Since hitting the road we have stayed in a variety of campsites, 6 RV Parks, 4 State Parks, 1 National Seashore Campground and 2 Harvest Host locations, to figure out what works best for us.
After every campsite, we rate our stay and experience on a scale of 1-10 and add it to our travel record (we keep track of everything-what we are doing, where we are staying, how many miles traveled etc, to help document our journey). In doing so, we noticed that we both enjoy state parks more than RV parks. So, we decided to compare the similarities and differences of these sites in a variety of categories:
1. Site Space and Privacy: State Parks
In our experience, there is significantly more site space and privacy at state parks than in RV parks. The sites are further apart and set back from the road, there is generally plenty of tree cover that provides natural privacy between you and your neighbors and the "backyard area" where the fire pit is, picnic table, spot for Walter (our Jeep) is much larger.
In RV parks, we are much too close for comfort to our neighbors. As a result, our shades are down more, its noisier, the dogs are on edge and prone to bark and its hard to really get comfortable or use the outside space.
2. Hookups: Honestly, About The Same
The state parks that we have stayed at have all had sites with electric and water and several times we also had sewer. RV parks similarly have offered different levels of hookups on their sites. So for us, there is no real difference one way or the other.
3. Surroundings/View: State Parks
Obviously, we like to be outside getting lost in nature. So the clear winner on this one is state parks. They are in the woods or on a beach, its beautiful, peaceful, and if you are looking for a good night sleep they are perfect. It gets so dark and quiet at night!
RV parks are generally in more populated locations and your surroundings are other RVs, buildings, streets and lights. Not much nature to be found (at least at the places we have stayed so far). I personally struggle sleeping in RV parks a bit, there is more light pollution and you have to deal with some traffic, trains and other noises.
4. WiFi: Both Losers
We knew that accessibility of WiFi and cell reception would be a constant issue, so we invested in some good tech gear which would allow us to have cell service and WiFi while boondocking, at remote locations or at state parks. However, we were foolishly under the impression that RV parks, when they advertise having WiFi, that the WiFi has plenty of bandwidth and/or has a good signal. We were sadly mistaken.
We have yet to stay in an RV park where we can actually use the park's WiFi. This has been a real source of frustration since we purposely spent more money to stay at a couple of RV parks, for the sole reason of WiFi availability for work. We really have no great words of wisdom on this front besides don't expect WiFi even when its offered and if you need it, make sure you have several of your own methods of connecting to the internet (Verizon MiFi, tethering cell phones etc.).
5. Facilities (Bathhouses/Laundry): This is a tough one because there are good and bad to each.
Lets be real, all I really care about are the showers. By becoming a nomad, I had to say goodbye to long luxurious hot showers and wait a half hour to even get hot water in Wanda, take a military style shower when we don't have a hookup, or venture into bath houses in flip flops and hope for the best. I expected RV parks to have this one hands down...but despite the availability of more private bathrooms/single showers (which definitely has advantages and feels a little more normal) we have found that the showers at the state parks have generally had better water pressure and hotter water.
Side note: North Carolina State Parks are so nice! They were all so well maintained, good signage, spacious sites, privacy and plenty of trails. But they also had very clean and warm bathhouses with roomy showers. Shout out to Rolling View campground at Falls Lake,
for the heat lamps in the bathhouses which felt amazing (as you can see it doesn't take much to make us impress at this point).
As far as laundry rooms, much more likely to find them at an RV park. It's definitely convenient for it to be on site, even if it's a bit more expensive.
6. Activities/Things to do/Trails: For Us State Parks
We hike all the time so we like state parks because most of them have several trails that we can jump on right from the campground. There are usually plenty of picnic areas, playgrounds, fishing, some beach areas to hang out on etc.
However, we see the appeal of RV parks for families because they tend to have pools, dog runs, lawn games, more activities for kids and some pretty cool common areas.
7. Location/Convenience: RV parks
As expected, state parks are generally in more remote areas, so if you want to run to the store or go anywhere, expect some quality time in the car.
RV parks on the other hand, are in more populated areas and generally not far from supermarkets, stores, movies, restaurants and towns to explore.
8. Price: State Parks
We are very conscious of our budget and state parks are definitely less expensive It kind of strikes us as odd that RV parks are generally double the cost, when they often don't offer any more in terms of hookups/etc. Even with some of our RV memberships and discounts, state parks have generally still been cheaper.
These are just a few considerations we take into account when deciding between campsites. While there are some pros and cons to both, if given a choice, the scale generally tips in favor of State Parks for us.
Let us know which types of campsites you prefer in the comments below.
By Ashley Quiambao