How to Set Up your RV CAMPSITE, a planned campsite is a fun campsite.
How to set up your Campsite efficiently
Every Outdoor Camper, whether they own a Motorhome or a camper trailer, needs to set up their campsite properly.
Whether you just use a couple of chairs or are using; coolers, grills, tables, lanterns, lighting, rugs, screens, tarps, or whatever, You need to plan your site for maximum efficiency and camper comfort.
My Campsite in Rustburg VA
Our Campsite, almost fully set up.
We came up to Lynchburg VA to visit our kids, as well as some of our friends and some other relatives, as we try to do, a couple of times each year.
We reserved several weeks at the TT Campground in the Rustburg area, near Lynchburg, and I actually took the time to set up almost all of my campsite gear.
When I looked around, I realized that if I took a few pictures, I describe what camping gear I use with my RV, and how I evolved to these specific items.
So, the purpose of this article is to help you decide on what campsite gear is the right gear for you. And remember, this is the gear I use now, and believe me, it is frustrating to pick a specific item and purchase it, only to see something much more functional and/or even cheaper a few months later.
Through a combination of; lack of forethought, "jumping the gun" when I see something new in a store, and basically just not doing my research before-hand, I have wasted a lot of money and time on what I now call "the wrong gear" for my campsite.
And, often, I ended up selling these "mistakes" to friends or fellow campers, or just giving them to our kids, to get them out of the way.
Hopefully, this article will help you to not make the same stupid mistakes that I have.
RV Camping Reference book by Don Bobbitt
Selecting a Campsite and What to Set Up!
Selecting a Campsite:
If you check the pictures, you will notice that I have a large campsite that is pretty level, with plenty of gravel, and is well shaded. I consider these to be ideal criteria when I select a site for the hot seasons.
Also, this site is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, and is not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and what you can't see is that I have a site that is at one of the campground's highest elevations. This is always nice for catching any breezes that occur, which can cool your site down dramatically.
Strategically, I am 5 sites from a Bathhouse with showers, 300 yards from an 11 acre fishing lake, and a five-six minute walk to the Activity Center and Swimming Pool. All of this, while having a great large site with plenty of privacy.
I wanted all of this for several reasons. First, I expected plenty of visitors, and second I planned on several having cookouts, so I definitely needed a roomy site.
One thing you learn, when RVing, is to select a site and set up the appropriate equipment for the stay.
If you are just going to be at a site for an overnight stay or only for a couple of days, you can settle for a nice quiet site, and it is OK for the site to be relatively small.
You will probably only pull out a couple of chairs, and maybe a small grill to cook Dinner on for the evening or two you are there.
For longer stays, you will tend to pull more and more of your camping gear out for use. Perhaps a couple of spare chairs for the occasional guest, and maybe a small or large rug, along with some night lights.
Or, for a several week stay, as I described above, you will set your whole site up, so that you are ready for anyone to visit, and cookout or not, or just be the host of a multi-camper gab-fest in the evenings.
The Cardinal Rule for Campsite Gear:
The Cardinal Rule for Campsite Gear is to select the gear that suits your lifestyle, or shall I say your camping style.
BUT, always remember that YOU are the one that has to pull it out of storage and set it up, as well as clean it, and re-pack it in your RV's storage area.
Over, and over, and over, and over, ad nauseam! So Think, and think hard, and take the time to consider all alternatives before you buy.
In the end, it is your time, your wallet, and your back that will be abused.
Fold-Away Table by Coleman
Tables for your Campsite
You will always need some kind of tables when you camp; for convenience as well as comfort. Here are some of my choices and why;
Many Campgrounds have picnic tables on at least some, if not all of their campsites. But, some are small "4-seaters" and some are "6-seaters". And, many campers do not treat the picnic tables well.
So, don't be surprised if the top is warped, badly scarred or even burned and stained. It is amazing to me, but people will abuse the table and even pour (or spill) grease and other liquids on the sites picnic table, and leave it in worse shape than when they set up camp.
