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Campsite selection is an art. There are several factors to consider when choosing a campground as well as a campsite. The choice of both your campground and campsite can make or break your entire camping trip. Campers and Campfires would like to share some knowledge that we have learned along the way so that you have the best camping experience possible.
When looking for a campsite, decide which criteria are most important to you. Do you like pull-throughs or back-ins? Do you want to be on the water, or prefer wooded areas? People have different reasons for selecting one campsite over another, and we will share many of these preferences with you.
There are many ways that you can learn about specific campgrounds and campsites before you reserve.
Joining Facebook groups and online forums are some of the best ways to ask questions about specific campgrounds and campsites. There are many private Facebook groups that you can join where everyone shares the same passion for camping. Facebook groups exist for various regions of the US, as well as for specific states. Since we live in Georgia, we camp within the state quite a bit. We are members of several Facebook groups that are specific to camping in Georgia.
Although we live in Georgia, we still love to camp in neighboring states too. We have joined Facebook groups for Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi because we frequent these states on weekends and vacations. Campers are always posting about their favorite campgrounds as well as campsites. I keep a notes section on my phone, and when someone posts about a campground or campsite that I find interesting, I jot down the information on the campground as well as specific sites. I am always building a database of places that I would like to stay.
We have taken two cross country trips in our camper. Since our last adventure, I have learned that in preparation for our next extended trip, we will join Facebook groups for the states that we plan on camping in. There is nothing better than having friendly locals help us plan places to camp and which sites in those campgrounds are the absolute best for us!
If you are interested in a specific campground, write a post within the group asking for the best sites at a particular campground, and you will be surprised how many people will provide you with their opinion and sometimes pictures. If someone is currently at a campground, feel free to ask if they will snap a photo of a particular site for you. Members of these Facebook communities are always excited to help.
There are many places to look online for campsite reviews. Our two favorite internet sites are The Dyrt and RV Life.
The Dyrt (Check out The Dyrt) is a newer website, and it is quickly becoming our go-to for campground reviews. They have a fast-growing database of reviews that we have found to be very reliable. In addition, The Dyrt has a companion app that is easy to navigate. The app is consistently one of the highest-ranked in the camping category. You can access campground reviews for free; however, they do have a PRO version that is $35.99 per year, which offers discounts at select campgrounds as well as for camping gear. The PRO version provides access to maps and reviews, even when you are offline. The PRO version also offers a trip planner. One aspect that we love about The Dyrt is that they frequently run contests encouraging campground reviews, which means that their database is growing, and they have a lot of recent entries.
RVLife is another website that we recommend. The site has a companion app as well. RVLife uses the campgroundreviews.com database to offer information about specific parks and campsites. We love this site because they have a questionnaire that reviewers complete about their campsite, including the campsite number. This feature is new, so only more recent reviews have this feature. Similar to The Dyrt, access to reviews is free, but they do have a paid version that includes access to premium features such as a trip planning wizard.
A neat site that we have discovered is campsitephotos.com. This website is not as comprehensive as we would like, but that will change as their database grows. Campsitephotos.com is a great place to find recommendations and photographs of specific sites.
Many state parks include an actual photograph of each campsite as well.
Sometimes you can find photos by googling the campground name and clicking on images. Check Youtube for videos that others have taken at the campground. Many people do drive-throughs of various campgrounds and post them, many of which include specific sites.
Keep a Journal
Every time we visit a park, we scout and write down (on the notes section of our phones) our favorite sites. You can also collect and save the maps that are provided at each campground and make notes about your favorites.
Factors that Affect Campsite Selection
Everyone has different elements that make a campsite perfect for them. We suggest that when looking for a campsite, create a checklist of what amenities you find to be “must-haves” when selecting your site. Sometimes it will be a “give and take” to find the right site.
Pull-Throughs vs. Back-Ins
Many people do not like to back-up their camper. If this is you, selecting a pull-through will be a top priority when looking for a campsite. We always suggest that those new to camping begin with pull-through sites until you are comfortable backing up your rig.
Most campsites are composed of concrete, asphalt, gravel, dirt, or grass. While campsite composition is not a significant factor in our campsite selection, we do find that concrete, asphalt, and gravel sites seem to be more level than dirt or grass sites. As we read reviews, if there is a lot of talk about sites not being level, then we will not stay at that campground.
Traffic In the Campground
Location should be something you consider as it relates to traffic. The main road coming into the campground is generally busier, so we try and find a site on an outer loop where it is less active. Less traffic is especially important to us if we are planning on riding bikes or scooters around the area in which we camp.
Space is one of the most critical factors when we select a campsite. If there is not a good deal of room between campsites, we will look for another place to stay. Many state parks have spacious sites, although they are not full hookups. We will trade the full hookup for a site with more space.
Shade is a factor that we always consider when choosing a campsite, especially during the summer months. Camper air conditioners are only designed to cool the air 20 degrees below the outside temperature. If you are in a hot climate, you will want a great deal of shade to help your air conditioner. An excellent way to check the shade in an area is Google Earth.
Full hookups become a factor if we have an extended stay planned. We love to stay at state parks, which typically have water/electric hookups. Water and electric sites are sufficient for a short term stay, but filling up grey or black tanks can be an issue if we stay for more than a week. For this reason, we always look for campsites with a full hookup if we will be visiting for more than a few days. How long you can stay without dumping your tanks will be determined by the size of your tanks and the number of people using the facilities in your camper. Generally, your grey tank will fill up quicker than your black tank.
Proximity to Amenities
If you plan on using the pool, playground, or other amenities, you may want to look for a campsite that is close to the amenities so that you do not have to walk. Write down the amenities that you are looking for and use your checklist when researching campsites. I can’t tell you how many times we were looking for a “heated” pool, but when we saw “pool,” we thought we were good to go. It made for some chilly swimming!
Proximity to the Bath House
If you do not use the bathroom or the shower in your camper, or if you are staying in a tent, definitely consider your site’s proximity to the bathhouse. You do not want to be walking a long way in the dark to the bathhouse. At the same time, if you never use campground facilities, you may not like the foot traffic close by of those campers that do use the rest area.
Trash and Dumpsters
Campgrounds often have a central location where they place dumpsters. These areas will generally smell, so we suggest not booking a campsite near the trash collection areas. We were at a campground this summer, where raccoons took over the dumpster area at night. We felt sorry for the campers located right beside the dumpsters.
Campsite selection is an integral part of camping and can make or break your trip. Take the time to research available sites so that you find the one that best fits your needs. Write down your must-haves and the amenities that you are looking for. Campsite selection can be the difference between a good or great camping experience.
What factors do you consider when choosing a perfect campsite? We would love to hear from you! Please drop us a line in the comment section below.