Among the worst campsites where I’ve stayed


By Chuck Woodbury
Do you see where the sewer hose is? It’s just a few steps away from the front door of my motorhome. It belongs to the RVers next door.

This particular site is at a Utah KOA campground. In its advertising, KOA stresses, over and over, its family-friendly parks. Bring the kids. Enjoy ice cream socials, hayrides and swimming. Everybody has fun.

If I had kids, I wouldn’t let them outdoors to play without making sure it was in the playground, not in the small grassy area you see here, which is traditionally the “front yard” of a campsite. This KOA is likely at least 30-40 years old. How many inexperienced RVers (like those who rent and have no clue how to dump) have inadvertently spilled sewage while emptying their holding tanks? I bet, through the years, it’s in the hundreds. 

This young child at a nearby campsite was playing around his sewer drain and hose.

If your kids get down on the ground to play, they’re bringing in what’s left of that slop into your RV. I mean germs.

If you put a blanket down on the grass for your kids to sit on while playing, fine. Just wash it before you put it back in your rig.

The way KOA portrays itself in its advertising. I can’t ever recall being in a KOA with this much space. 

Am I totally over-reacting? Maybe. But, what offends me the most about this scene is that KOA is asking its campers to pay about $45 a night to stay here. Those who do stay, I believe, do not envision on arrival that they’ll be stepping outside to their neighbor’s sewer hose. You could easily trip on it at night.

To make this situation worse, the picnic table is close by, and you can bet over time that some clueless campers have rested their sewer hose atop it before putting it away.

I stayed here only one night. I would have asked to be moved if I were staying longer. The problem was that most of the other sites were pretty much set up the same.

And before you leave a comment that I should have moved forward or backward, my 32-foot motorhome and Honda Fit tow vehicle just fit in the space. There was virtually no room to move forward or backward.

Watch my two-minute video of this scene.


34 Thoughts to “Among the worst campsites where I’ve stayed”

  1. Terry

    We had this exact issue last month. You overreacted. First, the sewer connection was directly in line with their electrical box. If the sites are 90 degree angles, The sewer line was on their site. If diagonal sites, then it’s on yours, but your hookup is on the next site as well. Many pull thru sites people use as diagonals, but could be parked as 90 degrees. You could have pulled the rv up a few feet, to not be so close, and be closer to your table. Many times, parking car behind the rv, so rv can be further up, works. Not good to leave valves open on any holding tank, FYI, unless you can close the septic side…rats, snakes, bugs freely access your holding tanks and thus your rv. Not to mention the odors coming thru sinks, or commode when flushed. Have absolutely no intention of hooking up repeatedly so others don’t have to look at hose…but did my part by getting a black plastic, not bright orange or, worse, transparent clear plastic! Time for you to get a hotel for a few days, and consider whether this lifestyle has Taken too much of a toll on you.

  2. Bill Semion

    If you haven’t yet stayed at a private campground in the Fla. Keys, you won’t know what “sardining” is until you do…at $90-$150 per night….never again. State parks are about $35/night, and while the sites are much nicer, considering there are far better beaches, etc., elsewhere in Fla., we will probably avoid the Keys in the future, except for Key lime pie at the Blond Giraffe shop! 😉

  3. John Connaughton

    Also too much greed on the part of many of these private campgrounds. They need to redo their campground and eliminate some sites and spread folks out. But the sardine can them in, as tight as possible. On sewer hose, I usually don’t put it out at first, I let the tanks fill and then put it out to dump. But if still there more days, I’d probably leave it in place, with the valves closed. I like full tanks when I dump them.

  4. Sharon Naismith

    “I think part of the problem is something you have talked about. There is no group that represents the RV consumer.”
    Yes, there IS a group that represents the RV consumer…It’s called The RV Consumer Group! They evaluate the quality, construction, and safety of all brands and models of RVs.
    As far as advocates for issues relating to RVers and RVing, Escapees RV Club offers just that.
    Some RVers aren’t aware that these resources exist. Others aren’t willing to pay to join organizations that offer services like this. If you’re looking for a free group that represents the RV consumer, perhaps it’s time for some RVers to step up and volunteer to start one.

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      I cannot personally recommend the RV Consumer Group. It sells reports, not cheap. As far as I know it is a very small operation, and I don’t see how it can pretend to even get close in reliability to Consumer Reports. I have heard both good things and bad things from readers about the organization. As far as Escapees, they do some work on behalf of all RVers, but not very much.

  5. Jillie

    I posted this to a KOA web site to let them know of this I have never seen or been to a KOA like this. But I guess out west they want to pack them in. Thanks for this tip.

  6. Dick

    I think part of the problem is something you have talked about. There is no group that represents the RV consumer.

