Camp Nab campsite tracking tool

How to Reserve a Campsite at Sold-Out Campgrounds: A Review of the Best Campsite Trackers

Let the bots find the campsite for you.

This post was updated on March 3, 2022.

Getting a campsite reservation can be a challenge for campers everywhere, especially in popular campgrounds.

But don’t give up if your dream campground is fully booked: use a campsite cancellation tracker to score a campsite, even in a sold-out campground!

Campsite trackers find available campsites by using bots that scan campgrounds for cancellations.

When a campsite opens up, the bots are the first to know. And they pass the information to you through campsite finder apps that give you first dibs to book the campsite.

I put the leading campsite availability checkers to the test in this review of the best campsite tracker apps.

My findings, which have been updated for 2022 to show new features and pricing, are below.

compare campsite finders trackers
Graphic: comparison of the leading campsite tracker tools

CampNab

★★★★★

My top pick among campsite trackers is fan-favorite CampNab, an all-around best value among campsite finders and the winner of my test.

CampNab is loaded with features and offers a wide variety of plans. I also found it to be the most transparent of the trackers I tested, with information on scan intervals, pricing, and campsites easily found on its website, so you know what you’re getting for your money.

Since this review was first published in May 2021, CampNab has added more features in response to requests from users who are becoming more sophisticated as camping gets more competitive.

CampNab takes user input seriously and has an improved interface and more refined searching as a result. Users can now filter for features such as electric hookups and ADA accessibility (to date, sadly no pet filters) in addition to being able to search for specific campsites by number or campground loop.

A new copy feature allows users to copy search parameters and quickly apply them to new scans – a convenience the most exacting users are sure to love.

The website has also added the ability to search for coveted backcountry permits, which allow you to camp in a park’s interior, away from roads and other campers.

Scans are easy to follow and tweak in CampNab’s dashboard.

I also like that its plans offer concurrent scans instead of single-use scans: when one CampNab scan ends, you can swap it out with a new scan without increasing your total.

CampNab does offer single-use scans, however, I suggest avoiding those as they fall short in the value category: At $10, the cheapest single-use scan costs the same as the entry-level monthly plan that gives you two more scans (for a total of three) and scans six times as much – every 10 minutes instead of 60.

So, if you only need one scan, opt for the lowest-priced “good” plan, which you may cancel anytime.

CampNab’s plans offer the best value among apps in this review.

I signed up for the “good” plan for my test and found a spot in a specific loop at sold-out World’s End State Park just two weeks before the Memorial Day weekend. Score! I booked the site a few minutes later.

CampNab also passed my Yellowstone National Park test, as it offers scans of the often sold-out Mammoth Campground, the only campground there open year-round. You can fine-tune scans to target a specific site – a key feature many avid campers will love.

Plans start at $10/month for 3 concurrent scans and go all the way up to $90/month or $800 a year (annual plans cost 25 percent less than monthly). Skip the less economical, pay-as-you-go options.

Advantages of CampNab
  • Competitive pricing
  • Large variety of plans, from single-use to year-round campers
  • Top performer in my tests
  • Easy signup and easy-to-use website
  • Scan intervals are disclosed
  • You can choose specific campsites and loops
  • Campground maps and listings are better than those found on many government websites. Use them even if you don’t use the service!
  • Great user reviews (on their site, but I plunged the depths of the internet and found rave reviews there, too)
Disadvantages of CampNab
  • No free trial
  • Can’t scan a bank of time with one request (although the “flexible dates” option broadens your search window by two days.)
  • Hard to know which plan to choose; takes trial and error
  • No mobile app

Wandering Labs

★★★★

Wandering Labs is a no-frills option that started as a free service but has been moving toward a profit model. It was started by a couple who travel full-time in their Airstream.

The website’s “Donate” button has been replaced with a paid “premium” membership plan. Free scans are still available, but with limited functionality, making them more like a free trial.

Is Wandering Labs legit?

Wandering Labs has gotten some good reviews. In my tests, I had mixed results with Wandering Labs.

For my initial scan, I created a Wandering Labs versus CampNab test, plugging in the same World’s End campground request. CampNab was the clear winner: it sent an alert and I was able to book our site while the Wandering Labs scan kept running, delivering no alerts within our booking window.

That made me think I must have booked before the next Wandering Labs scan ran. But it’s hard to know for sure because Wandering Labs doesn’t offer set scan intervals. Instead, they vary according to the request – sometimes by quite a bit.

