Every Type of Campsite Defined (Camping FAQs)

types of campsites classifications and definitions

If you’ve ever tried to reserve a campsite online, you know how tricky it can be to figure out precisely what kind of site you’re booking. From basic to premium to group, and even equestrian sites, all the jargon involved in going camping is enough to make anyone’s head spin.

We know how challenging it can be to figure out precisely what kind of campsite is right for your needs. So, we’ve defined every type of campsite imaginable in the United States right here for you to check out. That way, you can know exactly what you’re booking when you plan your next camping adventure.

25 types of campsites – classifications and definitions:

What Is A Basic Campsite?

The phrase “basic” seems, well, basic enough, right? But, what exactly does it mean when it comes to your campsite?

For most campgrounds, a basic site is one that can accommodate up to 6 people (in 1 vehicle) and has a parking spot, a picnic table, and a grill or a fire ring. Other than that, the individual site won’t have many other amenities and you’ll need to pitch your tent directly onto an open patch of grass or gravel.

Many basic campsites allow tents, RVs, and campervans but be sure to read the driveway length to figure out the maximum vehicle size that site can accommodate. Generally, basic sites are more for tent campers, but most campgrounds will allow camping vehicles in these areas, so long as you accept that there are no hookups available.

Oh, and keep in mind that just because the campsite is “basic,” it doesn’t mean the campground is, too. Many developed campgrounds with toilets, shower facilities, and running water offer basic sites as a budget-friendly option, but you’ll usually still have access to any other campground-wide amenities.

What Is An Individual Campsite?

Despite the name, an individual campsite isn’t just for solo campers. They usually have enough space for up to 6 people and are designed to accommodate a single “group” or “family” of campers.

In practice, individual campsites are more or less the same as a basic campsite, with similar amenities and maximum group sizes of about 6 people.

Keep in mind that some campgrounds, especially those at national parks, consider individual campsites to be the same as “family campsites” but different from “group campsites,” which are designed for substantially larger groups of people (i.e., 12+ people).

What Is A Group Campsite?

Group campsites are specifically designed for large groups of people that all want to camp in somewhat close proximity to each other. While maximum occupancies vary from campground to campground, most group sites can accommodate between 12-50 people, with some being large enough for groups of up to 100 individuals.

These sites generally have enough parking for 2-15 vehicles and ample space for pitching tents. Most are located in somewhat close proximity to a bathroom for convenience and will have multiple fire pits and picnic tables for everyone to enjoy.

Group sites are ideal for groups that are so large that they can’t all fit in one site or that would otherwise need to book a substantial number of sites to accommodate everyone in their camping party. They tend to also be the most cost-effective option when you break down the cost into a per-person nightly rate.

What Is A Family Campsite?

Family campsites generally refer to sites where you can comfortably fit 2 tents and 1 or 2 vehicles, but they are usually not designed for RVs. While some campgrounds, particularly in national parks, consider family campsites to be the same as “individual campsites,” most family sites can accommodate up to 8 or 10 people, rather than the standard 6 person maximum.

The majority of family campsites will have a parking area, 1-2 tent pads, a picnic table, and a grill or fire pit. Some campgrounds place all their family sites in one section of the campground to create a more family-friendly camping area.

picnic table in the woods
A standard tent campsite.

What Is A Standard Campsite?

In most campgrounds, the term “standard campsite” is interchangeable with a “basic campsite.” Like basic sites, standard campsites usually have a driveway, a picnic table, and a fire ring or grill, and are normally reserved for groups of 6 people or less.

Depending on the type of campground, standard sites may be suitable for tents or RVs, though they’re mostly used by tent campers. This is because most standard sites have driveways that are only suitable for smaller campers and campervans.

That being said, in RV-only campgrounds, standard campsites may refer to a site where you get everything listed above, plus a simple electric hookup, but no water or sewer.

What Is A Standard Double Campsite?

A standard double campsite is usually the exact same thing as a standard campsite, but with twice as much tent or parking space. These sites are designed to accommodate 8-12 campers, allowing slightly larger groups or families to book just one site instead of two adjacent sites.

Keep in mind that this extra space, while nice, does come with some limitations. Many campgrounds actually have minimum occupancy requirements for double sites to stop people that could use a standard site from taking up standard double sites that a larger group might need. 

What Is A Standard Nonelectric Campsite?

The phrase “standard nonelectric campsite” is used to clarify that a standard campsite does not have electric hookups. Although standard sites usually don’t have hookups in tent camping areas, in some RV campgrounds, they occasionally do. So, this phrase helps to make it clear that there is no electricity available at the individual site.

Other than that, standard nonelectric campsites are functionally the same as standard sites as they usually have a picnic table, fire ring or grill, and a parking area.

What Is A Premium Campsite?

