A Solo Female Van Lifer's Guide to Finding Dispersed Camping Gems

A Solo Female Van Lifer's Guide to Finding Dispersed Camping Gems

As a solo female van lifer, the journey is not just about the destinations; it's about the moments in between, the hidden gems that only those with a keen sense of adventure can uncover. And one tool that has become my trusted companion in this quest for secluded beauty is the iOverlander app, coupled with the power of Google Maps. I almost exclusively use iOverlander to find a camping or parking spot. I will on a rare occasion reference Campendium for extra reviews on more established camping sites, or The Dyrt. My other favorite app is AllTrails for finding hikes and paved trails for my road bike.

solo female van life photos of dispersed camping sites found on ioverlander app by traveling artist blogger cyclist meganaroon (8)

Dispersed camping site along the shores of Walker Lake, Nevada

Chapter 1: Discovering the iOverlander App

The journey begins with a tap on my smartphone screen, opening the gateway to a world of possibilities. The iOverlander app, a treasure trove for nomads like me, unveils a map dotted with dispersed camping sites, each waiting to be explored. Developed by fellow wanderers, this app is a goldmine of information, providing detailed insights into dispersed campsites (as well as paid), free urban parking spots, and even amenities such as water sources and dump stations.

what the ioverlander app looks like for dispersed camping solo female van lifer artist blogger cyclist meganaroon

Screenshot of the iOverlander app, the green moons are dispersed camping and faucets are water sources

As I scroll through the app, I'm drawn to the user-generated reviews and photos that offer a glimpse into the real experiences of fellow travelers. The authenticity of their stories becomes my compass, guiding me toward spots that not only promise solitude but also safety – a crucial consideration for a solo female van lifer. I particularly look for reviews on accessibility for my 2wd rear wheel van, I don't ever want to get stuck in the depths of a sand pit ever gain! I also check for cell reception reviews, although with my Starlink I don't rule out a spot simply because it doesn't have cell service, since Starlink provides that no matter where I travel.

You can customize the iOverlander app to show you only the options you are interested in. I select dispersed camping and water sources to default display as those are my two main concerns when finding a place to camp. There are plenty of other options you can alter to your needs, from paid campsites, dump stations, street parking to gas stations, laundromats, mechanics and more.

 Yosemite solo female van life photos of dispersed camping sites found on ioverlander app by traveling artist blogger cyclist meganaroon (3)

Dispersed camping site found on iOverlander just outside of Yosemite National Park

Chapter 2: Creating a Personalized Oasis

Armed with the knowledge from iOverlander, I embark on my journey with a destination in mind. Google Maps becomes my co-pilot, weaving a digital tapestry of roads that lead me to the heart of nature's embrace. Using the offline feature, I ensure that even in the most remote areas, I'm connected to the road ahead. I always use google satellite imagery once I've located an area/camping spot I wish to visit, to survey the lay of the land. But the real magic happens when I tap into Google Earth, a satellite's eye view of the land. This allows me to scrutinize potential campsites from the comfort of my van, ensuring they align with my vision of a secluded, serene haven. I'm not just finding spots; I'm creating a personalized oasis where the only sounds are those of the wind rustling through the trees and the crackling of a campfire. I study the terrain, looking for any mountains/hills potentially blocking the sun, I need my solar to charge! Of utmost importance is to also find a road/trail to ride my bike. This is when I refer to AllTrails to locate either a suitably paved trail or a commonly biked road in the area. I have a hybrid Specialized road bike with larger tires I can ride on not just pavement, but often a dirt or gravel road to help me safely reach a paved surface. I like to be close to the road, but not too close so that I can comfortably let Mikee roam the campsite without fear of her going into any traffic.

using goolge statellite maps and alltrails I find paved trails and roads to ride my road bike on right from my campsite

Places I've found to ride my road bike on a trail or paved road accessed directly from my campsite, using AllTrails app and Google Maps satellite imagery

my van cat mikee exploring her surroundings safely
Mikee out freely exploring the woods behind our dispersed campsite
Chapter 3: The Art of Dispersed Camping

As I navigate the winding roads, the anticipation of discovering a hidden paradise grows with each passing mile. Dispersed camping, an art form for van lifers, is not just about finding a spot to park for the night; it's about immersing oneself in nature's grandeur.

The iOverlander app introduces me to BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands, a vast expanse of public lands where dispersed camping is not just allowed but encouraged. These lands, often overlooked by conventional travelers, become my canvas for the night sky's celestial dance. As a solo female traveler who prefers the solitude of the great outdoors to the hustle and bustle of a city, BLM land has become my haven. I can park up my van for 14 days straight out of a 28 day window on BLM land, and I take advantage of this as much as possible. Once I find an ideal location I like to settle down, paint, ride my bike and hike the beauty that is our public lands. Forest Service roads generally offer the same option of the 14 days in a 28 day window, so look for those as well.

 Zion National Park area for solo female van life photos of dispersed camping sites found on ioverlander app by traveling artist blogger cyclist meganaroon (6)

Private dispersed camping site just outside of Zion National Park

Chapter 4: Safety First

For a solo female van lifer, safety is paramount. The app's reviews become my virtual campfire, where tales of fellow wanderers detail their experiences with a particular site's security. Armed with this collective wisdom, I choose sites that offer both solitude and a sense of security. I will be doing a blog post soon on safety for solo female van lifers - be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for blog updates!

In the quietude of a dispersed camping site, I find solace in the knowledge that I am not alone. The virtual community fostered by iOverlander becomes a lifeline, connecting me to a network of kindred spirits who share a love for the open road.

 beautiful dispersed camping site an hour outside of Zion National Park with incredible hikes and views

Beautiful dispersed camping site an hour outside of Zion National Park with incredible hikes and views

Chapter 5: A Symphony of Solitude

As the stars blanket the night sky and the crackling fire casts dancing shadows, I reflect on the journey. The iOverlander app and Google Maps have not just been tools; they've been companions on this solo odyssey.

The dispersed camping sites, once hidden on the digital map, have become the backdrop for my stories. Each site, a chapter in the book of my van life, filled with tales of serendipity, self-discovery, and the joy of embracing the unknown.

In the end, it's not just about finding dispersed camping sites; it's about finding myself in the vastness of the open road. The iOverlander app and Google Maps have become my compass, guiding me through the twists and turns, leading me to the hidden paradises that await those willing to wander off the beaten path.

So, fellow solo female van lifer, let the road unfold before you, and may your journey be as boundless as your spirit.

solo female van life photos of dispersed camping sites found on ioverlander app death valley national park by traveling artist blogger cyclist meganaroon (12)

One of my go-to dispersed camping sites just outside of Death Valley National Park 

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