A campsite (or campground) is a place used for overnight stay in the out of doors. The term 'campsite' usually means an area where an individual, family, group or military unit might camp. There are two types of campsites:
- an impromptu area (as one might decide to stop while backpacking or hiking
- a dedicated area with improvements and various facilities (see below).
The term "camp" comes from the Latin word campus, meaning field. Therefore, a campsite consists typically of open pieces of ground where a camper can pitch a tent or park a camper. More specifically a campsite is a dedicated area set aside for camping and for which often a user fee is charged. Campsites typically feature a few (but sometimes no) improvements.
Dedicated campsites usually have some amenities. Common amenities include, listed roughly in order from most to least common:
- Fireplaces or fire pits in which to build campfires (this can be a circle of rocks, a metal enclosure, a metal grate, a concrete spot, or even just a hole).
- Pit toilets (outhouses)
- Road access for vehicles
- Picnic tables
- Piped potable water
- Sinks and mirrors in the bathrooms
- Flush toilets and showers
- Utility hookups, such as gas, propane, water, electricity and sewer, primarily for the use of caravans or similar
- A small convenience store
- Raised platforms on which to set up tents
- Shower facilities (with or without hot water)
- Marked spaces indicating a boundary for one camper or a group of campers
- Reservations to ensure there will be available space to camp
- Wood for free or for sale for use in cooking or for a campfire
- A gravel or concrete pad on which to park a camper or car so as not to get stuck in the mud
- A gravel, paved, and/or marked road so one knows how to get a vehicle to and from the campsite
- Garbage cans or large rubbish bins in which to place refuse
- A set of rules governing how loud noise is handled, what hours one may enter and leave the campground, rules governing nudity, the use of local wood, how to dispose of garbage, etc.
Camping outside a designated campsite is often forbidden by law. It is thought to be a nuisance, harmful to the environment, and is often associated with vagrancy. However some countries have specific laws and/or regulations allowing camping on public lands (see Freedom to roam).
In the US, many national and state parks have dedicated campsites and sometimes also allow impromptu backcountry camping by visitors. U.S. National Forests often have established campsites, but generally allow camping anywhere, except within a certain distance of water sources.
There are many private, commercial campgrounds as well as those on public lands. The Kampgrounds of America (KOA) is a large chain of commercial campgrounds located throughout the US and Canada. Many travellers prefer to use KOA, or similar campsites, as an alternative to hotels or motels, independent campsites, or parks.
Both commercial and governmental campgrounds typically charge a nominal fee for the privilege of camping there, to cover expenses, and in the case of an independent campground, to make a profit.
In the U.S., backcountry camping is common in National Parks and these areas can only be reached on foot or on horseback. The camping areas are usually established "zones", which have a predetermined maximum number of persons that are allowed to stay in the section per night. Strict regulations are imposed regarding food storage and resource protection, and in most cases, open fires are not permitted and all cooking must be done with small portable stoves. Usually these backcountry campsite zones require a free permit obtainable at visitor centers and ranger stations.
Most National parks do not have as many amenities as the state and private parks.
Movies and documentaries on a campsite
- Mon été au camping (2003)
- The Forest Primeval (1983)
- Carry On Camping (1969)
- Camping Cosmos (1996)
- Camping Sauvage (2004)
- Camping del Terrore (1987)
- Choosing the Perfect Campsite
- Find Campsites in the UK
- Find Campsites in Europe
- Find Campsites in the USA
- Find Campsites in Canada