Are you or a member of your family on active military duty? Are you retired or disabled? If you are, did you know you’re eligible to camp on military campgrounds?
If you’ve never heard of the program, it’s called the MWR branch. And all branches of service have one. It stands for the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) branch.
If you aren’t a vet, are you eligible to camp at military campgrounds?
As a general rule, if you’ve never been in the military, you can’t camp at military campgrounds. However, some military campgrounds will allow civilians with no military connections to camp. So if you are a civilian, call the campground. Ask them if they’ll allow you to stay with them.
Here are the basic MWR access requirements:
- Active duty military
- Military retirees and their families
- Former prisoners of war
- Authorized caregivers of veterans enrolled in the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program
- Purple Heart and Medal of Honor recipients
- Veterans with service-related disabilities
- Members of reserve components (National Guard, etc.)
For details about the MWR program, read the references below.
Do MWR campgrounds offer reservations?
Military campgrounds are popular with people who RV and camp. But in most campgrounds, active military members take priority.
Because of demand, you can’t drive up and expect to get a camping spot. For that reason, many campgrounds allow reservations, and the more popular campgrounds take reservations 6 months or a year in advance.
In the chart below, there are links to each state’s MWR campgrounds. If you click on the link, you’ll find the latest information about the campground. And you’ll also find the address, phone number, and information on reservations.
Do military campgrounds have 24-hour access?
Whether you can enter a military installation 24/7 depends upon the installation. I’ve lived on bases where the gates are open 24 hours a day, while other installations close their gates after hours and on weekends.
After the gates close, security personnel will let people in. So when camping at a military campground, find out when the gates close and open. And get the number to call if you need to get through the gate after hours.
Do MWR campgrounds rent RVs or have short-term housing?
Some military campgrounds have RVs, stationary trailers, and temporary housing for rent.
Recently, I talked to a retired Navy Chief. She had vacationed in Hawaii and needed a place to stay while there. So she rented a small apartment on one of the naval bases for a few days. She said it wasn’t anything fancy, but it was neat and clean. And it saved her some money.
Military campgrounds by state
Stay up-to-date on military campgrounds
Information on military campgrounds changes from time to time. If you want to stay up-to-date, here are some referral websites.
Military Benefits. This site is an excellent resource for everything military. On it, you can find the latest information on everything from getting a loan, to jobs, to education. If you’re a veteran, bookmark this site.
U.S. Military Campgrounds and RV Parks. We pulled the information for our chart from this website. Their articles focus on camping, and they have a members’ forum with excellent information, as well.
Military.com. I like this site because it’s got a lot of information and news for active military and veterans. They break the news into sections, with a section for each branch of service and current events. If you want to stay current on what’s important to vets, bookmark this site.
Allstays.com. This site has an app for finding military and public campgrounds, and it also shows public camping places like Walmart. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t work on Android phones. Hopefully, they’ll come out with an Android application. When they do, I’m uploading it to my phone. [Editor: Allstays Pro works on Android.]
Military campgrounds offer a lot of benefits to vets who qualify. But popular sites have long waiting times, so plan for your trip ahead of time. By planning your stay, not only will you camp in a secure area, but you’ll also be camping with fellow vets.
DoD Civilian Employee Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Activities and Supporting Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities (NAFI) – DoDI 1015.08
Lodging Policy – DoDI 1015.11
Military Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Programs – DoDI 1015.10
Great campgrounds, Great campsites and usually nice facilities. 100% Disabled veteran with access. Been staying on base as often as possible. Been doing this for 6 years now and love it.
We’re a retired military family. We always try to work in stays at military campgrounds along a route of travel. Some campgrounds are near to home so we’ll stay at those for several days. They all differ and we appreciate the differences. For example, Hill Air Force Base, Ogden, UT is pretty much no frills with full hookups on a very busy base. Fort Lewis, WA has full hookups nestled in tall shady pines right on a beautiful lake. They all have their pluses and minuses, but the biggest plus is the nightly fee!
We ordered our tiny camping trailer in 2021 and I did a lot of research on facilities and just about everything else while we waited for it to be delivered. I was surprised to find that we could not stay at a military campground even though my husband is a Viet Nam vet with an honorable discharge. Now we tend to stay at COE or State Park campgrounds. Or KOA’s along the interstate if we are just passing through on a road trip.
Retired Navy, I have thought about camping on base many times, but only done it once. Having to either check firearms or travel w/o is one impediment. The other is, there are a surprising number of bases that DO NOT take reservations, first-come, first-served, which makes for a tough travel call. Last June we spent 6 days in Albuquerque and would have loved to stay on Kirtland AFB, but no reservations. So do you travel there, hope you’ll get a site. But then if you don’t, you might not be able to get something out in town last minute either.
Remember firearms are not allowed on military installations and your vehicle’s are subject to search upon entering.
We have had to check our firearms at the gate, but it was no problem for us. Never had our rig searched, fortunately. But doubt it is any worse than at the border checkpoints!! lol
Does checking them or retrieving them impart any significant delays in your traveling?
Since my husband’s retirement from the military we have stayed in at about 40 different military RV parks and campgrounds from FL to AK and ME to CA. They are a fabulous resource for qualified military personnel and their families! We love staying in these “gated communities.” 🙂
Paul, thank you for the article and the links! As a retired sailor, I appreciate them.
I would offer one caveat to your statement about families using these facilities. The active duty or retired member must sponsor the family member and must be in the vehicle when going through the gate of the base. They might also need to be with them at check-in.
Great reminder. One more caveat to that: non-family members can be sponsored guests at some installations. Check first, but when we went on vacation with our camping buddies, we were able to sponsor them at several sites. At some installations, you have to remain with the sponsored person when on base. At others, they got a temporary ID and could come and go as they pleased while we were there. Of course, they cannot use facilities such as the commissary, nor can you purchase on their behalf. But otherwise, it was a great experience for us.
There is also a Facebook page for Military FamCamp Reviews
My son in law is active duty, currently stationed at Scott AFB in Illinois. Previously, he was at Wright-Patterson in Dayton, OH. When we would go visit, he would make reservations for us at the FamCampground. We stayed there 3 or 4 times over a few years. It was very convenient.