Once you’re all set to go camping, it’s time to start looking at campsites to make your reservations. There are so many places to camp, and every site is different. So how to choose? And what are these ratings?
So, what is a Class C campsite?
A Class C campsite is a campground that has limited amenities and no showers but does have access by vehicle. Class c sites may or may not include amenities such as toilets, or electricity but will most often have access to clean water. You will have to check with the campground you plan on staying with for a full list of amenities.
Some campgrounds are rated by class to let you know what amenities are available. This is very useful because it allows you to plan your trip better, pack accordingly, and know what to expect when you arrive.
Here’s what we will cover, so you are in the know.
What Kinds of Amenities Might Be Included?
Every campground is different, and the amenities change based on the location and time of year. Basic amenities that most campsites offer include toilets, showers, hot water, and electricity. Other features include whether or not there is vehicle access or if you need to hike or ski to the campsite.
While most campsites do have toilets, the quality and type can vary. Higher class sites will have indoor, flushing toilets. Some may even have running water for sinks while others simply have hand sanitizer for cleansing. These indoor facilities may or may not be heated. Usually, flushing toilets are seasonal because the pipes can freeze in the winter.
Lower class sites may have toilets, but they may not flush and could just be pit, vault, or composting toilets that are quite cold even though they are indoors. These types of toilets definitely will not offer sinks or any kind of running water.
Showers are often limited as well at some campsites. Just because a campsite has showers though, there may not be a guarantee of hot water. Many campsites that do offer showers charge for their use, and you may have to buy tokens in advance for a timed shower.
If your campsite does not have showers, check before bringing your own portable shower. Not all campsites allow personal showers to be used and the water they use has to be disposed of properly.
How to Understand Class Ratings
The class rating system for campsites is alphabetical, and a Class A campsite is the best. There may also be premium ratings such as “AP” for a premium Class A site. Usually, the lowest rated site would be a Class D.
Class D campsites are primitive sites for tent camping without any amenities and no access by vehicle. Instead, you would have to walk or backpack to the site, taking all your camping supplies along with you.
Do All Campgrounds Use a Class System?
Not all campgrounds will classify their sites with this system. More often than not, the site will have a listing of the amenities and a note for the seasonality of each one.
Many campgrounds will list out amenities such as showers, flush toilets, potable water, food storage lockers, and whether firewood or ice are available for purchase. Some also mention whether trash facilities are available which is important if you need to plan to pack out any trash after camping.
For those who are RV camping, check to see if the campsite has any hookups such as water and electricity. Also look for a dump station to empty the sewage tank on your RV.
The Class rating for campgrounds is used for campsites in the state of Illinois and at various state parks and other campgrounds around the United States. While multiple campgrounds may have the same ratings, the amenities may differ.
In the state of Illinois, Class C sites have a gravel pad where a vehicle can be parked but do not have electricity or showers. The pricing is very affordable, and usually, just a few dollars separate Class B from Class C and Class D sites. Class B sites do have showers and hookups for electricity while Class A sites have all the amenities, including toilet and shower buildings.
McCormick’s Creek State Park in Indiana, for example, classifies their Class C campsites as primitive but their amenities include a picnic table, fire ring, parking for one vehicle, drinking water, pit toilets, and lantern poles. Their Class A or electric sites have all the same amenities plus electrical hookup and modern restrooms and showers.
Some National Parks have campsites within the parks, but their classification system doesn’t usually use the Class ratings and varies by park. Many amenities are also seasonal, especially in parks at altitude or with extreme winter weather.
If you venture to private campgrounds like KOA within the United States or are traveling outside the country, the classifications may be very different. The terminology may be similar but could potentially have a completely different meaning as well. Make sure to do your research in advance and read a lot of reviews before booking.
What About Dry Camping?
Dry camping is sometimes called wild camping or boondocking. It refers to camping without any access to water and can take place in a campsite or in a more remote area such as the backcountry or wilderness.
A campground that offers dry camping is likely to be a Class C campsite because there is no water for showers or flushing toilets. However, a true boondocking site may not even be an official site. It could just be a remote area in the wilderness where you are hiking and decide to sleep at night.
Backcountry campsites likely will not even have toilets so they may actually be considered Class D sites. If there are no toilets, you will need to ensure there isn’t a body of water within 100 feet of your campsite if you intend to attend to nature in the wild. You may also want to research how to properly bury any waste and, depending on the restrictions; you may have to pack out all waste with you.
Campsite Class Is Unrelated to Motor Homes
In the camping world of recreational vehicles, the term “Class C” is often used to refer to a motorhome. These vehicles come in three different classes: Class A, Class B, and Class C.
Class A motorhomes are the biggest and most expensive. They can be identified by their boxy, modern exterior and big, square windshield.
Class C RVs are more common, and the camper portion extends over the cab. They are usually smaller and more affordable than Class A motorhomes.
Class B motorhomes are the smallest and can be quite small, using cargo vans as their base. They don’t have as much living space and might not be as comfortable but are often more affordable and can travel where bigger RVs cannot.
While there is a Class C type of motorhome, the class of the RV itself is completely unrelated to the class of a campsite. Not all campsites allow motorhomes, but this is not usually reflected in the campsite class rating.
Also, if a campground does allow motorhomes, it usually does not differentiate between RV class types. There may be certain length restrictions based on the size of the site, but motorhomes come in varying lengths. Usually, Class As are the longest, but there are also quite long Class Cs that might not be able to use small campgrounds.
If a motorhome is using a Class C campsite, preparations should be made in advance to accommodate the lack of water. If the water tank on the RV is full, then the motorhome will have water and a shower. However, water should be rationed, and sewage tanks should be emptied because there won’t be a dump station at the campground.
How to Find a Campsite?
There are numerous sites available to search for campsites across the country. Many campers agree that there is no single site that is the best one for all camping needs. Until someone builds it, there is a handful that many find to be useful.
Reserve America allows you to search by location, including zip code, but you must enter a location, so it’s ideal if you know where you want to camp.
Freecampsites.net is a great search engine for finding campgrounds that do not charge a fee. Gocampingamerica.com has a search engine that allows you to choose the features that are important to you. The list of amenities is extensive and ranges beyond the basics found at a Class C campsite.
Recreation.gov is a comprehensive site for nearly all the federal sites, including national and state parks, BLM lands, and state and national forests. All the sites listed do have a fee, but the search feature is quite comprehensive, allowing you to filter by amenities, electrical hookups by the amp, allowable equipment, and nearby activities.
If you are most familiar with the Class C campsite specification, just know that you might not be able to use this when searching many of the popular camping websites. Instead, input the amenities that you want, and you will be able to find sites that are comparable to a Class C.
Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of campsite ratings and how to find them, you can get outside and start camping. If you choose to stay in a Class C campsite, you will be in for a very authentic camping experience. Don’t let the lack of amenities get to you. Instead, embrace the wilderness and make the most of being close to nature.