The first step to planning a successful camping trip is having your destination in mind. The campsite that you choose will affect your experience depending on what you want out of your trip.
Each campsite comes with a class or rating: A, AA, AAA, or B. The category that your ideal campsite has in mind will tell you just how many of the comforts you enjoy at home that you can expect when you pitch your tent or park your RV there.
So what are these campsite classes, and what do they mean? Today, we are going to talk about each one in-depth and give you an idea of where you would like to stay on your next camping trip.
Campsite Classes and Amenities
A campsite’s class rating depends on the amenities that the site has available for your use. Premium sites have all or most comforts while primitive sites have only the bare necessities. The basic amenities that change with classification include:
- Picnic tables
- Fire rings
- Hookups (electrical, water, sewer)
- Paved drive
How Campsite Classification Works
The many classifications given to campsites indicate the amenities provided, and there are subsets of classes under one letter.
Class A campsites are categorized due to their many amenities available. The subsets of Class A sites are AA and AAA (or AP.) Each one offers more than the last.
Classes B, C, and D offer less than each one before them. Class D sites are the most primitive and are best for those campers who want to “rough it.” Today, though, we are focusing only on classes A, AA, AAA (AP) and B.
Class A Campsites: What to Expect
Class A campsites are considered the standard in terms of amenities and facilities provided to campers.
At a Class A campsite, you can expect to find the basic things that you need as well as a few comforts that the wilderness doesn’t provide naturally.
One of the little luxuries that we often take for granted in our modern world is a shower. You wouldn’t expect anything less in your home, but new campers may not expect to find public showers at their campsite of choice.
Class A campsites do provide shower facilities that have their own private stalls. You get privacy and you can keep yourself clean. Hygiene is important even when you’re living simply, especially if you are camping with other people.
Not all Class A sites have toilets, but some do. However, they may not flush. It varies by campsite and weather conditions, as flushing availability is seasonal due to cold weather in winter that could freeze the pipes.
- Vehicular Access
Class A campsites allow you to drive and park somewhere near your base camp. The driveways are often paved or at least have gravel paths and places for you to park so you aren’t lugging all of your equipment back and forth a long way. This also allows RV campers to park and enjoy the scenery as well.
All Class A campsites are expected to be equipped with electrical hookups. RV campers will be able to power their appliances, TVs, and charge their phones as they normally would. The only downside is that Class A campsites don’t have sewer hookups.
Most Class A campsites are equipped with small conveniences like picnic tables and fire rings. There will be no need to bring or construct your own.
- Pros and Cons
There are several benefits to camping at a Class A site. You get the amenities that you need to be relatively comfortable, and they offer access to multiple types of campers.
The main drawback is that Class A sites are just too middle-of-the-road for some. For the money that you pay, you may want more out of your experience.
Class AA Campsites: What to Expect
Class AA campsites give you everything that a Class A site does, but they offer just a bit more for your comfort.
- Sewage Systems
While some people are comfortable answering nature’s call in the woods, others would prefer to do so privately and without having to bury anything after they’re done. Class AA campsites often offer public restrooms because they have their own sewer systems. These may be flushable unlike most Class A sites, and the facilities may offer sinks with running water for washing your hands.
Most of the time, Class AA sites offer sewer hookups for RV campers so they can enjoy indoor plumbing as well.
- Pros and Cons
The benefit of staying at a Class AA site is that you get a more comfortable experience when it comes to your most vulnerable moments. It’s better for RV campers specifically because they will want to utilize nearly everything their RV can offer.
The downside is that Class AA sites aren’t often equipped with water hookups. You still aren’t getting the most out of your very expensive mobile home.
Class AAA Campsites: What to Expect
Class AAA campsites are considered the cream of the crop or more luxurious campsites. They are mostly referred to as Class A premium sites.
You have access to everything that both Class A and Class AA sites provide, but there’s more. Though this varies by the campsite, Class AAA sites can sometimes provide extra amenities like upgraded bathroom facilities (i.e. heated) and the electricity provided will be more powerful. You will also have access to water hookups as well.
Of course, this comes with a bigger price tag. On average, you can expect AAA campsites to cost $10-$20 more per night depending on what you plan to use, especially if you are camping in an RV.
- Pros and Cons
Class AAA campsites have everything you need for a great and comfortable camping trip. It’s just a step under glamping, so it’s great if you can afford a little luxury, but not a lot.
The downside to camping at one of these sites is the money that you pay to stay there. While the prices are reasonable for what is offered, campers on a tight budget may not comfortably be able to stay at one for as long as they’d like.
Class B Campsites: What to Expect
Class B campsites are a bit of a downgrade from Class A sites because you lose some of the amenities that the others provide. These campsites will still be equipped with vehicular access and electrical hookups, but you lose some convenient features like:
- Showers and sinks. If you are camping in an RV, this is still a loss because Class B campsites don’t typically provide water hookups. You’ll have to rough it, either wiping yourself down with sanitary wipes or bringing a camp shower.
- Sewer hookups. RV campers won’t be able to dispose of their waste and as such, a shorter trip may be wiser. Anyone camping onsite in a tent could be facing using the restroom in a pit or composting toilet instead.
- Pros and Cons
Class B campsites are great for campers who want to feel closer to nature. People who want to “rough it” without actually roughing it will enjoy Class B campsites. Anyone on a tight budget could enjoy these sites as well, as they don’t charge as much per night as Class A sites do.
However, not everyone likes being without their creature comforts and for them, Class B sites take the fun out of camping.
Do All Campsites Have Ratings?
Many campsites are classified into one of these groups so you know what basic amenities they have to offer. However, this is not a universally mandated system and as such, you may have a more difficult time researching what a site has to offer in some areas.
State parks often do use the class system, but private campgrounds don’t typically do so.
Where to Find Campsites by Class
There are some sources of information online that you can look to ahead of time to determine where you might want to set up camp. Though the list is by no means complete because the class system isn’t universal, it still gives you a wealth of information on certain areas you may be interested in.
- Illinois Campgrounds by Classification
- Arkansas State Parks and Classifications
- National Park Service Camping Resources (Comprehensive)
Whether you are an RV camper or a tent camper, you can appreciate the class system in place for these campsites. You’ll know the basics of what you can expect out of your stay in each class and make a more informed decision before you decide to research a particular campsite.
We advise that you always research your campsite of choice ahead of time, though, because amenities vary even in the same class. Knowing exactly what your site lacks will help you prepare while packing.
When you prepare ahead and choose the right destination, your camping trip will help you make memories that you’ll cherish forever! Whether camping alone or with a group, in a tent or an RV, there’s a campsite out there for everyone to enjoy.
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