed camping trip, and we hope that our overview of the best dispersed camping apps has been helpful. Regardless of if you choose to utilize any of these resources, but sure to still unplug and enjoy your time out under the stars – that is what dispersed camping is truly all about!
If you’re looking for more resources on dispersed camping, check out some of our state specific dispersed camping guides below: