Today, REI launches Camping Project, an all-new digital guide that allows users to search bookable campgrounds by location and nearby activities. The goal: making it easier for you to find the best camping locations and discover trails and climbing routes close by.
This new tool incorporates data from Recreation.gov, the trip planning and reservation service for all federal public recreation areas. Through Camping Project, users can search REI.com for 3,400 bookable campgrounds, cabins and lookouts and thousands of other outdoor properties using Recreation.gov data (to reserve them now you’ll have to click over to Recreation.gov). You can also explore hiking, mountain biking, trail running, climbing and backcountry skiing opportunities near campgrounds. The activity data is pulled from REI Adventure Projects, a set of free websites and mobile apps that share a crowdsourced database of trails and climbing routes along with detailed maps.
“Camping is one of the most important activities that the REI Co-op supports for our customers and members,” said Mike Ahnemann, director of Adventure Projects at REI. “When the Recreation.gov team announced they would be opening up their campground inventory and availability data for third-party use, we felt it was unquestionably a space where REI needs to innovate for our members.”
In the coming months, we’re planning to add more functionality to Camping Project, including the option to check campsite availability directly on our site and see photos, star ratings and reviews. Eventually, we plan to incorporate an even larger database of reserved and free camping, including state and local campgrounds.
REI’s ability to access the data from Recreation.gov represents just one way the federal government is adapting in the digital age. Recreation.gov underwent a complete overhaul in early October, with the launch of a reimagined and mobile-optimized website that greatly improves the experience of booking federal campsites.
Federal land managers saw a need to overhaul the site to keep up with the times and offer more than a modernized website. “As we thought about how we can make it easier for visitors to find, and get inspired to visit, our nation’s public lands, we created environments in mapping and with our trip planning tools that are modern and mirror how visitors plan their trips,” said Rick DeLappe, Recreation.gov program manager for the National Park Service.
With more than 103,000 reservable sites and activities, the site connects millions of people to public lands, waterways and national monuments across the country, with locations and experiences from 12 federal partners. In 2017 alone, Recreation.gov had 19 million users and 4.8 million transactions.
The new system makes it easier for users to search for and access public lands, offering nearby activities and points of interest for all locations. There are many types of federal lands, but most people don’t know about them, opting instead for the larger, better known national parks and monuments. This site helps connect you to places that are harder to find, via easily searchable campgrounds near parks and options to purchase tickets for guided tours, which means less competition for campsites and more peace and quiet in the great outdoors.
Another update: Improved communication between campsite hosts and campers in the event of closures. If a wildfire takes a turn directly into a national park, you need that communication right away. Where the old site involved multiple procedures to alert users about closures, the new site allows for updates via text, email and the Recreation.gov campground page in a matter of minutes.
This is just the beginning. Right now, users are offering the website their feedback—providing more information about what they need and want. Recreation.gov managers are improving content and the rating and review features and working on a mobile app that will offer things like digital tickets to campsites.