So You Wanna Be A Camper: Different Types of Campgrounds

Hello! And welcome to the third installment of So You Wanna Be a Camper. If you are a novice camper, you might not now that are many different kind of campgrounds.  Camp sites can be broken down into backcountry; traditional campgrounds with primitive/rustic sites, improved, or RV sites or some combination of all three; and camping resorts.

types of campgrounds


Backcountry Camping

What is backcountry camping you ask?  Well, backcountry camping is essentially setting up camp in the wilderness.  There are usually no sites to reserve (although sometimes there are designated areas).  Backcountry camping typically requires a hike - to either a designated area or a spot along the trail.  Because there are usually no sites, this type of camping typically does not require a reservation; however, a permit is usually required. These types of sites have no amenities except for the ones you bring.  So, no electricity, no fire pit and no toilets.  

These sites are for people who love being out in the wild, can carry a bunch of stuff on their back, and don't mind peeing (or pooping) outside. 

Traditional Campgrounds - Primitive Sites

Primitive/rustic sites are typically located within the campground.  There is usually a little driveway to park the car and a space to set up your tent. A fire pit and picnic table, may or may not be provided.  Primitives sites usually provide no electricity and no running water.  Pit toilets (ugh!) are usually available somewhere on site. It may be the case that you have a primitive site with a nearby 'bathhouse' with flushing toilets and sinks (think beach bathrooms).  

These sites are good for minimalist families who can deal with not having a lot of running water around, don't mind not showering for a few days, don't need to constantly charge a phone or iPad, or a plug in a radio, or anything else that requires electricity. These are typically the sites I like. Although I prefer to find a location with running water and flushing toilets, that is not always possible.  

Traditional Campground- Improved Sites

Improved campsites have most modern amenities available, but you will pay a premium for them.  A primitive site may run around $10 a night, but an improved site (especially at a camping resort) could run around $20 and as high as $40 for tent camping.  Even higher for RVs.  Improved tent sites will have a fire pit, picnic table, possibly a picnic shelter, running water nearby or at the site, and an electrical box. There are usually flushing toilets nearby and sinks with running water.  Possibly even a shower house!  If you're in an trailer or RV, these grounds typically have full hook-up for electricity and sewage.

These are great for families who need access to water and electricity and enjoy daily showers. 


Camping Resorts

Camping resorts are the cream-of-the-crop. And happen to be my least favorite. Ha!  Resorts are like a hotel meets a carnival. But instead of renting a room, you rent a cabin, trailer, or bring your own tent or RV and instead of shelling out hundreds for carnival tickets, you usually get a day pass. Depending on the location there could be a park, a pool, rides and games for kids, access to a lake, boat rentals, a camping store, maybe even a restaurant! They may have nightly or weekend entertainment like movies or bands or magicians. Typical resort campgrounds include places like KOAs and Yogi Bear Jellystone Parks,  or anything that the words "Resort Campground" in it.  Prices for sites at these types of campgrounds are typically higher and rise during peak times, like holidays and weekends.

It's been my experience that people either love or hate them.  Since we've had Weston they are growing on me.  He can't hike all day like we can and he doesn't like to sit still, so it's nice to have access to a pool or a playground when we're not out on the trail. I really love the KOA we stay at in Covert when we go to South Haven, MI on our annual family trip.  

Resorts are great for people who want to get outside and enjoy spending time with friends and family,maybe even sleeping in a tent, but don't really like to be too 'outdoorsy'.  Or for people who were once outdoorsy, but can no longer hike or fish or swim for whatever reason. There are usually plenty of things to do at a resort campground including just sitting around and relaxing so there is no need to feel bad about not hitting the trail. 

All types of campgrounds are highlighted in my Campground Map!  Be sure to use it when planning your next adventure!

What about you all? What  are your favorite types of campgrounds?