Anybody that says camping is an inexpensive hobby is crazy. You have to buy all your gear, multiple tents, food/drinks, firewood and who knows what else. There is one way to save a little bit of money when taking a large family camping. You can jam multiple tents onto a single campsites, but that brings up the questions. How many tents can fit on a campsite?
The number of tents allowed on a site varies from one campground to the next, but you can usually have 2-3 tents on a single campsite. It depends on the size of the site, but most campgrounds and state parks limit you to 6 people on a single site and 1-2 cars. You will have to ask for a double site if you lots of people that need their own tent.
While you might be tempted to save money by jamming multiple families on a single site, it might be worth asking for a double. You won’t be spending all your time in the tent. There needs to be room to socialize, build a campfire, cook, and do other fun activities.
How Many Tents Per Campsite?
You really need to call the campground to find out how many tents can fit on a single campsite. Campgrounds and State/National parks usually have a set rule in place to limit how many people can stay on a site. They don’t want 5 families jammed on a single site to save money.
Lets ignore the campground rules for a minute. You don’t want to jam more than 2-3 tents on a campsite since sites aren’t all that big in most campgrounds. The average RV site is only about 15x40ft and tent only sites are even smaller (12×30).
Pull 1-2 cars in there and you won’t be left with much room. You’ll be lucky to have a 10×10 area for a campfire in the middle with 2-3 small tents.
Tell Them If You’re Staying In A Tent (Kids, Handicapped)
You should definitely notify the campground if you plan on staying in a tent. They’ll be able to set you up closer to bathrooms which is especially important with kids and older/handicapped people. Walking a kid across the park 5 times a day to use the bathroom gets old fast.
Choose 3-4 Person Tents
Don’t get tricked into buying a ridiculously large tent. I don’t get why anybody would ever buy those massive 9 or 10 person tents. Do you really need a multi-room cabin tent that costs 3-400 dollars?
All most people need is a 3-4 person tent. You might want to go with a larger 6 person tent with young children. A 6 person family tent is big enough for 2 adults and up to 3 children. You should be able to fit 2-3 3 person tents on a typical site.
Campsites Are Designed For a Single Family
The average campsite is designed to accommodate a single family with 2-3 kids. You might be able to get another adult in there but it’ll be tight. Having more than 6 people in a single site will get crowded fast.
I recommend bringing a 4 person tent for the adults and another 3-4 person tent for children old enough to stay in their own tent. The tents should be big enough for a queen sized air mattress and a small amount of space for gear.
Jamming multiple families into one site will definitely get crowded. You would have to go with 3 small 2 person tents. A 2 person tent is great for backpacking, but you won’t have much space. Imagine cramming 2 people and a pile of gear in a full size bed. Plan on leaving everything in the car to save some space.
What If I have Extra People?
Ask if the campground has bigger sites that can accommodate more people. Some campgrounds actually sell multi-family “Double or Oversized” sites at a discounted rate. They are usually large flat open lots to accommodate big groups. You have bigger fire pit areas, picnic tables, less trees, etc.
You can always ask for side by side sites If the campgrounds don’t have oversized lots. They won’t be optimized for large groups, but you won’t have to walk over the place to get from one site to the next.
Large Groups Need To Book Early
Campgrounds are usually ran on a first come first serve basis. Call ahead if you need to have 2 sites that are right next to each other. They might be able to save 2 spots together until they start to run out of spots. Just make sure you show up early if they don’t allow you to reserve spots.
Busy state/national parks and private campgrounds near major attractions will fill up on most summer weekends. See if you can get reservations ahead of time or show up early so you’re guaranteed to get a spot. You might not need reservations if you travel in the off/shoulder season.
What’s The Difference Between A Campsite and “Tent Only” Campsite?
Some of the smaller campgrounds offer separate tent only campsites (may also be called primitive) that are a little bit cheaper. Typically when you get a tent only campsite there won’t be any hookups for an RV. So there won’t be a sewer or electric hookup. That might not seem like a big deal, but it’s nice to have a place to plug in phones, coffee pots, electric burners, etc.
Tent campsites may also be a few feet smaller than an RV site and probably won’t have a cement pad to park on. A normal RV Campsite might be your best bet if you’re bringing a second car or need 3 tents. It’s worth saving the money if all you have is 1-2 tents and a car.
It probably depends on the campground, but I’ve noticed RV sites tend to have older couples and less children. There’s less of a chance to run into drunk and rowdy college kids as well. College aged “Adults” tend to jam as many people as they can into the cheapest sites available.
What About Water?
Almost every site will have a water spigot to hook up your RV or Setup a garden hose for cooking, cleaning, etc. Primitive sites are the only exception to that rule and most of those have started to include water. Just make sure you’re specific when asking about amenities.
One of the campgrounds I stayed at advertised running water and all they had was a small dried up creek bed. I was basically screwed since I didn’t have a water filter or anything.
The term “Dry Camping” is used when there’s no water access. They might not even have water access near restrooms or the front of the park.
What About Campfires?
Almost every campground I’ve been to has designated fire pit areas to build campfires. Most places even sell firewood to get you started. Here’s a guide on a few other places to buy firewood if you’re traveling.
Just make sure you ask before lighting up a campfire. Places like California that have wildfires won’t allow fires during the dry season. Keep an eye out for posted notices when you go to check in.
Just because there’s a firepit doesn’t mean you can use it. Park rangers will write a very expensive fine if you light a fire when there’s burn restrictions. California offers free campfire permits so do your research ahead of time.
Watch Out For Walk In Campsites
You won’t be able to park your car in a walk in campsite. As the name implies, you have to park your car in a designated lot and walk to your site. That might not be a big deal, but it does pose a challenge to some people.
Dragging young children and all your gear to a walk in site can be a serious challenge. It’s usually not that far of a walk, but I’ve been in places where I’ve had to walk close to a mile. Making 2-3 trips back from the car loaded with gear is gonna take a while. Especially with young children!
Parking Can Get Rough
Don’t even think about jamming 3 cars onto a single site and even 2 cars can be rough on small sites. There will usually be enough room for 2 cars to sit side by side. I can usually fit my Ram 3500 Dually alongside a small car. We’ve had to do staggered parking in situations where friends have visited in a truck and that takes up a lot of room.
You might be asked to move your car if there’s too many cars in the lot. Your vehicle can’t be sticking out in the road or parallel parked right on the edge. Camp roads are usually tight and there’s a bunch of people towing trailers and driving RVs through there. Having cars sticking out into the road can be a serious safety hazard.
Almost every campground I’ve been to has a separate overflow parking lot to park extra cars in. Sometimes it’s free, but parking typically runs $10-20 for a weekend stay. Remember that the parking lot probably won’t have security. I’ve had my windows smashed in the middle of the night.