Apps For Nomads, Explorers, and Mystical Drifters

An Impressive Balancing Act

An Impressive Balancing Act

BLM Forest N of SUSANVILLE, CA—The mercury is sitting at 85 degrees, but according to NOAA it should start dropping in a few hours. Even at 5000 feet its hot, but this should be the warmest it gets for at least a week. Odd that I was driving through a snow storm coming out of Tahoe last Saturday.

I’m camped at a secluded spot in a mountain pine forest on free BLM land complete with internet connectivity and only 15 minutes from Susanville, CA. I found this spot with the help of a couple apps and a little bit of luck.

Last week, I camped right on the Carson River just five minutes from downtown Carson City—a sweet spot again found using the same apps.

Invaluable Apps For Nomads

(Note: I use the iPad versions for all of these (the links default to the iPhone versions). I suspect that most of these come in Android versions also.)

Public Lands—Shows public lands for the USA, but what makes it invaluable is that it shows BLM lands too—a feature that is very hard to find online.

Coverage?—Made by the same company as Public Lands this app shows the cell phone/data coverage of the major carriers. My only wish is that they’d combine these two into the same app… public lands with internet access.

Google Maps—So much better and more detailed than the default Apple maps (which the above two apps are forced to use on IOS). The satellite view is ideal for narrowing in on possible campsites.

Pin Drop—When I find a place I love, or when searching online for new places, I use Pin Drop to save the location and add notes for future reference.

Yelp—Being a constant visitor, Yelp is the perfect local insider. Reviews on restaurants, theaters, mechanics, etc. I tried it a couple years ago and wasn’t impressed, but now that so many people are using it and placing reviews, it really is the go-to app for finding great places in new towns.

Real World Examples

Riverside Camp: Feeling the need to get away from the crowds of Tahoe, but needing supplies and a drop ship from Amazon, I checked to see what kind of internet access I’d have in Carson City with Coverage?. Pretty much 4G over the whole city and surrounding area. I then pulled up Public Lands for Carson City and was surprised to see BLM land very close to town. Using Google Maps satellite view, I poked around the BLM land along the Carson River (scenery is important after all) and soon discovered some probable camping spots (dirt roads with open areas which are often used by local campers). Not a guarantee, but it was a pretty good chance that I’d find something—which I did on the first shot. Free, internet connected, riverside camping near a decent sized town. I then placed my order with Amazon to be shipped to General Delivery at the nearest post office, and used Yelp to help me find a good place to get my oil changed (and find some decent places to eat).

Current Forest Camp: Once my Amazon order arrived, I pulled up Pin Drop to see what I had marked north of here and found I had dropped a pin labeled, “Free Lakeside Camping” under the category, “Research.” I had read about this spot a few months ago and dropped a pin for future reference. Looking at the route I’d take to get there, I saw some promising BLM land (via Public Lands and Google Maps) that should have internet access (using Coverage?) north of Susanville. After exploring one road that turned out to be too narrow and soft, I found another spot (my current camp) on the next try.

Bonus Apps

To find water, showers, national forest campgrounds, Walmarts, propane, etc., I use Allstays. They have a filtering option which makes searching for what the typical nomad (is there such a thing?) wants or needs very easy.

To check weather, the best app I’ve found (so far) is NOAA World Radar. There are a million weather apps, but this one is both simple and detailed. I can list the cities I want to visit and see what’s going on in all of them in just one panel.

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11 thoughts on “Apps For Nomads, Explorers, and Mystical Drifters

  1. Thanks so much for these recommending these ape, Wayne. I know I say it over and over again and it must bore people to death, but I WILL get out west, again. When I do, all these tools will be very useful. The young people thought I was too old to go when I went in 2010. Good lord, what will they think when I finally get to go?

  2. What a great roundup of resources Wayne. I’d never heard of that pin app so that’s a new one I’m adding to my arsenal. Cheers also for the linkup.

    By the way I’ve been following you blog ever since we met Glen in AZ this winter. You do some amazing photography, and write very insightfully.


  3. Your particular list of tools might be good ones. But isn’t there still an unsolvable general problem?

    Do you understand how the information on these “apps” is kept up-to-date? It costs money to do so, and it’s a thankless job. Furthermore it won’t be noticeable at the point of sale. So why would anyone do it, in the real world?

    I gave up wasting money or time on any kind of list, during the first couple years of RVing. It wasn’t worth driving 5 miles out of my way just to find that the dump/free campsite/propane store/etc. is no longer there.

    • Boonie, Boonie, Boonie…

      “Do you understand how the information on these “apps” is kept up-to-date?” Actually, I do, and I understand your hesitancy to use them because I’ve had the same experiences with online websites… lots of out of date info on those.


      Both Public Lands and Coverage use info polled from central sources which are updated on regular basis (out with the old, in with the new).

      Google Maps is obviously updated regularly.

      Pin Drop is both a personal database built by the user (me in this case) but can be crowd sourced if you connect to the social side of it (see other users’ pins).

      Yelp is all crowd sourced and by simply looking at the date of the reviews, you can get a pretty good idea of their “freshness.”

      Allstays is the most likely to have older data (nature of the beast), but, once you realize this, you can treat their listings accordingly and do further research with the links they provide to their sources’ websites (I do this on city/county/state park listings to confirm showers/water).

  4. The PIN DROP app just announced there will be no more crowd sourcing with their data. They are canceling that facet of the app completely. this after I just downloaded it.

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