  7. Mike

    I really don’t understand why anyone would pay over $40.00 a night at any campground!! We are full-timers and only stay at private campgrounds during an absolute emergency… maybe 3 times a year. NEVER would I pay even $30.00 for a campsite. ANY public campground is better than 99% of all private campgrounds. We have learned to plan our itinerary at least 6 months ahead… 1 year in some instances …and always know exactly what our campsite will look like. Nobody really likes reservations so far ahead, but it has become necessary in todays world. We can always find a photo of the exact campsite we select by using “” or one of several other campsite photo websites. Oh, the beautiful places we’ve stayed… all public campgrounds. 95% National Forest/National Parks/Corps of Engineers/other Federal campgrounds. Very few state parks as they are now averaging $25 to $35 a night also.

  8. Tren

    Whether it be politics or sports or fashion, etc., there will always be topics for people to disagree upon. However, to put my 2 cents in, cramped conditions are more the norm than not. The solution: solar panels to boondock out on BLM land. We stay at KOAs frequently and with the KOA rewards card giving you 10% off each stay and accumulation of points for free nights, the cost is diminished. I must say the comment about the California parks is spot on. We stayed at the San Francisco RV “Resort” (using that term loosely) and our neighbor’s slides were 10 inches from ours. As full-timers, we’ve seen it all. The answer is, if you don’t like it, move on. Or get solar panels.

  9. Pat Mitchell

    It would be an extremely bad day when we would stay at a KOA. We learned that lesson many years ago and try to avoid them at all cost.

  10. Kevin

    There are several factors at play. First there is very little oversight by local planning and public health agencies. Second there is little reason for campground owners and operators to upgrade sites. 40 years ago rigs were shorter and had few slides. Our “footprint is bigger”. There is a limited inventory of sites and parks so it is a operators market so they can charge what the market will bear. third there is no national or regional organization looking out for us, the users of these facilities. Until or unless owners and operators feel the heat from us in the form of complements and complaints they have no compelling reasons to improve facilities to meet our changing needs.

  11. Cindy

    This is why we call KOAs Krampgrounds of America (or Krapgrounds, if you are really upset). Crowded and expensive. Always expensive.

    1. Sue Conant

      I heard KOA stands for Keep On Adding

  12. Highwire

    When looking for a restaurant or a local attraction, I check TripAdvisor. Because I use this service I feel obligated to post a review as well. What are the best sites for reviewing campgrounds?

    1. PeterW

  13. Judy P

    Having full timed for 12 years and RVing for over 30 years, never, never stayed at a KOA or similar! Why would you give them your money to stay and then complain, drive on down the road. I agree 100% with “tumbleweed”. Solar is the only way to go. The people that stay in KOA and most RV parks are boring, only leaving their rig to walk their dogs. I have met so many interesting people out enjoying nature, people you would love to interview and I would love to read about in your book.

  14. Mike

    Ok, you got me started , up on the proverbial soap box. If you think these spots are tight, a majority of private camp grounds in Calif. are older and very tight, charging anywhere from $60 and up per night for nothing more than a glorified parking lot. Then if you add in holiday weekends the prices soar beyond $100 (and they don’t even wash your rig haha) . Considering all the taxes the state charges the parks (even a bed tax) the feel obligated to pass those along to us ,and then some… Most consider themselves a resort if they have a pool and showers. Now to add insult to injury, compound the NEW added fuel tax starting in November. An additional. $ .12 / gal. gas , and $ .20 /diesel. I believe you can figure out the long term ramifications from this increase. Enough said!

  15. Tumbleweed

    If you’d invest in solar panels, you’d NEVER need to stay in a park again. I spend loads of time on the internet and my panels provide plenty of power for it. I’ve met bloggers with solar panels who mostly boondock and they also have more than sufficient power. You’d never need to pay those outrageous camping fees again, either. I’ve been all over out west and have rarely been outside a Verizon service area, even when camped on remote mountaintops.

    If you dont’ want to boondock because you’d rather meet other RVers to provide material for your articles, you could stay in the beautiful primitve campgrounds in national forests and BLM land, where the sites are large and inexpensive. Most of them have water and dump stations, although not at each individual site.

    You’re missing the best RVing experiences by insisting on staying mainly at overpriced, crowded campgrouds. You’re also missing the camaraderie of the most adventurous RVers–those who are’t afraid to go off the beaten path. They have far more interesting tales to tell and tips to give than those who are afraid to travel the back roads.

  16. J French

    You paid $40 for a space in a parking lot with electric , water & sewer connections & not a campground.
    Not being full timers, we plan our camp outings & even overnights reserving space prior to any trips.
    KOA’s are not in our agenda from prior visits.
    That was terrible & we would have been upset.

    1. Bill Semion, Michigan

      Some of my best-ever camping experiences have been either at Michigan State Forest campgrounds, or any National Forest campground, or at any Army Corps of Engineers campground. At National Forests and COE, my $10 National Parks and Federal Recreational lands Pass gets me a stay at half-price. Some even include showers and funning water/electric at sites, especially the COE facilities. Michigan’s state forest campgrounds are numerous and are always on water, either lake or river. I do not mind using pit toilets. My hot water shower is outside my Leisure Unity. If i need to empty a tank, I go to many Flying J/Pilot truck stops. My rewards card there gets me half-price. I totally agree with going solar, which is the next addition to my Unity.

