Sunday, September 19, 2021
Sunday, September 19, 2021

Campground Crowding: Should boondocking sites have a reservation system? Yikes

RV sales have skyrocketed and more people than ever are taking up RVing. The result is campground crowding like never before! In this weekly blog, RVtravel.com readers discuss their experiences. Maybe we can find some helpful tips and ways to work around the problem.

Here are a few observations from our readers.

A great, secret place to stay!

John H. wrote to us this week sharing this great tip for those camping near the Badlands. “We were just in the tiny town of Interior, South Dakota, less than a mile from the Badlands National Park entrance and loop road. Having encountered fully booked sites in the area, two of those I called recommended calling the Badlands Grocery store on Main St in Interior. The lovely owner, Cristi, has five full-hookup sites on a patch of land opposite the grocery store and there’s a bar and restaurant just down the street. We took three days and toured this amazing area and stayed by the grocery store. Safe, quiet and nicely priced. Check this little place out and enjoy the Badlands. Just wanted to let everyone know.”

That’s a good spot to know about! Thanks for sharing, John. (And it’s not “secret” anymore.)

Off-grid sites are full, too!

Karl A. shares his experiences recently camping “off-grid” and how surprisingly full those spots are, too. “Recently we were camping at a campground ‘off-the-grid.’ No hookups, all dry. It is a first-come, first-served camp. Never, in more than 25 years, had there ever been an issue in getting a spot.

“We got there on a Thursday afternoon and not a single one was available. So we ended up 30 miles away at another. No big deal. The next time, we showed up on Wednesday afternoon and grabbed the only one available.

“After talking to the camp host, we were informed that people are showing up on Sunday or Monday afternoons to set up their camp and return a few days later. This is becoming more the norm in our experience. So, although we know enough to avoid state parks and KOAs primarily due to overcrowding, our out-of-the-way camps are also getting just as bad. I almost hope they’d all go to a reservation system. I am a planner so it works for me.”

What do you think about the idea of a reservation system for popular boondocking or off-grid spots?
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Hints from a State Park Supervisor regarding campground crowding

Rita D. sent us this advice: “I supervise a state park campground in KY. Yes, we are booked most weekends. But, weekdays aren’t as bad. People do cancel at the last minute so call and check to see if a site is available. Don’t expect it to be the best spot in the campground. Also, our state park campground has been here for years. There are mature trees and sites are pretty close, but it is a beautiful campground.” Thanks, Rita!

Hipcamp is the way to go

Jayne S. has not found one single campground full this year. Wow! “We have not been to one campground this year that has been full. But we do NOT stay at State or County campgrounds. Stopped doing that 30 years ago. Too much partying and large groups there that stay up late.

“There are so many small private campgrounds that are never full. We do always make reservations at least a month ahead. But when we arrive there are a lot of open sites.

“Also, would love to see you talk about Hipcamp. We opened up two sites with water/30 amp for RVs on our 20 acres. If anyone likes private camping Hipcamp is the way to go.”

Always seem to manage, even with campground crowding

It might be difficult, but Brad C. always manages to find a place to camp. He writes, “We have found difficulty around National Parks and within the Thousand Trails System. Other than that, we really have not had a hard time. Have been a long-time member of Thousand Trails and at their parks out West, I have found it hard to book for what we want. We always seem to manage a workaround with them one way or another. We also utilize city parks, Harvest Hosts, Hipcamp and even just last night a rest area.”

On a positive note…

Dawn H. shares the value of being flexible and enjoying the campsite, whatever it is. “We have not had any trouble finding spaces in campgrounds. We stay mostly in state parks where there are ‘natural amenities,’ such as trails and rivers or lakes, but pretty basic otherwise. Larger, more popular parks will usually require more advanced planning, but we try to adjust our camping expectations based on the sites available. If there are only basic sites available, meaning no hook-ups, but there is fresh water available, and perhaps a dump station, we pull out the solar panels and enjoy it anyway. With so many great places to stay and explore, it really helps to be flexible.

“We have friends who just completed a cross-country trip with only one pre-reserved site. They found places to stay every night with no trouble. Good days are still here! Get out and enjoy!”