Your best bet is to experiment with this tool before signing up for a paid plan. Keep in mind that Wandering Labs’ free searches have two big limitations.

The first is that they expire in a week, which in my experience is a short window when you’re waiting for cancellations.

The second is that alerts are sent via email instead of text messaging. Because seconds can truly matter when you’re vying for the country’s best campsites, this is a definite disadvantage.

After my initial test of Wandering Labs, I continued to experiment with scans and got great results, including for Yellowstone! I originally gave this tool three stars but decided to bump it up to four after receiving multiple alerts for my requested campgrounds.

Probably the best feature of Wandering Labs is flexible date searching: you can scan an exact date or multiple days – or even months! No other tracker allows you to set such wide date parameters.

Wandering Labs’ premium membership costs $30 a year and gives you up to 500 text alerts and unlimited “faster” scans, although the intervals vary. I’d bump up my rating by a star if Wandering Labs provided clear, uniform scanning intervals; that is ultimately what these apps are selling, and I think it’s important to know what I’m paying for! 🙂

Wandering Labs passed my Yellowstone National Park test.

Advantages of Wandering Labs
  • Unlimited requests on paid plan
  • Free trial of basic scans
  • Best options for flexible dates
  • Easy signup, no account needed
  • Shares logs of scans, an interesting feature, although note that the logs don’t show all scans
Disadvantages of Wandering Labs
  • Texts only available for premium plans
  • Scan frequency varies
  • Minimum price for texting alerts is more expensive than comparable options
  • The barebones website doesn’t inspire confidence
  • No mobile app

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Campsite Assist

★★★

Campsite Assist is a newer addition to the campsite finder world.

This tool does a good job providing clear information about pricing and offers single-use options only – users can purchase one scan or buy packs of multiple scans. No monthly plans are available.

Campsite Assist is a solid choice for a laser-focused, single scan at the most desirable campgrounds because it offers more scans per hour than other tools, at three-minute intervals.

That speed comes at a cost: the cheapest three-minute scan is $14.

Those seeking less expensive, single-use scans would be better off with other options, as the value options for Campsite Assist give you longer intervals than competitors.

Campsite Assist also sells cheaper scans with longer scan intervals. Here is the 2022 pricing:

Campsite Assist Pricing
Campsite Assist Single Scan Pricing
Source: Campsite Assist

In a CampNab versus Campsite Assist comparison, CampNab came out on top for being the cheaper option that found more sites. The Campsite Assist scan I purchased did not find me a campground in the month that it ran 13-minute scans. During that same time period, I received alerts from both CampNab and Wandering Labs for the same request.

When this review was first published, Campsite Assist didn’t pass my Yellowstone test, but it has since added the campground to its roster, yay!

Another new feature is the ability to scan for a window of time in addition to specific dates, a nice improvement. These “matrix” scans cover up to a week. If you’d like your search to cover a longer period, you’d be better off using Wandering Labs because you wouldn’t have to reset your scans.

Matrix scans cost more and run less frequently. Here is the current 2022 pricing for Campsite Assist’s matrix scanning. Note that the time periods refer to how long the scanning request lasts (not the window of time being scanned).

  • $25, scans run every 15 minutes up to 6 months
  • $21, scans run every 45 minutes up to 4 months
  • $17, scans run every 90 minutes up to 3 months
Advantages
  • Fastest scanning available
  • Easy to use platform
  • Offers multiple pricing options
  • Discloses scan intervals
Disadvantages
  • No free trial
  • More expensive than other options
  • No membership plans
  • No mobile app

UpCamp

UpCamp is a mobile app available in the Apple store and rates lowest on my list of campsite finders.

I found the app slow, difficult to use, and missing many campgrounds, including the World’s End State Park campground I used for my test, and Yellowstone National Park.

Information is scant on the app, and the log-in process falls short. Users who choose to bypass the login on their first visit will have a difficult time finding it. I had to remove the app and re-download it to sign up! That’s an issue for me because I like to learn about an app before giving over my contact details.

Prices have increased over the past year.

UpCamp no longer offers its $5.99 single scan. Scans are sold in bundles that start out for $14.99 for three single scans.

UpCamp doesn’t sell memberships or reveal the frequency of its scanning – a major red flag.

