RECREATION — Get Ready for Camping
[SW Colorado | March 2020 | By Ninah Hunter]
It’s March on the Western Slope and a great time to start planning for summertime camping and road tripping. Some of my favorite planning tools are Internet apps, which also have a mobile phone component for use on the road.
Checklists. I find a checklist to be indispensable. I create one on my laptop in Pages (or Word for PC users). It’s a continual work in progress as I update or revise it before, during, and after each trip. You can search camping or travel checklists online if you want a few suggestions to get you started building your own list.
Google Maps. Google Maps (GM) is a good routing tool to figure out mileage and driving time to and between destinations and plan stops along the way. GM provides alternative routes, so you can choose whether to take the fastest route or the blue highways through more scenic territory. Click on a location or attraction, and a pop-up window will give you information about it.
Google Earth. Google Earth (and the satellite view in GM) is fantastic for getting an idea of the terrain and surrounding landmarks in places you’ve never been to before. I use it particularly for checking out campgrounds. I even use GE to pick out my campsite by comparing the satellite view to the campground map.
Pinterest. Pinterest is actually a great research tool. You can search Pinterest and save “pins” to a “board” you create by destination or subject matter. Pins will take you to a specific web page concerning the topic, many of which are blog posts by travelers who give you firsthand[one word] info and tips, including the good and the bad. Once you search or save a pin, Pinterest will thereafter offer up many other suggestions on the same subject.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (cpw.state.co.us). This a must-visit site for Colorado state parks and campground information. You can, and should, reserve state campsites via this site, since most state parks now are reservation-only campgrounds. You can also buy the annual park entry pass (a separate fee from the campground) and fishing and hunting licenses.
U.S. Forest Service (recreation.gov). This is the camping reservation site for the U.S. Forest Service campgrounds. For general information about USFS, which includes info on camping and campgrounds, visit fs.usda.gov. Purchase the America the Beautiful – National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass here: store.usgs.gov/recreational-passes.
FreeRoam.app. Both a website and an app, this is a phenomenal free tool for finding campgrounds, including no-cost “dispersed” (aka “boondocking,” which is camping without hookups) campsites or big-box store parking lots that allow overnight camping. This app will help you plan and route your trip, providing information about certain amenities along your route that includes gas stations, dump stations, grocery stores, and fresh water. The app also has its own navigation system.
The Old-Fashioned Way. While the Internet is a wonderful tool, it’s not always accessible. There may be times, especially if you’re traveling and camping in remote areas, where WiFi is spotty or not available. Fortunately, there are still many great printed guides—camping, backpacking, and hiking books plus road atlases and maps—available for purchase at local bookstores, state and national park headquarters, and online, or pick some up for free at AAA (if you’re a member). It’s a good idea to have a few of these guides on board for your trip.
March is also a great month to get your camping gear organized and check out your RV to make sure it’s well-equipped and roadworthy. Then, when spring has sprung, you’re ready to pack up and hit the road for your next big camping and road trip adventure. Happy trails!