Saturday, September 23, 2023


Marketing study shows private campgrounds do better job of serving RVers

It seems the American Camper has become the most studied species since the gray wolf was introduced to Yellowstone National Park. Everywhere you turn, there’s a study touting the latest and greatest data on what campers love to do (or wish they could do) and what RVers really want out of their recreational time.

The latest entry in the Camper Data Sweepstakes comes from the RV Industry Association, which just released its Campground Industry Market Analysis. The new report is supposedly a compilation offering details on the availability of campsites, as well as the campground amenities that are available at federal, state, municipal and private campgrounds in the U.S.

RVIA Vice President of Membership and Research Bill Baker says the new study is an attempt by the manufacturer’s trade group to work with the rest of the outdoor industry to improve the RVing experience.

“This is the first time a study like this has ever been done and given how popular camping has become overall and the growth of RVing in particular, it’s important to understand the total catalog of campgrounds and campsites in the ecosystem, as well as the amenities, to better plan for the future,” Baker told Woodall’s Campground Magazine in an interview this week.

RVIA touted the report as the most comprehensive study of its kind. “Never before has this amount of data on campgrounds and RV campsites been available in a single report,” it said in its press release.

Well, it’s all available if you’re a dues-paying member of the RV Industry Association. That’s the only way you’ll get access to the full study.

What the RV Industry Association did share was a mix of stuff we already knew, along with some genuine specifics on things we didn’t.

Most RVers really, really want full hookups

Kampgrounds of America’s (KOA) 2021 North American Camping Report had already told us that the availability of full-service RV hookups was one of the top 10 amenities RVers use when selecting where to camp. The KOA study said about 29 percent of RVers were in search of full hookups when choosing a park.

But the new RV Industry Association data found that only 8 percent of the campsites in public parks, and just 51 percent of the sites in privately owned campgrounds offer full-service hookups.

It’s also no surprise to RVers who have attempted to book a campsite in the past two years that the parks are full. The new RVIA study found that during the peak camping season of June, July, and August, 76 percent of all campsites are booked.

Where’s the WiFi?

The new study also found a wide disparity in RVing amenities between private and public campgrounds. The main culprits here are WiFi availability and dump stations, as well as pull-through RV sites.

“Altogether, these findings indicate that increasing campsite amenities should be a priority of the campground industry, as this would improve consumers’ overall campsite experience,” the RV Industry Association said in their data synopsis.

Again, the need for better WiFi and the benefits of pull-through sites aren’t a secret to private park owners. It’s one of the primary reasons campers often choose private parks over their less-well-funded public counterparts.

The real value of the RV Industry Association’s latest attempt at data gathering in the Campground Industry Market Analysis is the bridge it just might build between the camping industry and RV manufacturers. For decades, the two groups have often sung from different songbooks.

The Campground Industry Market Analysis bottom line

Any attempt by the RV manufacturing industry to better understand campers and RVers is a good thing. This latest study—which was supported by KOA, the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), and Cairn Consulting—highlights the disparity that still exists between public campgrounds and privately owned parks.

In a nutshell, privately owned parks do a better job of supporting the needs of RVers by providing better access to hookups and other desired RV amenities than government-run facilities.

The for-profit privately owned camping industry has always been far ahead of federal, state and municipal campgrounds. But maybe, just maybe, more hard data like this will help the RV Industry Association and other outdoor industry advocacy groups garner the attention of lawmakers who control the public park purse strings.


Mike Gast
Mike Gast
Mike Gast was the vice president of Communications for Kampgrounds of America Inc. for 20 years before retiring in 2021. He also enjoyed a long newspaper career, working as a writer and editor at newspapers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, and Montana. He and his wife, Lori Lyon, now own and operate the Imi Ola Group marketing company, focusing on the outdoor industry.


  1. I’d like to see a further breakdown of these stats to see which is more important to different kinds of RVers: More solitude and natural surroundings versus access to more amenities, socializing and entertainment. Many private facilities offer wall-to-wall paved pads with plenty of “amenities” and little solitude and nature, a sort of “suburban camping” experience. On the opposite end of the spectrum are dispersed camping opportunities with no amenities and plenty of solitude, quiet and natural surroundings.

