At the Campground – Part 5 of 7 in a series about Traveling With an RV or Travel Trailer

at the campground

This is Part 5 of a 7 part series on traveling with an RV or travel trailer. It's all about what has worked well for Fay and me over the last several years of traveling through the U.S. and Canada.

The 7 articles in the series are (click to view):
- Planning Your Route
- Finding Places to Stay
- Preparing For a Trip
- On the Road
- At the Campground
- Leaving the Campground
- After You Get Back Home

Much of the information on this site is only my opinion. Use it at your own risk. -Denny
(Click here to read the complete disclaimer)
Please Note: I participate in affiliate marketing programs and may receive a commission if you use one of my links and make a purchase. - Denny

You've Arrived...Now What???

This is it! One of the most exciting parts of a trip is arriving at the campground. It's what you've been thinking about and planning for who knows how long and it's finally here. Don't be like Fay in the photo above, wondering what to do next!

If you are new at this, you will have a lot of things on your mind. Setting up is not difficult, but be sure to take your time until you get used to what's involved. As I've suggested in previous articles, this is another place where a good checklist will help.

Choosing a campsite

Before you ever get to the campground, you can usually find a site map online or have one sent to you. Some of them are really helpful, others will leave you in disbelief when you arrive and see the place in person. However, they are often the only thing you have to go by if you are making reservations. They will at least show you the overall layout of the campground and where the sites are located. If you can't see the place in person though, it's a good idea to ask a lot of questions.

campground map
Typical campground map - this one is pretty good

Sometimes you don't have much choice when getting a campsite. The campground may be pretty full, or all the sites may be similar to one another. But if you do have a choice, there are a lot of things to consider. What's important to us may be different than what you care about. Here are just a few things to think about:

  • Environment/Atmosphere Does the site appeal to you? Is it in direct sunlight, or does it have a lot of shade?
  • Hookups Do you have particular hookup requirements? (30/50 amp electric, water, sewer)
  • Location Is it close to anything that matters to you (bathrooms/showers, playground, etc.)?
  • Privacy Is the space (and possibly visual separators like trees) between you and your neighbors okay?
  • Size and layout Will you have enough room? Can you easily park your rig?

Layout of campsites

If your rig is like ours, this is one of the times when you'll really appreciate having a small travel trailer rather than a large RV or fifth wheel. You will often see both small and big rigs struggling to get parked, but you will find it's pretty easy once you get a little experience. In the beginning, it's a big help to have someone on the outside of your vehicle to guide you a bit. (Be patient though, this can easily lead to a pretty ugly word exchange if it doesn't go well!)

There are two basic layouts for campsites...

  • Pull-through
    These sites have an entrance and an exit allowing you to simply pull your rig into the site when you arrive, and pull straight out when you leave. You never have to back up. Some of these sites are roadside, but most often you pull in from one road going through the campground and pull out onto another one.
    Pull-through campsite
    Pull-through campsite - roadside
    Pull-through campsite
    Pull-through campsite - between roads
  • Back-in
    Back-in sites are common in most state and county park campgrounds. You have to pull forward in the road and then back into the campsite. Sometimes it's easy, but sometimes you need to carefully back in between trees. I had to go to a big parking lot and practice backing up with a small travel trailer in the beginning. Eventually I got the hang of it and now it's pretty easy when we are on the road and setting up.
    Back-in campsite
    Back-in campsite (be careful not to backup too far!)

Backing up your trailer (You motorhome folks can ship this part!!!)

Unless you are already a pro at backing up with your trailer attached, be sure to checkout this great video by Sean Michael. The "Scoop" was the answer I needed to learn how to simplify backup up.

The number one tip you will often hear is to place your hands at the bottom of the steering wheel instead of the top when you are backing up with a trailer. The reason is that your trailer will head in the opposite direction of the top of your steering wheel. Holding on to the bottom will seem a little more natural because your hands and trailer will go in the same direction.

Fay always stands behind the trailer to the driver's side to guide me. I make sure I can hear her and see her in my mirror. The first time we went camping with our current small travel trailer, I was backing straight into a large tree. Thankfully, people at the campsite across from us saw me and yelled just in time!

By the way, Sean has a lot more great camping & RV related videos you can check out.

