When it comes to RVing, finding a campground isn’t the end of your camping preparation. Next, you will need to find a campsite.
Not just any campsite in a campground will do. One of the first things to look for is if the campground has RV sites—tent sites won’t work, even if your RV is small.
After that, you’ll need to know if a campsite will fit your RV’s length. The type of hookups, and the type of RV parking offered by that site will also help you choose an RV campsite site that’s right for you.
Most campgrounds will have a physical or online map where you can see all of their campsites and how they’re laid out. Color coding on the maps show which sites are tent sites and which are RV sites. In some cases, RV sites may be further broken down by RV length. Even if a campground can accommodate all RV sizes, not every one of their campsites will fit every RV size they accommodate. For those traveling in the smaller, Happier Camper RVs, this might not be an issue but those traveling in larger RVs should take note.
Some campgrounds will have a size restriction where none of their sites can accommodate any RV over a certain length. Size restrictions will mostly affect you if your RV is over 35 ft. long.
Usually, a vehicle isn’t included in a campsite’s size restriction. But be sure to double check, as this can vary by campground. Most campsites accommodate 1 RV plus 1 vehicle. As an RVer you’ll have an extra vehicle if your RV is a towable, and you use a vehicle to tow, or if you tow a vehicle with your RV (also known as a toad) in order to drive around town without your RV.
Once you know that a campground can accommodate your RV’s size, it’s time to think about hookups. A campsite can be a “Full Hookup” site, a “Partial Hookup” site, or have no hookups (also sometimes denoted as “primitive”).
At most campgrounds, “Full Hookups” means you’ll have sewer, water, and electric hookups. It’s the sewer hook-up that often makes a campsite “Full Hookup.” Sewer hookups allow your waste to go right out of your RV through your sewer hose. When you don’t have a sewer hookup, waste will go into your black and grey tanks, and you’ll have to dump those at the RV dump station before they are full.
A water hook-up allows you to connect to city water supply. This means you won’t be relying on your fresh water tank for water.
Electric hookups allow you to plug your RV into a power pedestal and power your electric RV appliances and components without using a generator, battery power, or solar power. Some pedestals come with 30 amp, 50 amp, and sometimes an extra household 15/20 amp connection.
If you plan on making the most out of your RV kitchen, you’ll want a campsite with full-hookup capabilities.
If you’re in an RV that requires a 50 amp connection (usually large Class As or Fifth-Wheels), double check that the campsite you are looking at has 50 amp connection. Often sites only have 30 amp connections. Sites with 50 amp connections can sometimes cost more (usually $5-$10 more), so if you don’t need a 50 amp connection you may want to stick to a 30 amp only site.
Partial Hookups usually mean that you have water and electric, but no sewer. These are the most common types of campsites. In some cases, partial hookups can mean that the campsite only has electric or only water. If there’s no electric, you’ll be relying on a generator, solar power, solar power charger, or battery power for use of your electric appliances. Generators, however, usually can’t be run after sundown. Basic energy conservation best practices will help you save your battery power. If water hookups are not provided you will be relying on your fresh water tank for your water. Some campgrounds may provide water spigots every few campsites or so, but it is a good idea to arrive with your fresh water tank full.
Primitive campsites, or “no hookups” means you’ll need to be self-reliant for your power and water needs. When that’s the case, you’re “dry camping” or “boondocking.” Your water supply will come from your fresh tank and your power supply will come from a generator, solar power, and/or battery power. If you’re brand new to RVing it may be helpful to note that your LED lights work without an electric hookup or generator, as well as any LP (liquid propane) appliances (often times your stove, refrigerator and furnace). If you’re new to boondocking, meal planning in advance could save time and stress.
Parking Your RV
Campsites are further denoted as “pull-through” or “back-in” sites. “Pull-through” sites are the RV equivalent of a circular driveway. You can get in and out of these by driving (or towing) in just one direction. For that reason, “Pull-Through” sites are very beginner friendly.
“Back-In” sites require greater skill in maneuvering your RV, as you will have to be able to back your RV into the site. Backing into a site becomes easier the more you drive your RV.
One thing to avoid as a beginner is a back-in site with obstacles, like trees, that could make the site a very tight fit.
Those are the basics of choosing an RV campsite. Location within a campsite, like being waterfront or not, is something fun you’ll get to consider too. Whether you’re looking at sites online, on a campsite availability board in-person, or by actually driving through the campground, you’ll know what you’re looking for!
It seems to me, that with a small RV, you could very well ‘dry camp’ in a tent site. There would be no reason you couldn’t, unless it was simply in the campground policies.