Camping is a wonderful activity in the warmer months because it provides access to fresh air, sunshine, and opportunities to exercise in nature. Staying at a campground is a great option because it allows a rustic experience without venturing into the backcountry. If you’re looking for the cheapest option for a designated site, consider booking a class D campsite.
So what is a class D campsite?
A class D campsite is a primitive camping area with minimal to no amenities and without any vehicular access. Usually there will be no man made shelter of any sort, no bathroom facilities, no electricity and may or may not include access to clean water.
Here is how it compares to other classes of campsites.
Class A sites will have vehicular access and amenities such as showers and electricity.
Class AA will include everything in class A along with sewage systems.
Class B will only have electricity and can be accessed with a vehicle
Class C sites also have vehicular access but do not have showers or, if they do provide a shower, it is a walk-in with shower access.
Class D sites are for tent camping and may be quite primitive. They do not allow you to drive to the site and instead require you to backpack or walk-in.
Want more details? Here’s what we will cover to make sure you know everything about class d campsites.
How is a class D campsite different from other classifications?
This classification is found particularly in the state of Illinois where they use the letters A through D to rate the amenities of the various sites at state parks.
Their rating system has the following access and amenities:
- Class A sites will have vehicular access and amenities such as showers and electricity.
- Class AA will include everything in class A along with sewage systems.
- Class B will only have electricity and can be accessed with a vehicle
- Class C sites also have vehicular access but do not have showers or, if they do provide a shower, it is a walk-in with shower access.
- Class D sites are for tent camping and may be quite primitive. They do not allow you to drive to the site and instead require you to backpack or walk-in.
When it comes to Illinois state parks, the class D rated campsites may have toilets, drinking water, and picnic areas. Some also allow open fires in stoves or pits but do require a permit before camping. The amenities vary depending on the campsite so it’s advisable to always check in advance before booking.
Considerations for Camping at a Class D Campsite
Due to limited vehicular access, you will have to arrive at the site on foot. This means bringing all your supplies and gear along with you, probably in a backpack.
Depending on the terrain of the trail leading to the campsite, as well as restrictions within the park, you may be able to bike there as well. This would be an easier option because it is faster and may allow you to carry more with you than what you can fit in a backpack.
Motorized bikes or dirt bikes might be another option that would require less effort but not all parks or campgrounds may allow them so just call ahead to find out.
- Packing Light for Class D Camping
To prepare for such a trip you will want to pack very lightly, including the bare minimum supplies necessary for each person in your party. Bring along just the basics, including:
- Water (water or water treatment method)
- The 10 essentials
- Sleeping bag
- First Aid
Start with a lightweight backpack that has a large capacity. Hiking and camping backpacks are measured in liters to reflect the total volume of all the storage. This will include not only the main compartment but also pockets along the side or on the hip belt.
For a weekend camping or backpacking trip, you will want a backpack that is anywhere from 40 to 50 liters. Extended trips may require a pack up to 70 liters, depending on how much gear you have to transport.
A good backpack will also have a lot of external attachments to allow you to transport bulkier items. You can put a sleeping pad, tent, or water bottle into an exterior pocket or strap it to the outside. Having a lot of little hooks to attach things allows you to carry more and have easy access when wearing the pack.
Unless the weather will be extremely warm, opt for a lightweight down sleeping bag. Choose the lightest tent available or, skip the tent altogether and sleep under the stars with a tarp put up as a lean-to.
- Water Access at Class D Campsite
Water is essential while camping and even more important if you don’t have direct access to it at your campsite. Because class D sites are quite primitive, there may be no running water or fresh, potable drinking water available.
In that case, you will have to bring in clean water to keep at your campsite for the duration of your trip. Because water is very heavy, try to find out if there is a good water source nearby that you can collect water from and then purify it before drinking.
If there is a river or lake that is not heavily contaminated, you can save a lot of weight by simply bringing along a water treatment or purification method. Inexpensive filters and tablets like iodine are an effective way to treat water and make it safe to drink.
Class D campsites that are not close to a source of water will require you to bring enough for everyone you are camping with. In that case, save on weight and space in your backpack by filling collapsible plastic jugs or bladders that are easy to store when empty. Anytime you leave the campsite, drink as much water and possible and re-fill all your bottles.
Pros and Cons of Class D Campsites
There are benefits and drawbacks to all campsites and the class D ones are no different. Depending on your camping preferences, you may see the cons as pros or vice versa.
Class D campsites are generally quite cheap with some costing less than $10 per night. Other sites with more amenities will be more expensive, although they are generally cheaper than staying in a hotel.
If you are on a budget and looking for the most affordable option, choose a site with the bare minimum amenities. Campers who don’t mind the lack of vehicular access will also appreciate how inexpensive these sites are.
For those who want a backcountry camping experience and are looking for a campsite far from more developed areas, class D sites are the perfect option. Their primitive nature and distance from roads allow you to experience the quiet and isolation that many campers enjoy.
However, if you are more sociable and prefer to be around other people, this might be a drawback for you. In that case, you’ll want to find a campsite that is closer to amenities and activities.
Campsite reservations tend to fill up very quickly and some places require booking several months, or more, in advance. However, class D sites are not as popular and may be available as an option for those who are booking last minute.
Even if a class D site is not your first option, it will still allow you the opportunity to go camping and gives you a base from which to spend time in nature. If you find that all your primary choices are already reserved, look for campsites with fewer amenities and consider a walk-in site instead.
Class D sites don’t usually have vehicular access and are instead reached by hiking or walking in. This can be quite inconvenient, especially if you have a lot of things to bring and will be camping for a long time.
It also makes it difficult to come and go if you need to purchase supplies or simply want to go out to a restaurant, for example. Not to mention it’s challenging for those who can’t walk long distances such as young children, the elderly, or those with a disability.
Should anything like an accident happen, it also means you might be stuck at the site waiting for help to arrive. Even if nothing catastrophic befalls you, just coming down with a minor illness can turn into a huge challenge because it won’t be easy to leave and walking out will require energy that you might not have to expend.
Rustic camping at such a site means there will be little to no amenities. If there are toilets, they might not have running water or flush. This means outhouse style or pit toilets which can be cold and uncomfortable.
Chances of having a shower are also slim and, if there is running water, it might not be heated. You may want to consider bringing a portable shower along with you, especially for extended camping trips.
Lastly, there will be no access to places like a mercantile or general store nearby to purchase food or other supplies. The campsite may also be far from the town, making it difficult to go out for a meal whenever you want.
Due to the location and lack of amenities, camping at a class D site might not be as comfortable as some other places. There may not be a mound or designated location to easily set up a tent, requiring you to create a place yourself.
These spots definitely aren’t for the faint of heart and will require extra effort to do even the most basic tasks around the campsite. However, there are some definite advantages to staying at a class D site.
Experienced campers will relish the opportunity to prove their skills and spend the night in a place that is wilder than many designated sites. You’ll probably feel much closer to nature and have a sense of accomplishment by the end of your trip.
We would love to know about you camping experiences and questions. Please leave us a comment.