How to Set up a Comfortable RV Campsite

Updated on December 29, 2017
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and shares his experiences with valuable tips.

My campsite in Rustburg, Virginia.
My campsite in Rustburg, Virginia. | Source

Every outdoor camper, whether they own a motorhome or a camper trailer, needs to know how to set up their campsite properly.

Whether you plan to use only a couple of chairs or all of your camping gear (i.e. coolers, grills, tables, lanterns, lighting, rugs, screens, and tarps), you need to plan your site for maximum efficiency and comfort. In this article, I'll explain how.

Selecting a Campsite

When selecting a campsite, I usually choose a large site that is level, covered with plenty of gravel, and well-shaded. If possible, I also try to choose the site with the highest elevation, so that I can get a breeze and stay cool.

Next, you want to try to choose a campsite in the center of everything. At my campsite in Rustburg, I was five sites away from the bathrooms and showers, 300 yards away from an 11 acre fishing lake, and a five to six minute walk from the activity center and swimming pool.

Another thing to consider when selecting a campsite is the length of your stay. Here are my recommendations:

Short Stays

If you are just going to be at a site for an overnight stay or a couple of days, you can settle for a nice quiet site that is relatively small.

As for equipment, you should only need to pull out a couple of chairs and maybe a small grill.

Long Stays

For longer stays, you will need to pull out more of your camping gear, so make sure the site isn't too small. You'll likely need a couple of spare chairs for the occasional guest, a small or large rug, and some night lights.

Extended Stays

For a several week stay, get a large campsite so you can use all your gear to make a comfortable, if temporary, oasis.

Selecting a Table for Your Campsite

You will always need some kind of table when you camp. I've included my recommendations below:

Picnic tables are one of the most frequently used pieces of equipment.
Picnic tables are one of the most frequently used pieces of equipment. | Source

Picnic Table

Many campgrounds have picnic tables on all of their campsites. Some are sit four while others seat six. Since these are public tables, they are often warped, badly scarred, or even burned and stained. Because of this, I always bring a table cover for the tabletop and benches.

But don't take for granted that your campsite will include a picnic table. Make it a part of your campsite research to check if the site comes with a table and, if so, how big it is.

Storable Table

It is wise to carry a storable table. That way, if the campground doesn't include a table or you are expecting many guests, you have the required amount of room for sitting and eating.

Some people use fold-up tables. I had one of these, but it took up too much of my storage space. Now, I use a roll-up table, which is made with slats supported by cross bars and folding legs. It can be rolled up and stored very easily. It also comes with its own storage bag.

A handy, foldable side table.
A handy, foldable side table. | Source

Side Table

It is always good to have a couple of cheap fold-up side tables for people to set their drinks and food on when visiting. They only cost a few bucks each, and are really handy.

Selecting a Grill for Your Campsite

There are a lot of grills out there. Find one that suits your camping style best.

Many campsites come with a grill for the convenience of campers.
Many campsites come with a grill for the convenience of campers. | Source

Fixed Campground Grills

Many campsites come with a fixed, charcoal-style grill. If you are hurting for storage space, simply use what is already provided, but make sure to confirm your campsite includes one of these grills by calling before you arrive.

Large Grills

I thought I was brilliant when I bought a two-burner camping grill several years ago. I spent a lot of money and purchased every accessory for it, including griddle plates, grills, a carry case with wheels, and so forth.

After the first time using it at a campsite, I began to realize what a mistake I had made. These are some of the lessons I learned:

  1. Don't get a grill you can't move by yourself without seriously injuring your back.
  2. Don't get a grill that is complicated to assemble and disassemble. This one had a pair of folding legs that would repeatedly drop down and hit my shins whenever I attempted to carry it.
  3. This goes along with number two, but the more parts, the more there is to clean and misplace.

Medium-Size Grills

A medium-size grill is perfect for RV camping. It should include:

  • Hinged top
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Ceramic-coated grilling surface large enough for four steaks
  • Small, removable grill surface for simmering onions, garlic, etc.
  • Removable grease catcher
  • Legs long enough to set on a wooden picnic table without charring the tabletop

Selecting a Rug for Your Campsite

A decent outside rug is a campsite luxury and will add a lot of homestyle comfort to your campsite. There are many shapes and sizes of rugs available, and they often come in different colors and designs.

A campsite rug is designed to:

  • Be water resistant. It should allow water to pass through the surface and soak into the ground or grass beneath.
  • Be storable. It should be able to be picked up after rainy day, swept off, folded or rolled up, and stored.
  • Be made with an open weave so light can pass through to the grass underneath, keeping it alive.

