Saturday, February 4, 2023



New system helps you snag popular campground spots

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Plenty of readers have complained about the scarcity of overnight camping spaces, even in established RV parks. How about a show of hands of those of you who’ve had trouble getting a spot in something a little more “America the Beautiful,” say a campsite in Zion National Park? When the reservation site opens, you can bet that there’ll be far more people who turn away unhappy than those who actually secure a site.

If you’re trying to reserve a site in a popular national or state park, don’t despair. Cancellations can and do happen, often several times a day. The question is, can you hang around your computer long enough, hitting the reload key repeatedly, to find one? We didn’t think so. But there’s an outfit whose computers will do it for you, lurking on the reservation site of your favorite campground or campgrounds, and send you a text message when a cancellation creates an opening.

Campnab can help you track down that campground opening. Leave it to those clever Canadians who have the same problem that folks in the U.S. fight with – too many campers and not enough spots. Campnab creators found out in a hurry that cancellations are a way of life: Using just two provinces as a testing ground, they found 4,000 cancellations created openings on a daily basis. Initially their search system was limited to Canada, but now, cancellations can be spotted in all national parks, and virtually all state parks that take reservations.

Here’s how the system works: You log on to the Campnab website and plug in what campground you want to stay in and for how many nights. Provide your text-enabled phone number, and pay your fee. Campnab servers then begin pinging the reservation site for your choice of campground, and when an opening occurs, you’re notified by a text message. Campnab DOES NOT make reservations – it simply alerts users as to the opening – and so, the quicker you respond, the more likely you are to nab your spot.

What does it cost? There are a couple of different ways of approach. If you’re just looking for a spot in a single campground, then the pay-per-use option is probably the best choice. You can pay as little as $10. For that, Campnab will scan your campground every 60 minutes for up to four months. Up your ante to $15, the scan rate increases to every 20 minutes; for $20 the system checks every five minutes. Naturally, the more frequent the scan, the more likely you are to be able to get a site reservation.

Want to check on sites in more than one location? Then a membership is probably more cost-effective. Pay $5 per month, scans take place every 15 minutes, and up to three different locations can be searched concurrently, with a 12-month scan window. For $10 a month your scans take place every 10 minutes for up to five sites. A $15 membership scans every five minutes, with up to seven sites. The top cat, $30 fee gives you five-minute scans, up to 15 sites. You can cancel your membership any time, but the month you cancel is still billed to you.

And just what happens if there aren’t any cancellations in your park of choice? As the Campnab folks put it, “You’re paying us to monitor campgrounds for you. There’s no way for us to guarantee that one will become available.” They do point to the idea that given enough time, odds are likely you’ll find a site where you want it.

If you’re keen to get into one of those really popular campgrounds, may be your answer. Now if they can just expand the system to include all those private RV parks.

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Carter Harrison
2 years ago

I’d use Campflare. It does the same thing but free!

Beverly Durham
15 days ago

Tried it. Didnt work.

Eric Meslin
4 years ago

Thanks for the explanation Eric. I don’t think I misunderstood the concept. This program solved the reservation problem for you and your friends so you wanted to share it with others – FOR A FEE. I get capitalism. Like I said in my earlier comment: It was bound to happen, and it’s not good news. I can continue to check, and even use the refresh button for a while, but I can’t compete with a computer program that can do this 24/7 and notify someone who has paid for this service. At Reserve America I’m already paying more than $6 for each reservation, usually for just one or two nights. Rather than pay even more for a public park, I might as well stay at a $50 per night resort with all the amenities. When RV camping ceases to be fun and somewhat spontaneous, I’ll just quit and go back to using Hampton Inn or start cruising again.

Eric Meslin
4 years ago

Checking reservation sites every few minutes?? Another pay-to-play conspiracy!! I have been able to get reservations in public parks within a month, or even a couple of weeks, prior to arrival. It’s hard for me to plan a year in advance. I know if I am persistent in re-checking the reservation site, there will be cancellations that may net me a couple of nights. I need to be flexible, and I have never been successful at getting more than three nights in one site, and also never on a weekend. Now with this new computer service for a fee, it’s likely I’ll never be successful at all. Who can compete with a computer program. I either pay another fee, in addition to the reservation fee, forget public parks, or quit RVing altogether. How do they know scalpers aren’t reselling reservations they are able to snag. I’ve never been asked for an ID upon pre-paid check in at a state park. This development was bound to happen, and it’s not good news.

Crystal Nappi
4 years ago
Reply to  Eric Meslin

My thoughts exactly.

Eric Karjaluoto
4 years ago
Reply to  Eric Meslin

Hey Eric,

I’m Eric, from Campnab.

What we’re doing isn’t a conspiracy. My friend (also named Eric) and I wanted to go camping—but couldn’t find campsites. His wife hit refresh on one page until something opened up. That worked, but it wasn’t practical.

None of us had the time to refresh a parks web page thousands of times a day. So, we built a tool that did this for us—and then let us know when a spot opened up. (Like the article says, we found more cancellations than we expected.)

It worked for us, so, we decided to open it up to everyone. There’s nothing unethical here. We don’t book spots. We don’t hold spots. We don’t scalp spots. All we do is keep an eye out for spots that suit your needs—and let you know.

Additionally, there’s no need to use us. You can just hit refresh on the campground listing for a park until one shows up. This doesn’t cost you anything—but, it’s time consuming.

I know there are some real jerks out there, hoarding campsites, and making a buck off of that. We aren’t those sorts of people, though. We just like camping, and hated that we could never find a spot.

Campnab solved the problem (in part) for us. We just want to share it with others who’d like the same. That’s it. 🙂


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