These camping and RV apps let you camp on private land

It’s just a fact of life these days in Colorado: Campgrounds are crowded.

Camping is always a popular activity, but the coronavirus pandemic has made it the belle of the ball. If you hate the idea of driving around for hours in the hopes of finding an empty dispersed campsite, consider an easier, more foolproof alternative: camping on private land.

And no, we’re not talking about setting up a tent in your own backyard (although that’s definitely a good, socially distant option!) or parking your van in a random parking lot and praying you don’t get caught.

Of course, there are lots of private campgrounds throughout the state, but if you’re looking for something a little more rustic and unique, you’ve got options. Private landowners, including many small businesses, are making their fields, parking lots and yards available to campers through an array of online platforms. Here’s the scoop on some of our favorites.

Harvest Hosts

What it costs: $79 per year for a basic membership; $119 for an upgraded membership that includes golf courses. Camping is free with your membership.

How to book: Contact the host directly. Each host explains their preferred booking mechanism on their Harvest Hosts listing. Some ask you to call or email, while others will let you book on their website.

Who are the hosts: The hosts are primarily wineries, breweries, distilleries, farms and golf courses. You’re likely camping in their parking lot.

How it works: Headquartered in Vail, Harvest Hosts is a membership program for people with self-contained RVs (read: your RV needs to have a bathroom on board!). After you pay the annual membership fee, you’ll be able to log in and see all the participating hosts across the country (and some in Canada). Your membership lets you camp for free — there’s no nightly camping rate. But you are limited to one night at each location (unless you get special permission for a longer stay) and encouraged to spend at least $20 at your host’s business.

Many hosts only allow one RV per night, so you’ll want to call ahead and confirm your spot early. Most do not allow drop-in camping.

For the most part, hosts do not offer any services (no bathrooms, no showers, no firewood, etc). You might be able to hang out on the patio or at picnic tables, but you’re generally expected to bring everything you need with you for your stay.

Hipcamp 

What it costs: Nightly rates start at $20. You’re likely to pay somewhere between $30 to $60.

How to book: You can request to book via the Hipcamp site directly. Some hosts offer “Instant Booking.”

Who are the hosts: Ranches, farms and wide-open spaces owned by regular people. Hipcamp also can help connect you with camping in national, state, regional and Army Corps parks.

How it works: Hipcamp is basically the Airbnb of camping. People who own land offer their setup on the site for a nightly fee; hosts offer everything from tent campsites and full RV hookups to tiny houses and cabins. As a user, you can filter your search by location, type of camping, amenities, terrain, activities and accessibility. Each listing shows what’s included with your stay, which can include firewood, WiFi, hot showers and more. Many Hipcamp sites are dog-friendly, too.

Tentrr

What it costs: Nightly rates start at $15. If you’re planning on glamping, you’ll pay more like $100 per night.

How to book: Book directly on the Tentrr website.

Who are the hosts: These private landowners have open space where you can set up your own tent or stay in glamping-style accommodations.

How it works: If you’re not the most experienced camper, Tentrr might be more up your alley. Their hosts, called campkeepers, offer “backcountry sites” (where you need to bring all your own gear) and a mix of glamping-style options, with fully equipped campsites that are ready to go when you arrive. Depending on the site, your nightly fee sometimes covers amenities like picnic tables, grills, bathrooms and showers. For an added fee, some campkeepers also offer extras like fishing poles, standup paddleboards, bikes and other gear.

Boondockers Welcome  

What it costs: Annual subscriptions are $50. If you become a host, your membership is $25 (and you can earn credits every time you host a guest). Though camping is free with your subscription, guests are expected to offer $5 to $15 to their hosts for using RV hookups.

How to book: You can request to stay on a host’s property directly through the Boondockers Welcome site.

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Who are the hosts: Private landowners and renters — anyone who can legally allow an RV to park overnight on their property. Some are small business owners, too.

How it works: Start by searching on the platform’s website to see hosts in your area or along the route you’ll be traveling. You can filter by rig length, tow length, date, duration and destination. Check out each listing and, if you find one you like, contact the host directly through the site to discuss the details of your stay. Individual listings usually have pictures, plus a list of amenities and what’s allowed and what’s not allowed by the host.

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