22 tips for choosing the best campsite

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By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR, RVtravel.com
Here are some tips about choosing a campsite based on years of experience.

1. First, the obvious: Be sure the site is level or close to it, and long enough so your RV (and tow or towed vehicle) doesn’t stick out in the road (so no bumps in the night).

2. Pay careful attention before pulling into a campsite to be sure you can clear tree branches above and beside your RV. Scratches (or worse) are not your friend.

3. Check the power pedestal before pulling in or immediately thereafter before leveling up. Be sure it works and is safe (if not, you could get shocked by your RV – or worse!).

4. Check the position of the water hookup. Will your hose reach? Ditto the sewer hookup.

5. If you choose a campsite on a curve in the park road, choose a site on the inside of it to avoid headlights of passing campers after dark.

6. Never park under a tree with ripe berries or other fruit. They will drop on your roof and stain it.

7. Avoid parking under pine trees that drop sap. Sap is no fun to remove. If there are pine cones, be aware that squirrels may chew them and then drop them when finished (right on your roof with a loud thud!).

8. Before choosing a site, check to see if the ground is covered with bird poop. If so, then birds likely roost at night in the tree above. Unless you’re into a slimy, poopy roof, choose another campsite.

9. If the daytime temperature is really cold or really hot, choose a campsite that will either provide lots of sunshine or a minimum of it. In hot weather, it’s a good idea to position the RV so its refrigerator gets the least amount of heat (as in sunshine). If you have a pet you may need to leave alone for brief times in the summer, park where the RV is shaded in the afternoon.

10. If it’s windy, choose a site where the front or back of the RV points into the wind. You’ll experience a lot less rockin’ and rollin’ from wind and wind gusts that way.

11. If you have kids and/or love kids, then parking near the playground or pool might be fun. But if you prefer peace and quiet to screaming kids, you might want to choose a site across the park.

12. In the fall, if your campsite is under deciduous trees, be prepared to climb onto your roof before you leave to brush leaves off your roof and slides.

13. If you plan to use the park’s WiFi (or your own device) to connect to the Internet, check the strength of the signal before settling into a site. Reception may be strong in one area of a park and useless in another. Ditto for TV if using an antenna.

14. Check out your neighbor’s site before setting up: If there’s a boombox and lots of beer cans visible, you may wish to move farther away if you treasure quiet time.

15. If you plan to sleep late in the morning, be sure to park a distance away from any dumpsters, which crews may bang around when dumping, commonly early in the morning.

16. If there’s a long line of high bushes next to or at the back of your campsite, look behind the bushes for train tracks. If you love the sound of trains, stay. If not, move.

17. If there’s a tavern within walking distance of your campsite, be aware that there could be some noise around 2 a.m., when patrons might bring their party back to the park.

18. In the tourist season, when looking for a campsite without a reservation, pick one away from popular destinations, which will be in biggest demand. Move to those popular places on a Sunday afternoon when most of the weekend campers have headed home.

19. To avoid noise from passing RVs and cars, choose a campsite near the back of the park rather than near the entrance.

20. If campfire smoke bothers you, check the location of your neighbor’s fire pit. It could literally be 10 or 15 feet away. If so, your RV may fill with smoke when the wind is blowing your way.

21. Always ask when registering if any discounts are available – Good Sam, Escapees, FMCA, AAA, AARP, Passport America, military or veterans rate, etc.

22. Check with Google Earth or Maps before you choose your campground to see what attractions are nearby that you might be able to easily walk or bike to.

Do you have a tip to add to this list? Please leave it below.

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Richard Scheich

Don’t just say back of the park is quiet, many campgrounds back up to highways just on the other side of a row of hedges.

Bobkat3080

An app for your phone/tablet called “Sun Surveyor” will show you where the sun will be at any point of the day. It uses the camera to give you a realistic view of your surroundings with the sun’s (or moon’s) path overlaid on it.
This way you can plan where to set up to get morning/afternoon sun/shade.

Martin A

A lesson I learned, be careful when opening the electric pedestal look inside for bee or wasp/hornet nests. I opened one and stuck my tester in the outlet and promptly got stung on my hand. I checked nearby pedestals and several were nest sites.

Lynne Whitmire

These are all good tips but We seldom got to choose a site on our recent 9 week trip to New Brunswick and Maine. We pretty much had to take what they assigned us as most of the campgrounds were full. They would get irritated if we came back and said the site was unsuitable. Many had a take it or leave it attitude. One campground even overbooked and didnt have a site for us at all. They let us boon dock for a night and still charged us half price. It was on Labor Day weekend and there was not another site open for miles.

robert

I have had very few campgrounds that actually let us pick our site. Most times its a take or leave it

George Daunis

If camping in a hot climate in a Motor home, try to face north. This way your windshield will not act like a heatilator and cause your AC to run more. Also, it will put your patio awning on the shady side during the late afternoon when it is hottest. Reverse and head South in a cold climate.

Fifth wheels may want to reverse this advice if they have a large rear window that can heat up the living area. However, your patio awning will be on the sunny side in the late afternoon.

Invest in windshield and window covers to cut the heat when you are just lucky to get any site.

If Boon-docking, always leave room to drive right out, if the situation gets dicey. Just fire-up the motor home and drive off.

Be super aware in rest-stops or pull offs. We have been sized up by several shady looking people who tried to block us in and approach our RV. Do Not open the door to strangers, if you are alone in the area.

If overnight parking in a Truck Stop, try to find a curb out of the way and park with your bedroom slide over the curb. When walking in a Truck Stop yard do not walk close to the front of the trucks. They can not see the ground directly in front of their Truck and we have heard of people and we have experienced almost being run over.

Happy Camping!

Chuck Dunn

Maybe take a quick look at the rest rooms. That will give you a good idea of the camp maintenance standards.

Bob

Don’t rely on ratings in the good Sam directory. They are often unreliable.

Robbie

22 good reasons we boondock.

John

I second the comment on Campsitephotos.com. Although there aren’t photos of every campground out there, those they do have provide an invaluable looksee.

But, if I were to find a campsite with all of these 22 criteria, I’m probably buy it and never camp anywhere else. It’s all about compromise & an attempt to meet as many as possible.

Mara Sievers

This is a wonderful list. Thank you for sharing your tips after all those years of experience!

Nanci

I love all the suggestions and wish there were enough campsites available to use them! Now I am just glad I can find a site for a 40ft motorhome and park and park the tow car at the site. Google Earth does really help when I actually have a choice.

Had to chuckle at the parking under fruit trees- just cleaned off the vinyl picnic tablecloth and discovered that there must be a fully ripe purple berry tree very close by as the birds seem to have ingested a lot of purple berries with somewhat uncomfortable results…

CONSTANCE MCKENNA

In addition to the 22 helpful hints for picking a campsite, there is also a website called CampsitePhotos.com where there are individual site photos from over 1400 campgrounds. I’ve used it to successfully pick some lovely sites.