By Chuck Woodbury
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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When we can we like to get a spot sort of close to the campground shower & bathroom facilities. I am tall and not too small. I prefer a shower with lots of room compared to our RV shower. Helps cut down on the moisture in the RV as well. Often use their bathroom as well.
A handful of these tips can be used when booking on-line/ahead of time (i.e., some cg maps show location of dumpsters,mpkay parks, etc.) The rest would pretty much demand you be in a first come, first serve situation. Not one I am often in, especially these days!
NICE suggestions but doesn’t mesh with your many articles RE crowded and full campgrounds.. today your lucky if you find A site in any camp ground. like you say, need more rv parks around the country. safe travels all.
Chestnut trees are as exciting as pine trees when it comes to being bombarded by squirrels. Ask us how we know…
My choice of campgrounds starts with Google Earth. Most of the time you can see how they are positioned and what is in the vicinity like train tracks, airports, etc. It’s great to have a satellite view of a place you’ve never been to. It tells me if I need to keep looking.
22 tips for choosing the best campsite1) You are so correct on the dumpster, not just emptying but people opening the lid throwing there stuff in and dropping the metal lid, all day and half the night,
2) Any, I mean any signs of dog leashes and dog containers, etc means barking dogs. I am tired of dog owner campers telling me “If you would stay inside, my dog cant see you and wont bark at you”…pitiful.
Now a days just getting a campsite is luck, picking a site doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
What color is the sky on the planet where you get to make these choices while reserving online, or even on arrival?
Must be the Red Planet…..
Thanks Chuck for the great tips for a variety of camping situations. Here’s an important safety tip for desert boondockers like us: look around your chosen spot before you commit to setting up camp. If you are in a “wadi” (wash) or see evidence of water flowing around or through your site, move on, even if it’s completely dry at the time, mid-summer, and no precip in the forecast. This is Army desert FTX experience talking. Flash floods kill unsuspecting people every year. Even if it is dry where you are now, a rain shower many miles away can launch a fast-moving flash flood. These kill unsuspecting people every year
Thank you for that information.
While these are great ideas, who gets to pick their campsite AT the campground? We reserve online and either pick then or they give us the best available. … but we’ve never rolled into a place where they said, “go pick one out.”
Being near a babbling brook is about as serene a setting as you can be in. Just look at the nearby topography to be sure that any rising water has a place to go besides flooding you out. Most places are fine but I always think of safety first.
Good Golly, people. This isn’t a home site you’ll live in for decades. It’s a campsite for a few nights. Settle in and soak up the experiences. Enjoy the surprises and laugh along with them. Skip the checklist.
Seriously! I have never been given a choice. Just take what they assign you. Lucky to even get a reservation. I wish I had the luxury of making these choices. Good list however. In general 85% of the time I am a happy camper at the campsite.
Another tip, which I probably learned on this site: if possible, park so your fridge is on the shaded part of your rig. It won’t have to work as hard to stay cool.
My boyfriend and I are on a cross-country trip for two weeks now, and we’re looking for an RV resort to camp at for the weekend. Since we’re planning to video call some of our friends and family to update them on our adventures, I’ll follow your advice about checking the site’s Wi-Fi signal strength before settling in. Hopefully, we find a good RV resort soon with a strong Wi-Fi signal. Thanks for the great tips!
Check to see if there are low spots where water can stand if it rains. Trees will drip for hours after a rain.
If your are worried about sap, squirrels and bird poop. Don’t camp in the woods.
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.
Richard Scheich, yes, it depends on the park where the loudest noise occurs.
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.
I like this ….thanks!
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.
Black widows, too 😳