Large Decorative Rugs

When I bought my first motor coach, I ran out and bought a pair of very nice decorative rugs. These were 8x16 and could easily be folded up. But after I camped a few times and had to store, un-store, fold, unfold, and clean those heavy things, I second guessed my decision. You should only buy one of these if you are an extended-stay camper.

Functional Roll-Up Rugs

If you mostly camp for short periods of time, get one or more smaller rugs. They should be made of a thin synthetic material and be able to be rolled up and stored easily.

The smart camper will always have a mud rug at the entrance of their RV.
The smart camper will always have a mud rug at the entrance of their RV. | Source

Mud Rug

Every camper should have a small mud rug to place at the bottom step of their RV door. By using one of these, there will be a lot less dirt, sand, and gravel tracked into the cabin. They only cost a couple of bucks and are worth every penny.

The inventive camper can always look around and find a rock to weigh down their rug.
The inventive camper can always look around and find a rock to weigh down their rug. | Source

How to Keep Outdoor Rugs Grounded

One problem with outdoor rugs is that the wind loves to blow them away. Murphy's Law ensures this will happen when you are away from your campsite. Don't buy an outdoor rug without purchasing metal grommets to place in the corners and along the sides.

If the campground is cement or you forgot to pick up grommets, try these other methods of weighing down your rug:

  1. Jugs of water situated in the corners
  2. Strategically placed chairs
  3. Stones situated in the corners
  4. Planks of wood

Selecting Chairs for Your Campsite

Below are some types of chairs I really like.

Director Chairs

The director-style chair is one of the more comfortable designs, and is generally made of canvas. Some come with a small fold-out table on one side.

Backpack Chairs

Backpack chairs are popular for taking down to the beach. The straps are very convenient, leaving your hands free for other tasks. They also come with a storage compartment and beverage holders.

Folding chairs are great and east to transport.
Folding chairs are great and east to transport. | Source

Folding Chairs

Folding chairs are never a bad to have on hand. They are easy to store, transport, and fold. The best part? They're comfortable.

Reclining Chairs

These can be expensive, but for the added feature of a recliner, it is great that they don't take up any more space than a regular folding chair.

Foldable Stools

I keep one, three-legged stool in my RV at all times. These are great for sitting by the fire or working in tight spaces.

Various chairs at my campsite.
Various chairs at my campsite. | Source

Selecting Lights for Your Campsite

If you truly enjoy camping, enjoying the outdoors doesn't stop after the sun goes down. But in order to do this, you will need some outdoor lighting. Below are some options.

Lanterns are a camping must-have.
Lanterns are a camping must-have. | Source

Lanterns

I recommend every RV camper carry at least one outdoor lantern. There are kerosene lanterns, propane lanterns, battery-powered lanterns, and rechargeable lanterns available at nearly all outdoor or camping stores.

Note: For safety's sake, I do not recommend kerosene or propane. With recent advances in technology, there is no reason to carry flammable materials when you don't have to.

Light Strings

Light strings are very popular and come in many different styles and colors. I have several light strings and use them for extra light during the night. One set is a string of butterflies, and two are simply multi-colored LED strings

Solar Lights

Solar powered lights are becoming more and more popular with campers because they are cheap, don't require batteries, and give off adequate light for four to six hours.

Other Campsite Accessories

With the advice and recommendations given above, you should be more than ready to embark on a successful camping trip. Still, you can never be too prepared. Here are some other campsite accessories you might choose to bring along with you.

Having a fold-away cooking table can simplify your campsite.
Having a fold-away cooking table can simplify your campsite. | Source

Cooking Table

I highly recommend a separate cooking table. This will allow you to keep the hot grill away from kids and clumsy people, and provides a space for the cook to keep all of their ingredients and utensils.

Footstool

I recommend bringing at least one of these little plastic wonders. Often, after you have leveled your RV, a large gap is left between the ground and the floor of your cabin. A small footstool can give you the boost you need. They can also be used as an extra seat in desperate situations.

Table cover weights will keep the wind from blowing your cover away.
Table cover weights will keep the wind from blowing your cover away. | Source

Table Cover Weights

Table cover weights are popular with campers who use cheaper, non-fitted picnic table covers. They weigh just enough to keep the cover from blowing away, and many are decorative.

Outdoor Broom

Every campsite needs a good outdoor broom for sweeping trash and leaves from their campsite. I recommend one made of plastic.

Regardless of where you camp, always keep a can of bug spray handy.
Regardless of where you camp, always keep a can of bug spray handy. | Source

Bug Spray

Keep bug spray on hand whenever you camp. I keep typical mosquito repellents nearby at all times, as well as a can of wasp spray.