Advantages
  • Only mobile app in the group
Disadvantages
  • Limited number of campgrounds
  • Scan frequency not disclosed
  • App is slow and buggy
  • Low value for the money
  • Pricing options are a bit hard to find. To spare you the hassle of downloading the app to check pricing, I’ll break it down here:
    • $14.99 – 3 scans
    • $19.99 – 5 scans
    • $29.99 – 10 scans

I hope this article is helpful and that you will find the campsite of your dreams this season!

Happy camping!!


Advertising Disclosure: recommendations in this article contain links that may pay me a small commission, at no cost to you, when clicked. As always, thank you for your support.


16 thoughts on “How to Reserve a Campsite at Sold-Out Campgrounds: A Review of the Best Campsite Trackers”

  1. Hi Hunt & Peck,
    Thanks for the great article/review.

    I’m the owner and founder of CampsitePhotos.com and wanted to give you a quick update on Campsite Assist.

    We now scan for availability at Mammoth Campground in Yellowstone National Park, as well as all properties on Recreation.gov, ReserveAmerica.com, ReserveCalifornia.com, Washington State Parks, Minnesota State Parks and others.

    Also, we rolled out our Matrix scanning service a few months back. It lets campers scan for any availability during a 7-day range. We will increase that range to 14 days later in 2021. With the Matrix scan, campers will get an alert if campsites becomes available for any amount of days during the range they select.

    And we will continue to refine, add new features and reservation systems in the near future.

    Thanks again!

    1. Eric,
      Thank you for this update! Nice to learn you’ve added some new functionality.

      I will keep this post updated by periodically conducting new tests. It’s helpful to have your information in the meantime.
      Alice

    2. I’m with”anonymous “ on feeling defeated and disgruntled to what’s happening with our public lands. I agree that the government organizations managing our national and state parks need to do more to ensure equal access for all. I’m one that tried to join them (the camp nab etc )as there was no beating them.. and after 4 years of trying to get to Yosemite which is only 4 hours from where I live. I tried the cancellation bots business. I understand that Yosemite is in very big demand. And didn’t expect much , but really really wanted to visit the park I enjoyed as a child. I received around 30to 40 cancellation notices. A third of them just days before my set dates. Every single one of them showed up already reserved. Even when I had my phone in hand and reacted in less than a second. There was no availability. This tells me that this cancellation notification business is way too competitive or that other computer programs are causing interference. And just the fact of the numbers of cancellations say that there are camp site hoarders out there. Each one of those notifications I received became another defeat, disappointment and realization that I don’t have the tools to play this game. Like “anonymous “ I am finally semi retired and can take more time to do what I love… but alas.. not until there is better and fair management.

      1. Hi Norma Jean,

        Yosemite is very challenging to get into—even if you use a service to monitor it for cancellations.

        The issue largely comes down to supply and demand. This summer only 400 – 500 campsites were open at Yosemite due to various closures. (More campgrounds there have re-opened in the past while.) Meanwhile, approximately 4 million people visit Yosemite each year.

        These sorts of numbers are pretty extreme. There’s just no way around the odds being bad when the demand is soooo much greater than the available number of campsites.

        This isn’t an issue with hoarding, nor is it an issue of poor/unfair management on the park’s behalf.

        Here’s the reality: You were able to visit a majestic place when you were young, free of crowds. This wasn’t your birthright. You were just lucky to have been alive at a time when fewer people visited such places.

        Most people will never experience what you did. There are simply more humans on the planet today than when you were young. Those of us who are older should be grateful for what we had access to—not bitter/angry about others attempting to see these same natural treasures.

        There are still plenty of beautiful places to discover. You’ll just need to do your own research and go further in order to find them. For what it’s worth, I highly recommend driving up north (e.g., up through B.C. and into the Yukon). As you get away from densely populated areas, you’ll find it easier to locate open campsites. Bonus: These areas are pretty spectacular!

        If you have your heart set on returning to Yosemite, just keep trying. It won’t be easy to get in, but I regularly talk to campers who found a site through Campnab that they were able to book.

        Patience and persistence help. Setting a custom ring-tone on your smartphone can also be useful. (If you don’t know how to do this, message me and I’ll send you instructions.)

        There’s plenty of nature out there for us all to enjoy. Yes, it’s more competitive to find a campsite than it was in the past. That said, I believe that as more people get outside, our collective appreciation for nature will grow. Hopefully as this happens we’ll all put more effort into respecting and preserving the wonders that surround us.

