By Dave Helgeson
This is the first installment of a series on the many useful applications of Google Earth. I have used Google Earth for years to locate prime boondocking locations on public land along with places to explore such as unique geological features, forgotten mining camps, little-known waterfalls and much more. Recently I have been using Google Earth to review campgrounds, stops along the way and fuel and grocery store access. It’s also handy to locate dump stations and determine low clearance heights along the way. In addition, there are other applications of Google Earth traditional RVers might find useful.
In this installment we will review the useful applications of Google Earth when deciding what RV park or campground best suits your needs and preferences. We’ll also discuss advance navigation clues / difficulties.
Now, before I proceed further, let me point out why I prefer Google Earth over Google Maps. Yes, Google Maps offers the same satellite and street views that you find on Google Earth. But many applications of Google Earth also offer you the ability to: determine elevation, gradient, view photos posted by other users, tilt the view, obtain coordinates, view “historical” imagery and more. I will share each of the useful applications of Google Earth as we move through the series.
“Finding and booking the right campground for your new RV can be a daunting task. There are several things to be mindful of when camping in an RV that may not be clear right away,” says Ben Hersh blogging for Campers Inn RV.
To help you find the right campground, following are more than a dozen useful applications of Google Earth:
Note: Instructions given are for laptop or desktop users.
Use satellite view to determine:
- How level is the campsite? This can be done by dragging your cursor over the length of the campsite. While doing that, note the change in elevation shown at the bottom right of the screen.
- Will you have a private patio or face your neighbor’s RV and share a patio with them?
- Are there railroad tracks or other undesirable noise sources nearby?
- How spacious are the sites? You can use the scale at the bottom left hand corner of the screen to estimate the length and width of the site. Or you can use the ruler function for more accuracy. Google Maps can also prove useful when measuring campsite lengths.
- Are the sites as grassy and shaded as the campground directory promises?
- You can determine the condition of the access road and roads within the campground. This would include how much is paved and how much is graveled, and if there are any tight corners.
More applications of the satellite view on Google Earth:
- You can see where shadows will fall from tall trees during the day. Will the campsite be in the sun or shaded?
- Which sites are pull-throughs and how many are there?
- Which is the best direction of travel to approach the entrance to the park from? Is there a turn lane or curb that might present a problem? You might want to capture the coordinates and navigate to them as they may be more accurate than the street address or driving instructions. You will find the coordinates at the bottom of the screen just to the right of center.
- Look for blue circles which indicate photos posted by other users. By clicking on the circles you can view the photos which may offer additional useful information about the campground such as amenities, stunning views you can expect, road conditions, activities you can enjoy, etc.
- Another application of Google Earth is to click on “Historical imagery” at the bottom left of the satellite view to see what the campsites looked like in the past at different times of the day / year. The leaves may be off the trees or shadows may be different allowing you a better look at the campsite. This will also give you an idea on what time of the year is most popular by the number of RVs seen in the photos. Click here to learn more about using “Historical imagery,” especially if you are a boondocker.
Note about image dates shown at the bottom of the Google Earth screen: In addition to the “Historical” images with varying dates from the past shown on satellite view, you should also be aware that the date of the street view will vary from the date the satellite image was taken. This explains why the satellite view doesn’t always agree with the street view. The additional information you can gain is another example of the useful applications of Google Earth.
More applications of Google Earth – Use Street View to:
- View the entrance to the park. Will there be access problems due to a swale or other impediments? What does the signage and landscaping look like? Is it a bit more run down than the website shows? Does the signage indicate services you weren’t aware of like propane, club discounts, etc.?
- Look for signage near the entrance of the campground that you can mentally reference when you actually drive to the site. This will also verify the correct turn off from the main road, allowing you to capture the coordinates rather than rely on questionable directions like “about 4 miles out of town” and risk the possibility of driving by the turn at 55 mph or missing it in the dark.
- Many times Street View will allow you to “drive” right through the campground in advance to review the spaces, layouts and amenities. Often you can see the designation for each campsite, helping you know which one to reserve.
Here is an RVTravel.com video where I explain the useful applications of Google Earth for locating boondocking campsites utilizing many of the functions listed above.
Hopefully, you have discovered one or two useful applications of Google Earth you hadn’t thought of or realized existed. If you know of a useful application I failed to list, please share it with others by using the comment box below.