Premium campsites are generally found in RV camping areas as they have certain features that specifically cater to this type of camping. In particular, a premium campsite usually has full hook-ups (water, sewer, and electric), as well as a picnic table, grill, and a fire pit.

Many premium campsites will have 50 amp electrical hookups, which is designed for larger RVs. They often have longer driveways to accommodate bigger RVs, too.

Most of these sites are not available for tent camping because the added features you get at a premium campsite aren’t really useful for people that are sleeping in a tent. Plus, since they come with added amenities, they’re generally more expensive than other options in the campground.

What Is An Unserviced Campsite?

Unserviced campsites, or “dry campsites,” are any RV or tent site that doesn’t have hookups. Some campgrounds use the phrase unserviced campsite to help make a distinction between tent-only sites without hookups and other sites that don’t have hookups but allow RVs and campers.

Contrary to popular belief, just because a campsite is unserviced does not mean that the campground doesn’t have bathrooms or running water. It simply means that a specific site doesn’t have hookups but is open to either tents or RVs that are okay with a bit of “roughing it.”

What Do You Call A Campsite Without A Tent?

Although rare, there are some campgrounds that do not allow tents in certain sites. These no-tent areas are often called “RV-only” sites as they are designed only to accommodate campers in RVs or campervans.

That being said, RV-only sites are the exception, not the rule. The majority of campgrounds that cater to RVs are happy to welcome tent campers, too.

If you’re not sure, a quick call to the campground host or manager will quickly clear up any confusion, but you’ll likely find that they won’t say no to you, just because you want to sleep in a tent!

red tent on a wooden platform by the lake
A platform tent campsite.

What Is A Platform Tent Site?

Platform tent sites are any type of tent-only campsite that provides a wooden deck space to pitch your tent.

These decks allow you to pitch your tent on an elevated surface above the ground, making it easier to keep your tent clean and dry when the ground is wet. Additionally, platforms help limit the amount of water that can seep into the floor of your tent during a major rainstorm.

Some campgrounds offer sites that just have a tent platform or pad that you can pitch your own tent on, while others offer sites that come with a canvas tent that’s pre-installed on a spacious wooden deck. The latter option is a good choice for infrequent campers that don’t want to buy and pitch their own shelter.

What Is Considered A Full Hookup Campsite?

A full hookup campsite (or a full campsite) is an RV camping area that has water, electrical, and sewer hook-ups. Regardless of the other amenities that a site may have, if it has all three of these hook-ups, it’s considered a “full site.” 

Other than that a “full hookup campsite” doesn’t indicate that you’ll get a picnic table, fire pit, or grill, though most campgrounds will also provide these features, too, in this type of site.

What Is A Back-In Campsite?

Back-in campsites have a short driveway that you need to back your vehicle in or out of in order to enter or exit the site. This is the most common option available, particularly in loop-style campgrounds where there are many campsites that are in close proximity to each other. 

Whether or not a campsite is a back-in site is really only a concern for campers with RVs and larger vehicles that can be tricky to maneuver. In fact, the vast majority of tent-only campsites have back-in driveways.

But, for campers with particularly large RVs, back-in sites can make maneuvering your vehicle a serious challenge. So, many RV campers prefer pull-through campsites, which make driving much easier.

What Is A Pull-Through Campsite?

In direct contrast to a back-in campsite, pull-through campsites have one-way driveways that allow RVs to pull straight through to exit, rather than having to back up to get out of the campground.

While this might not make a huge difference for tent campers, pull-through campsites are a hot commodity in the RV world. This is particularly true among people with large RVs, which can be very difficult to back up in the tight turning space of a campground.

What Is A Class-A Campsite?

Class-A campsites are more or less the industry standard for a campsite when it comes to creature comforts.

Any class-A campsite should have a driveway, electrical hook-ups, picnic tables, and fire rings. In the campground, you can also expect showers, toilets (though they may not be flushing toilets), and potable water.

These sites are a good choice for people that want a good mix of affordability and comfort during their camping experience. 

NOTE: The class rating system for campsites is most commonly used in state parks, but it is not universal. So, amenities can vary from campground to campground. When in doubt, check directly with the campground manager for more information.

What Is A Class-AA Campsite?

A Class-AA campsite is a slight step upward from a Class-A campsite. They include all features you normally get with a Class-A site but also include flushing toilets, sinks with running water, and usually sewer hookups at RV-specific sites.

This campsite grade is a solid option for campers that want a bit more in terms of amenities but don’t want to commit to the higher fees normally associated with Class-AAA campsites.

What Is A Class-AAA Campsite?

Class-AAA campsites are your top-of-the-line campsites for tents and RVs. They will have all the amenities found in a Class-AA site, plus water hookups and other great features, like 50 amp electrical hookups and heated bathroom facilities.

As you can imagine, these sites tend to be quite a bit pricier, but they’re well worth the expense if you want a very comfortable camping experience.

What Is A Class-B Campsite?