      1. Bill Semion

        Well, perhaps not “funning water,” but certainly, “running water.” 😉

  17. Beverly

    I hope you complained to the park management and also to KOA corporate. Perhaps more complaints will end up woth upgrades to their parks. We do NOT stop ar KOA and prefer boondocking to their parks.

  18. AikenRVer

    Whether the sewer hose is in or out the slop is still on the ground. We tend to go with KOA because they have a dog park. Most of the other parks have adequate room for a fenced dog park but don’t bother. My personal favorite waste of space is Lazydays in Florida. They have a small dog agility area totally unfenced at an intersection of 2 roads. Makes for a great ad pix but not usable with no fence!

  19. Patti Lounsbury

    Hose in or out isn’t the point. Overcrowding and over pricing is. Too many campgrounds are trying to “shoehorn ” in more rigs for more bucks and we let them get away with it. Well, maybe we can start by thinking about stopping earlier so we can check on, and if necessary, refuse to stay and let them know why…and hit social media to spread the word. I know you needed the electricity for work, but at least you are getting the word out.

  20. Mike Sherman

    Sorry, forgot the word bleach….saturate a 2′ area with bleach

  21. Mike Sherman

    Chuck, I would file a complaint with the local health dept. Their inspection might prompt some action, hard to believe it is a legal set-up. I would also have saturated that sewer inlet area with a 2′ circular motion using 100% for your own protection. Yes, I’m sure it would kill the grass. Too bad. You have a right to proper hook ups, not being subjected to the you-know-what that was no doubt spilled in that area.

  22. Bob

    We avoid KOA completely. First off they are way to expensive for what you getting and we don’t like the cramped in feeling we get at there parks. We have been full timing now for over two years and haven’t stayed in one since we started.

  23. Steve S

    My wife and I are new to RVing. We just started 3 years ago as part timers, however we caught the bug and more than likely we will be 3/4 timers next year. As far as the sewer hose goes, I have not come across any of our neighbors that only take their sewer hose out to dump and then re store it. I for one keep it out all the time. When we do travel, we try to stay at a KOA. We have not been disappointed. I do agree that some of them need a sprucing up, however, I find the staff to be accommodating and friendly. We do check out all the campgrounds before we make any commitment. Oh one other thing, I don’t work for KOA. Now if you mentioned Good Sam sponsored campgrounds, I would agree with you there. We have been forced to stay in some due to weather or other circumstances that look and feel like tenements.

  24. Rob S

    This scenario is one reason I have dropped my KOA membership and have not stayed in one for the past three years. The sites are so cramped it’s like living in a NYC east side tenement.
    If others would boycott KOA perhaps they would get the message.

  25. SZamp

    I think the point is the sewer hose or dump is basically in Chuck’s space regardless of if the neighbor RV is hooked up or not. This has to be some kind of violation. You would not stay in a hotel room where the guy in the next room comes over to use your bathroom, even in a super cheap hotel room. Older RV parks are trying to accommodate bigger RVs from when they were first configured 20 years ago. They are making big bucks but not spending any money on improvements. KOA is a large corporation and one we rely on to uphold certain standards but we have been disappointed over and over with them. Maybe they should spend less money advertising and more money inspecting the facilities and weeding out the bad apples. We have a KOA card ourselves and we have been full timing for 11 years now. However, we will be taking off soon and truthfully I am going to be reevaluating it’s value.

  26. Tommy Molnar

    Bruce, if I put my hose out, it’s staying out. If I opt not to put it out it’s because I have no intention of using it. I’d say 98% of RV’ers put their drain hoses out and then leave their grey tank open. I don’t leave mine open anymore but that’s just my choice.

    On the cost-per-night thing… My wife always says “We’re bringing the accommodations. The park is supplying a spigot and an electrical plug. Something’s wrong”. Of course this is an oversimplification, but I think the thought process is right on.

  27. mike

    It’s funny you said it was $40 a night. Around here, there are only 2 campgrouds that I can think of that are even close to $40 a night. Every other one is close to $60, or more. What even makes that worse, is the fact that the $40 campgrounds have bigger sites than the $60 ones, in general. How was the water pressure in that place? I’ve seen a trickle out of faucets too many times And if you want to use the showers at the campground, do it very early in the morning, before there is a line or before everyone wakes up and takes all the water pressure.

  28. Bluebird Bob

    Why?? A lot of us have washers and dryers in our rigs. We aren’t going to put the hose away for a day or two and put it out again.
    Maybe the rver has small holding tanks and has to dump more often.

  29. Bruce

    I never could understand why people put their sewer hose out when they first arrive and leave them out. If every one would dump and put the hose away it would be so much nicer for their neighbors.

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