As promised, here is the review of the latest version of the Camps Australia Wide app. The previous version doesn’t have great reviews in the Google Play store, but the new version seems to have addressed the problems which were mainly about the map.
The Camp Australia Wide books are known as the Aussie campers ‘bible’ and have long been a favourite of grey nomads and really everyone who travels this vast land, so an app which effectively provides the same information – if not the same experience – will be a welcome addition to our info sources.
Let me start out by saying that this app shouldn’t really be compared with WikiCamps. That app aims to be more of a real time source of ‘crowd-sourced’ information that may (or in some cases may not) tell you more about what a particular spot is currently like – with comments and pricing that people experience. The writers of Camps Australia Wide say they have personally checked, visited and verified every caravan park, dump point and camping site.
Using the app is straightforward. It starts quickly and my advice is, if you have GPS on your device, turn it on first AND turn on internet aceess for your device (more on why later) then tap the leftmost icon – the arrow – at the bottom of the screen. Then tap the small circle icon at top right of the map (just above the two left arrows). This will take you to your current place in Australia with street names marked – only if you are in a town of course! – and your location marked with a small blue dot. Note that you can ‘pinch zoom’ in or out easily and the map display changes quickly and (unlike WikiCamps) retains the names of towns on the map. This is one of the annoyances of WikiCamps – the dreaded ‘numbers in circles’ display that means you lose where you are. In my opinion the map display in this is much better. When zoomed out you will see some oval shaped icons that are green/orange in colour. Tap one and it will tell you how many locations there are close to the icon position.
This is a good time to tell you about the filters – this is a quick way to limit what is shown on the map to three different site types – Day Use – Overnight Camping and Caravan Park. All three have three settings. They are Require, Exclude and Don’t Care. Self explanatory really, you just choose which you want to see on the map and my preference is to set all to ‘Don’t Care because this means all three types are always visible! I can understand that if you only want to freecamp it would suit you to just have Overnight Camping required set, but oddly this hides caravan parks even if you set them to ‘Don’t Care’ so basically if you set something to require it automatically hides all other types.
The search function (the box at top right) can be used to look for a location anywhere in the country. The way you get the results though, is a little odd in my opinion. You enter a town or place and nothing seems to happen until you zoom out. Then you should see one or more of the familiar green/orange oval icons. Zoom into one and it will show you the all the matches found for the name.
Now for why I told you to turn on internet access for your device. While there is a basic map available offline, it has no street level map at all when zoomed in further. You need to be online to display the map in any detail. Even though you may have viewed the map showing street level details when online – as soon as you go offline the detail disappears again. I would have thought that ‘caching’ the map in memory once you have viewed it so at least that part remains visible would have made more sense but this is the way it is currently. The detail when online is very good however, with landmarks and even street house numbers visible as it appears to be using Google maps (called Standard in the app) and Satellite views – select which map view to see at the bottom left of the map.
When viewing the map, tap the green double arrows to slide out a handy list of sites on the current map. Tap any site to show details – note that you need to tap the list green arrows again to hide it and make the details visible underneath. Tap the more details button to either display more, add to Favourites or add or update your rating of the site. The details show the physical address, HEMA map location and GPS coordinates and some (but not all) caravan park phone numbers. Any reviews and photos if any are here and you can add a photo (only from your gallery it doesn’t interface with the camera) and write your own review – just ensure you have checked it before tapping send as you can’t edit spelling mistakes as I found!
While in the details area you can easily get directions using whichever navigation app you prefer too which is a handy feature.
Finally, there is a good quick help feature included, just tap the ? icon at the bottom. This shows you what all the buttons do. Tap anywhere on the screen to hide the quick help then you can tap either the video help which displays YouTube help video tutorials or help screens on their website using the two small icons at the top right of the help section.
All in all I like the app, if only for the excellent (admittedly online only) maps that show all the recommended sites and the fact that once you purchase the app you have the latest site list which is cheaper than buying the book. In my opinion, the app isn’t intended to replace the books but to supplement them with a quick method to look up a campsite, dump point or caravan park. You can also quickly subscribe to updates from within the app and this shows a Google Play subscribe now button. Cost for the app is admittedly a little pricey but the updates are A$2.99 a month or A$19.99 annually which isn’t bad value if you want to ensure you always have the latest reviewed sites at your fingertips.
Camps Australia Wide
Price : $19.99
Size : 108Mb
Needs : Android 2.3+