If you own an RV or a camper van like me, you may be wondering about additional places that you can park it for the night. Of course, there are RV parks and some boondocking options available on free land if you are in the United States. However, beyond those, you are often left with parking lots at places like Walmart, Cabelas, and other locations that might allow you to park overnight. These are not the best campsites and are often considered last resorts when you can’t find anywhere else.
Another option I have been using is Hipcamp.
What is Hipcamp? Hipcamp is an online rental marketplace that is similar to Airbnb but for camping. Hosts offer campsites on their private property for you to park your RV or pitch your tent. Oftentimes you will be the only one there, making it a peaceful getaway and a nice break from crowded RV parks.
In theory, this sounds like a great idea. You can take advantage of someone else’s private land and have a great spot to park your RV or to pitch your tent when you are traveling. Is it legit though? Is it worth looking into if you are an RVer?
What about landowners? This might be appealing to landowners who have extra space that isn’t being used. This extra space could be rented out to campers in order to earn an additional income. If you would like to become a host, you can earn $100 when you make your first booking. Just click this link to sign up as a host (affiliate link).
My Experience With Hipcamp
I have used Hipcamp several times and have been to various locations in different parts of the country. Below, I’ll share my experiences with you and give you my opinion and whether or not I recommend it.
Using the website is about what you would expect from any of the online booking websites, such as Airbnb. You can simply search for a location, add your trip dates and you will be presented with available options. You will generally find a lot of available campsites although some might not be very close to where you are actually looking at. Besides searching, you can simply move the map around to view places which is the route I usually take.
I do find their website to be a bit confusing and buggy at times but overall it’s useable and getting better.
Signing up is easy and is typical of most online rental websites. It allows you to sign up with your email or through other integrations like Facebook and Apple.
For the most part, my experience with this service has been outstanding. I have generally been able to find exactly what I was looking for in the locations that I was considering. However, there are some locations where the options are sparse or the available options are not appealing. Some listings offer space for RVs and others don’t. Some may only allow small RVs and yet some may only have campsites for tents.
For me, since I have a camper van, it’s usually easy to find a place that allows small vans as I have. I have even stayed on tent campsites since my van is not much bigger than a full-size truck. I can generally park in any space even if tents are all that are allowed.
Hipcamp Locations I Have Visited
I’d like to share three campsites that I have stayed at. These campsites were in the same area during my travels in the Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a popular area and many of the listings are continually booked depending on the time of year. However, I have always been able to find a suitable campsite available.
Townsend TN Campsite
UPDATE: this location is no longer available on Hipcamp.com
Townsend is on the more easy-going side of the mountains if you are familiar with this area. Rather than the hustle and bustle that is found in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Townsend offers a more relaxed feel with fewer people and less commercialism. Cades Cove is near Townsend and is considered one of the best places in the smokies to see bears and other wildlife.
The location that I rented was located on private property in a grassy area beside a creek. For only $20, I was able to secure a night here and it was exactly as expected. This listing was posted as a tent only site but I contacted the owner and asked if I could stay in my van. They said no problem so I simply backed to my van up in the location and stayed the night.
It was a peaceful location and I was able to have a nice relaxing evening with only the trickling of the creek being heard outside my open windows. The cool mountain air made my stay even more pleasant as I was able to enjoy the cool air even in the midst of early summer.
This campsite also had an outdoor composting toilet as well as a camping shower which I didn’t use. However, something like this is super handy and a nice added touch for those who are staying in tents and need these amenities. I only used this location to park for the night so that I could continue exploring the National Park.
Gatlinburg TN Campsite
This booking was $39 for the night and I only stayed for one night. It was located near Gatlinburg in Outdoor Resorts At Gatlinburg, TN. Although it was not a private or secluded campsite since other RVers and campers were nearby, it was still a nice place to be able to park my van. It also came with full hookups including water, electricity, and sewage.
It was also creekside and it had a cascading creek that was situated right behind my van. Again, I was able to enjoy the sounds of the rushing water as I slept through the night. I expected a little more noise in this area since other campers were nearby but I was pleasantly surprised that the quiet hours of the RV park were observed by most everyone and I never heard much of anything during my sleep at night. I was able to sleep, enjoy my night while hearing the beautiful sounds of the cascading water right outside my window.
I love finding places like this and they are the reason that I love traveling in my camper van. I always look for places near the ocean, a lake, creek, or river and they are often easily found on Hipcamp.
The only negative to this campsite was that it was a crowded location with lots of permanent residents living there. However, most of the campsites seemed to have people coming and going each day and I assumed that other lot owners were renting their spaces out similar to the owner that I rented mine from.
This property was well worth the cost but it was similar to most any RV park. I would consider this to be a basic RV park type of location. Perhaps a bit cheaper than what I would have found in the normal RV parks in this area being so close to Gatlinburg.
Cherokee NC Campsite
The next place that I will share with you has been my absolute favorite place that I have ever stayed in my camper van. I have been to a lot of places and have never yet found one quite as private and relaxing as this location was. It was also located in the smoky mountains. It is near Cherokee North Carolina and is positioned right next to the Tuckasegee River.
The lot is directly on the river with no houses, at least visible from the campsite. Although there are homes in the surrounding area, once you are parked in the location it is private. Outside your window, your view is of a river that flows and creates the sounds that I love to hear. It’s the sounds of nature that campers love to find.