        I hope I didn’t carry on too much. Have a great day!

        Eric

  2. Thank you for your thorough information.. however I am extremely disgruntled with robots using a system and profiting from public lands that are supposed to be assessable to all ..
    I am a senior who has worked a low paying skills job all my life and can now finally enjoy my favorite pastime, but can’t get anywhere because I can’t afford to pay extra for a maybe ..
    I feel very defeated and powerless as a human being

    1. Agree with “Anonymous'” public lands comment.

      These pay-for-bot-scanning services should be prohibited or otherwise blocked to ensure equal access to the goods and services, including camp sites, that the government (Federal, State, County, and Local) develops, owns and/or maintains. Such equal access is diminished for folks who, by reason of geography or economics, do not have the same online accessibility as others.

      1. Hi Dan,

        I’m one of the people working on one of the services mentioned above. I get your frustration relating to bots, and why you’d be unhappy about services like ours.

        The tough part here is that the alternative to services like ours is pretty crummy. It involves repeatedly clicking Refresh on your browser. For most, that’s just not a practical use of time.

        My friend Eric Shelkie (who came up with the idea for Campnab) spotted his wife doing this when trying to find a campsite availability up here in BC. Everything was sold out, so, she hit Refresh for many hours trying to spot a new cancelation. He figured this was a pretty crappy way for her to have to spend her afternoon—and that’s why he automated the process with Campnab.

        I think it’s important to note that the real issue here isn’t with trying to save some time. It’s that people might overbook and then fail to use their reservation. It’s this supply that gets locked up but goes unused that reduces opportunities for campers.

        This is part of the problem that we are trying to solve with Campnab. We want more campsites to go used, which opens up opportunities for campers—and generates added funds for those parks.

        I hope the above seems reasonable. If you have any other thoughts or questions, I’m happy to answer them.

        Eric

      2. I strongly disagree, Dan. My husband and I sold the house and became full-time RVers a couple of years ago. We used to be able to find campsites in state parks, COE, county parks, etc. Once the CovidCampers started, we found it less and less possible to find sites where we wanted to stay. We aren’t homeless, we are traveling the country, seeing the beauty of places we’d otherwise not visit. We deserve just as much of a chance to get those campsites as the CovidCampers do. I joined Campnab a few months ago and have been shocked and delighted with it! Thanks to Campnab, I have probably booked in a dozen state, COE, county and even NPs ONLY because they have notified me of a cancellation. Campnab has given me that “equal access” you speak of. You want to try to find sites on your own? Then you won’t see the parks you want to see.

    2. Hi—

      I just wanted to quickly respond to your note, and hopefully offer some suggestions. (I’m one of the two Erics working on Campnab.)

      Public lands do remain accessible to all. The problem is that “all” got a lot bigger this past few years. More folks are camping and RVing than ever, and the pandemic only added to this demand. This is the crux of the problem: supply simply outstrips demand.

      This challenge also gets exasperated by a sort of frenzy that occurs due to campers fearing that they’ll get locked out. So, many campers overbook when parks open for reservations. Given the short supply, high demand, and panic mindset campsites are quickly snapped up.

      I think this is why a product like Campnab is so important. Many thousands of campsite reservations get canceled—but when they do fewer people are looking. Our service helps alert interested parties to these new openings, meaning they can attempt to book one of those campsites and get out camping. Given the large number of cancelations, the probability of finding a campsite in this way is very high.

      We do charge for our service, but we truly have to. It’s a full-time job and then some. (Truth be told, I’m a bit worn out by it and would love to take a proper holiday—or weekend off.) We’re continually offering 1-on-1 support to members, fixing bugs, ensuring scans are running properly, and adding new features. It’s a surprising amount of work to keep Campnab running!

      Our plans start at $10/month and can be canceled at any time. There are plans at higher price-points for more competitive areas, but many of our members fare well on our lowest tier. In fact, members in places like Ontario commonly sign up for one month of the $10 tier each year, which gets them all of their bookings for the season. They then cancel until the following year. I know $10 isn’t nothing, but its less than I pay for a bundle of firewood.

      These fees help my friend and I keep working on Campnab, paying for our hardware and messaging costs, and drawing a modest salary. It’s far less than we’d earn working for someone else, given how far we are into our careers. That said, we really like working on our own product—and helping out fellow campers.

