No Regrets Camping: How NOT To Enjoy a Camping Trip

Numerous things can go wrong when you are camping and sometimes it’s completely out of your control, but other times it’s your own mistakes that can ruin your trip. Read along to learn some common camping mistakes and how to avoid them!

You don’t have to be the Born Survivor to enjoy a camping trip; there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste. Camping choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your preferences, here are 15 bad moves make while camping. 

Camping at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Ignore fire bans. As awesome as smores are, adhere to campground rules regarding fires. If the authorities in charge of the campground or national forest say no fires, they mean no fires. It is your responsibility to be fire safe when camping. Before you go, check to see if there are fire bans in place where you plan to visit, and act accordingly.

Camping at Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Gather wood without checking. Even when fires are allowed, gathering of wood may not be. Ask first, and then gather only down and dead wood in designated areas. Never cut live trees or branches from live trees.

3. Start a fire with gasoline. Assuming that there is no burn ban, you should be prepared to start your fire with appropriate fuel. If not, then we hope you remembered your first aid kit.

Camping at Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Burn wood that does not fit in the fire pit. So you found an awesome log that will burn for hours, only it doesn’t fit in the designated fire ring. And you forgot your hatchet. Your plan is to just lay it across the fire or stick in one end. It will only burn the part in the fire, right?  Wrong! Keep your fire to a manageable size. Make sure children and pets are supervised when near the fire. Never leave your campfire unattended

Camping at Fort McDowell Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Miss the stars. How you could you ignore this amazing view?! It’s easy when you live in the city to forget that stars even exist. Look up at night when you camp. It’s life-changing. 

6. Feed the wildlife. As much as your social media page would be enhanced by photos of chipmunks eating potato chips, nothing about it is good for the animal. And then there are the campers that occupy your site next who will not be able to enjoy a sandwich without being harassed by begging critters.

Camping at Creekfire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Play loud music. Camping is about enjoying the natural world. Try listening to the wind in the trees, the gurgling of the stream, or the chattering of the birds. Besides, your music is annoying to the neighbors.

Camping at Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Don’t give your kids camp chores to do. Camping is filled with life lessons for children. From setup to cleanup, there are confidence-building tasks that your kids should be doing. 

9. Stay glued to your devices. And don’t let your kids do it either. Camping is the perfect time for a digital detox. 

Camping at Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Watch TV. Stars > Netflix anyhow. Every moment of a camping trip that you spend watching TV is a moment when you could have been enjoying your companions, your surroundings, and the simple serenity of doing nothing.

Camping at Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Overestimate your vehicle. Don’t take a two-wheel drive SUV off-roading. Don’t take chances with bald tires or faulty gas gauges. Know what your vehicle can and cannot do and camp somewhere within that range of ability.

Camping at Hilltop RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Overestimate your outdoor skills. Rock climbing on a cruise ship does not qualify you to climb the face of a mountain. Nor does watching two seasons of Naked and Afraid make you a survival expert. Be honest with yourself about your skills and plan accordingly.  

Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Underestimate the wildlife. That ain’t no teddy! Bears, raccoons, and other wildlife can make your camping trip miserable if you underestimate their survival skills. They can unzip, unlock, and chew through things with astonishing efficiency. Learn how to critter proof your trip before you ever leave home.

Camping at SeaWind RV Park, Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Leave anything behind. “Leave no trace” is the campers’ creed, and it applies even in organized campgrounds. It means that when you pull out of your campsite, there should not be any sign that you and your group were ever there. 

Camping at Texas Lakeside RV Park, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Disrespect the campground. Respecting the facility goes beyond simply cleaning up after yourself; it means not carving initials into picnic tables, parking only on designated hard surfaces, and finding a way to leave it better for the next guy, not worse.

Worth Pondering…

Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

15 Bad Camping Decisions

You don’t have to be Bear Grylls to enjoy a camping trip; there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste

Campground and RV park camping is distinguished from wilderness camping by the presence of facilities and designated campsites. Campground choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your camping preferences, here are the 15 worst moves you can make at a campground

Camping at White Tank Mountains, a Maricopa County Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Fail to give someone your camping itinerary. Before you set out on your adventure, be sure to let someone know your plans. What may seem like a silly precaution could actually save your life.

2. Forget to bring insect repellant. It does not matter where you camp, there will be insects and you need to arm yourself appropriately.

Camping at Jekyll Campground, Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Assume there will be toilet paper. Pack your own roll. It’s the first rule of camping. Paper towels and Kleenex are also necessities.

4. Assume that there will be running water. Depending on the season and the camping area or facility you choose, you may need to bring your own water. You do need to stay hydrated and brush you teeth.