Because of this, I and many other campers will carry either a regular or a fitted Picnic Table cover set, for the top as well as the bench seats. This can reduce the opportunity for stains on you and your cloths dramatically.
But be aware, part of your campsite research should be whether the sites have any table at all, and if they do, what size are they. Make this part of your list of questions when you call a potential campground.
Often, the average RVer will decide to carry a spare storable table. Then; when the campground doesn't have a table at your site, or you are "dry Camping", or if you expect a crowd, and just need the extra tabletop, you can pull your storable table out and save the day.
Some people use fold up tables such as the popular 4ft-by-2ft foldup you see in many campsite stores, magazines, and web sites. I had one of these but much of my storage space was compromised by the package size, even though it was thin when folded up.
I ended up getting a roll-up table, which you do not see at this site, but I prefer it over the fold-up models.
The roll-up top is made up of metal slats that lay out on a couple of cross-bars attached to fold-up x-legs.
It has it's own storage bag, and allows me more flexibility in my storage area layout.
It is always god to have a couple of cheap fold-up side tables for people to set their drinks and food on when eating or just visiting. They only cost a few bucks each, and are really handy.
Cuisinart Tabletop Grill
Camping Grills for RVers
There are a lot of Grills out there, and you have to find one that suits you and your lifestyle, or shall I say camping style.
Fixed Campground Grills:
Many Campgrounds even have a fixed permanent Charcoal style grill at some or all of their sites. If you are hurting for storage space, these can be great for you, and you should add this to your list of questions when you call a potential campground before making reservations.
The Big Dog:
When I was in Tampa a couple of years ago, I was settled in an extended stay site, at the time they had the Super Bowl there.
A couple of days before the game week, a nice RV pulled in to the site across from me and there were six young guys in it.
The first thing they did was pull out the two most important things to them; an enormous cooler, and a big, obviously custom made grill.
The grill was at least five foot long, made of all stainless steel, had six handles on it similar to a coffin, and when they pulled out of the storage compartment, steel legs with wheels dropped down to ground level and locked in place.
They rolled the cooler and the grill in to a place of honor in front of the RV, under the edge of the RV awning, by the way, and these guys fixed every meal they ate on that grill.
Now, this was a great thing to watch, but the average RVer generally has the sense to settle for something a little smaller as well as easier to handle.
More on Grills
The Large Grill:
Many people that start out camping think that they need a large, multi-burner grill close to what they used at their home.
I have even seen some campers come in to a campground pulling a trailer with a standard home-size grill on the trailer, or the back of their truck. In reality, this is overkill for 95% of Rvers and Campers.
Not to say that the diehard Griller shouldn't have a big grill, but they have to accept the added work it entails.
And often, unlike my wife and I, if you have a family that exceeds four, I would say for you to consider a larger grill just to handle the larger amount of food that needs to be prepared.
Large Camping Grills:
I thought I was brilliant when I picked a two-burner "Camping Grill" several years ago. I spent good money, and purchased every accessory available for it, including, griddle plates, grills, a carry case with wheels, and so forth.
After the first time using it at a campsite, I went inside and that old familiar letter "L" for Loser started toshow up on my forehead. Here are some of the lessons I learned;
- Don't get a grill that you can't, remove from its storage site in the RV, pick up, by yourself, and carry from your RV to the site where you are going to use it. Without hurting your back!
- Don't get a big Grill. It takes up too much of your RV's storage space. And it will hurt your back, sooner or later!
- Don't get a complicated Grill! This one had a pair of folding leg-stand type of bases that would invariably drop down and hit your shins when you and your partner carried it anywhere.
- The more parts there to a Grill, the more parts there are to clean and possibly lose. Get a self contained unit that you can set down, open the top and cook on.
Medium-Size Camping Grills:
I learned my lesson, and sold that ill conceived contraption, along with all of it's accessories for a third of what it cost me after one summer, and I was happy to get rid of it.