  2. How do they ask the questions? Is it in terms of will you pay more for this? If you had to have one over the other which would it be? If it is just what would you like to have my answer would be: Full hook ups (WES) wi-fi, pull thru on pavement, picnic table and firepit, large site with landscaping so I do not have to see other rigs. Convenient nature trails. Also, I don’t want to pay too much.

  3. Private industry will always provide more services and amenities than government run facilities. The profit motive means you have to give your customers what they want or go out of business.

    • That’s kind of ironic though because the more amenities they have and the more they charge for it and pack people next to each other, the less they are going to see me and a lot of other folks. But if they are making money hand over fist, I guess they can have it. And it may be difficult for the rest of us to understand the RV folks that pay good money for that, but if that’s what they like I guess they can have it too. More power to everybody. I’m just glad all those people are there and not out in the public areas running their generators. So clearly more KOAs are good for everybody!!!

  4. We find the states parks in Washington to be consistently well-maintained, clean and generally great places to camp. We’ve stayed at many private RV parks and found consistency in maintenance and cleanliness to be woefully lacking. Some are nice, some not.

  5. So much depends on who they interviewed and where. If most of the interviews took place in private parks, it is no surprise that it is skewed towards amenities and full hookups. If it was taken primarily in public and national parks, it would be skewed the opposite. I for one do not need full hookups either. As others have mentioned, I also like space and nature. It is a benefit to all of us to have choice. If I want to stay in an area for longer than 2 weeks to explore, I have to look at private or park hopping or boondocking. We just need options.

  6. This RVer generally prefers public park campgrounds or boondocking. I do not “NEED” full hook ups or pull through sites, although I do sometimes use them when available. And I do not “DESIRE” the resort like activities and “RV amenities” that KOA and many other privately owned parks provide and charge for.

    You write that this study “highlights the disparity that still exists between public campgrounds and privately owned parks,” as if public parks ought to duplicate the bells and whistles of the privately owned ones. That is a wrong assumption! It is not a disparity, the two categories are just different, the way a pop-up is different from a 5th wheel is different from a class A. For myself, I like my small travel trailer. Try to make a reservation on a summer weekend and you will discover just how popular both types of parks are – both are booked up early!

  7. Of course, the RVIA won’t release the entire survey to the public or share it with the campground owners. You can bet there is a lot of insider information to gleam for the RV manufacturers community that they don’t want the public to know of. RVIA reminds me of funeral director associations that meet in private and secrecy to scheme ways to increase profit margins from 300% to 500% or more.

    The RVIA is no friend of the RV’ing lifestyle consumer.

  8. Apparently, no one asked the campers who prefer public campgrounds BECAUSE they have no wi-fi, electricity or sewer hookups. Try to get a reservation at a MN State Park and then tell me they are not meeting campers needs.

  9. Our RV is on-site year round at a campground. We don’t have sewage hook up and it wasn’t a concern of ours (we pay $20 every 2 weeks to have it dumped for us). The campground has a heated pool (awesome) but, for us, the decision was easy. We live in the city and wanted the weekend escape. Our site overlooks a pond and it is worth every breath of clean air and relaxation., its huge! (Could actually fit a 2nd unit on it and still have plenty of space) I love that there is roughly only 20 sites that are available by the day/week.

    • Some people camp with their RV. Some live in their RV. Some just vacation in their RV. That is what makes us all unique, the lines from one to another are very blurred. Happy Trails

  10. One of your headings is “Most RVers really, really want full hookups” and then go on to quote the KOA study that says “about 29 percent of RVers were in search of full hookups when choosing a park”. What??! Since when did 29% become most?
    As far as I’m concerned a campsite sewer connection is a waste of money. The last thing I want to do is drain my tanks every day. Even the electric hook-up is very optional as far as I’m concerned. What I really want is privacy in a natural outdoor setting and a view other than the side of someone else’s RV and I’m not willing to pay motel level rates to get it.