Camping at My Old Kentucky Home State Park Campground, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Take more stuff than you need. Whether you will be sleeping in a tent or in a luxury RV, there is no reason to take things that are not essential for your journey and destination.

6. Forget your first aid kit. Consider the first aid kit your failsafe in the event that you make all the wrong decisions while camping. Your first aid kit should include Tylenol or Advil to ease a headache or fever, Cortizone 10 cream to soothe an itchy insect bite, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or Bacitracin to prevent infection from minor cuts or scrapes, Band-Aids of varying sizes to cover those minor cuts and scrapes, and Benadryl to relieve allergies.

Camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Assume that your GPS is always correct. It isn’t. Learn to read a map…a paper one! And make sure you have clear directions for your destination before you leave home, preferably from more than one source.

8. Set up camp in the dark. Unless you are very familiar with the campground and all of your equipment, plan to arrive before dark. Setting up in the dark is not only a logistical challenge; it’s annoying to other campers trying to enjoy a peaceful evening that does not include all the ruckus of you fighting with your gear.

Camping in Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Invade other people’s space. Space invaders are the worst campers in any campground. Do not walk through other people’s camps, even if you think they aren’t there. It’s rude and creepy. Don’t let your children do it either.

10. Expand beyond your assigned camping site. Second worst camper is the space hog. It doesn’t matter if you are in a luxury RV resort or a rustic forest campground; don’t take up more than your designated space. It creates problems for the park management and is rude to other campers.

Camping at Bird Island Basin Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Picnic in an empty campsite. Campsites are for camping, not picnicking. This is a subtler way of hogging space, but still a bad decision. Do you want to be the guy who misses a prime campsite because somebody was using it for an afternoon snack when you arrived?  

12. Leave open food containers outside. Never, ever, leave food outside especially in bear country. Unless you like ants, flies, feral cats, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bears, or irate neighbors. Worse yet, don’t leave them in your tent overnight.

Camping at Seawind RV Resort, Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Leave garbage near your camp. See the previous bad decision. Garbage belongs away from your campsite, inside cans or dumpsters, if they are provided.  

14. Leave things in public spaces. There is a distinct yuk factor involved in finding someone else’s toiletries in a campground bathhouse. The same applies to buckets, hoses, dishpans, or dishcloths left at communal water faucets.  

Camping at Fort McDowell Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Underestimate the weather. You did check the forecast before you left home, right? Just know that it will likely be hotter, colder, windier, or wetter than you expect. And you do have a NOAA Weather Radio!

Worth Pondering…

You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.

—Yogi Berra

Vacationing by RV this Summer? Here’s what you need to Know

Parks, scenic drives, and hiking trails all wait—all on your own terms

The wide open spaces never seemed more inviting than now. Fresh air, gorgeous scenery, and a healthy dose of freedom—it’s all waiting for you along the highways and byways of America. If you’re ready for a getaway with both wide-open spaces and a lot of autonomy, consider an RV road trip around America.

Motor coaches along Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you’re in your RV, or camping, you’re in control of your environment. You can spend as much or as little time as you want in any one place. You can go off on a hike all day and come back and never see a soul. Such trips literally and figuratively “put you in the driver’s seat”.

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As communities re-open after their COVID-19-related closures, keep in mind that some parks, businesses, and attractions may still be closed or have new protocols in place. Before traveling, familiarize yourself with local guidelines and regulations for the destinations you plan to visit.

Camping in a Class B motorhome at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pick Your Wheels

There are vehicles for every style of trip from the converted minivan–style Jucy vans that sleep four and have a kitchen to full-size RVs with a bathroom. If you’re new to RVing, start by getting acquainted with the various types of RVs available. Options range from pop-up, teardrop, travel, and fifth-wheel trailers to motorized RVs that range in size from vans (Class B motorhomes) and cab-over morothomes (Class C) to long, bus-style motor coaches.

Camping in a travel trailer at Whispering Hills RV Park near Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rent or buy something that works best work for you and your family. Think about the activities you plan to do. If your plans involve regularly traversing hairpin mountain passes or embarking on day-long hikes, a campervan or truck camper would best fit the bill. Conversely, 45-foot motor homes equipped with cooking appliances and large wastewater holding tanks work well for large family get-togethers or cross-country trips.

Camping at Bellingham RV Park, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose a vehicle that’s compatible with the area you plan to explore and within your budget. You’ll love having the extra space of a motorized RV if you’re exploring the desert or mostly traveling along major highways. That said, a smaller camper van might be better suited for the scenic drive along California Highway 1, Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone, and other winding roadways.  