Another thing I learned with my grill experience, was to just look at what the old-timers were using at their campsite. There are often a solid set of reasons for their choices.
My perfect grill has; a hinged top. a thermometer on the top, a ceramic coated grill surface large enough for four steaks, a small removable warming grill surface for simmering onions, garlic and such, a removable grease catcher, and legs long enough that I can set it on a wooden picnic table and cook my food without charring the wooden table top.
First, most of the time, my wife and I are the only ones eating, and thus cooking outside our RV.
Sometimes we have the occasional visitor or two, but most small grills can handle four steaks. That is my new rule of thumb when looking at grills; can I get four steaks on it at one time.
One other thing that I like in a grill is that it have a hinged top, with a built in thermometer. That thermometer can make the difference in the a good meal and a burnt or undercooked meal.
If it doesn't have one, you should consider buying one and bolting it on to the grill top somewhere. It doesn't have to be accurate at all, just consistent, and in a very short time, if you watch the gauge when cooking, you will be that guy that can make a rare, medium and well-done steak on the grill at the same time.
Campsite RV Rug
Patio Rug Stakes
Rugs for RV Campers
One nice luxury to have when you are RVing is a decent outside rug. There are all kinds of rugs available in many sizes, colors and designs that will suit anyone's taste and style of camping.
Remember the main reasons for using a Campground Rug over just throwing something down from home, are that they are designed for use outdoors at a campsite. A Campground Rug is designed to:
- Not absorb water! It should pass water through to the ground or grass underneath.
- Storable while damp. A Campsite Rug can be picked up after a rain, swept off, folded or rolled up, and stored, relatively dry.
- Be made with an open weave so light can pass through to the grass underneath, so that the rug does not kill all of the grass underneath.
Again, remember the Campers Golden Rule. It has to be functional, and it has to be easily stored.
Large Decorative Rugs:
After I moved up to my first Motor Coach, I ran out and bought a pair of very nice Decorative Rugs. These were 8-foot by 16-foot fold up rugs I found at a Campers store, but, after I camped a few times and had to store, un-store, fold, unfold, and clean those heavy things, well, Yep, I looked into the mirror and there was that darned "L" for Loser on my forehead again. i had over-killed the actual problem.
Here is what I learned;
- Those large foldable rugs are meant for long campsite stays where you don't mind the extra work involved.
- One of these big boys is enough for 99% of the situations that might arise for 90% of Campers who need to use large Rugs, and who will be staying at a site for at least a week or more.
Functional Roll-Up Rugs:
Often, especially for short stays, get one or more shorter or smaller rugs that will give you good ground cover right up at your RV door. They should be made of a the thin synthetic material similar to that used for winode privacy screens for RVs. These ground cover rugs that can be rolled up and stored in a small space, while still providing good ground cover.
I think every RVer should have a small Mud Rug to place right at the bottom step of their RV door. Use it, and there will be a lot less dirt, sand and gravel tracked into your RV, They only cost a couple of bucks and are worth every penny.
So, be sure get what you actually need in rugs, that you can store in a minimal space, and that cleans easy.
Holding Outdoor Rugs Down:
One problem with outdoor that you will discover very quickly is that the wind loves to get under your outdoor rugs and blow them to the most inconvenient places in a campground. And Murphy says that this will generally happen while you are away from your campsite.
Don't get an outdoor rug without metal grommets in the corners and along the sides. These are for you to drive stakes or "rug nails" through to hold the rung down. But, many campsites have concrete or other materials where you want to put your rug and you cannot always use these devices.
Because of this there are numerous ways used by campers to hold their rugs down, and here are a few:
- The "Rug Nails" for use through the metal grommet son rugs.
- Used Plastic Water or Milk bottles filled with water can be set at the corners of your rug for stability, and emptied and tossed into storage or the trash when you pull out.
- Chairs placed strategically will help hold rugs down.
