If you’ve ever tried to reserve a campsite online, you know it can be a frustrating experience. Campers seem to take a master class in campground jargon that’s confusing for most people. I’ve often ran into the term “Basic Campsite”, but what does that even mean?
What is a basic campsite? A basic campsite is one that’s made for a single family that can accomodate up to 6 people. There’s usually a single parking spot, picnic table, fire ring, and a patch of grass to setup a tent. There will usually be bathrooms and showers within walking distance of camp. Basic sites are normally meant for tent campers, but you might be able to bring an RV, but there won’t be water, electric or sewer hookups.
Whether or not you can bring a trailer or motorhome depends on the campground. Some sites aren’t long enough to accommodate a large rig so you may be limited to smaller travel trailers and pop up campers. I’ll explain a little bit more about basic campsites in the rest of this post.
What Is A Basic Campsite?
The phrase “basic campsite” seems pretty simple right? Most campsites seem pretty basic, but what does that actually mean? Are they talking about the electric, water, sewer hookups or maybe they’re referring to the size, shape, view? The real answer isn’t what most of us think of when they picture a basic campsite.
What is a basic campsite? In most campgrounds a basic campsite is one that can accommodate up to 6 people with a fire ring, picnic table, single parking spot, and sometimes have a grill. That’s about all you’re going to get with a basic campsite. You set up your tent on the grass or gravel and that’s about it.
You won’t have electric, sewer, or water hookups on site so bring a generator if you need electric. There will usually be public toilets, potable water, and showers available somewhere. Just keep in mind that they might not be outhouses or porta potties if the park isn’t designed for RV use.
Outhouses are usually found at campgrounds that are marketed towards boy scout troops so you should be fairly safe camping at a normal RV park or stat/national park. It really depends on the location of the campground. Many national parks are located out in the boonies where running water isn’t possible. So outhouses are the only option and showers are impossible.
There may not even be gravel on the driveway to park your car and that can turn into a mud pit fast. Hopefully one of the sides is designated as the parking area so there’s some grass available. You can always lay down a tarp or tent footprint to keep the bottom of your tent clean. Just make sure the tarp doesn’t extend past the sides of the tent so you don’t end up with pooling water.
Can I Get Electric, Water, or Sewer In A Basic Site?
You won’t be able to get electric, sewer, or water in a basic site, but there’s usually RV sites with full hookups. Look for a Class A campsite for simple electric or Class AA campsite if you want electric, water, and sewer. That’s the class designation most state/national parks use, but private campgrounds may call their RV sites full hookup or full service sites.
Watch Out For Walk In Campsites
Not every basic campsite will have parking on site and a road leading up to the campsite. There are times where you will have to park in a guest lot and “Walk In” to your campsite. These are tent only sites where you have to walk a short distance into the camping area.
Hopefully you pack light, because you’ll have to leave the car behind and carry in all your gear. You can usually walk to the site in less than 5 minutes, but that can be a pain with a huge cooler loaded with food/drinks and lots of gear. It will take multiple trips to carry everything in by hand.
Do I Have To Tent Camp or Can I Bring a Trailer or RV?
There’s usually a decent mix of tent and RV campers at most campgrounds that offer basic campsites. RVs usually don’t stay at a site without water/sewer and electric for long, but you can normally bring them in. It all depends on how long the campsites are, the length of the rig, and whether or not there’s a well maintained access road.
I wouldn’t want to navigate a dirt road in the middle of nowhere hauling an oversized 5th wheel or driving a motorhome. All it takes is a little bit of mud to get a trailer/RV stuck. You should be fine on a well maintained gravel road, but there’s always a risk once you pull into the campsite.
If you’re only staying for a night or two a basic campsite should be fine. It’s a cheap place to stay and safer than staying in a Walmart or Cracker Barrel parking lot. You won’t have access to running water, but you can always use your stored potable water and drain black/gray water tanks later.
Can More Than 1 Family Share A Basic Campsite?
Basic campsites might be able to hold 6 people, but it’s probably better for multiple families to find a second campsite nearby. It will be a tough squeeze unless you’re camping with a group of childless adults. A basic campsite is usually meant for a single family of 2 adults and up to 4 children.
The parking situation will also be an issue since there’s only 1 parking spot. You may be able to park an additional car in a guest spot near the entrance, but it will probably cost $10 per day. It wouldn’t cost that much more to ask for a second site next to each other.
Plus you usually only have room for 2 tents on a single campsite. You might be able to squeeze in a 3rd tent, but it will be tough. Most parks won’t let you setup a tent within 15-20 feet of the road for safety reasons since they don’t want cars to accidentally hit your tent at night.
So the entire front half of the campsite needs to be left open and you’ll have to find another place to squeeze an extra tent. Try to move around a picnic table or move your car closer to the road and squeeze the 3rd tent at the end of the parking area. There won’t be much space left over to hang out, but it should be possible if 3 tents are allowed in the campground rules.
Will There Be Other Campers Around?
Most campgrounds pack as many sites in as they can possibly manage to maximize profits on busy weekends. The typical campsite will have a 12ftx30ft long parking area and 20ft camping area on one of the sides. You can’t set up your tent within 10ft of the street so you have about a 20×20 area to set up your tents.
The next campsite will be within a stones throw away so there will most likely be other campers around. Most parks let you drive around and choose your own site so you can get away from people during the week, but that’s not possible on busy weekends.
Campgrounds sell out on holiday weekends and sit at 30-50% capacity on normal weekends. Go early in the season before schools let out or in September/October if you’re trying to miss the crowds. There should be plenty of empty spots available so you should be able to stay a few sites away from other campers.