Picking the spot to park your rig

Before you pick the exact place to park within your site, get out and look things over. Pay particular attention to the following:

  • Slope of the ground You want to park somewhere that is as level as possible. Look at the ground for bumps, holes, and slope. Picking the best place you can will reduce your need to level the trailer once it's parked.
  • Location of water, electric and sewer hookups Make sure you park close enough to the water, electric and sewer hookups. If you are using sewer, parking close enough to keep your hose short will usually help it drain better. All of the hookup connections on your trailer are on the driver's side. Most of the campgrounds you stay at will have the hookups on that side too. Once in a while, however, you'll stay somewhere that has hookups on the wrong side. This usually occurs if they are trying to share the hookups between two sites.
  • Location of fire ring and picnic table If you are going to have a fire, keep your distance from the fire ring so that you minimize any smoke getting into the trailer or RV. Position your rig so that it will be convenient to the picnic table if possible.
  • Space to park your tow vehicle If you have a tow vehicle and are going to disconnect from the trailer, be sure you leave enough space so that your tow vehicle is not sticking out into the road.
Once you've figured out where you want to park, carefully put your rig into place.

Getting Everything Setup Outside

campground electricity

IMPORTANT: If you don't know about the electrical risks at campgrounds, please be sure to read my article Avoiding Dangerous Campground Electrical Problems.

The basic steps

Now's the time to get out your checklist! You should have a checklist that you've tailored to your needs, and you should refine it until the process becomes routine. (As I mentioned above, you can download a free copy of my Beginner's Guide to Small Travel Trailers that includes our own checklists to use as a starting point in creating your own.)

If you are towing a trailer like we do, here are some basic steps to get your started. Be sure to refine your own steps based upon your rig.

  1. Level trailer side-to-side
  2. Chock wheels
  3. Disconnect trailer from tow vehicle
  4. Move tow vehicle out of the way
  5. Level trailer front to rear
  6. Put down stabilizer jacks
  7. Hookup water, sewer, electric and gas
  8. Spray around everything that touches the ground for bugs

NOTE: If we're just setting up for an overnight stop, we usually cheat a bit and will usually keep it simple and skip most of these steps.

IMPORTANT! Two things you should always do to protect your trailer at the campsite:
  • Check the electric power before you connect. We've found several campsites where it wasn't wired correctly and could possibly damage our trailer. When we've found a problem, the people in the campground office were always happy to move us to another site. We use a combined Surge Suppressor/Circuit Analyzer.
  • Water pressure varies substantially from campground to campground. If it's too high, it can cause plumbing leaks in your trailer. Be sure to use a Water Pressure Regulator on your fresh water hose.
See my Products We Like page for the devices we use.

From experience, I can also tell you that it's a good idea to check the inside sink spouts before you turn on the water. Our kitchen spout had vibrated loose one time from traveling on some bumpy roads. When we turned the faucet on, water sprayed all over the place.

Only two more articles to go

Writing a series of 7 weekly articles seemed like a great idea in beginning. But even though I've taken the majority of the information from my Beginner's Guide to Small Travel Trailers, it's still been a lot more work than I anticipated. I hope you're enjoying what I've written and picking up a few new ideas that you can use in your own travels.

Let me stress once again the importance of understanding the risks associated with electrical problems at campgrounds. If this is new to you, please be sure to read my article that I referenced above, and take the steps to be prepared. I've heard so many sad stories that could have been prevented.

Other than that, thanks for taking the time to read what I've written. And as always, drop me a note if you have any questions.

- Denny

Denny Johnson

Denny Johnson

My wife Fay and I live in Knoxville, TN, and we love traveling with our Casita. I created to share things we've learned along the way and hopefully help others. Be sure to check out all the information, the campground reviews, and especially the free Small Travel Trailers Beginner's Guide . If you like what you find, please subscribe to my Emails so you don't miss any future articles.
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7 thoughts on “At the Campground – Part 5 of 7 in a series about Traveling With an RV or Travel Trailer

      1. That’s a great suggestion Arlene. We have had to change sites a couple of times because of the electricity. Certainly good to know as soon as possible.

  1. Thanks so much for these step by step articles on camping trips. Very helpful for newbies and even for people who have camped for years!

  2. Black tank cleaning, a small bag of ice in the toilet will clean as you go down the road, when you get where you are going as you uh set up drain the black tank the ice will have scrubbed the tank enroute.

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