If you have never camped before, want to introduce children to camping, or need to test your new headlamp and skill in operating it, consider camping in your backyard. Some of the very first memories of camping begin with pitching a tent a few yards from the house. The familiar setting and security of the backdoor lit at night is the perfect testing ground to introduce sleeping under the stars and learn some ins and outs of camping. Use your backyard to get a feel for what it's like to sleep on the ground, to prepare a meal outdoors, or to test your gear. You don't have to be in a "real" campground to learn the art of camping or to make memories.
Different Types of Camping
Most camping that occurs in parks is considered frontcountry camping, where visitors drive to an established campground. It's commonly referred to as, car camping. The campground typically consists of camping loops (roads shaped in an actual loop), and each loop has numerous camping sites established to accommodate tents, and in some cases, towed campers and RVs.
Typical amenities you will find in frontcountry campgrounds include:
- Check-in station - This may be a building with an employee to assist you, or a self check-in board to register and pay for your site.
- Site number - This identifies the site number and loop a site is in.
- Parking spot - Designated parking spots for vehicles are evident, along with spaces for vehicles towing a camper or parking a longer RV.
- Electric hookups - This amenity is generally designated for RV sites.
- Dump stations - A location were RVs park to, um, dump toilet waste.
- Restrooms - Some restrooms have flush toilets and sinks with running water (often cold water). The restrooms may also be referred to as, comfort stations. Campgrounds with a "primitive" designation will most likely have vault toilets (think of an outhouse), non-potable water (water you must treat before drinking), or no water at all.
- Potable water (water you can drink) - Spigots are found throughout the campground.
- Fire rings - Build your campfire here, or use the attached grill lid attached to it for cooking over an open fire.
- Tent pad - This is a designated spot for your tent, typically lined with wood and filled with gravel for rain drainage. Some campsites do not have this, but it's obvious where to pitch your tent.
- Amphitheater - Some campgrounds have amphitheaters where Park Rangers give special programs.
- Camp Store - Not all campgrounds have a nearby camp store, but some do. Don't be surprised by the supply and demand prices.
- Food storage boxes - You may visit campgrounds where food is required to be stored in special boxes.
- Wheelchair Accessible - Campgrounds have wheelchair accessible campsites, paths, and restroom facilities. Be sure to check with the park you are visiting for a complete list.
Frontcountry camping is like living in a neighborhood. You will have neighbors on either side and across from you, kids playing and riding bikes, some noise, the smell of BBQ cooking, and sometimes, a little night life (stories and snacking) when the campfires start roaring. Here are some other things you can expect.
- Cell connectivity and wifi - You will not always have a cell signal, and wifi is pretty much nonexistent in campgrounds. Don't fear -- consider this your digital detox. Try it. Pick up a book, take a walk, and talk to each other. Memories are made with human connections.
- Park Ranger patrol - Park Rangers patrol campgrounds to ensure that everyone is safe and enjoying themselves.
- Pets - They are part of the family and welcome in parks, but most, if not all park regulations, will require your pet to be on leash and restrained at all times. Be sure to check with the park you are visiting for a complete list of pet regulations.
- Food storage - You won't be the only one who's hungry. Wildlife will be on the lookout for spilled food, unattended food and coolers, and a handout from you. Please don't feed wildlife. Be sure to check with the park you are visiting for a complete list of food storage regulations.
- Potential for fines - Not a very fun part of camping, but if you don't break any rules, this isn't a concern.
- Crowds - Campgrounds can be busy places, especially during peak seasons or holidays. For those seeking more solitude, consider off the beaten path campgrounds or backcountry camping.
For those with an adventurous spirit who really want to rough it, backcountry camping opportunities abound. Backcountry camping offers self-reliance opportunities for exploring the outdoors, where you rely on the skills and equipment that you bring with you (be sure to visit our How to Camp section for in-depth information on how to backcountry camp). Examples of backcountry camping adventures include:
- Water trips (rafts, canoes, boats)
The great thing about backcountry camping is that you get to choose the amenities you want to bring with you. Here are a few others you will encounter:
- Fresh air
- Clear rivers and lakes
- Open spaces
- Night skies like you've never seen
- Natural sounds
Last updated: October 9, 2015