- Often a campsite will have decent sized rocks lying around and you can use these to hold the rug down.
- Other campsite accessories, not presently in use can serve to hold rugs down. For instance i have several 121x12x1 pieces of outdoor wood that I occasionally use under my tires for leveling my RV in a severely sloped campsite, and if not in use, I will place them on the corners of my rugs.
- One fellow camper I camped next to, came up with a novel approach. He and his wife drank "Boxed Wine", Well, if you tear the emptied box open, there is a pretty sturdy plastic flexible container inside that housed the wine, and it has a nice flexible seal for containing the wine. He simple kept the plastic container part when he emptied one. He would pull them out when he arrived at a campsite, fill them with water, and lay them on the corners and edges of his rug. Perfect rug containment tool! When he left, he emptied them, folded them up and stored them for his next camping outing. Zero investment and good re-use of a plastic item!
The key here, is to be flexible, use your imagination, and your rugs will stay in place.
Campsite Chair with Sports LOGO
Chairs for RV Campsites
I am going to try to limit where I go with this subject. That's because there are so many styles and designs of chairs available for RVers that someone could literally write a book on the subject.
What I am going to describe are a few styles of chairs that we have found useful to us a some of our friends, and pass over a large number of options.
Here are some of the chairs we specifically like, and why;
The Director style of chair is one of the more comfortable designs of chair, generally made of canvas, and I always look for it to have a small fold-up small table on the side. they usually fold side-to-side, and they take up an average amount of storage space when folded.
BackPack chairs are popular for taking down to a Beach, and I like them for several reasons. First, they have backpack type straps on them and when folded, they leave your hands free for other tasks, when you are walking from your vehicle to your chosen site on the beach or a concert, etc. Secondly, they have one and sometimes two storage compartments on them for putting your towels or beverages in, for the walk to the Beach.
Those chairs that fold "four-ways" and end up in a package usually about 6-inches by 6-inches by 3-feet, and almost all of them have a carrying bag with a strap which allows you to easily tote it to a concert or the Beach for use. They also store conveniently in an RVs storage areas.
They even make Kids-size Carry chairs. If you have Kids or Grandkids, I recommend having at least one of these. They fit the kids, and they take up very little storage space.
I have a couple of folding chairs that are a standard height when opened, and take up an average amount of storage space. And, I have one, that my wife considers her favorite. It is a fold-up Rocker. It is very comfortable, especially if you have a bad back, but it takes up the space of two regular folding chairs because of the curved bottom rockers.
Well, there are dozens of designs of these chairs, and they can be expensive for the better brands, But, be aware, they take up as much space when folded up as a regular folding chair.
There are a number of different foldable stools, three-legged, and four-legged that take up very little space and you can have in your RV. I keep one, a three-legged stool in my RV, for when I am working in my storage compartments, or in my Battery compartment, or electrical compartment. With it, I can get down low to work and not end up straining my back bending over.
This list can go on, but I will stop here in the chair world, as these are the most used chairs I have and that I see in Campgrounds, I have used.
Coleman rechargeable Lantern
8-pack Solar Powered Path Lights
Lanterns and Lights
If you truly enjoy camping, you will often end up sitting outside, after Dinner, with a cold beverage in your hand, just enjoying the great outdoors. And, when you do, you can often end up tripping over things, or dropping things and crawling around looking for them, in the dark.
So, you will quickly recognize the need for some outdoor lighting at your site. And to that end there are a number of lighting options that you need to consider, depending on your individual tastes.
I recommend at least one Outdoor Lantern with every RV. I don't mean Flashlight, I mean Lantern. There are Kerosene Lanterns, and Propane Lanterns, Battery Powered Lanterns, and Rechargeable Lanterns.
Just for safety's sake, I do not recommend the first two. In today's world, with the advances in battery technologies, I see no need for people to carry around any more volatile materials than they absolutely have to.
