By Paul Stimers
Are you or a member of your family on active military duty? Are you retired, disabled, or have an honorable discharge? 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:
- Honorably discharged veterans
- 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 the 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
Washington Headquarters Services:Commissary, Exchange, MWR expand patron base starting Jan. 1, 2020