|Choosing Campgrounds and Campsites|
|Written by Kobus on February 09, 2012|
Over the last six years we have done a lot of camping. From the scorched salt flats of Botswana to the snow caped Olympics in Washington State. Usually, we make camping look easy. RVer's often crack jokes about how we pitch our tents faster than they can park and level their big rigs... Look at us go!
During this time our style has been refined and our methods for finding and selecting a campground and a campsite has become a simple list of criteria. Below is a summary of what we’ve learned.
Criteria for Selecting a Campground
We don’t treat these as requirements, they are simply suggestions. Our needs change every time we go some place new. Choose wisely depending on your situation.
Researching Potential Campgrounds
Plan ahead. How often have you heard this? It doesn’t matter if you’re camping in Timbuktu or the Yosemite Valley, use available resources to find information on possible campgrounds. Here are a few ideas:
Private campgrounds often have nice photo galleries on their website. You can make a visual assessment of the campground without having to go there in person.
Travel guidebooks can be hit or miss when it comes to camping. Some include a lot of information, and others never mention camping. Your best bet is to see if the guide lists an email address or phone number and contact the campgrounds directly for up-to-date information.
Visitor information centers
When in doubt, ask the locals. Visitor centers often have up-to-date information and can usually tailor recommendations to your needs. They are also very handy for insider information and seasonal activities in the area.
Choosing a Campsite
Finding the perfect site may is not an exact science, but if you know what to look for you’ll have a better time than picking a spot at random.
Get there early, but not too early
Be sure to arrive before the afternoon rush so you can have the first pick of good spots. Just don’t be so early that the campers from last night haven’t had time to pack up and leave. Between noon and 2PM seems to work best for us, we do everything possible to not arrive after dark.
Get out of the car and walk
Do not be afraid to get out of the car and explore the area on foot, you’ll often find a better site that way and notice things you would miss from a car.
Look out for people highways
Roads, rivers and lakes are like magnets to the impatient camper. Avoid camping next to a trail head or in between the bathroom and the main road. Inconsiderate campers will walk through your site.
Proximity to services
Water, restrooms, trash. Decide how close is close enough for convenience, but not so close that you will be bothered by other campers or scavenging animals. Being close to the bathroom might be nice in the middle of the night, but it could also mean extra noise in the morning.
Dogs, Kids & Parties
Look out for signs of all three, they can be very noisy. Toys, bicycles and beer cans scattered around a camp site are signs of potentially noisy neighbors. Unless you want to be in a pet/family friendly area, or are partaking in a bit of partying yourself, avoid being close to these sites.
Group and caravan campsites
These are usually well marked and can be very noisy when occupied.
Bright lights above your tent don’t help you sleep, but a light that you can turn on while cooking dinner is handy. Make sure you check for street lights (the kind that turn on when it gets dark) before you setup camp - they are easy to miss during the daytime.
IN THE SITE
Where’s the sun?
If it’s hot, you probably don’t want to find some shade. If it’s cold, especially in the morning, being surrounded by trees won’t help you warm up.
Make sure the ground is level
Avoid campsites that are on the bend of the road. When vehicles drive by you will be blinded by headlights.
Check to make sure there is a clean fire pit and a table if you require them. Many campsites have permanent tables, so if you want to move the table, check to make sure it isn’t bolted down.
Bugs & Animals
Always look out for signs of critters - things like ant hills, holes in the ground and pools of stagnant water should be avoided. Surprise guests are no fun.