What is the Difference Between a Campsite and a Tent Campsite: Decoding Differences

What is the Difference Between a Campsite and a Tent Campsite

The weather is finally starting to warm up, and getting out of the city sounds like a great idea. It’s definitely time to go camping, but how do you reserve your site? Do you need a tent campsite or a campsite? They could be the same thing, but then why are they listed differently? Whether it’s been a while, or you’re utterly new at this, decoding the differences between different campsites can seem confusing at first. However, I’ve been camping for decades, and I’m happy to help you work out the finer details so you can choose the right spot to get away. Sleeping under the stars is supposed to be relaxing, not stressful, after all. So let’s skip the nonsense and dive right into a quick and straightforward guide to types of campsites.

What is the difference between a campsite and a tent campsite? A campsite refers to anyplace people can camp, including in RVs and motorhomes. Meanwhile, a tent campsite is only for tents. Notably, you may be allowed to camp using a hammock or sleeping bag on the ground at a tent campsite. When in doubt, you can always email or call to confirm the type of campsite before you reserve. 


Five Types of Campsites & Tent Campsites

There are four different significant varieties of camp available, and each is slightly different. Because there is no specific standard for language use, you should always check if a campsite is for RVing or tents. The types fall into two subheadings, public or government land, and privately owned.

While all campsites have some things in common, such as temporary recreational sleeping, they are not all created equal. Tent Campsites are specific for those using just tents. If there’s vehicle access, it will usually only allow a car or large truck to park. Some campsites have both large vehicle camping and ten spaces, while others do not.

RV Campgrounds

An RV Campsite goes by many names; RV Camp, RV Park, Motorhome Campground, Motorhome Park, and even the mislabeled Trailer Park. However, what makes it a campsite instead of a more permanent dwelling place is communal bathrooms and pay by the day or week access. For the purpose of this article, people who park and rent monthly spaces with sewer hookups are tenants rather than campers.

This type of camp is exclusively for motorhomes, travel trailers, busses, and other vehicular camping. Typically there is no tent or hammock camping allowed. Moreover, there may be restrictions preventing campfires. Unlike other campsites, you’ll find these both inside cities and in the wilderness.


KOA Campgrounds can be found all over the country. Many people mistakenly believe KOA is a government-run series of camps, but it’s a private, for-profit corporation. They offer a variety of amenities from bare ground in marked out parcels with a picnic table and graded drive to full RV hookups depending on the location.

Using KOA Campsites is relatively straightforward. You’d reserve a spot based on where you wish to camp and what amenities you need. Handicapped access, pets (allowed), fishing, RV wastewater dumps, visitor centers, bathrooms, and showers are among the usual options. Additionally, KOA sometimes offers unique access to horseback riders.

Government & Public Land Camping #1

To find RV or Tent Campsites on public land, you’ll need to search Recreation.Gov. There you’ll find listings for parks, recreational activities, fishing, hiking and hunting areas, and naturally campsites. Instead of labeling them differently, all the camping spots are simply called ‘campsite,’ and there’s a designation at the bottom of the reservation listing that tells you what is permitted there.

Like KOA, it’s always best to book in advance. Similarly, all the sites are pay-to-use. However, you’ll discover that the majority of these recreation sites allow RV’s, tents and motorhomes. There’s rarely a restriction on pets, or at least I’ve never seen one indicated. Sadly, the amenities also vary a lot more than KOA. Not all sites have picnic tables or bathrooms, so check carefully based on your needs.

Government & Public Land Camping #2

Not all public lands camping happens at a designated and developed campsite. You are allowed to camp with or without a vehicle in many places on public lands. However, unlike the sites maintained by the National Parks and Recreation Department, these sites tend to have no amenities and no ‘neighbors’ camping nearby.

Although any place you camp is technically a campsite or campground, choosing to go off the beaten path, with permits, of course, changes the terms. You can call it what you like. The National Park Service simply calls it camping. However, you may find fewer places to park an RV depending on the area you plan to camp in. Plus, you certainly can’t take your vehicles as far as you could take a backpack.

A family of up to four will be comfortable in a Pacific Pass 4 Person Family Dome Tent from Amazon when you head out into the hills. The removable rain flap lets you see the stars when it’s clear and keep the moisture out when it’s overcast. The zippered carrying bag and zippered internal side pouches for small items will help you stay organized no matter what emergency you’re escaping on your trek. Have yours delivered when you order here. 

