Tent & Car Campers Handbook

Before you begin setting up your camp, you’ll have to choose a site within the campground. Your choice can add or subtract a lot from the experience, say Buck Tilton and Kristin Hostetter, authors of Tent and Car Camper’s Handbook: Advice for Families & First-Timers.

  • Choose early. If possible, arrive at the campground before noon, when other campers are heading out and new campers have yet to arrive in an afternoon mass. In many campgrounds, the prime sites are taken long before 4:00 p.m.
  • Did you make a reservation? In some popular campground managed by state or national agencies, arriving early may not matter even if you have a reservation since someone in a uniform could greet you at the entrance and provide you with direction to an assigned campsite. In such an instance, however, if you don’t like the site—and if you arrive early, and if you’re nice—you may be able to talk the staff into changing your assigned site.
  • Check for “tents only” sites. You may not be required to camp in a “tents only” area, but it’s not a bad idea. It keep you away from large RVs and their nightlong clatter of generators. A more natural setting is often found in tents-only areas—more trees, more picturesque rocks, a better view of the landscape.
  • Avoid high-traffic areas. Although it might seen handy to set camp near a rest room or bathhouse, you probably don’t want to do that. There may be lights shining from the restroom all night, and you might be awakened by slamming doors. On the other hand, you may choose to camp near a rest room if you have small children along. Another place to avoid are sites near the entrance of the campground, as traffic also tends to be heavy here.
  • Look for buffers. Buffers are trees and bushes, perhaps large rocks, standing between campsites. They’ll give you more privacy and a greater sense of seclusion. Consider heading first for the back of a campground. Even without buffers, those sites tend to provide more privacy.
  • Look for shade and sunlight. It’s great to find a site that gives you shade in the summer or sunlight in the colder months.
  • Back it in. When you’ve chosen a site, back your vehicle into the parking space. You will have a bit more privacy, and your gear will be more accessible when unloading.


—Adapted from Tent and Car Camper’s Handbook: Advice for Families & First-Timers by Buck Tilton, M.S., with Kristin Hostetter, $17.95 paperback


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