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There’s no doubt that camping is popular. And camping in good weather is even more popular. A busy campground can be tricky so it’s a good idea to be prepared.
From bush camping to family holiday parks, a busy campground is a different experience from one that isn’t. Each one is a different experience in itself and if you are concerned, consider heading to a holiday park with more rules and regulations to cope with busy periods.
Looking for reasons to love camping? Find our top reasons to get outdoors and enjoy this outdoor activity!
We’re not saying it’s always good to camp in solitude – it’s often good to have others around for company and just to know you are not alone! But sometimes it means constantly brushing shoulders with others in busy campgrounds. It’s just sometimes unavoidable (unless you leave that is!).
We’ve experienced quite a few busy campgrounds and learnt a few things to try and still make the experience as enjoyable as possible. After a recent stay at a busy Rapid Bay campground in South Australia, we decided to share how best to cope with the situation. And avoid any unwanted stress!
Some people love busy campsites, staying up all hours of the night – whereas some just enjoy the location of the campsite but don’t necessarily want the party-goers to interrupt their enjoyment.
Whether you have already booked a spot or it is a campsite that is first in, first served, here are a few tips to cope with a busy campground:
Plan ahead for a busy campground
Hopefully, you’ve already done your homework on whether your chosen campsite has reserved spots. If not, and it is a first in, first served campsite, there are a few things you need to consider:
- Check reviews and get a sense of how popular your campsite is – this will give you some indication of how busy it may get
- Get there as early as you can. As a couple, we often try and organise at least one of us to go down earlier in the day so we can get a spot (it also helps to start unpacking earlier!)
- Be patient if all spots have already been taken. Have a look around and see if someone is packing up – ask them if you can have their spot once they leave
- Try to arrive around midday. This is the best time when leavers have gone, and arrivers haven’t quite got there yet
- Check for lots of large groups together. Sometimes these groups can make a lot of noise, and you may just want to move on to the next campground available
- Have an alternative campground planned. Don’t rely on one campsite only. If you are unfortunate enough not to be able to get in, you’ll want somewhere else close by that you’ve already looked up
Be mindful of untaken spots
We’ve learnt this lesson the hard way, especially with beach camping! That spot right on the front looked perfect, but with no shelter and a windy night, it made for a lousy sleep in a flapping tent!
Consider reasons why spots have been left at a busy campground. The following reasons may be why no one has pitched up there yet:
- under trees with old branches
- directly on animal paths and trails
- a low spot in a valley or narrow creek
- near standing water (the mosquitos will love you)
- edge of a cliff or the highest point available (have you checked the wind forecast?)
All of these can spell disaster for any camping trip. Check your surroundings and make sure you’re not in for an experience that may end your camping trip sooner than you thought.
Take enough water
Unless you are at a purpose-built holiday park, take more water than you initially think with you. In bush campgrounds, it may say that water is available. But in the middle of summer and everyone else wanting water, it is doubtful that there is any left.
Camping without enough water is not a good idea. We learnt this at a recent camping trip to Gleesons Landing in Yorke Peninsula during a hot period and ended up driving out of the camp to fill up again!
Dealing with the noise
Busy campgrounds can be noisy. And there is often no getting away from it, especially in the evening or at night time. Camping etiquette sometimes goes out the window, especially on big weekends or occasions like Christmas, Easter, someone’s 21st Birthday, etc.
And it’s the noise even when people are asleep. We had a family once who thought it would be a great idea to pitch a tent so close to us late at night that once they were asleep, we heard each and every one of them soaring. Loudly.
Unwritten rule – if your guy ropes are overlapping with a stranger, you are too close!
There are a few things you can do to help if you don’t want this interference:
- If possible, pitch away from the wind. Wind direction does change, but it carries noise, and you ideally don’t want to be in its path
- Take your own music. We don’t mean blast it like the others, but nothing is stopping you from listening to music at a softer level that just takes the edge off others’ sounds
- Take a windshield or build sides around your camping spot. This will help block some of the noise
- Earplugs will be your best friend at night (this also helps with noisy tents in the wind!)