      Please don’t feel defeated. There are lots of campsites to be had, even if you don’t search for canceled spots. You can explore staying mid-week, considering camping on BLM land, or even driving a bit further. I’ve compiled some additional tips on how to find campsites here: https://campnab.com/blog/how-to-get-a-campsite-when-all-the-parks-are-booked

      There are plenty of camping opportunities to be had. It’s just good to consider all of your options and remain flexible. Don’t give up on camping! 🙂

      Cheers!

      Eric

      1. Hi Erics! Thanks for your hard work on the campnab app; I find it very well-created and reasonably priced. I wish there was another option – or perhaps more state lands – for seniors and folks on lower income.

        I just had my first experience with a campsite being opened up – got an advance notification – everything worked like a charm – I was counting down the seconds on my clock in the morning to reserve – and when I reloaded the page (only 4 times), there were 9 other viewers and I didn’t get the reservation.

        Any chance you could add an auto-book option?

        Thanks again for filing the need and saving our refresh keys and mental sanity.

        1. Hi John,

          Sorry for the slow reply. I just spotted your question here today.

          It sounds like you received an unlock alert—probably in either Florida or California, where they hold some sites for release at a set time. These ones are always competitive as more people know when they get re-released.

          We’ll never add an auto-book option. Notifying campers of availabilities offers a useful convenience. However, autobooking seems like an unfair advantage—and we don’t want to do that to fellow campers.

          That said, someone has to get those sites when they unlock. So, just keep at it. Additionally, you should see some alerts for other times of day, as not all sites get locked for future release.

          I should also note that we report the time that the booking system indicates it will release a locked site. That said, these can release early/late. So, it can help to pull up the booking page up to 30 minutes in advance and keep an eye on it—and watch it for a while past the scheduled release time.

          I hope the above seems reasonable/helpful!

          Eric

      2. Hi, Eric! I’m one of those people who has bugged you about glitches or “operator error” and have been amazed at the rapid response when I sent a note. I LOVE CAMPNAB. I’ve told so many people about it (even though that’s sort of shooting myself in the foot if they grab the site I wanted, LOL). At this point, I think I’ve successfully booked about 12 sites that were otherwise unavailable.

        The REAL problem is the booking entities allowing people to overbook/multi-book, and not having any kind of disincentive for those people to not cancel reservations that won’t be used. If a person reserves a campsite for $25 for one night and doesn’t cancel until the day of, what do they lose? $25. That’s wrong. There needs to be some kind of penalty applied to reservations that are not cancelled a certain number of days in advance.

        But, that’s not your problem. Your problem is that you need to learn to walk away and let someone else babysit the business while you go on VACATION, man!!!

        1. Hi Louise,

          I’m glad that we were able to help quickly when you reached out. We try to be responsive, but, as just two people there are sometimes delays.

          This time my delay was from not seeing your note until today. So, I’m sorry for replying to you so slowly. i just didn’t know you had posted a comment here.

          It is nice to hear that you had a good experience with Campnab, and were able to book those campsites. It makes us happy to know that campsites aren’t sitting around unoccupied—especially when people want to get out camping!

          Some do book more sites than they need. However, I suspect that a lot of the unused campsites relate to people needing to book many months in advance—and just forgetting to cancel.

          Megan Michelson wrote a good article about this, and some of the approaches being implemented to prevent campsites from going unused. You can her article here: https://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/news-analysis/camping-reservations-no-shows/

          We’d love to take some time off and get outside more. As a two-person company, though, it can be tough to do that. We are super-grateful that so many campers support our product and we want to be here for folks like you, when you need our assistance.

          I must say that fall is a nice time for us. At this time of year, camping activity slows a bit and we get some time to work on new features, add jurisdictions, and fix some kinks in the system. We also get a little time to fiddle with some hobbies, which is nice. It’s good to get a little rest, as it tends to get pretty hectic around here, come January 1st.

          Thanks for supporting Campnab and the work we’re doing, Louise!

          Eric

  3. Hi Alice,

    Thanks so much for compiling the above post—and for including Campnab in your round-up. It’s nice of you to put together such a thorough overview of options available to campers.

    We’re working day and night on improving Campnab and keeping it running efficiently for members. It’s a pile of work, but it’s super-rewarding to hear from folks who’ve used the service to access campsites that might have otherwise gone unused. 🙂

    All the best!

    Eric

  4. What an inspiring and comprehensive post. Thank you for all the helpful details. It’s nice of you to put together such a thorough overview.

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