As you may or may not know, Michael and I are currently traveling full time in our Wayfarer Van and exploring campsites. Over the past month alone we’ve traveled from Colorado, up to South Dakota, through Wyoming, and are currently exploring Idaho with our sights set on Canada later this month.
Traveling like this has been a dream come true for both of us. It’s opened up a new world of climbing, hiking, and even backpacking areas and adventures we would otherwise not have time to visit or explore.
Searching for van-worthy campsites
Initially, when we first hit the road full-time back in July, I was worried about where we would camp and sleep every night. We had camped plenty of times in California and knew all the best places to go to, but now we were about to embark beyond the West Coast into new, unfamiliar territory. We also didn’t exactly have a never-ending budget to spend on established campgrounds, and in areas we didn’t know very well I worried it would be hard to find a safe place to park in a pinch.
However, now that we are about 3 months into this full-time traveling gig we feel like we’ve somewhat mastered the art of finding a place to camp with our van (free and paid camping) that suits our needs for whatever adventure we are currently pursuing. And thanks to the new Wayfarer Cairn App that the team at Wayfarer Vans just rolled out, we now have the ability to share these new campsites and areas with you while we travel.
Over the last month, I’ve been logging our favorite campsites and testing out the Wayfarer Cairn App, and I’m excited to share that with you.
And then... maybe you can share your favorite camping spots with us and other Wayfarer Van Owners as you begin to explore on your own and use the App.
Before we dive into the Wayfarer Cairn App details, maybe you’re wondering what qualifies for a “great” van-camping spot? Here’s what we’ve learned from 3 months on the road...
Sometimes it’s worth splurging for the view
Since we are traveling full-time, we mostly try to find great campsites that are “free”, but occasionally we will splurge for a beautiful campground with a view. When we visited Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, we splurged for a KOA Campground site that sat right outside of the Devils Tower National Monument, and we had epic views of the tower from our little campsite.
Some other potential upsides to splurging for an established campground include: easily accessible bathrooms, showers, campfire rings, shore power (we will charge our batteries that run our lights and fridge inside the van), and sometimes even laundry facilities. The Devil’s Tower KOA even held a nightly outdoor showing of the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” with a view of the real Devils Tower as the backdrop to the movie. We like to treat ourselves to a great campground every now and then, especially if it gets us closer to a really breathtaking view.
But in a pinch, you can usually find a Walmart.
Whenever we are in a bigger city or find ourselves rolling into a town late at night with little time to scope out potential camping areas, we often default to sleeping in a Walmart parking lot. Every Walmart has different rules around this, but we’ve mostly had no issues camping in a Walmart parking lot.
In Cody, Wyoming it was the most popular “free” place to camp. We spent a week in Cody using the Walmart Parking lot as our hub for adventuring and climbing in and around Cody. This one Walmart had a ton of other larger RV’s and campers there as well, so we definitely felt like we were in good company there.
Tips to making your Walmart camping experience optimal:
- Congregate near other vans/campers in the parking area. This is typically a bit further away from the doors of Walmart.
- Use the bathrooms inside of Walmart before going to bed. Usually they are open pretty late, and some are even open 24 hours.
- In gratitude for the free camping spot, try to do a bit of grocery shopping at the Walmart while you’re there. It’s an easy way of saying, “Thank You.”
Breweries and wineries can be a fun option!
When we were visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, we decided to look for breweries and wineries that we could potentially park at for a “unique experience.” We tested out a membership called Harvest Hosts that connects campers with breweries, wineries and farms, and found this great spot to camp and relax after our visit to Mount Rushmore.
We spent our evening at this great little brewery/winery called Naked Winery and Sick-N-Twisted Brewery. We caught up on some work, tasted a couple of beers, and really enjoyed our time here. It was a nice way to kick back and relax after our day in South Dakota.
And nothing beats a beautiful, free campsite
Free camping on BLM and Forest Lands is often our go-to in the United States for most of our van campsites, and it’s usually not hard to find these areas if you’re venturing away from the city.
One of our favorite campgrounds so far was a small, free campsite area we found near the Mount Evans area in Colorado. It was perfect for pulling in our van and meeting up with friends who lived in the Colorado area. We used this as our hub for about 2 weeks while we climbed and hiked around the Mount Evans area and spent our workdays in Idaho Springs, CO (very close to this campground as well).
But sometimes, you’ve gotta ditch the van to get the best campsites
Like I mentioned in my last article, your van is ultimately just a vessel to get you out on epic adventures outside. So sometimes, you’ve got to leave the van at the trailhead to truly explore some of the most beautiful places an area has to offer.
We recently did this in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. We packed up our backpacking backpacks and headed into the backcountry for some of the best views we’ve had our whole trip. It was worth ditching the van for a few days for this.
While we’ve been logging our favorite spots along our journey up North, this new Wayfarer Cairn App will only get better as more and more Wayfarer Owners share their favorite locations too.
So, do you want to learn how to start logging and sharing your own trips and campsites in the Wayfarer Cairn App?
It couldn’t be easier!
Step 1: Download & Login to Your Wayfarer Cairn App Account, or Create Your Account!
If you already have an account, put in your email and password to sign in to the app. Toggle on the “Remember me” button so you don’t have to continue logging into the App later.
And if you’re new to the app, creating an account for the Wayfarer Cairn App is simple and free for all Wayfarer Van owners. Click the Sign-up button, fill out your info, create a password, enter in the one-time use code from Wayfarer Vans (to keep it exclusive) and you’re good to go!
Step 2: Click the Plus (+) Sign on the Home Page to Add a New Camping Location
From the home page, you can either explore the map to find camping locations, or if you’re ready to add one in yourself, just press the plus (+) sign to enter your sweet campsite find.
Step 3: Fill in Your Van-Campsite Details & Add Some Photos!
The final step is to fill in the most important details of your campsite so that other Wayfarer Owners can easily find it inside the App as they look for a spot to camp during their adventures.
Here’s what you need to fill out:
- Create a short but descriptive title for your campsite.
- Pinpoint your campsite location. I find the easiest way to add a location is to use the feature “Find on Map” and pinpoint my exact location when I’m at the campsite.
- Mark whether the campsite is “free” or “paid”.
- Give it a rating between 1-5 stars.
- Add a short description. I like to say why we chose this site, what we liked about it, and if it has good cell service or not (plus any other notable features).
- Select any appropriate amenities of your campsite.
- If desired, add in contact details. This is particularly useful for paid campgrounds, but we don’t typically have anything to add here for free sites.
- Add a few photos and showcase why your site is a great find!
- Click “Add Location”
Easy as pie.
After I’ve added a new spot to the Wayfarer Cairn App I also like to add the campsite to “My Locations” for further use. You can also “check-in” to locations that other Wayfarer owners have added and leave your own review and photos.
Another cool feature of the App is that you can follow (and be followed) by other Wayfarians. Meaning, if you find another Wayfarer owner who is a genius at spotting great campsites, or perhaps you find someone who seems to camp a lot near where you live, you can follow them inside the Wayfarer Cairn App and see what cool new spots they’ve posted.
Oh, and did I mention that this App is exclusive to Wayfarer Owners? That means there’s no need to worry about sharing your favorite or secret spots to the App. We will be keeping these dream camping spots for Wayfarian eyes only.
I hope you found this helpful and I can’t wait to see what places you find and add to the App. Who knows, maybe you’ll help us snag our next favorite spot.