An email came in this week from reader Will K. Will wrote, “I read your article about advocating for more places to RV/camp. I just paid $86 for ONE night up the hill from Denver! One night! $86! I am really feeling this in Colorado. Don’t get me started lol. But anyhoo, how do we save this piece of Americana? I hate getting old and seeing things that mean so much just fade away. What do we do?”
Will, camping as we have known it IS fading away. I am old enough to remember just driving to Custer State Park in South Dakota and getting a campsite for a few days, no reservations needed. Last year we were in South Dakota and passed many South Dakota State Parks. “Campground Full” was the sign out front and online on every single one.
There are too many campers and too few campsites. When a campsite is available, the cost may well be out of reach. Prices are already beyond belief in some areas. I spent $128 a night for a KOA in California last year and when we had to cancel due to a death in the family, there was no refund. I feel the pinch and the pocketbook squeeze too.
How do we stop greedy campground owners from capitalizing on the current explosion of RVers? Well, isn’t that what capitalism is built on, supply and demand? One reader suggested in our weekly Campground Crowding column that we band together and refuse to go to the campgrounds that are price gouging. I love that idea, but desperation to find a campsite for the night could easily override people’s best intentions.
Street and permanent “campers”
There are too many dilapidated RVs on city streets, housing those that can’t afford a decent place to live or a high-priced campground. More and more campgrounds are taking in permanent RVs, to the dissatisfaction of a number of traveling RVers. That is limiting the number of campsites for overnight campers. Our readers comment frequently on how junky those campgrounds have become.
Many people have already turned to boondocking without hookups on federal lands, or pavement camping in parking lots of Walmarts, Cabela’s, rest stops, truck stops. Some have even turned to stealth camping. Is that the answer? Maybe, maybe not. Some BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and National Forest Lands have been shut down because of overcrowding and people trashing the areas. Can Quartzsite, Arizona, even support the sheer numbers of RVers that descend on that desert oasis anymore?
We plan to boondock as much as possible on our fall migration this year, but we have been fortunate enough to be able to invest in solar, significant battery capacity, and have large fresh water and holding tanks. For others, it is not that easy to transition to no-hookup camping. There are a number of reasons: Their RV is not equipped for it, concerns about safety and just not liking it.
We have found Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome a good source for places to stay a night or two when traveling, as well as being a fascinating place to visit. Just a few nights and it pays for itself, even when there is a suggested donation or purchase. Those places, however, are also booking up earlier than ever before.
What can we do?
Make our voices heard. Here are a few suggestions to keep camping alive:
- Petition state and local governments for more campsites and to take care of current recreation areas.
- Write or email state and national senators and congress legislators.
- The website, Outdoor Recreation, covers fifteen states that have government offices to contact and are dedicated to Outdoor Recreation.
- Attend public, local meetings when new campgrounds are being discussed. They need people in favor to attend… not just those opposed.
- Call, email, write and pressure the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) to address the death of campsites they helped create. Contact your RV manufacturer directly and ask what they are doing.
- Contact National Association of Campgrounds, for private campground owners.
- Support mom-and-pop campgrounds. They are under tremendous pressure to sell to corporations. As difficult as it is to be an RVer in this crunch time, it is equally hard on the small campground owners. A lot of people, seasoned and new, are angry, feel entitled and don’t follow the rules.
Enjoy what is left
Unfortunately, it will never go back to the “good ol’ days” of spacious, always-open camping spots. Just like dial telephones, typewriters, VCR tapes, or the Howdy Doody Show will never be making a comeback. (Well, never say never, I suppose.)
But (and this is a big BUT) it is still possible to find a campsite in the woods, sit around a campfire and make s’mores. Enjoy it while you can, for tomorrow is not promised to us or to the campgrounds.