MapComplete theme for campers

Posted by joost schouppe on 16 March 2021 in English.

The reason I’m writing this post is that my first MapComplete theme got merged into the official version. Yay! But first, an introduction.


Having been freed from most OSMF duties, I got a bit of an OSM reboot as of late. I became more active in Belgium, where OSM seems to be booming. More people want to be involved, many more people care about what is on the map.

One of the projects that have made this a fun time, is MapComplete. I was always very enthused by projects like MapContrib - because they make it easy to create detailed thematic maps, while also being an editor for that specific theme.

I really believe thematic editors are the way forward for OpenStreetMap. Most of us here are people who care about “the map in general” (or at least a wide range of mappy topics). But most “normal” people don’t care enough about OSM data to invest in learning to use a fully fledged editor. Yet they might care more about data they really need - like whether they can store their bicycle safely, or if the power outlet is right to charge their car. Or they might be passionate about certain topics, like accessibility of paths in their neighborhood, public fruit trees, handicapped parking spots.

MapComplete is built to bring those people to OSM, instead of the plethora of POI databases that exist today. If you want to introduce MapComplete to non-OSM people, have a look at the project page on (en, nl, fr). The project was started by PieterVDVN for a project to map the accessibility of neighborhood nature. During Open Summer of Code we expanded on it for the Brussels Region. Flemish municipalities are interested in it as well.

There’s a few OSM POI viewers around, some of them having editing functionality. Most of them thematic editors are build from scratch, I guess because they think MapContrib is too limited. MapComplete tries to offer more features, so that specialized editors can still share a platform. Some of the main features that make it stand out: - add an image to an object in just a few clicks - add reviews to any named object through an integration with Mangrove - all tags are translated to simple questions - it’s a progressive web-app, so you can install it on your smartphone home screen - it helps you become a mapper, by showing you more details and given you more rights as you start having more edits - easy interface for opening hours and orientation of objects - users can combine layers from all the themes - the theme can be stripped down to a simple webmap to use as a viewer on your website (example in the wild)

My own little theme: campersites!

It’s about one of my passions: travelling with a camper van. Put me in one, and within days I’ll start making plans to never having to return home. As a traveler in a camper, there are two things we often need: places to sleep, and places to dump waste and get provisions. There are several apps that collect info about these places, but none of them has an open data model. It always hurts to contribute to them - but it hurts just as much NOT to contribute to them either! So that’s where I started.

Because traveling isn’t the same if you haven’t got anything to contribute :)

on the road

Official places where you can spend the night with your camper are tagged with tourism=caravan_site. Places where you can dump chemical toilet waste and grey water (from washing the dishes, taking a shower) are tagged amenity=sanitary_dump_station. So those were the two layers I started with. I’ve been mapping these places for a while, so I know the data model pretty well. Of course, I had to make some choices, as some aspects of the data model are still under discussion. The code is readable enough for anyone to make suggestions for alternatives.

mapcomplete campersites

It’s been quite a learning curve to learn how to use the custom theme generator - Pieter’s patience with me has been impressive. The theme generator is only sufficient to create a rough draft. You have to clean the code it generates a bit before getting close to production. There’s no “real” coding involved. At some point, being able to host a JSON file somewhere is really useful though.

One of my favorite spots mapcomplete campersites

Give it a spin, have a look at the other themes, add the app to your home screen, post an issue to suggest a theme, help with translations, or start building a theme from scratch. Both Pieter and me are on the new MapComplete Telegram channel, eager to help out!

Building the theme is of course only step one. I posted it to OverlandSphere, a Facebook community of overland travellers - with a pretty decent reception. If you know of other places where possible users hang out, do let me know.


Comment from philippec on 17 March 2021 at 20:31

Is there already a datestamp on the pictures ?

Comment from giggls on 17 March 2021 at 20:52

Oh wow, you did not know about Open Camping Map?

Camper Sites can also be activated, but are not active by default:

This said, your MapComplete theme looks interesting for all types of campsites including backcounty ones. Probably I should build one.



Comment from bryceco on 18 March 2021 at 06:38

Was it intentional to not support the tourism=camp_site tag as well?

Comment from joost schouppe on 18 March 2021 at 13:13

Hey Sven, I think I might have seen OpenCampingMap in an earlier stage, it looks really neat! I just picked camperspots because I wanted to try building a theme, and it’s something I need myself. The whole point of MapComplete is that it’s generic (pick a theme and start building an app), and that it’s an editor in itself (where you don’t have to learn iD or JOSM before you can begin). I’d love to see us expand MapComplete with something that looks as cool as your OpenCampingMap; or perhaps your tool could reuse parts of MapComplete. My hope with MapComplete is that it can bring people together who otherwise would need to start from scratch, and creating a codebase where all the themes profit from new features.

That kind of answers bryceco’s question too: I just started with what interests me most. Also campings have several other details that are mapped than campersites. And since I never go to campings, it’s a bit harder to those. But we can expand the theme or make one for campings.

Comment from joost schouppe on 18 March 2021 at 13:16

@philippe, I posted an issue for that, and Pieter explained why he thought that wasn’t needed: Feel free to add more arguments there.

Comment from L'imaginaire on 18 March 2021 at 17:53

Great work, great post!

Comment from philippec on 19 March 2021 at 10:15

@joost Just believe me. I must have mapped with more than 1200 pictures by now. Maybe someone has a solution.

Comment from Pieter Vander Vennet on 26 March 2021 at 09:44

@giggls: make sure to check

If you get stuck or have questions, come by on telegram.

Comment from GOwin on 28 November 2021 at 01:08

For those who end up with a 404, the complete URL to MapComplete’s Making Your Own Theme is

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