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From bush camping to family holiday parks, a busy campground is a very different experience to one that isn’t. Each one is a different experience in itself and if you are concerned, head to a holiday park that has more rules and regulations in place to cope with busy periods.
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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 along to way 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 it was time 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 into whether your chosen campsite has reserved spots or not. 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 (if we can’t make it together) so we can to 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 to not 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 our lesson the hard way with this one, 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
- 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 surrounds 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 highly unlikely that there is any left.
Camping without enough water is not a good idea.
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 there is nothing stopping you 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, or a 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:
As an alternative, if you are happy to keep a light on in the tent, this will help soften any big spotlights or headlights that get 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 get to 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 result in a better view too!). 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!
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 also 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 nice 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
In bush camping situations, there are often a lot of ensuites 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 in 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, and this includes all the gremlins that live in public wash areas! Nice!
We recently found out one tip that we thought was a great idea – using puppy training pee pads. They are great to quickly stand on 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!
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. By having lots of people around, this 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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Water loving British girl who moved to Australia and seriously caught the travel bug! Loves to explore and share destinations that inspire others to spend more time on the water and in the great outdoors. Typically, you’ll find her on a boat or next to the ocean, often in a daydream!