Camping at Colorado River Thousand Trails Preserve near Columbus, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most rentals do not require a special driver’s license. Ahead of booking make sure to ask about rental insurance and roadside assistance plans. Take advantage of a quick RV training session before revving up. If you plan on bringing along a furry friend, check the pet policies specific to your rental. Perhaps most important is to book early.

On the road to Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose Your Scenery

There are hundreds—if not thousands—of amazing places to visit across the country. Do you want to do a coastal or mountain drive or go off the grid for a bit? State highways and county roads tend to feature scenic drives filled with more beauty than interstates, so stop and take some photos, smell the flowers, or just marvel at nature when venturing off the beaten path. Taking the scenic route can reveal some unexpected locally owned gems that get overlooked. Pecan pralines in Louisiana, BBQ in Texas, green chile cheeseburger in New Mexico.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Want the journey to be just as meaningful as the destination? Check out these scenic byways. Looking to do an epic cross-country road trip along a beloved American roadway? Check out our guides to Route 66, Gold Rush Trail, or the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maybe you’re a history buff or a foodie? You could plan your camping trip around either of those themes—and many more, to boot. Here are some of our best road trip ideas for patriots, wildlife lovers, and haunted house enthusiasts.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California dreaming? Got Georgia on your mind? No matter what part of the country, there’s a road that can take you there—so go for it. And be sure to stop at neat little towns and roadside attractions along the way.

Camping at Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start Browsing Campgrounds to Create Your Itinerary

Almost any destination can be made better—or significantly worse—by choice of campground. It’s hard to relax if you don’t have access to clean showers or if your neighbors keep you up all night with noise.

Camping at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finally, don’t forget that we’re a great resource! Whether you’re camping out at a national park or just looking for the best RV park near your chosen national park, always turn to RVing with Rex for quality content to help you make your vacation great.

Worth Pondering…

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…

— John Muir

7 Tips for Newbies to Know BEFORE the First Trip

Vacationing by RV this summer? Here’s what you need to know.

When you first heard the words “black water” in conversation, you may have assumed the speaker was discussing an obscure movie, perhaps an Australian film created by 3D models or a 2017 Jean-Claude Van Damme flick.

Camping at Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, if you’re one of the many people who decides to take a summer road trip in an RV you would know that the first definition of black water is solid and liquid waste that must be dumped from your RV holding tank.

Here are seven helpful tips to know before embarking on your first RV road trip.

Sewer hose connected and ready to dump © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Don’t get poop on yourself

If there’s a toilet in your rig—and there most likely is—you’re going to need to dump the waste—the aforementioned black water—at some point (likely sooner rather than later). When you go to open the storage compartment on the side of the vehicle to remove the cap and connect the sewer hose in order to dump, remember this: Make sure the dump valves are closed! Trust me on this! Read the page in your RV owner’s manual about the holding tanks. Make sure you close those latches! Otherwise, you might gag while your sneakers become “poop shoes” you can never wear again.

Sewer hose connection up-close © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Remember your toolkit

It’s hard to anticipate something like having your side view mirror get so loose that it no longer provides any help with attempting lane changes. But these things happen, and you should prepare for them, instead of relying on your copilot to turn or finding a man on the road who has a wrench you can borrow to tighten said mirror.

Sewer dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring a toolkit. And store it on the curb side. Again, trust me on this. Bring Allen wrenches or Hex Key set. Bring duct tape and Rhino tape. Bring variety of screwdrivers including Phillips and Robertson. Bring hammer. Bring scissors. Bring a variety of wrenches. Bring plenty of rags. Be ready to fix the unanticipated.

Read carefully before pulling lever © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Pack sufficient cookware

If you’re renting an RV that comes stocked with kitchen tools, check that it also has pots and pans, cutting boards, and silverware. And if it has knives, make sure they’re sharp enough to cut effectively. Will the rental company reimburse you for replacing any missing or faulty cookware? It may be wise to take complete inventory of your cookware at time of rental.

Camping at Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Use leveling blocks

Like Legos? Stackable leveling blocks can be placed under your vehicle’s wheels in order to level out your parking spot. If you arrive at your camping site when it is dark or too tired to use leveling blocks, be prepared to face the consequences.  The fridge may stop running (because it relies on gravity to cool properly and only works when the vehicle is level). That brings us to the next tip.

Camping at Monahans Sands State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Arrive at your campground before dark

Plan your trip so that you get to your overnight parking spot before dark. Whether you’re driving into a campground, an RV park, or—especially—a place in the desert or woods where you’ll be boondocking (RV-speak for spending the night somewhere for free, without electric or water hookups), it’s important to be able to see your surroundings.

Camping at Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s very challenging to see camping site numbers and even harder to determine whether you’ve parked safely (and level) in the dark. Also: You want to wake up the next morning and be able to recognize your surroundings. Not knowing where you are can have a rather disturbing feel!

Camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Use RV toilet essentials

Sorry to bring up the poop thing again, but it’s important. Without it, traveling during a pandemic would be more dangerous. And if you don’t pack certain RV bathroom essentials, you’ll find yourself up a certain creek without a paddle.

Camping at Poches RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Knowing what your black water tank holds, the next logical question to ask is: how the heck do you keep it clean and odor-free? Fortunately, the availability of commercial chemicals and deodorizers makes it pretty simple to maintain your black tank on a regular basis.

Camping in Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the start of your camping trip, add a dose of RV black water tank treatment, which may come in liquid form or in Tide-Pod-like packets. Be sure to add in about a gallon of water, as well, which helps the chemicals do their job. Along with keeping tank odors down, these chemicals also have the ability to break down solid waste and toilet paper. That makes for a much smoother process when it comes time to dump your tanks.

Even if you use those things properly, there is a rare possibility you might end up with a clog in your toilet—and that is not a pretty picture.

Hiking Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Wake up early and enjoy the sunrise

Driving your bathroom and kitchen around with you makes life super convenient. You can eat, nap, and relieve yourself whenever you’d like! With that in mind, here are several suggestions on structuring your days when you visit national or state parks: Wake up early. Make coffee. Drive inside the park to a place with a gorgeous view. Enjoy the sunrise and wildlife with few other humans around. Go on a hike

Enjoying camping on Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you return to your camping site, take some time to appreciate the RV lifestyle. Bask in the nature around you before retiring to your big sleeping box. And promise yourself you’ll go on another road trip real soon!

Worth Pondering…

Wherever we go, we’re always at home.

6 Essential Tips for the First Time RVer

6 Essential Tips for the First Time RVer

There are many people out there who love to commune with nature and take every opportunity to grab their camping gear and head out into the great outdoors. Then, there are those people who decide to take camping to the next level and become RV campers instead. 

Touring Wild Turkey Bourbon Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, whether you’re headed across the country to tour a Kentucky bourbon distillery or to the mountains to take a hike, there are a few tips you need to follow as a beginning RVer

Heading to the mountains for a hike at Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Thorough 

Even seasoned RVers leave things behind when it’s time to move on, so as a beginner it’s important to be thorough when packing up to move to the next location. You have to pack up your RV and make sure that its road ready when it’s time to move on. Develop a checklist to follow so you don’t forget to secure a latch or close a drawer. 

Slow down and enjoy nature at Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take Your Time on the Road 

This tip applies to how much time you plan to spend on the road each day and even how long you intend to stay in one spot. It’s important not to try and cover too many miles in a day. Not only is that dangerous, but you’re failing to enjoy the beauty of the area you’re in at the same time.

Taking time to relax and enjoy your camping site along the Mississippi River at Tom Sawyer RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the best parts of becoming an RVer is taking the time to enjoy the views you would have easily passed by without seeing before. A good rule of thumb to follow is 300 miles or 3 pm as your cut-off point for traveling each day. If you reach either, it’s time to call it a day, set up camp, and just enjoy the area. 

Take time to enjoy the journey along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once you reach your destination, don’t just head back out the next morning. Spend a few days relaxing and getting to know and appreciate the area. In this way, you’ll be fresh to get back on the road and have a relaxing time as well. There are many places to see when you’re an RV camper, take your time and enjoy them all. 

Enjoying the sunset at Sea Breeze RV Park near Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask a Ton of Questions 

One of the best things about being an RVer is that the community is so big you can easily get answers to the questions you have, and you should have a ton when you are first starting out. Talk to RVers along your route and ask questions. You can pretty much guarantee that if they don’t know the answer, they will find someone that does. 

Colorado River Thousand Trails Preserve at Columbus, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pack Tools and Spare Parts

Pack a well-stocked tool kit and store on the curb side of your RV. Include basic tools and items that may need to be replaced including LCD flashlights, spare fuses, LED lights, jumper cables, nuts and bolts, WD-40, silicon spray, duct and gorilla tape, rags, and cleaning supplies. Be sure to bring spare parts that are unique to your rig.

Camping amid the beauty of Badlands National Park in South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Flexible 

RVing is about taking it easy and enjoying the experience. A lot of things can happen on the road, from bad weather to someone getting sick. You need to be flexible with your plans. If weather or sickness puts you behind a day so be it! Enjoy where you’re at and then ride towards a sunnier spot when everyone is on the mend. 

Castle Valley Gourd Festival was a pleasant surprise on a day trip from Moab, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Becoming an RVer is all about the journey and the adventure that awaits you from town to town and state to state. Plan your trip, pack well, ask questions, and get to know your fellow RV community members. RV camping is fun and relaxing and you shouldn’t make it anything but that for you and your family. 