While I was staying at this location, I never saw another person unless I left to go somewhere else. Staying in this campsite will make you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere when in reality you are fairly close to some of the main attractions and sites of the Smoky Mountains National Park. For me, as a photographer, it gave me easy access to the main road that goes through the Smokies and it allowed me to travel through the park and take pictures and enjoy the scenery and then come back to a peaceful location that made me feel like I was in the middle of nowhere.
As you can see from the pictures, the main view from the campsite is the river. Not only is there a view, but also a trail that goes down to the river so that you can dip your feet in the water or put a tube in and float down the river. Another great feature of this property is that it has full hookups. This includes 30 and 50 amp electrical service, water, and sewage. I was able to dump my gray and black water tanks as well as charge my solar generator since it was somewhat cloudy during my trip.
I stayed three nights at this location and these were some of the best nights that I’ve had in my camper van. I slept like a baby with nothing but the sounds of the river outside. There was also the sound of the occasional goose that was feeding in the river. Of course, there was also a myriad of bugs and other critters that made noises all night long. However, I would rather hear these noises any day than the sounds you will hear in the city.
I was truly living in my van down by the river!
I paid $59 per night for this campsite and to me, that was a great deal. It is currently at the top of my list of places to stay as I seek out great campsites across the country.
This place was an excellent experience and if you are ever in the Smoky Mountains area, you might want to check this one out. I hate to give away my secret spots but this one will be popular on Hipcamp. It is called Camp Tuck and is well worth the price you pay.
Pros of Hipcamp (for campers)
If you are a camper and looking for additional places that you can park your RV or set up your tent, Hipcamp has some great benefits.
- You are often the only person camping at the location. Many of the listings only offer one campsite so if you reserve the spot, you are the only one that is going to be there. You won’t have neighbors right next to you like you would in an RV park. This isn’t always the case as some of them have multiple campsites available but they are usually disbursed quite nicely.
- Affordable. Most all of the locations that I have visited have been very affordable, especially when you consider how well the campsites were. The last place that I reviewed above was the most expensive place of the three but again it was well worth the price. I would have spent more than double this amount per night for a rinky-dink hotel nearby. It would not have been anywhere near this nice as this campsite was.
- You can usually always find a location. Some of the locations are very popular and stay booked throughout the year but a lot of them don’t. Dates are generally always open and you can nearly always find an open campsite within a reasonable radius of the place that you want to be. I have never had an issue with finding a great campsite even when it was in the prime tourist season for that area.
- You get to visit unique places. Rather than pulling into the standard RV park, you get to experience a location from a different point of view. Oftentimes, you get to chat with the owners and see the area from the point of view that a local might have.
Cons of Hipcamp (for campers)
- No Hookups (usually). If you have an RV and need electrical, water, and sewage hookups you might be out of luck with most locations on Hipcamp. Since these generally utilize people’s private properties, full hookups are not usually included. Fortunately, two of the locations that I reviewed above included full hookups. However, this usually isn’t the case and isn’t something that I generally look for anyways since I am self-contained in my camper van. Even when I do visit a spot with hookups, I don’t always use it.
- Some of the locations are hard to get to. Oftentimes, you will need a four-wheel-drive in order to even reach your location. There have been many locations that I have wanted to rent but there would’ve been no way for me to reach the campsite in my camper van. If you have a four-wheel-drive and are tent camping, the sky is the limit when it comes to the locations that you might be able to stay at. You can truly find some great locations if you have a vehicle that can handle it.
- Review system is weird. You have a short timeframe (14 days) to review the host and the host has even less of a timeframe to review the camper (3 days). I have also noticed that the hosts are stingy with their reviews so it’s generally a one-way system. They want you to give them a good review but don’t want to bother with giving you one. If you want a review as a camper, I would suggest letting the host know that you will give them a review after receiving one from them.
Pros For Hosts
If you own your own land and you have a property that can be used to allow for camping, there are some benefits to doing so. The obvious pro is earning additional money.
If you are not using an area of your land, why not turn it into an oasis for campers to be able to stay? This can provide you with additional income and since it is often just a parking place for campers or a level piece of ground for tent campers, there isn’t a lot of maintenance involved. It’s a great way for you to earn rental income from your land without the amount of work that you might be needed if you were to rent out a house or other property.
If you live in a popular area where tourists often visit, this can make it even better. You could have a goldmine sitting on your property that could possibly earn some great money by allowing campers to utilize your land.
Cons For Hosts
The bad part about this type of service is that you now have strangers staying on your land. Many people will not be comfortable with this but if you are, this may not be a big deal to you. Having strangers constantly coming and going from your land may not be something that you want to deal with. Even though the maintenance is low as mentioned above, there are still things that you need to do and keep up with, not to mention there may still be complaints or problems that arise that you will have to deal with.
You may have to help someone find your address or provide them with information about the area which could get intrusive into your life if you are not the type that wants to do something like this.
Hipcamp is an awesome option for those who are looking to make the most of someone else’s private property. Some people own great pieces of land out there and Hipcamp allows you to enjoy a part of it for a short amount of time. For an affordable price, you can park your rig onto someone else’s land which is usually a better alternative to crowded campgrounds and RV parks.
Finding a campsite is easy and affordable so if you’ve had any reservations about staying in locations listed on Hipcamp, there is no need to. Take the plunge and sign up to start enjoying some great locations.
If you are a landowner, sign up to become a host and have your location included on the Hipcamp inventory so that you can begin earning money from your awesome piece of land.