Another reader, Jan K., mentioned flexibility in her comments, too. She wrote, “My husband and I grew up ‘dry camping’ using tents, as neither of our families had the money to do otherwise. We camped by a lake where it averaged 95 degrees, but we kept cool by playing in the lake nearby. This summer did require more flexibility and persistence on my part than in previous years but it paid off in the end. We do boondock for the majority of the year but summer is when we visit family and that requires staying at campgrounds. We have no plans to change our RVing lifestyle.”

It’s too expensive!

Raymond S. has been trying to make reservations a year out for a month-long stay and when he finds a site available he says it is too expensive! “I have been trying to make reservations in the Lancaster, PA, area and Maine for the summer ’22. We have been unable to find affordable campgrounds for monthly stays. On the rare occasion that they have a site available it is high priced. My wife and I are both disabled veterans and live on a fixed income. We are full-timers, so we need a place to stay.”

Do you have any suggestions for Raymond and his wife?
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From parking lot to parking lot

Dutch W. has definitely noticed a difference in “camping” these days, particularly with RVers. “I find it very interesting what a lot of people call camping these days. They pull up in their RV, the levelers go down, the antennas go up and they never leave the truck. Camping? I don’t think so.

I have never seen so many RV parking lots, ever. For most of the time, you get to listen to their Onan (generator) all weekend. What is that all about??? It seems like they drive from RV parking lot to RV parking lot. Out here they are no sooner open and then they are full.”

You don’t fit into that…

Donald W. has something to say about big rigs. “What I’ve noticed about crowding was all the big new RVs squeezing into campsites designed for medium-sized trailers and Class C motorhomes. Even the tent sites were squeezed by the oversize tents!

“We just enjoy it all!”

Kathy M. happily writes to us about the busy campgrounds and resorts. “We camp on the coast of southern Maine and have for the past three years. It’s a big resort with 800 sites. We never feel like it’s too busy, even when it is. Of course, the Canadian market is 60% of their regular business and the border has been closed. We also do book a year in advance. We enjoy the activity of lots of people, kids, and dogs. We just enjoy it all! The more the merrier.”

Now, some questions for you:

• Are you finding more and more campgrounds booked up? Or are you having no problem finding places to stay?

• If campgrounds continue to be crowded and RVing continues to become more popular, will it affect how or when you RV?

• Do you have any tips or secrets you’d like to share about finding campgrounds that aren’t as crowded?

Please use the form below to answer one or more of these questions, or tell us what you’ve experienced with campground crowding in general.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column here

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Mary Jo
24 days ago
What do you think about the idea of a reservation system for popular boondocking or off-grid spots?" Read more »

Absolutely not. We don’t like most RV parks as that is not camping. We like being able to get out there and go.

Bev W
1 month ago
What do you think about the idea of a reservation system for popular boondocking or off-grid spots?" Read more »

We prefer to plan ahead, and a reservation system seems to be very convenient.

Jay Ward
1 month ago
What do you think about the idea of a reservation system for popular boondocking or off-grid spots?" Read more »

Absolutely not. If one wants reserved space, go to an RV park, and pay. Leave the boonies alone.

Laura
1 month ago
What do you think about the idea of a reservation system for popular boondocking or off-grid spots?" Read more »

Definitely yes reservations should be, with a minimum cost, $8.00/night. That way if the site isn’t clean for the next person the name and contact info for that party is known and they can be ticketed. The cost also helps with the cost of these sites. There is work done there to keep the sites usable.

rvgrandma
1 month ago

No to reservations but if someone parks their rig and leaves until the weekend, that should not be allowed. Unless there is an emergency rigs should not be left alone for 24+hours. Any that are need to be ticketed or removed and then banned from boondocking in the area. That is just rude to take a spot when you are not there.

Donald N Wright
1 month ago

I have never boondocked. I am sure the popular sites fill quickly, often “cheek to jowl”. A reservation may keep others out of your site. In time, sites may have to be laid out.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

With “true” boondocking there ARE no sites. And there is no one else IN sight (unless you came with someone else). Although another reader “schooled” me on how the term has changed over time, everyone that I know, that goes out boondocking agrees with the original description. I guess we’re old folks who resist some changes. [snicker]

Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Agree with you, dry camping in a designated space in a campground is not boondocking.

