Before extended time on the road, load your phone with these highway-ready favorites
Van life offers ultimate freedom on the open highways, but there can also be plenty of bumps in the road during extended journeys. That’s when technology can help. Apps are available that can point full-time travelers to fast, cheap gas, accessible cell signals, and open campsites. BRO’s correspondent, who spent about half of last year on the road, shares her must-download favorites.
The iOverlander app is a database full of community-collected information about free camping, boondocking, water fill-ups, mechanics, and laundry locations. It’s a one-stop shop for van lifers who need to access specific services while they’re traveling through unfamiliar territory. The free app allows users to submit and correct information, which means that it’s continuously being improved by fellow travelers.
Google Maps is a great resource for travelers when they have a solid cell phone connection. But van lifers often end up off the grid, where it can be impossible to find a signal. Maps.Me can help. The app provides maps that can be downloaded and used offline. While the flow of this one is a little clunky, it still provides a great resource to anyone who doesn’t want to get lost when the signal drops.
Opensignal makes it easy to find camp locations that are likely to have a cell phone signal, which is great for those who work remotely. A drop-down menu allows you to highlight cell phone connections from specific providers, showing you potential areas with stable connections. This app can also be used to test the speed of your connection and the quality of your videos, which is great when you have a Zoom meeting scheduled. It’s also free to use.
Long drives require engaging entertainment. Music and podcasts are great, but if you’re looking for another option to help pass the hours, check out Libby. This app allows you to connect to your local library and download audiobooks. Users can adjust the speed of the narration to help cruise through books.
The price of gas has been a big bummer in recent years, and van lifers have certainly been feeling the burn. But GasBuddy can help drivers reduce the amount they pay at the pump. The app searches nearby areas for each gas station’s prices. When you’ve selected the cheapest option, GPS will take you there easily. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to the cheapest gas station in town.
If you spend a lot of time on the road, sooner or later your adventure rig will have a mechanical hiccup. BlueDriver is commonly used by mechanics, car enthusiasts, and those who just want to keep tabs on their vehicle. If your dashboard lights up with a code, BlueDriver determines what the code is, allowing you to decide whether you should keep driving. As a free app, this is one of the best resources for car and van maintenance, since it alerts you to the general health of your vehicle as you travel.
Cover Photo: Photo by Megan Ferris