Some people carry old tire rims with them because they make good fire pits.
Some people carry old tire rims with them because they make good fire pits. | Source

Fire Pit

Fires are one of the best parts of camping. There's nothing quite like roasting marshmallows, singing campfire songs, and talking around a community flame.

Make sure to ask every campground about their fire policy before hitting the road. Some campgrounds do not allow fires, and others require you to bring your own fire pit. However, most campgrounds come with a fire pit built-in to each campsite.

More RV Campsite Tips (Video)

Questions & Answers

    © 2010 Don Bobbitt

    Comments

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      • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

        Don Bobbitt 

        14 months ago from Ruskin Florida

        John B - Glad you enjoyed my article. My suggestion for a "newbie" such as yourselves, is to read, read, read. And search for my blog rvandcamper where I have several hundred postings to help my fellow Rv owners.

        Good luck,

        DON

      • profile image

        John B 

        14 months ago

        Getting ready to retire and my wife and I are looking to see what kind of RV we would like. You info on equipment great. Thanks

      • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

        Don Bobbitt 

        17 months ago from Ruskin Florida

        Phyllis - I prefer the very thin rugs I find at Camping World. They let the rains through for the grass underneath yet they keep most of the dirt away. And, I prefer to buy several narrow ones that I can overlap. They roll up and store away conveniently. DON

      • profile image

        Nancy McGrew 

        17 months ago

        Thank you for all the RV camp set-up. Just starting out as we begin retirement. Can't wait to get out there!

      • profile image

        Phyllis 

        17 months ago

        Where did you find your roll up rug. I am tired of the typical ones for outside the rv, Dirty heavy pain in the neck rugs.

      • profile image

        PAWS 

        19 months ago

        Good article, especially like the table.

      • profile image

        Rich 

        2 years ago

        Great article and advice. I just bought my first fifth wheel and will be hitting the road soon. Reading and learning all I can from the pros like yourself, before I take off. Thanks again for all the great info.

      • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

        Don Bobbitt 

        2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

        Virginia - Thanks for the reminder.

        I use one of these, like so many regular campers end up doing. But, I did leave it out. Looks like I need to go in and do an edit.

        Thanks again,

        DON

      • profile image

        Virginia 

        2 years ago

        Very nice article. We are 30 year campers and are now teaching the grandkids how much fun it is. Only oth suggestion would be to pick up one of those dual head faucet screw ons so you can have 2 water ho

      • profile image

        Annie 

        2 years ago

        Ty for all the info.could you expand on indoor needs..wins and the big L..ty

      • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

        Don Bobbitt 

        2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

        Cheryl - Thanks! I spent a lot of time pulling this article together in the hopes it would give my fellow campers a leg up on what is out there for them to sue in their campsite.

        Thanks again for the read and comment,

        DON

      • profile image

        Cheryl 

        2 years ago

        Awesome article! Thank you!

      • profile image

        Chelsea 

        2 years ago

        Great article! Very informative and detailed. Rarely do you find a piece that covers the good and the bad along with helpful tips, and this one does both. I really enjoyed your breakdown of each campsite item. Definitely sharing this one!

      • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

        Don Bobbitt 

        3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

        Mel- I am so glad that you like and can use what I have in this article of mine.

        In case you didn't know it, it is one of the more popular articles for campers on what to do to set up a campsite. I get lots of likes on Pinterest, but for some reason very few people comment on what they like.

        Anyway, thanks for the read and the kind comment,

        DON

      • profile image

        Mel 

        3 years ago

        thanks great great article! I learned a lot!

      • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

        Don Bobbitt 

        4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

        Ray Barnett- It's great to hear from a Newbie, and I wish you and yours years of great RV fun, around the country.

        Ad, I an really glad that you consider my article useful.

        hanks for the Read,

        DON

      • profile image

        Ray Barnett 

        4 years ago

        Don - Recent first time RV owner. Currently stocking with gear for future family adventures. Big thanks on the heads up regarding gear. Enjoyed your article.

        Cowabunga's,

        Ray

      • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

        Don Bobbitt 

        5 years ago from Ruskin Florida

        Michelle- Thanks for reading my Hub and especially for your kind words. I am glad that it might be of some help for you as you enjoy your Summer adventure.

        Thanks again,

        DON

      • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

        Don Bobbitt 

        5 years ago from Ruskin Florida

        Blond Logic- Thank You somuch for reading my Hub on efficient campsites. Ihope you can use someof te informationthat I have included when you next go out and camp.

        Thanks againa,

        DON

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 

        5 years ago from Brazil

        Very useful advice. I am sharing and linking to this.

      • profile image

        shelby 

        8 years ago

        You have done an excellent job here, Don - pictures along with your advice. Well thought out - seems to me - and useful. Hope can get to see your set-up while you are here.

        ss

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