About CampgroundsThe Complete Guide to Campgrounds for RV Travel
Campgrounds are abundant and they come in a variety of forms. Some are perfect for RV travelers and even offer basic amenities while others are completely barren and wide open for privacy and boondocking. The types of campgrounds and even the types of public lands open to camping can quickly become confusing for new RVers. It’s important to understand the basics to ensure you are ready to find the ideal camping spots for your RV.
The Difference Between Campgrounds, Parks and Resorts
RV parks and resorts are private properties that offer spaces with hookups and a variety of amenities. They cater specifically to RV’s, travel trailers, cabover style campers and fifth wheel campers. There is always a central office with a check-in and checkout process that functions much like the front desk at a hotel. Campgrounds are either public or private lands and they offer less in the way of services. You will find some campgrounds in places like National Parks with electric hookups but the sites are typically more primitive in nature. Developed campgrounds often have a loop road and you can pull through until an open site is found. After parking at the site, you will walk to the entrance and pay via an envelope system for the site. Many campgrounds have a camp host to answer questions, supply firewood and manage the payments but some are self-serve only.
Understanding Public Lands
Camping on public lands can be a real treat and the western United States specifically has an abundance of opportunity. New campers should pay special attention to the agency that owns the land and do some research on the rules before driving an RV or camper in search of sites. Many state, municipal and National Parks offer RV campgrounds within the park boundaries. These are public spaces and each will have different rules based on the park determinations.
Outside of park systems and state owned lands, you will also find National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal agencies like the Bureau of Reclamation that have camping options open. These agencies have developed campgrounds and in some areas, dispersed camping which is essentially free camping in an open area. The developed campgrounds are either paid sites or free sites and many of them offer pit toilets. Some will also have well water available during the summer months but don’t expect electric or sewer hookups. You are simply parking and enjoying the prime recreational locations in the places and all amenities are the ones you bring along. Many RVers are prepared with solar and battery systems for power and holding tanks for sewage and fresh water systems. Public lands are great for boondocking and getting away from the crowds. Dispersed campsites are free as well on BLM and Forest Service lands and they have no toilets or amenities and the roads are frequently difficult to navigate in a large RV or trailer. Leave No Trace in these areas and pack out everything you pack into the site.
Finding RV Friendly Campgrounds
Campgrounds are numerous and finding them requires more research than parks and resorts. The parks and resorts have business listings and private campgrounds often do as well but many are unlisted or they require a search of public land maps to locate the camping designation. When searching for campgrounds in parks, start with the webpage for the specific park because they will offer information about the hours, campground and space sizes and the park features. Otherwise, research maps and the internet for information on lesser traveled places and prepare to do some exploring.
Honest Campground Reviews
When reviewing campgrounds that do have listings, be honest but also keep in mind that these are campgrounds and not RV parks or resorts. They should have clean pit toilets and no trash but you should also clean up any trash left behind by others. Maintaining public spaces is a shared responsibility and public lands are owned by the collective population so do your part when possible. Reviews should include productive information about parking spot sizes, potential hazards and other knowledge that will contribute to a productive body of knowledge.