Private Campsites

Anyone who owns land can set up a private campsite. There is no rule against it, nor is there any standard for what they choose to call it. You can camp on your property in many places, though there are exceptions. Luckily the only limitations to private campsites are simple.

You can camp on any land unless its zoned otherwise. For example, you cannot camp on a parcel zoned as industrial. However, that’s mostly practical, and few people who own warehouses or wrongly zoned property would want to camp there.

Additionally, to sell or rent camp space, you need a business license. If a friend or family member permits you to use their property as a campground for free, then it’s not a business. Alternately, the moment they collect money for the use of that space, they may owe taxes to the federal and state government.


What Type of Campsite is Best

Whether you choose a tent campsite or large-vehicle friendly campsite depends on your specific needs. Naturally, those with RVs and motorhomes require more parking space. However, there’s a little more to it.

Should tent campers rent space in an RV friendly spot for more room? The answer depends on the amenities. If the campsite in question is merely more massive, then there’s no reason not to reserve the more significant all-purpose site. Alternately, if there’s a spot for wastewater hookup, you should probably stick to a ‘regular’ tent camping spot as these aren’t something you want to pitch a tent beside.

On the flip side, RV and motorhome travelers may wonder if they can’t just reserve the smaller tent campsites. The answer here is the same. If they’re all-purpose, there’s no reason to avoid a generic camp. However, a tent-specific location probably doesn’t have enough parking or clearance for a larger vehicle.


Tent Vs. Vehicle Camping

Should you include an RV and regular campsite in your bug-out plans or is a tent campsite better for you? The answer depends on the situation. However, there are a few simple questions you should ask yourself to determine which is best. Naturally, the first issue is your budget.

If you cannot afford an RV or Motorhome, or you cannot drive, then there’s no question. Make sure you have lightweight camping supplies like a tent that you can grab and go. If you have a smaller BOV, then leaving a good tent in the trunk or behind a seat is always a wise decision.

For solo travelers, I recommend the Night Cat Backpacking Tent from Amazon. At just four-point-four pounds, anyone can easily carry this light tent. Plus, the setup is both fast and straightforward. It only takes about a minute. Better still, you’ll love Night Cat’s customer service if you have any questions or issues. Find out more by clicking here. 

Questions to Determine Your Camping Style

Luxury isn’t the question when you’re talking about camping for emergencies. For now, the world functions (sort of), and that means you have the benefit of dry runs and practice. I strongly suggest you use it, but first, figure out what works for you.

Ask Yourself

  • Do you or any members of your party have special needs? If you require a place to plug in your CPAP or you need to refrigerate insulin, for example, then a tent probably won’t cut it.
  • How many people need to travel with you? Although you should not ever break the rules of the road, when TEOTWAWKI happens, you can cram a whole family into one RV. However, unless society has crumbled, it’s not worth the risk.
  • Are you trying to get to a BOL quickly? A smaller vehicle will move faster and use less gas. Hence you may want to camp overnight in a tent if you’re trying to get to your emergency location as quickly as possible.
  • Can you fix it? Regardless of which style you choose, make sure you can repair both your mode of travel and your sleeping space in a pinch. Sewing a tent is a whole lot faster than replacing a broken wall panel on an RV.

If you’re former or current military, and you plan to take to the hills if SHTF and the world falls apart, you need good shoes and a great tent much more than an RV. Alternately, if you’re a family of eight with a piece of property a thousand miles away stocked up with your emergency supplies, you might need that RV. Choose wisely or opt for both.

If you’re traveling with a partner, or a couple of smaller kids, the Coleman Sundome Tent is ideal for two adults. The E-port makes it simple to bring powered devices inside, and you’ll appreciate the tested weatherproof exterior when it’s windy or rainy out. Additionally, there’s plenty of ventilation, and the green color blends better in natural surroundings. Read the fantastic Amazon ratings right here

Final Thoughts

Reserving a good location as your campsite, or tent campsite, can make all the difference. If you’re RV camping, make sure you check for features like power hookups. Alternately, when tent camping, you may want to look for the most secluded spot to avoid noisy or nosy neighbors ruining your good time.

Whichever style you prefer, keep in mind that you’ll want to book in advance. Campsites can fill up surprisingly fast, and you don’t want to wing it, especially during the busy season. There’s nothing worse than finally getting out of town, driving out to your ideal camping location, and arriving to find that you can’t camp there.

Keep in mind that different property owners often use different terms, which can make things difficult if you don’t verify your amenities. When in doubt, always ask first to avoid unexpected problems and unpleasant surprises.