Lights shining at night
Busy campgrounds can result in a lot of vehicle movement and people walking around with torches in the dark. This isn’t generally a problem in a caravan with blackout blinds, canvas swag or camper trailer, but in an ordinary tent, that light shines through. Brightly!
Using a foil blanket not only helps keep the heat out of tents, but also helps avoid the light getting in. There is also a range of blackout tents now available, like this Coleman Instant Up Darkroom 4 person tent:
Alternatively, if you are happy to keep a low light on in the tent, this will help soften any big spotlights or headlights that come your way. Just be careful that this will attract insects and bugs to your tent.
If all else fails, sleep with a comfy night blindfold – and you may even sleep in longer in the morning!
Camping set up
With the above 2 points in mind, how you set up your own camp will make a significant difference. Consider facing away from noise and lights (hopefully, this will also result in a better view!). Create barriers and your own private space, so it’s difficult for others to invade. If you are near facilities, be aware that many people use other people’s camping areas as shortcuts and you will have additional noise.
With busy campgrounds also comes more dust, dirt and sand, if there is some. Vehicles moving and wind can cause your camping spot to become caked in dust very quickly, so consider this when building walls and angles of shelter.
Also, be aware of the space still around you. We’ve had a situation where some guys rocked up at 2am and thought it would be a good idea to set up camp next to us. The problem was, this space was less than a tiny car squeezed into a shoebox! After a while, they gave up on the idea, but at that time in the morning with some clearly intoxicated passengers, it would have been less than friendly to confront the situation.
If you need to move your car or vehicle slightly to avoid this unwanted hassle during the night, do it!
Watch out for the ensuite
With bush camping, there are often a lot of ensuites popped up for toilet and shower use. Take note of these locations!! Setting up camp next to someone who already has one set up could find you waking up in a pool of shower water if the slope of dirty water is coming towards you.
And do you want your head to be sleeping next to someone peeing at 3am in the morning? And vice versa – you may get stage fright!
By all means, make friends with your new neighbours, but this is taking it to a whole new level.
Flip flops (or thongs!) will be your saviour
This applies to all campgrounds, but especially to busy ones. Taking a shower in public facilities is great to freshen up, but don’t leave yourself prone to all the nasties that live on the ground in these areas.
As they say with anything in nature, leave what you find, including all the gremlins that live in public wash areas! Nice!
We recently discovered one tip we thought was a great idea – using puppy training pee pads. They are great to stand on quickly when needed or to cover areas you want to place your clothes, etc. while taking a shower. Genius!
Don’t leave valuables out
Again, this is another one that applies to all campgrounds, but even more so in busy ones. If the odd chair goes walkabout or bottle of water disappears, it’s often not the end of the world. Leaving expensive equipment out overnight though and it may end in tears.
Lots of people roam around the night in busy campsites. Try not to offer them an invitation to help themselves. Often it’s just drunken stupidity, and you find your chair randomly on top of someone’s car roof with an insanely hungover body sleeping it off in it. But still, it’s just not worth the hassle! Don’t give anyone the opportunity.
Blow your whistle
Worried about your own security or safety? A good tip we heard, although we have not had to use it yet (thankfully), is to carry a whistle with you. Having lots of people around, is sure to attract the attention of others during an unwanted situation.
This can apply to absolutely anyone.
A busy campground doesn’t have to put you off your next adventure. Just take one or all of these tips to help make it a more pleasurable and memorable experience. Often the busiest campgrounds have the best views and best things to do around them, so be patient, relax and enjoy!
Do you have any favourite tips about camping in busy campgrounds? We’d love for you to share in the comments below so everyone can enjoy their next visit to a busy campsite!
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I like that you said that flip flops can be your savior. My boyfriend’s family wants to go on vacation but I have never really been outside my town. I should look at more tips to make sure I have a good experience.
Absolutely Fay! And not just when camping 🙂 There is a whole world out there to explore… but your park in Normanville is in a pretty awesome location!