How To Use The Hipcamp App For Awesome Camping Options

June 12, 2020

As an outdoors loving family, we’re always looking for opportunities to spend time in the outdoors. While camping at national parks, state parks, and even KOA sites can be fun, we also like to try other alternatives. That’s why we love using the Hipcamp app to find unique camping options for us.

We’ve used Hipcamp in many states around the United States. And in all our experiences, we’ve had a great time. And we’ve met some wonderful people along the way too! It’s a good resource to have if you’re looking for camping options in the United States.

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Our Hipcamp site in Missouri (August 2018)

What is the Hipcamp app?

So what exactly is Hipcamp? I like to think of it as the Airbnb of camping. Essentially, people who own a large amount of land can offer parts of their properties as sites for tent campers or RVs. They create a profile and listing on Hipcamp, with a description of the amenities offered at the site.

These amenities can include potable water, a toilet, or a campfire. Hosts can also mention whether the site is drive up, or whether you have to park and then walk to the site. Be sure to look at what amenities are available at the site you're interested in. If you're tent camping, be sure to bring your car camping essentials as well.

Campers looking for RV or tent sites can use the Hipcamp app to search for available sites. They can then rent out the site through the app, so no money is exchanged in person. Campers can contact the hosts ahead of time to ask questions about the site. And like Airbnb, camp sites are reviewed, so that future Hipcampers can see how the camping experience is like at that site.

Check out my other camping posts for more tips on enjoying the outdoors with kids.

Our awesome Hipcamp site in Idaho (June 2020)

What are the benefits of using the Hipcamp app for camping with kids?

For families, the Hipcamp app is an excellent resource to use for those who don’t want to have to pay for hotel rooms during a trip. Hotels can cost upwards of $200 or more for families. In contrast, many Hipcamp sites are less than $50 per site. Even if you spend $400 for simple camping gear (a tent, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets), that’s still less than the cost of a hotel for a three-night stay.

Hipcamp can also be a good entry point into camping for families who are new to camping. Since most of the camp sites are private (meaning only one or two sites), parents don’t have to worry about bothering anyone if a baby wakes up in the middle of the night. And since the Hipcamp sites are private property, families can feel a bit more secure about the safety of their children. If you're camping with a toddler, you can let them run around without worrying about them bothering other campers.

Finally, as a family of color, I am always keen on finding ways to show others that families of color enjoy the outdoors too. By using Hipcamp, we’re breaking the stereotype that only white families camp. It my way of flipping the script on travel privilege.

Hanging out in our tent (June 2020)

Other benefits of using the Hipcamp app for families

We’ve been using Hipcamp since 2018. During our big road trip around the United States, we used Hipcamp twice to camp in Indiana and Missouri. And in 2020, we used Hipcamp in Nevada and Idaho as we made our from California to Washington state.  

If you’re curious about other benefits of using the Hipcamp app for your family, here are a few more reasons why families will enjoy Hipcamp.

Climbing up a hill near our Hipcamp site in Idaho (June 2020)

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1. Unique camping locations across the United States

One of the things I like about the Hipcamp app is that it allows us to find unique camping locations. In 2018, one of our camping experiences was staying at a homestead in Indiana. The property includes a treehouse where the host lives, a tree net for hanging out, a barn, and a stage where our host holds festivals and concerts.

It’s also all off the grid, meaning our host relies on solar power for electricity and pulls water from rainwater and a nearby river. All waste is either composted or recycled. Our kids learned a lot about alternative living through that experience.

This year, in 2020, we stayed at a poultry farm in Idaho. Our host raises meat chickens for sale and also egg-laying hens. Our kids had a chance to learn a bit about poultry farming during our stay!

Climbing the tree net in Indiana (September 2018)

2. Affordable lodging options

As I mentioned already, lodging can be quite expensive for families. It's one of the challenges of traveling with kids. But what I love about the Hipcamp is that it gives families some more affordable options when it comes to lodging. From our recent experiences, we averaged around $35 per night for our camp sites.