The final category in the campsite class rating system is a Class-B campsite. These tent and RV sites are a bit simpler than the A-level alternatives as they usually don’t have sewer or water hookups, nor shower facilities and running water in the campground.

Additionally, Class-B campsites either don’t offer electrical hookups, or, if they do, they’re not as powerful (usually 15-30 amps). That being said, they’re the most affordable option, which makes them popular among campers on a budget.

yellow tent at a campground with desert cliffs in the background

What Is A Backcountry Campsite?

A backcountry campsite is any site that’s located outside of a designated campground. These sites are found away from roads and are normally located along popular trails. They are effectively the same thing as a “primitive campsite,” and don’t provide any amenities, such as picnic tables or grills, though they may have a fire ring.

Most backcountry campsites are walk-up, only, however, some more popular sites require advanced reservations and permits.

That being said, a backcountry campsite can also be anywhere that one pitches their tent while “dispersed camping.” Dispersed camping or “wild camping,” is what one does when they’re backpacking and pick their own non-established campsites wherever is most suitable for them.

In these situations, where dispersed camping is allowed, campers simply need to follow local rules and regulations as well as Leave No Trace principles to minimize their impact on the land.

What Is A Primitive Campsite?

In most places in the USA, primitive campsites are the same as backcountry campsites. These sites are generally not found within designated campgrounds and they don’t have any of the amenities that you might find in an established camping area.

Anyone looking to camp at a primitive campsite will need to be fully self-sufficient and needs to have the skills necessary to survive outdoors where help is likely far away. However, primitive sites offer campers a unique, nature-filled experience in some of the world’s most beautiful places.

Although primitive campsites are not, by definition maintained, sites in popular areas may be fairly well impacted by previous users.

In some popular national parks and forests where backcountry permits need to be applied for ahead of time, you may need to reserve a particular primitive campsite for a particular day. Other primitive campsites are walk-up only and are first-come, first-served.

However, rarely, the phrase “primitive campsite” is used to refer to any tent-only campground that doesn’t have flushing toilets, water, or other amenities. This is an uncommon use of the term, but it’s important to know, just in case you come across it.

What Is A Walk-In Campsite?

A walk-in campsite is a particular type of tent-only site, where you have to walk a short distance from your car to the actual tent area. Usually, you can walk this distance in just a few minutes.

These sites are ideal for individuals and small groups that want a bit more of a secluded experience in a busy campground because they’re located away from hustle and bustle of the road. For the most part, walk-in sites are slightly less popular than other options because they require that you carry your gear further than you normally would in any other site with a parking spot.

However, walk-in campsites are often more affordable and can be easier to reserve in popular locations because there’s less competition for this type of site.

What Is A Walk-Up Campsite?

Okay, here’s where campsite definitions get a bit odd: There’s a difference between a walk-up and a walk-in campsite, and knowing this distinction is important.

A walk-up campsite, in particular, is any campsite that you can’t reserve ahead of time. These are first-come-first-served sites that are left open for last-minute arrivals.

While walk-in sites don’t offer you a parking spot at your tent area, walk-up sites can refer to pretty much any campsite that you can’t reserve ahead of time. That means you can have a walk-up basic site, a walk-up group site, a walk-up equestrian site, or anything else you can possibly think of.

You can even have a walk-up walk-in campsite!

Some campgrounds are walk-up only, which means they won’t take reservations. Others simply keep a few sites as walk-up only to ensure that folks who don’t have an advance reservation still have an opportunity to camp in the area.

What Is An Accessible Campsite?

Accessible campsites are generally reserved for campers with disabilities or limited mobility. They are usually designed to be ADA-compliant, allowing for wheelchair access.

One of the key features of accessible campsites is their proximity to the campground bathroom. Many will have water nearby and will be located very close to a parking area for better access for people with limited mobility.

Sometimes, these sites can’t be reserved directly online and you may have to contact the campground host or manager directly for booking.

What Is An Equestrian Campsite?

Equestrian campsites are specifically designed for campers on horseback and are not available to regular tent campers or RVers. While many of these sites are located in the backcountry, some frontcountry campgrounds will also have purpose-built equestrian sections, particularly if they’re located along popular horseback riding trails.

These sites offer tent camping and usually water somewhere nearby. Usually, they have a picnic table and a grill or fire ring, but the main feature of equestrian campsites is a horse corral or some other place to tie up horses for the night.

What Is A Wooded Campsite?

In some areas, particularly the desert southwest states where the daytime temperatures are hot, many campgrounds will have “wooded campsite” options for folks that like a bit of shade. Wooded campsites offer the same amenities as other sites in that campground, but are located in a section where trees provide a substantial amount of shade for a solid portion of the day.

As you can imagine, these sites tend to be quite popular in the summer months, but they’re well worth booking if you get a chance because they provide much-needed relief from the sun.

 

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