    In that way the public campgrounds beat the socks of private parks and that goes double for KOAs.

  11. As lithium batteries and solar panels become cheaper and cheaper, I find myself caring less and less about hookups. It’s nice to have access to a sewer dump and potable water, but there are very few places that I really need power.

    • Yes, it is rare. That’s why it’s so nice to have a much better camping experience in a public campground than a private one.

  12. LOL. An “unbiased” report by an industry that builds hookup-demanding RVs. Really?

    As the population grows I’d like to see public parks get rid of hookups and long pull-throughs, make more room for folks with tents and smaller RVs. Public campgrounds usually are created with focus on the natural attractions, not as mobile home parking lots.

    If you want to drive a bus you can use a bus-oriented “campground” with hookups.

  13. The privatization of any industry be it healthcare or public housing or education usually leads to increasing costs. Camping should be camping not motorized housing with hook-ups. Camping can be great w/o that huge carbon footprint we are talking about here.

  14. First you have to understand RVIA’s mission. Then you’ll understand their bias in the survey. Those of us who camp in state parks prefer to be around nature and enjoy nature’s peace and tranquillity. Those that camp in private campgrounds prefer to have more social events. parties. Their RV’s are parked so close together it makes you wonder how they backed into their campsite. We all enjoy different things.

    • I prefer state parks. Private are usually so crowded you have to choose whether you want your awning or your slides out. When I’m looking for a place to camp if I see swimming pool or camp store I scroll on. The place I’m staying at right now is $9 a night as opposed to $45+. And with my weboost I don’t need WiFi and with my solar I don’t need to be plugged in

    • We very much prefer the state parks and national parks but find ourselves spending most of our time in private parks. It is just getting ridiculously difficult to get a spot in a public park. When we do get in you find half the sites stay empty even though they have reserved signs on them.

  15. Let’s be nice, folks. Not all private CGs are resorts. We look for small, out of the way, mom-and-pop CGs. We don’t care for a lot of amenities. We just want a pull-through for the MH, and FHUs. If you enjoy public, that’s terrific. Get out and love it. If you enjoy private, that’s terrific. Get out and love it. And be glad for the choice.

  16. We were at a Park in Junction,TX and was thankful they had great WiFi. Our phones did not work at all unless we had them connected to parks WiFi. We were there workamping. Best WiFi ever. Every site could stream off of it. We would of had to drive 50 miles to use phones to do business or just check in on family. While we were there we had a family member who had cancer and it was great to keep up with them.
    We were at another park in Gunnison,CO that no one no matter the service provider had phone service. The park had a phone you could use in library in the day. The WiFi was none existent. So for 5 month we had to drive 15 miles to do any banking and such. We had a son pass away and by some miracle a text got through to us. Had to drive in middle of night to call family. That’s one reason I find WiFi important. Not just a tool to play games and such.

  17. I would MUCH prefer a public campground. We just need electricity for hubby’s night time oxygen concentrator.

  18. Wait a minute folks! This says nothing about what campers want! The way I understand it, this was a poll to CAMPGROUNDS, not campers. This is all about what is out there, not about how much they are used or campers preferences! I am surprised that RV Travel editors got sucked in to the RV industries point of view. I’ve been forced to stay at two private campgrounds in the two years I’ve been camping (22 trips) and that was because of location or popular public campgrounds being full… I MUCH preferred the public ones! Public campgrounds do a far better job of serving campers than private ones in my humble opinion.

    • You are spot on. This is a speculative assessment stating that because there are a lot of private parks, people must want them more. In reality, people use them for various reasons and like you and I when we have to. I use private parks when there is no public option. That means I use them; not that I want it more than a state park.

  19. Full hook ups and pull through sites. Most of the new units are being sold to people that have a tough enough time remembering to use their turn signals let alone having to back a rig into a campsite and heaven forbid that little Billy and Sally will have to put their electronics down for more than 5 minutes. The RVIA represents the manufacturers and, of course, will push for making it easier for them to sell more units.