I myself have two Lanterns. One is a nice Brand-name rechargeable Lantern that is good for 6-8 hours of decent fluorescent light on a single charge.
The other is a "freebee" that someone gave me in the past, that uses four D-cell batteries. I keep it, with the aim of getting some rechargeable batteries to use in it, but so far I have used several sets of throw-away batteries. I guess, simply due to a combination of; a poor memory when at a store, and laziness overall.
Outdoor Light Strings:
Outdoor light strings are very popular with campers, and come in many different designs and combination of colors.
I have several strings, and use them at times for extra outdoor light. One set is a string of Butterflies with LED light elements, and two are simply LED strings in different colors.
Solar powered Lights are becoming more and more popular with campers, because they are very cheap, they do not require batteries, and they give off adequate light for four to six hours before they die down. And, most importantly, they store in a relatively small space.
Adjustable Platform Step
Rate my HUB for me!
Other Campsite Accessories
I highly recommend a good Cooking Table. It keeps the Hot Grill away from Kids, or just clumsy people, and allows the Cook to have everything he needs to get the cooking done in short order.
The one you see here, is my favorite. It was cheap (just $69), if folds away (everything) into the two-piece top, and is sturdy, with all of the right accessories included.
Footstool or Step:
I recommend at least one of the little plastic wonders. Often, after you have leveled your RV, you might have a large step to get to the first step at the entrance door to your camper.
And, there are some fold-away steps that are wide and sturdy, and they also cost a lot of money. This little step you see here, folds easily away for storage, and is really strong. I usually set one out even if I don't need to use it as an extra step. People will pull it up for a footstool, sit on it, or set their drink on it as a side table. A great addition nto your campsite.
Keep that rain off of things! I keep old used Picnic Table covers to use as temporary covers for my chairs and my cooking table. I get double duty out of them that way.
Table Cover Weights:
Table Cover Weights are popular with campers who use the cheaper, regular, non-fitted picnic table covers. They are generally weighted just enough to keep the cover from blowing away, and many are very decorative.
Every Campsite needs a good Outdoor Broom for cleaning trash and leaves from their campsite and rugs. I recommend a decent one made of plastic.
Keep Bug Spray on Hand when you camp. Almost all Campgrounds are, Rural, in the Woods, and near Lakes and other Water bodies. Each of these increases the opportunity for there to be a wide variety of flying and crawling insects to harass you the Camper, when you go outside.
So keep a container of bug spray around. Personally, I keep your typical mosquito repellents nearby, as well as a can of serious Wasp spray. When those big bugs come around, I take them out quickly, as I have allergies to several insect bites and stings.
Some people really do not like the smoke from an outdoor fire, but I, as well as most of the people I know really love to have an outdoor fire at night, and do all of those things you remember doing as a child, like roasting marshmallows, singing campfire songs, and just staring a the flames and talking.
Many campgrounds do not allow outdoor fires, and some only allow covered outdoor fires, while others provide fire pits at your campsite. I suggest that you add this to your list of questions when you call a potential campground when planning a trip.
But, please remember, along with the privilege of having an outdoor fire, you assume the responsibility of properly tending the fire, and especially the responsibility of extinguish the fire before going to bed at night.
Every Camper is responsible for properly disposing of his trash. All Campgrounds have trash dumpsters located strategically around the sites. It is your responsibility to manage your trash.
What I do is keep several bundles of old plastic grocery bags to carry with me when I go camping. As you can see, I hang these bags around my campsite for easy access. And, I remind people often, and politely, where they are. I don't want to have to police my campsite for other peoples garbage the next morning.
Another hint for you is to put any leftover food immediately into separate bags, and carry them ASAP to the dumpsters. This will help tremendously in keeping down the bug population at your campsite, if they can't find anything to eat there, they will not hang around.
There are many other handy and useful items that a camper can have, to use at their campsite, in order to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. These that I have listed are my favorite ones.
How to set up a TENT Camping Site
© 2010 Don Bobbitt