Settling into Harvest Moon RV Park in Historic Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t Wing It

The urge to be spontaneous is tempting when your home is on wheels. There’s a certain pleasure in going where you want, when you want. However, it does help to have a solid plan in place especially if it’s your first RV trip. When planning your RV trip, consider:

  • Your budget
  • Your food supplies
  • Your travel route
  • Attractions to see along the way
  • Fuel stops
  • Campgrounds/RV parks
Enjoying the beauty at Columbia River RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Our wish to you is this: drive a little slower, take the backroads sometimes, and stay a little longer. Enjoy, learn, relax, and then…plan your next RV journey.

Camping Etiquette: Getting Away From Each Other & Doing It Together

Be smart. Be kind. Be considerate.

Since I am writing this article during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ll start with the caveat that camping etiquette now includes respecting the health of others by maintaining social distancing and sanitary protocols. Much as we crave our former levels of interaction, this is a time when it’s absolutely okay to politely decline an invitation to a potluck or other gathering—unless you know your neighbors well and/or are comfortable with the level of safety precautions that will be taken.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the arrival of summer, one thing is certain. Americans and Canadians will flee the cities by the thousands in search of open space and a chance to get away from the rest of us. The situation is akin to the hippie movement of the ’60s when everyone was being different but doing it all together.

Jack’s Landing RV Resort, Grants Pass, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That means that virtually every campground and outdoor recreation venue within four hours of every major cities will be full each and every weekend—full of people getting away from it all and doing it together.

Eagles Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan ahead and take care of last-minute errands sooner rather than later since a brief stop on the way out of town Friday afternoon could cost you that last available camping spot.

Campground courtesy (the unwritten rules of etiquette) is an easy way to ensure that a group of people living in close proximity together where sounds travel and light can be a disturbance continue to camp together in harmony.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spending time in a campground requires a certain level of community patience and a willingness to live and let live, there are some basic rules of camping etiquette that will help create a friendly atmosphere and make the camping experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be friendly and greet other campers. Again, this is part of being within the camping community and even though you may not know the other people, you all have a common goal of enjoying the camping experience.

Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep in mind that I may be in the campground to get away from it all and wish to hear the wind blowing through the aspens, the chatter of squirrels, or perhaps the call of a jay. While I recognize your right to enjoy a little music, I don’t necessarily share your musical taste unless, of course, it’s Willie’s “On the road again…“. That is why they make headphones.

Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In that same vein, remember not all generators are created equal. Some are designed to run very quietly, and others are not. Quiet hours are there for a reason.

Follow the campground rules and regulations. These rules usually include speed limits, fire regulations, quiet times, and so on. Adhering to these rules is one of the basics of campground etiquette. Be sure to review and enforce the rules with your children, as well.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be considerate when arriving late or leaving early. If you arrive at the campsite after dark or leave before dawn, remember that others may be sleeping. Be as unobtrusive as possible. If setting up, do the least amount you need to get through the night and keep voices quiet and lights dim. If you are leaving early, pack up the bulk of your items the day before so you can make a quick get away with the least amount of disturbance possible.

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Contain yourself and your camping gear and supplies within your campsite area. When you set up your RV, don’t allow slideouts or awnings to extend beyond your site and into the neighboring  area. Keep all belongings, chairs, mats, toys, etc. within your campsite. If you need to place your satellite dish in another campsite in order to receive a signal, ask for permission from the people occupying the site.

Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another common misstep is that of walking through another person’s camp without being invited. Treat other campsites as private property. A campsite is a person’s home away from home. When someone is set up in a campsite, that site becomes their property for the duration of their stay. It is their personal space, and it should be treated that way. Never cut across another occupied site without permission. If the washrooms or beach access are on the other side of a site, walk around.

Lockhart State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be a responsible pet owner. If you are traveling with pets, make sure they are well taken care of. Keep dogs on leashes whenever they are outside so they are not bothering your neighbors and discourage them from barking. Never leave a dog that barks or howls unattended. Clean up after your pet—always.

Deadhorse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clean up after yourself. When you prepare to exit the campsite, be sure to remove all trash regardless of its origin. Always leave the campsite as clean, or cleaner, than it was when you arrived. The camp host and the next camper will appreciate it.

The bottom line is that camping requires us to respect the land and one another. When it comes down to it, continued success of this ongoing social experiment requires it.

Monahans Sandhill State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Have an enjoyable and safe camping summer.

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?

National Park Campgrounds by the Numbers

How limited are your choices for camping in the National Parks?

As the world comes to a standstill as we try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we encourage all of you to hunker down right now, too. In the meantime, we’ll keep posting articles to help you navigate the state of RV travel as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it’s safe to get back on the road again.