We did end up using our own camping gear. But even if you don’t have camping gear or an RV, you can find glamping sites where the host provides accommodations. Many of these glamping sites are under $100 per night.

Our Hipcamp site in Nevada (June 2020)

3. An opportunity to meet new people

What I love about Hipcamp is the opportunity to meet new people. I love talking to the hosts and hearing about their stories.

Our host in Indiana was a Phish fan, following the band around the country in his bus. When his bus broke down in Indiana, he decided to buy property there and create a self-sustaining homestead. And in Idaho, our host was a single dad who left his 9-5 job to start a poultry farm.

The wonderful part about travel is meeting new people. And Hipcamp allows you to do that, while still enjoying the outdoors.

Playing with the resident kitten at one of our sites (June 2020)

How families can use the Hipcamp app for their summer camping planning

COVID-19 has really shifted the focus of travel for families this year. Many densely populated places are still closed to travelers, as destinations continue to manage the health situation. But some less populated places are beginning to open up, especially places that are more outdoors-oriented. Families are turning to alternative camping options, like farm stays in the U.S., to do their vacations.

As travelers, one way we can protect ourselves from the risks of COVID-19 and future viruses is by choosing activities that will minimize contact with others. This means engaging in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and camping.

As we look at how summer travel will be different in 2020, we are seeing a lot more families spending time in the outdoors and in open spaces. Here’s how families can use the Hipcamp app to help them with their summer camping plans.

A campfire at our Hipcamp site in Idaho (June 2020)

1. Look for camping options by searching by location

The Hipcamp app lets you search sites by location. It’s easy to plop in a city and find sites that are nearby to the location you’ve entered.  

A map with Hipcamp sites on the Hipcamp app
A map with Hipcamp sites (June 2020)

2. Filter by types of sites or amenities

If you’re looking for specific types of sites (camp sites only, RV sites, or glamping sites), you can filter by those types on the app. Alternatively, you can filter by amenities such as access to a toilet or running water.

Filters on the Hipcamp app
Filters on the Hipcamp app (June 2020)

3. Check availability by date

For each site, you can look at the calendar to see their dates of availability. If your travel dates are flexible, you can look at the calendars of your favorite sites to see when they are available for bookings.

A calendar on the Hipcamp app showing dates of availability
Calendar of availability on a Hipcamp site (June 2020)

4. Take a look at what is offered at the site

Before booking a site on the Hipcamp app, take a look at what they’re offering in terms of amenities. Sometimes there are some added bonuses that you might not think about, like showers, WiFi, or a picnic table. And sometimes sites may have limitations on what’s available, like requiring that Hipcampers take their trash with them, or not having any hookups for RVs. Look closely at the amenities offered to know what you’re getting into.

Examples of amenities listed on a campsite on the Hipcamp app
Amenities listed on a Hipcamp site (June 2020)

5. Send a message to the potential host

Like Airbnb, the Hipcamp app allows users to send messages to potential hosts. I always recommend that families do this. It gives you a chance to ask any questions to your host. But it also gives you an idea of how responsive the host will be.

While hospitality service is not as important in Hipcamp as it is in Airbnb, you still do want a host that will be responsive to their guests.

Get your kids excited about exploring the outdoors. Check out my outdoor posts here.

Chickens at our Hipcamp site in Idaho (June 2020)

Using the Hipcamp app to make family-friendly memories

Our family loves finding opportunities to make memories in the outdoors. And we especially love the Hipcamp app because it has already given us so many memorable experiences.

If you’re looking for outdoors opportunities to do with your kids this summer, consider booking a stay at a Hipcamp site. I guarantee it will be an experience you won’t forget.

Have you used the Hipcamp app during your travels? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Gearing up for a big family travel adventure? Use my ebook, Hey Kids, Let’s Go Travel! as a resource for tools, advice, and action steps for planning your trip.

How To Use The Hipcamp App To Find Awesome Camping Options This Summer | The Wandering Daughter

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