Site Selection & Registration
Every campground is a little bit different, but the process is generally the same. Campgrounds have designated sites that correspond to a number or letter (or some combination of letters and numbers). In frontcountry campgrounds (campgrounds you drive to), typically a small card or piece of paper is clipped to a post to indicate the check-out date for the current occupants. Backcountry (campgrounds you hike to) permits are usually a tag you display on your backpack while hiking, and on your tent while camping. Some sites may be reservable, either by calling the campground or through online reservation systems including Recreation.gov, while other sites within a campground may be available by a first-come, first-served system.
Before you go, check your park's website for information about passes and fees. Entrance passes are required at most national parks and recreation sites. You can purchase passes in person at most parks or online.
Which Campsite is the Best?
- Be aware of potential hazards like flash flooding, lightning, wind and dead trees/branches around your campsite.
- In the backcountry, avoid staying on ledges or high peaks where wind and lightning could become a hazard.
- Look up; if you see dead branches overhead, you should not camp under them.
- Do you want to be near the bathroom or shower house for convenience, or farther away, where it's quieter and darker?
- Do you need to park an RV? Do you need electrical hook-ups?
How to Lay Out a Campsite
- Sheltered and away from the middle of a field if there is a lightning storm and from the edge of cliffs.
- Away from dead trees that might fall.
- Away from ravines that might flood.
- Keep 200 feet between a cooking space and sleeping space.
- Always store food at least 200 feet from your sleeping space.
- Do not sleep in clothes used during cooking.
- Check park regulations for proper food storage; many parks require a bear box or bag.
Set Up A Tent
- Find a large, flat place to put your tent, and remove any sticks, rocks, pinecones, or other debris from the area. These objects are not only uncomfortable to sleep on, they may puncture your tent.
- Avoid low and sunken areas on the ground ground -- they can become extremely wet when it rains.
- Orient the tent so that your head will be on the uphill side while you are sleeping.
- Some tents come with a groundcloth or "footprint" upon which you will set up the tent. If your tent does not have one included, a waterproof tarp will also work - just be sure to fold any excess tarp under, or else it will collect water rather than repel it. Lay down the groundcloth, then set up your tent according to your manufacturer's instructions.
RVs and Campers
Last updated: December 2, 2020