How many front-country campgrounds are in the National Park System? How many are needed? If you’ve struggled with making a campsite reservation on recreation.gov, these questions might have come to mind. Here are some answers.

Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the National Park Service, at the end of 2018 there were 1,421 campgrounds in the park system with 27,513 campsites. Filter that done a bit more and there are 502 front-country campgrounds with 16,648 sites, according to the Park Service. 

Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That 16,648 number might explain why it is such a struggle to reserve a campsite. After all, Yellowstone National Park has more than 2,000 front-country campsites alone, Yosemite National Park has nearly 1,500, Glacier National Park has more than 1,000, Grand Teton National Park has more than 1,100, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon have just a bit more than 1,200 sites. Do the math and you’ll see that those six parks alone hold 40 percent of those 16,648 campsites.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many other parks that are highly desirable with campers have considerably fewer sites. Canyonlands National Park has fewer than 40, Arches National Park has 50, Rocky Mountain National Park has around 571, Acadia National Park has a few more than 600, and Shenandoah National Park has 472.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And, if you’re looking for an RV campsite you’re choices are even more limited.

And some parks don’t have any front-country campsites: Saguaro, Petrified Forest, Carlsbad Caverns, and Cuyahoga Valley national parks all fall in that category.  

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the Park Service, the variety of available campground facilities and amenities is extremely broad from primitive, unstaffed backcountry campsites to campgrounds that provide hot showers or can accommodate 25-foot recreational vehicles. Campgrounds are also managed through multiple models; some campgrounds are operated by the Park Service, some by concessioners, and a few by other partners.

Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amenities at campgrounds in the National Park System include:

  • 1,015 comfort stations at 346 campgrounds
  • 12,730 tent pads at 485 campgrounds
  • 8,585 RV pads
  • 426 campgrounds with water stations
  • 130 campgrounds with year-round hot showers
  • 1,889 campsites at 36 campgrounds with electrical hook ups
  • 130 campgrounds with dumping stations
  • 33 campgrounds with Wi-Fi
  • 60 amphitheaters at 55 campgrounds
  • 3,534 fire rings at 556 campgrounds
  • 14 camp stores at 11 parks
Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of the 1,421 campgrounds in the park system, 1,340 were managed by Park Service and 81 were managed through concessions contracts.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the Park Service, these were the top 10 campgrounds in terms of occupancy:

1. Mather Campground, Grand Canyon National Park: 154,069 campers

2. Upper Pines, Yosemite National Park: 128,113 campers

3. Watchman Campground, Zion National Park: 92,231 campers.

4. Moraine Park Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park: 53,795 campers

5. Assateague Island National Seashore Campground: 51,035 campers

6. Fort Pickens Campground, Gulf Islands National Seashore: 47,708 campers

7. Pinnacles Campground, Pinnacles National Park: 44,382 campers

8. Blackwoods Campground, Acadia National Park: 44,289 campers

9. Point Reyes National Seashore Campground: 43,918 campers

10. Hodgdon Meadow Campground, Yosemite National Park: 43,440 campers

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Knowing all those numbers, how would you manage the parks and their front-country campgrounds? Would you call for more campgrounds/campsites to be carved into the parks? Would you add more campgrounds/sites to the busiest parks, or would you put campgrounds in those parks that don’t have any campgrounds? Would you leave things as they are and suggest those who can’t land a reservation look to nearby national forests or other public lands’ campgrounds?

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

—Rachel Carson 

Consider Your Needs When Choosing RV Parks and Campgrounds

Prioritize your wants and needs

Nothing can make or break your RV trip like choosing a campground not suited to your family’s needs and interests. When selecting a park, think about your camping style and ask yourself the following questions:

Palm Creek Golf and RV Park, Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are you camping with a young family, are you an active couple looking for outdoor adventures, or are you a snowbird who enjoys on-site activities and the opportunity to meet new friends?

Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How large is your RV and what amenities do you require? Full hook-ups? 30- or 50-amp electric service? Are you looking for a rural or urban setting and do you travel with pets?

Creekfire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When researching campgrounds we normally contact the campground office and ask specific questions about their policies and their park. Questions to ask include:

  • Rental rates (nightly, weekly, monthly per your needs) including taxes? Any discounts available?
  • Availability of Wi-Fi and cable TV?
  • What is included in the above rate—full hook-ups, 20/30-50-amp electric service, Wi-Fi, cable TV?
  • Is the park big-rig friendly? Length and width of sites? Are sites relatively level? Do the sites have concrete pads, grass, gravel, or dirt?
  • Will I have difficulty obtaining a satellite TV signal?
  • What are the park’s amenities—club house/activity room, pool, spa, rest room and shower facilities, laundry?
  • What is your pet policy? Restrictions on certain dogs breeds?
  • What is your reservation policy? Is a credit card required to hold a site? If so, is it processed immediately? What is your cancellation policy?

