Reserving a campsite is no easy feat. Not only do you have to find a campsite that’s available when you need it, but you also have to search for sites that meet your adventure style.
This can be super challenging given all of the jargon that you see on campground reservation pages. For example, you might come across a term like “pull-through” as you research your possible adventure destinations.
What does “pull-through” mean in camping?
In the camping world, the term ‘pull-through’ refers to campsites where the driveway has both an entrance and an exit. Or, in other words, it designates a campsite where you can pull your car through the driveway instead of having to back it out to exit your site. These pull-through sites can be very helpful for RV campers as it reduces the number of times that you have to back up your vehicle during your trip.
But if you’ve ever been confused by the terminology used at campgrounds, know that you’re not alone. Up next, we’ll discuss a range of different terms that you’ll find used at campgrounds and on campsite reservation websites so that you are more knowledgeable about the great outdoors before your next trip.
The Definition of a Pull-Through Campsite
A pull-through campsite is any campsite where the site’s driveway has both an entrance and an exit so you can pull your vehicle through the parking space to exit the campground.
This may seem like an unnecessary distinction given all of the other amenities that a campsite might offer. But for RV campers or anyone that’s camping with more than one vehicle, a pull-through site can be quite advantageous.
Having a pull-through campsite can often reduce the number of times that you have to back up your RV or camper on your trip. Since backing up an RV or trailer is normally the most difficult part of driving one of these vehicles, many people opt to stay in pull-through sites whenever possible so that they don’t have to back up every time they want to leave the campground.
Keep in mind that having a pull-through site doesn’t eliminate the need to back up your RV or trailer, so you should still be confident in this skill before you leave home. Plus, some pull-through sites may have maximum vehicle length limits in place that may not be appropriate for your RV or trailer.
Regardless of whether or not a site is designed as “pull-through,” always double-check that a campsite fully meets the needs of you and your gear before you make a reservation.
Related article: How Is the Length of a Travel Trailer Measured? (2 methods)
What Does Back in Mean in Camping?
Back-in sites are campsites where you have to back up your vehicle into a site’s driveway. In other words, you’ll need to reverse your RV or trailer into the site in order to camp in that location.
You’ll primarily find back-in campsites in campgrounds where all of the sites are arranged in a loop with one-way roads that connect them. Requiring that all vehicles back into their driveways and pull forward to exit can reduce the amount of congestion that happens in the morning at large campsites when there are lots of vehicles trying to exit at the same time.
But back-in sites aren’t as popular among RV campers because they can make maneuvering in and out of your driveway a bit of a challenge. That’s why a lot of campers with larger RVs or trailers prefer pull-through sites instead.
What Does FF Mean in Camping?
The acronym “FF” is used on my campground reservation sites in the US, particularly at Recreation.gov. It refers to a first come, first served site that doesn’t accept any advanced reservations.
When you see FF campsites on places like Recreation.gov, you won’t be able to select them and book them for your stay. The only way to stay in one of these sites is to be the first one to claim them in the morning. If there are no FF sites available when you arrive at a campground, you’ll unfortunately have to find somewhere else to stay for the night.
What Does Walk-In Only Mean in Camping?
A walk-in only campsite is any site at a developed campground that doesn’t have its own driveway or road access. With these sites, you have to physically walk to your campsite from your car.
Walk-in campsites may be located just a short 60-second stroll from the nearest parking area or they may be 0.5 mi (0.8 km) or more away from your car. Due to the distance between walk-in sites and their respective parking areas, these campsites are really only suitable for tent camping.
Note, however, that there is a difference between a walk-in and a walk-up campsite.
A walk-in campsite, as we mentioned, is located at least a short distance away from the nearest parking area. Walk-up campsites, on the other hand, are effectively first come, first served sites that do not accept reservations. Some campground booking sites and campgrounds opt to use “walk-up” instead of FF, but these terms are fairly interchangeable.
You could technically have a walk-up walk-in site (i.e., a walk-in tent campsite that’s available on a first come, first served basis). But that terminology is arguably unnecessarily confusing—at least in our opinion.
Also read: Every Type of Campsite Defined (Camping FAQs)
Campground Terminology: Know Before You Go
Making a campsite reservation shouldn’t require a PhD in outdoor jargon, but it can be helpful to understand some basic campground terms before you plan your next trip. In fact, some campground terms are very similar (think: walk-in vs walk-up) but they refer to something entirely different.
That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly check and even double-check what sites you’re booking before you make a reservation so that you can ensure that your camping locale is suitable for the needs of both you and your gear.
When in doubt, contact the campground host directly to get more specific guidance on what campsite might be best for your next adventure. See you in the mountains!
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David Parnell is the founder and lead editor at Trail and Summit, who enjoys writing on a wide range of topics from travel trailers to trail running. He’s an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.