So, you’re putting together a checklist in preparation for your upcoming camping vacation. Don’t forget to add sun protection, a complete first-aid kit and insect repellent to your packing list. You’ll need your portable cellphone or tablet charger on the trip, too—but if you’re like most campers today, reminding yourself to pack one is about as necessary as reminding yourself to bring the RV.
If you can’t camp these days without Internet access, you aren’t alone. Camping today is all about camping technology. Vacation camping used to be about disconnecting from the everyday world, but not anymore.
According to the 2015 Topline North American Camping report, a two-year survey commissioned by Kampgrounds of America (KOA®):
- 83% of the 2,000 campers included in the survey said they bring cellphones on camping trips, 28% bring laptop or notebook computers, and 21% bring tablets.
- Most of them use their electronic devices to take photos.
- 70% said they go online at least once on the trip and half said they go online at least once a day. Most said they go online to monitor email, but 31% use the Internet to share their camping photos, videos and thoughts on social media.
- Access to free Wi-Fi was the third most-valued campground amenity. It appeared in 19% of all responses, making it more important than safety lighting (17%), a well-stocked campground store (15%) and even a swimming pool (10%), and only barely less important than kid-friendliness (20%).
- The only amenity that clearly mattered more to campers was a clean restroom (50%).
The findings should surprise no one—particularly revelations about the increasing social media presence in a pastime once prescribed for healthy isolation from normal civilization. We share everything we do with the three F’s in our lives—family, friends and followers. And camping technology is how it’s done, in real time from hiking trails and trout streams, and at the end of the day from the lantern-lit tents, amenity-rich luxury yurts and magnificent motorhome. You might remember a one-time great question for philosophical debate: “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Today the debate is moot. A camper captured the whole scene on a smartphone, and the video’s gone viral.
As much as you might long for simpler times, as determined as you might be to power down and unplug this vacation, chances are you won’t be able to help yourself. You’re not going to forget your portable cellphone or tablet charger, let alone your cellphone or tablet. Creators of camping technology know that. They get it. That’s why you can visit the App Store or Google® Play and find a wide array of camping mobile apps. Some are useful, some frivolous. Some are free, some not.
Here are some apps you might want to download before your next outdoor adventure.
GOOD SAM CAMPING (FREE)
The Good Sam Club is the world’s largest organization of recreational vehicle owners, but campers don’t have to be Good Sam members to find this app useful. Created by Consent Media, it’s a easy-to-navigate mobile electronic version of bestselling annual Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory. You can filter searches for content on more than 14,500 campgrounds and parks in the United States and Canada by location, restrictions, amenities and more. You can see how your favorite campground or current destination fares in the always-trusted Good Sam ratings. And if you’re a Good Sam member, you’ll be able to identify the more than 2,200 Good Sam Parks that offer discounts.
MYNATURE ANIMAL TRACKS
This remarkably comprehensive app helps identify animals that may in your vicinity by tracks and scatological deposits you discover around your campground or on hikes. Match your discovery to a silhouetted illustration from the app’s extensive and easily navigable database, then narrow your search through a variety of identifying markers and characteristics. Measure your discovery using the app’s ruler feature and confirm it by comparing the print and gait pattern with images from the massive library. Document your discovery in your own journal or photo library. Finally, listen to a recording of the species you’ve identified so you’ll recognize it if you hear it live in the wild.
CAMPING AND OUTDOOR RECIPES
This app provides more than 80 surprisingly simple campfire recipes for all meals. It’s easy to use and search. You’ll find recipes for everything from burgers to fish to pizza to stew, and of course, desserts.