“Making memories one campsite at a time. –Unknown
As we prepared to buy our RV, we dreamed of all the fantastic places we would go with our new equipment in search of adventure, rest, and space. As we have started to plan, make reservations, and started exploring, we have discovered the importance of understanding what style of camping we prefer. So, what style of camping do you prefer?
When you started thinking about buying your RV, I bet you thought to yourself, “This is a cheap way for us to vacation as a family.” We thought that too and it can be true and false! For today’s blog, I’m not addressing the cost of the actual RV and what seems like the endless gear that you will need (or want) to camp safely and comfortably. Instead, we’re talking about where you’re going when you pack up, hook up, and head out. What type of camping are you comfortable with and how much are you willing to pay?
Whether you are a full-timer or a weekender, if you are on a budget, and let’s be honest, a lot of us are, you should know that the cost of camping can vary wildly and some factors, like the time of the year, location, or the type of camping you prefer can mean a campsite can be pretty pricey or maybe even free! Some of your considerations should be: how big is your rig? Do you need water, electricity, sewer, and other amenities? Where are you going and what do you want to do when you get there? Do you like all the creature comforts of home or are you a minimalist seeking wide open spaces and a more basic, budget-friendly (free) camping experience? And of course, for those of us who boarder posh and minimal, there are options for us as well.
Types of camping
Boondocking/Dry Camping/Dispersed Camping: The early settlers of the United States could be considered boondockers-in the extreme! They pulled over and camped where ever they could. Today, the boondocking style of camping means that you are going off-grid and camping for free. Also known as dry camping or dispersed camping, boondocking means that you are self-contained and not connected to resources like water, electricity, or sewer. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allows campers to camp for free. In most of these areas, you can stay for up to two weeks at a time. The upside is that BLM land is in some of the most beautiful parts of the United States so you could end up camping in a campsite like no other and you could possibly be out there all by yourself or with a very few like-minded folks that you can see across the landscape! BLM land is also often “off-road” so it is likely that there will not be paved roads and campsites. This can sometimes mean muddy or rough terrain. For this option, you have to consider if you can get in and out of an off-road situation safely and you have to carry in all supplies that you will need such as water, gasoline for your generator, or an enhanced battery or solar option for power if preferred, and all other necessary survival supplies. A grocery store or gas station is definitely not around the corner from these spots and it is also likely that you will have poor to no cell service and thus no internet service. Oh, and don’t forget, you have to remember to leave the areas better than you found it. That means taking your trash out with you.
State Parks, National Parks & Harvest Host: State and National Parks are great options in which to camp. For the State Parks we’ve visited, most sites are large and we often have a nice space between us and our fellow campers. Virginia State Parks offer water and electricity with an off-site dump station and very clean, well-maintained bathhouses. State Parks and National Parks also offer great trail systems and are often part of an outdoor recreational system around bodies of water, mountains, natural sights of all types, or even beaches so the “entertainment” factor is typically about where you are rather than a resort feel. For this option, however, if you have a big rig, be aware that some of the older State and National Parks may not have sites large enough to accommodate you. At 26 feet, we are not big but we have already found some State Parks that we won’t fit in! Also, depending on which park you are interested in, the more popular ones fill quickly. Some take reservations while others are first-come, first-served. Some National Park Campgrounds offer water, electricity, and sewer, while others do not so be sure to do your research so you are prepared.
Harvest Hosts: If you like the idea of Boondocking but there is no BLM land near you, as is our case, Harvest Hosts is a membership that gives you access to a network of 1000 wineries, breweries, distilleries, farms, museums, and other unique locations including golf courses that host RV’s on their properties. This option gives you an overnight camping spot in a non-traditional setting for free with the expectation that you will support the business on the property. Who doesn’t like a good wine tasting, scooping up some fresh produce, milk, eggs, or meat for dinner, or playing a round of golf? The Hosts do not typically provide services that you would find at a campground so this is a boondocking option but a small number of Hosts do offer electricity or water. This could be found on the Host’s information page which you would have access to with your membership. You can use a generator but it is recommended to check with your Host first out of courtesy to them and any other HH members who may also be at the location. Find Harvest Hosts at http://www.harvesthosts.com.
RV resorts, Private Campgrounds, Thousand Trails: You can choose to stay in a private RV Resort if you prefer to have more of the creature comforts. Just know going in, you’re likely to pay a pretty penny for all the extras that are often offered such as elaborate pool facilities, shuttles to nearby attractions, equipment rentals, game rooms, events and entertainment, cable TV, and laundry facilities, to name a few. Private resorts can and do set their own rates that often vary by season and/or location and those rates can sometimes be eyebrow-raising. In our experience, some private campgrounds mean tight quarters with your neighbors. This is usually not an option we enjoy but it is a great option for fun family activities that are scheduled on the hour and a way to entertain your kids.
Thousand Trails: Thousand Trails is a membership campground company operating private trailer parks and RV resorts. The membership is a one-time fee with annual dues that give you access to network parks and resorts within your chosen plan. Again, do your research. When considering a Thousand Trails membership, consider where you want to go, the locations you would have access to, and how much you will use your membership. You can find them at http://www.thousandtrails.com.
So, what style of camping do we prefer? We like to get away from the every day and we learned quickly, as weekenders, that we like to get into the woods and we prefer our space. We have stayed in a campground in which we had neighbors within steps which we did not enjoy. We have quickly fallen in love with Virginia’s State Parks, finding them well maintained and in great locations. We will be squeezing in with the crowds once in a while, knowing that this may be required to get where we want to go. We also have a Harvest Host membership that we enjoy using.
Do you have a style of camping that you prefer? I’d love to hear what style of camping you enjoy and why. Regardless of the option you prefer, the important thing is that you choose what you’re comfortable with and that you have fun!