Make note of the name of the person you talked to.

Frog City RV Park, Duson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The “perfect” campsite is likely to vary from person to person. Think about what you want to do as well as what those in your group want to do and choose accordingly. Although there may be some variations of what you are looking for, you may want to take some of the factors mentioned below into consideration, when choosing the “perfect campsite”.

Terre Haute RV Park, Terre Haute, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do I have a preference for a pull-through or back-in site?

What are your electric requirements? 20, 30, or 50-amp service?

Is the breaker box in reasonable condition and does the polarity check out?

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do you require a sewer site?

Is the site long enough?

Is the site wide enough?

Sunny Acres RV Park, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Is the site relatively level?

Is the site in a high-traffic area? Near a dumpster? Dump station?

Are there low-hanging branches?

Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Will I be able to extend all slides?

Will I be able to extend the awning?

Will I be able to open all bins?

New Green Acres RV Park, Walterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Will I be able to obtain a TV satellite signal?

Do I want the afternoon or morning sun?

Where are the utilities located?

Where is the closest Wi-Fi tower?

Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimer, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you plan to stay one night, a weekend, a week, or longer, there are campgrounds that meet your needs. All are unique. No two parks are the same. Each campground will provide something a little different.

Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

But do not ask me where I am heading,

As I travel in this limitless world

Where every step I take is my home.

—Eihei Dogen

Handling Cold Weather in Your RV

Here’s how we handle cold weather in our motorhome

A major benefit of the RV lifestyle is the ability to follow good weather.

Diamond Groove RV Park, Spruce Groove, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can hide out in the south during the winter and cool off in the north in the summer. Plus, you can enjoy spring and fall for several months as you move in between.

Creekside RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But sometimes you get caught in cold weather due to an early winter or unexpected circumstance. The typical recreational vehicle is not designed for use in the snowy, cold, and icy northern climates. Some RV manufacturers offer a “Polar Package”—don’t believe it, mostly marketing hype. There is not a chance it would keep you cozy warm in any “polar” climate.

Angel Lake RV Resort, Wells, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even with the cold weather limitations of most RVs, there are things you can do to reduce heat loss plus items you should have ready just in case.

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is not the scope of this article to address winter-proofing an RV for those who are staying long-term in the cold.

Pony Express RV Park, Salt Lake City, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most RVs have furnaces, but cranking up the heat is expensive and counter-productive if you are losing too much heat at the same time. Look for ways to reduce this heat loss. Of course, you can pull out the sweaters and sweatshirts during the cold so you don’t have to keep the furnace temperature setting as high.

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you arrive at your destination, try selecting a site that will receive sun exposure throughout the day, and also offer some type of wind break. Position your RV in such a way that the front or rear—and not the side—receive the force of the wind.

Quail Ridge RV Resort, near Sierra Vista, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved rt, Sierra Vista, Arizona

Windows are a major heat loss in RVs. The first thing is to lock your windows. That extra latch helps close the seals in the window.

Close the blinds when you don’t need them open for the view or the warming sunshine. If you have curtains or secondary blackout blinds, use them.

The Springs at Borrego Golf and RV Resort, Borrego Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Use Reflectix bubble foil. It is available from stores like Walmart, Lowe’s, or Home Depot, and comes in rolls. It can be cut to fit into window openings or anywhere you want to add an extra layer of insulation.

The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The foil will reflect the heat back in and the bubbles provide insulating air gaps. It can be used for both cold and heat. When not needed, it rolls back up for easy storage.

Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you really need to reduce heat loss overnight, bring in your slides. This reduces heat loss from the seals and reduces the exposed surface area. It also reduces the volume of the air inside your RV that needs to be heated. You may wish to retract your slides when dry camping and are trying to keep energy usage to a minimum.

Hidden Lake RV Park, Beaumont, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A goose down duvet is an investment with high returns that’s realized every time you cozily cuddle in bed. A duvet cover is typically purchased separately.

Down is a great natural insulator. It is the very first undercoating of goose feathers. The clusters of down are made of plenty of soft fibers that directly radiate out from the central core of the feather. The structure of down is perfectly created to trap air. For this peculiar characteristic, goose down duvets keeps you suitably warm. It still allows the moisture to escape and is a great product to keep snug yet dry. Goose down duvets is amazingly soft and light.

Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The quality of down duvets is measured by its insulation abilities. The best quality down duvets would have larger clusters of down. Best quality down would be capable to acclimatize according to warmer or cooler atmospheric temperatures. If the thick, fluffy and breathable down can keep the goose so cozy out in the cold, it definitely is a sure winner for you.

Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You won’t need spare blankets for your bed with your down duvet but they add another layer in insulation during your waking hours. You can also hang a light blanket to add an extra layer over the door and the seal around the door.

Palm Springs-Joshua Tree KOA, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clothespins can be used to keep it in place. This especially helps if you need to go in and out the door as a temporary vestibule. More blankets or towels can be used to block any cold drafts.

Keeping warm in our motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fill your fresh water tank and use the pump instead of the city connection. Disconnect the outside supply water hose, drain it, and store it in your water/sewer compartment. Remember to turn on the tank heaters in your RV.

Keeping warm in our motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Try to dump your holding tanks during the warmer afternoon since everything is more difficult to work with in a cold morning. Depending on the temperature, you may wish to stow your sewer hose. Using it on an extremely cold morning may result in a cracked sewer hose.

Worth Pondering…

And finally Winter, with its bitin’, whinin’ wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow.

—Roy Bean

Hidden Benefits of Camping

If you regularly camp out, you’ll enjoy dozens of significant health benefits

As long as campers set themselves up for a relaxing getaway, the potential for a stress-reducing trip is very attainable. When we go camping we spend most of our time outside. Mentally focusing on all the things that make you feel great outside can do wonders for your mind, body, and soul. Life pauses and stress levels drop making it a fantastic time for your body to have a break.

Camping in Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we go camping we simplify, subtract, and strip back from our normal cluttered and hectic daily lives. This gives us more opportunity to get in touch with nature, find some solitude and time to switch off, and simply to breath.

Camping at Edisto State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This space and clarity allows us to see everything in natures playground, listen to it speak, and be reminded of how amazing it all is. This in turn helps us put everything else into perspective.

Being outside in the fresh air also seems to heighten our senses, which can bring more rewards. Food tastes better, air smells cleaner, and the birds and nature sound clearer.

Camping at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A byproduct of camping is the physical nature of setting up the camp, hiking, and typical environment enjoyment.

Leave your worries behind you. Focus on the simplicity of your current situation without reflecting on work, concerns, or anything else that may negatively affect your experience.

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Appreciate the small, seemingly insignificant parts of the living world around you: light shining through a dew droplet just before it crashes to the ground, or maybe the simple elegance of a butterfly as it flutters from flower to flower. Notice how the slight breeze affects its flight, yet not its mission.

Camping in Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The feeling of being calm, appreciating the simple things in life, and knowing that things do not have to be complex all the time allows one to have a more positive and clearer outlook or perspective in life. Camping also gives an emotional rest from all the emotional expense from the usual day to day life.

Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ensure your gear is organized and in working order before your trip. Eliminate all potentially frustrating situations prior to your adventure.

There is nothing worse than having a camping trip ruined by a scraped knee. Bring along a basic first-aid kit outfitted with bandages, gauze, and anti-bacterial cream. Also make sure it has insect repellent and some cream to help relieve the itch of bug bites.

Camping at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a walk, ride a bike, or sit on the edge of a lake or river to clear your mind. Simply focus on the “here and now” to get the most out of your experience. 

Camping will not only get you outdoors and enjoy nature, but it also has some awesome impacts on your health.

Camping at Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Modern life as we know it is full of the Internet, social media, work, demands, mobile phones, pressure, and deadlines. This has an impact on our bodies by getting it to produce extra adrenalin to deal with it all. Having this reaction is normal since the body is built to deal with it, however, what isn’t good is not taking time away from it all to give the body time to recover. Camping helps our systems recover ready for the next challenge.

Camping at Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we go camping we have more opportunity to get involved in hiking, biking, fishing, and simply doing what we enjoy. Exercising and moving is simply one of the best ways to combat an overworked body, mind, and soul, in an over committed lifestyle.

Camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many camping activities can be a good form of exercise. Walking and hiking help improve circulation, strengthen and pump up the heart, help in lowering blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart problems.

Camping at Galveston State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Back pains, eye strains, muscle aches and headaches, sluggish circulation that increases the risks of heart problems and heart attacks are just some of the results of too much stress. Any form of outdoor activities such as camping has been proven to reduce the level of stress in the body. This allows the body to recuperate and regain the energy lost.

Camping at Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping is an effective and cost efficient form of outdoor activity. Camp out and experience the many health benefits of camping and at the same time enjoy the beauty of nature.

Worth Pondering…

When your spirit cries for peace, come to a world of canyons deep in an old land; feel the exultation of high plateaus, the strength of moving wasters, the simplicity of sand and grass, and the silence of growth.

—August Fruge