Wanda Henning
1 month ago

Also, depending on your disibility rating you may be entitled to other discounts: Free National Park Pass which is also good at national monuments and corps of engineers campgrounds. You receive $50% off camping. With a rating of 40% or above the State of Oregon allows you to camp 10 free days per month with full hookups and you don’t have to be a resident of the state to be eligible. Also look into what extra benefits your home state offers for disabled veterans. AND Thank you for your service.

MrDisaster
1 month ago
Do you have any suggestions for Raymond and his wife?" Read more »

If your disability is “service connected” you may be able to use the “famcamps” found on many military bases. Some may allow monthly stays.

Wanda Henning
1 month ago
Do you have any suggestions for Raymond and his wife?" Read more »

We are retired veterans and stay on military bases mostly. Very affordable and safe. Even if you have not retired they are now open to all veterans. So check into it. You can start by using this website which provides info for all the base camps and contact info. Hope this helps.

pursuits712
1 month ago
Reply to  Wanda Henning

Same here. However, we noticed even those are increasing prices. Where we paid $18 two years ago, is $35 today W/E. Still better than many campgrounds though.

Victoria
1 month ago
Reply to  Wanda Henning

I don’t believe military cg’s are open to all veterans. Here’s a link that gives a lot of information but bottom line, honorably discharged vets with no other circumstance (disabled, Purple Heart, etc..) are not allowed to stay. https://www.militarycampgrounds.us/news-and-articles-mainmenu-2/military-campground-and-rv-parks-articles/authorized-use

Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles
1 month ago

I will definitely be renewing my Harvest Host and Boondockers Welcome memberships. My main problem is DH hates to travel and wants accommodations set up months in advance, Most participants want to be contacted closer to your actual planned trip.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

If you can make a reservation, I’m not so sure what you are doing can be referred to as “boondocking”.

bwodom
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Boondocking in today’s camping world has become camping with no hookups or amenities and also referred to as dry camping. Location could be in a parking lot, a field, or a mountaintop. A private spot in a fellow RVers pasture may offer no hookups and therefore is “boondocking” to us — but you do need to call first. Walmart parking lot, however, is FCFS. BLM lands seem to meet your definition best, but I don’t think the term is any longer limited to specific location/topography.

Duane R
1 month ago
Reply to  bwodom

Just because a term is misused frequently does not change the meaning of the word. Boondocking is remote, dispersed camping, usually on public land. Dry camping is any camping without hookups, which can be done in any campground, and is common in National Forest campgrounds.

I try to keep people using the terms correctly, as it makes a difference when someone asks for assistance finding “boondocking” camping. If they really mean National Forest campgrounds with no hookups, that is a completely different question.

Last edited 1 month ago by Duane R
Duane R
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Currently, yes. But, it shouldn’t be hard for the Forest Service to start posting campsite identifiers in dispersed-camping areas, then make them available for reservations. I think that could be a good idea.

Yes, it will take integrating the reservation and site-identification system with Google Earth, but it is not all that hard to do.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago
Reply to  Duane R

Living in Nevada, our version of “boondocking” is driving along, spotting a dirt road (there are zillions of them), and just heading out into the desert. We find a view we like, and park the house. Much of Nevada is BLM land but not “designated” as dispersed camping areas. We never see any BLM rangers – ever.

We like to frequent Quartzsite, AZ where there ARE designated dispersed camping areas. You get a free two week permit (during the ‘camping season’) or you buy the six or so month permit. Don’t know how any kind of reservation system would work there. There are no campsites.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tommy Molnar
Bill T
1 month ago
Do you have any suggestions for Raymond and his wife?" Read more »

May I ask what you consider as expensive? Many campgrounds are jumping on to the “on demand pricing” bandwagon leading to increase in pricing beyond the normal cost of living increase. I understand about a fixed income and need to adjust my budget where I can to stay operational. Thank you for your service and safe travels.

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