It’s camping season and you’re ready to hit the road! Now you have two challenges: finding the best campground and then finding the best campsite in the campground. In this article I’ll share tips on how to do that, basic terminology for new RV campers, and tools that you can use to make the process easier.
Campsite Terms Explained
Step one is locating the best campground for you and your camping preferences. If you haven’t done that yet, read my 3 simple steps for finding the best campground. Once you’ve done that, take a look at the available sites. Here are some common terms you might see and considerations of each:
- Back-in Campsite – This means that you will have to back your camper or RV into the site. If you have a towable RV, like a fifth wheel, travel trailer, or pop up camper, you’re going to want to ensure there is enough maneuvering room in front of the site to make adjustments as you back in. We have a fifth wheel and really prefer it when back-in sites are at an angle rather than a 90 degree turn. If you have a motorhome and are towing a car, you’ll need to disconnect the towed car to back in. Regardless of your RV type, you’ll also need to ensure there is adequate room for the car as well. If it isn’t long enough for your tow/towed vehicle, you’ll want to see if there is available overflow parking. To me, the best back-in campsites, have a designated parking area adjacent to your site.
- Pull-thru Campsite – These sites are nice because you just pull right into the site. Again, you’ll want to make sure it is long enough for your tow or towed vehicle. It’s also important to try to determine how they are placed in the campground. While it may seem that a pull-thru campsite is the easier to park in, there are some that are more U shaped and can be tricky for a long fifth wheel or travel trailer.
- Buddy Site – This refers to two adjacent campsites with alternating orientation allowing you and your “buddy” to have a shared space in between. Your front doors face each other instead of your front door facing their sewer connection. This allows friends to have a larger place to hang out when camping together.
- Full Hookups – This refers to a campsite that has water, power, and sewer right at your site. One thing you’ll want to check here is the type of power. Most full hookup sites have 50amp and 30amp power, but not all. That is why it is always good to check. Having an adapter for your RV power cord will also allow you to use the available power connection.
- Partial Hookups – This refers to a campsite without full hookups. Sewer is usually not included at these sites, but most will have at least 30amp power and water. However, we have stayed in electric only sites, so be sure to read the description. One consideration if you stay in a partial hookup site is if the campground has a dump station and how long you’ll be staying. We can go 10 days without having to dump, so if our stay is shorter than that we don’t mind partial hookups. If we’re staying longer, then we’ll use our portable RV waste tank and drive it up to the dump station. Some RVers like to use the bath house instead of their RV shower when staying in a partial hookup site.
Other Campsite Considerations
The next thing to consider when selecting a campsite is where it is located within the campground.
- Bath House – There are two sides to this coin. The bath house typically gets a lot of use, so if you are not going to use it, you may want to choose a site away from it. On the other hand, if you are going to be using the bath house, you might want to choose a site near it. Choose based on your needs and preferences, but make sure you are making a mindful decision.
- Playground / Pool – Other areas that are busy at the campground and may have a little more noise are the campground’s playground and pool. Again, it will depend on you. If you are bringing along children, you might want to be closer to them. If you’re not going to be using them at all, you may want to avoid this area.
- Dog Park – This will obviously depend on whether you have a dog or not. Also, if you like your dog being off leash with others. I do know people whose dogs don’t play well with others, so they choose to stay away from sites closest to the dog park.
- Traffic – Consider the flow of traffic around the campsite. We like to pick quieter sites near the back of the campground for normal trips, but pull-thru sites up front for overnight stops. If you have children that are going to be riding bikes, a site near registration that gets a ton of traffic, may not be the best option.
- Views – Many campsites, especially those around the exterior boundaries of the campground, have fabulous views. There are some that back right up to scenic lakes and beaches. Others with unimpeded mountain views perfect for those fabulous sunsets. Meanwhile, the central campsites may only have a partial view over the RV parked in front of you.
Locating Your Ideal Campsite
Now that you know exactly what criteria makes an ideal campsite for you, how do you find it? We use a variety of tools including:
- Campground Map – The first place I look is the campground map. This will often show me things like the location of the bath house and playgrounds, as well as the orientation of the sites themselves. However, you can’t stop there. Because many of these maps are not really drawn to scale it is hard to tell how wide the roads are, how much maneuvering room you have to back in if needed, or what the view may look like.
- Campground Reviews – I love the website campgroundreviews.com and Campendium. I find the users of both sites to be very helpful. They share all kinds of tips like “this area of the campground is in full sun” or “these sites have plenty of trees for privacy, but can be tight for backing in.” YouTube can also be pretty handy for this. In fact, we also have a Campground Review Playlist on our YouTube channel. Here’s an example of what our reviews are like.
- Google Earth – I also like to take a peek on Google Earth, but if there are a lot of trees, you may not see anything.
- Campground Views – Campground Views is a website that provides 360 degree video views of all the different campsites in a campground. They have some free videos on YouTube that you can view, but they are working to to have 400 campgrounds (starting with state and national parks) in their online program by early summer 2021. You can already see the first version by clicking here.
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