  20. I love most public campgrounds even if they do not have Full Hookups. Usually have a much bigger space and plenty of wildlife to observe from my ‘porch’. Also get to talk to folks walking by and rarely get perturbed by the guy playing his stereo at full volume as in private entertainment campgrounds.

  21. We live FT and travel in a 40ft class A. As stated a pull through site is appreciated when I’m just stopping for the night so we don’t have to unhook to Jeep; otherwise, it not as big a deal as portrayed in the study and article. FHU are great but since it’s just 2 of us we utilize the bath house more and can last up to 3 weeks before dumping. As previously stated in the comments, I’m at the public lands (national and state parks, COE) for nature, not a man-made campground and amusement park. No WiFi? Read a book, stroll the CG and visit with other people, sit and listen to nature speak to you. Our society should not forget how to live without electronics, at least for the short duration of your stay in the public lands. Our brains need to disconnect from the internet periodically to relax and refresh. Let’s preserve a slice of nature for ourselves and future generations.

  22. So, a study funded by a private campsite company finds that people prefer the amenities at private campsites. Go figure!

  23. My camping choice for both one night traveling campgrounds and destination campgrounds are public campgrounds. I’m glad to hear most RVers choose private campgrounds which will ultimately leave more space at public ones. And that has been my experience. Generally I find state park campgrounds have available space weekdays in the summer, excluding Florida.

  24. I like to stay at pull thru sites when it is just a night’s stop. Get up and get going. Back in sites are just fine with me. Do appreciate a dump site.
    Did stay at a great RV campground in Benson. Had everything we wanted after the long drive across Texas.

    • Agree somewhat. If we must stay in an RV parking lot after a travel day, a pull-thru where we don’t have to unhitch is nice as is the opportunity to dump. However, please do not push public “camp” grounds to follow suit and build parking lots with “amenities.” The greatest amenity for this RVer is the natural landscape and escape from the crowds. We keep our unit small so we won’t need much and ask for few extras. As others have noted, the data cited in the article is from the industry—not the end users.

  25. This is great news, for RV’ers like us. We enjoy the State and National Park campgrounds, over Private campgrounds. This study will potentially improve the availability of those campgrounds.

    • My thoughts exactly. This season will be a good indication of Public/Private use. What would be an interesting study, and im not so sure its not being done in a form right now.
      At a recent stay in a State Park, upon check-in, the question was asked; “how many slide outs does your unit have”. Unfortunately, i wasn’t doing the check-in on that stay, or i would have inquired the “why”.

      • This is a legitimate question which is probably trying to determine if your slide outs are on both sides, some campsites won’t accommodate that.

        • Thanks. You could be right. Since it was a state park, what do you think the remedy would have been, if it didnt work?

          • Hopefully they would have another site to accommodate your unit. If they did not have a site that would accommodate, as my Daddy would say “You could be SOL”. I hope not. Happy Trails

  26. This is the first year the majority of our stays were at private parks. We prefer the public parks with their large lots, beautiful settings and great hiking trails. The problem is most have a 14 day maximum. With increasing costs we decided to stay 3 to 4 weeks per location this time. That is not possible with public parks. We have to admit giving up space for some of the amenities such as hot tub, pool, Wifi and a laundry was nice for a change. However we do miss the wildlife and hiking trails. With the increase in fuel costs we will be staying in one spot longer and traveling less.

  27. Hopefully the public parks will remain basic electricity and back-in sites. That way, more sites might be available for my family in the future.

    • I agree with you Ed. I (we) have never looked for parks with full hookups. But then again I go to camp not stay in an RV at a resort.

    • I’m with Ed and Carol! Let’s hope this report does NOT change the amenities at public campgrounds. Let private RV parks have the amenity loving pool of campers, while the public parks cater to the more rustic loving campers.

      • I agree, we are currently working to make our camper more self sufficient.
        Maybe an upscale resort style campground every now and then but not my norm


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