Best ways to choose a campground

Best ways to choose a campground

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 6.30.34 PMNot all campsites are created equal. Some differences are obvious — the view from the site in one can be much better than the one next door. But picking out a suitable place to set up your RV is more than just the view.

Not all campgrounds allow you to choose your own site; some assign them, seemingly at random, others may allow you to cruise through the campground and make your own selection. What factors should you keep in mind?

First, will your rig actually fit into the site, and leave you enough room to move around? How level is the site? A site that’s a little out of kilter can be handled by the use of leveling boards or with high-tech mechanical levelers, but something that’s way off level will take more time and frustration.

A sloped site may be OK for a motorhomer, but if you’re bringing a fifth wheel trailer, too much fore or aft, can make it difficult, if not impossible to unhitch and then later rehitch your rig. Even for a motorhome, a site pitched to high in the rear can make it difficult to get the front end of the motorhome up high enough to compensate.

Make sure there’s enough room for your rig.

Keep your eye open for trees. Low hanging branches can easily damage your RV roof, particularly if your rig is equipped with a rubber roof. A torn roof membrane is a sure fire way to wipe off your smile. In summer, parking in the shade of trees can help keep the heat down, but in cooler weather, you may want more sun, both to brighten up your interior, but also to help keep you warm. If winds are expected, tree branches (even whole trees) have been known to come down in campgrounds. Look closely for dead limbs, they spell danger hanging over your head.

Other “low hangers” can cause unexpected problems. Power lines are by code to be kept at a safe height above roadways. For some reason, with time they may want to sag and hang up on taller RVs. If you’re a television or radio user, close powerlines may cause interference. And on the line of utilities, if your sleep is easily troubled by light, keep an eye peeled when parking for nearby street lights that could turn your darkness into unwelcome day.

Be cautious about parking on grass. Dry grass is fairly easy to maneuver on, but add a bit of rain the grass will slick up. Add more rain and the underlying earth can turn to mud. Friends of ours recall the “joy” of having to have their rig extricated from a wonderful grassy campsite at the base of a slight downhill slope. One night of rain was all it took to become firmly stuck in place.

For many, a waterfront view is highly desirable. But with waterfront property can come added hazards. A sudden rainstorm can cause rivers and creeks to rise. Some years back we watched as a score of RVers tried to pull their rigs out of a commercial RV park after Washington’s swollen Nisqually River cut loose from its banks and flooded out the park in the middle of the night. Many rigs were totally lost when water flooded far above their axles and came on inside. Check with campground hosts or locals if there’s a hint of rain in the forecast.

We’ve found that some parks are best scouted out in advance on foot or with the toad car. This is particularly true in boondocking locations or Forest Service or older National Park campgrounds. Older campground roads were often built without the foreknowledge of how BIG today’s RVs can be; tight curves, “close to the road” trees, and low hanging foliage is best seen in advance, rather than after entrapment.

R&T DeMaris photo

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