Many campers confuse the difference between walk-in campsites and walk-up campsites. Throughout the summer, you likely won’t find many walk-up campsites if you arrive late. Campers have better luck during the autumn and spring season for walk-up campsites. Walk-in campsites require a reservation, but you can get this campsite more easily.
What is a walk-in campsite? Walk-in campsites usually require that you park in a parking lot outside the campsite. You will park the car and walk-in. Campsites like this will often have distance between the parking lot and the campground. You may have to reserve your spot.
You’ve learned what a walk-in campsite looks like, but we invite you to learn a little more about how these campsites work.
Walk-up vs Walk-in Campsites
Walk-up campsites differ from walk-in campsites. Campsites that function under the walk-up principle work on a first-come-first-serve basis.
You may have a harder time getting a walk-up campsite than a walk-in because walk-in campsites usually operate based on reservations. That means you can trust that your campsite will be available because you reserved it.
When booking at national parks with walk-in campsites, places like Yellowstone and Yosemite National Park, you may want to reserve your site as early as six months in advance.
This ensures that you get the campsite that you wanted.
Who the Walk-in Campsite Wasn’t Meant For
Because you may walk back a good distance, in some cases up to a mile, walk-in campsites may not work well for the elderly or people in poor health. If you want to simply drive in with your car, go to a walk-up campsite.
People who prefer to camp with campers or RVs will be excluded from walk-in campsites.
Some people will dislike walk-in campsites because they have to make multiple trips back and forth from the car as they get their camping gear. If you don’t like the inconvenience, walk-in camping probably isn’t for you.
Someone who doesn’t know how to pack light will have a bad time with walk-in campsites.
Parents with small children may struggle with walk-in campsites because they have to control the children while bringing their items back.
Who was the Walk-in Campsite Made For?
For the campers who want the true sounds of nature, the walk-in campsite caters to your needs. You won’t hear car doors slamming at the site, and you won’t see the comings and goings of your neighbors in their car.
Walk-in campsites have more privacy and quiet than the walk-up campsites. Many times sites like this offer greater remoteness than walk-up campsites. With a walk-up campsite, your neighbors might be 20 feet from you, depending on the campground. You can hear their conversations.
Walk-in campsites usually lend themselves to greater privacy.
Many times, walk-in campsites will have breathtaking scenery. You may have a campsite on a lake or near the lake.
What to Know about Walk-in Campsites
You may want to arrive early in the morning or afternoon to a walk-in campsite because you will need time to set up the tent. Most tents take between 15 to 20 minutes to set up, but you will need time to set up camp, also, such as getting the campfire started and unpacking your gear.
You don’t want to race against the clock with the sun setting.
Setting up a campsite in the dark with a flashlight poses a daunting challenge. Walk-in campsites can prove more challenging with securing your food if they don’t provide lockers. This can be a negative because you don’t want to attract anything looking for a meal.
To get around this problem, you might tie your food up off a tree branch or keep stored it in a cooler outside of the camp.
Many campers have reported thieving raccoons, the infamous backcountry bandits, which stole their hard-won trout or bread. Worse, you can attract bears.
Bears have a better sense of smell than dogs. In general, it would be wise to avoid cooking anything that has a strong smell or doing any activities that will have a strong odor, such as applying lotions.
Don’t leave any trash out either because it can attract critters of every kind.
Walk-in Camping in Remote Regions
You want to acquaint yourself early with the type of walk-in camping that you will be doing. In some cases, walk-in camping can mean camping in a remote region where you have to walk back several miles.
Such camping sites have the advantage of total remoteness, but may not be for everyone. You likely won’t have much for neighbors in a campsite like this.
However, the walk back over several miles can be over rough terrain. Remote campsites like this demand that you pack as lightly as possible.
What Type of Gear Do You Need with Walk-in Camping?
Walk-in campsites will usually require you to have a tent on hand. Having a tent, food and drinks would be the bare minimum of what you want. If you’re looking for a good tent, try the Coleman Sundome Tent.
You will want a footprint for underneath the tent to keep it clean, and a rain flap for over the tent to prevent rain from seeping in. In most cases, this automatically comes with the tent that you bought.
Along with having those things, you will need sleeping bags and pillows. Camping is about simplicity. The less you bring the better. Anyone who plans to hike or bowfish should bring along the appropriate gear.
If you plan to have a campfire and they allow it in your region, you will want to bring either a lighter or a matchbox and firewood.
Please, buy the firewood local from the campground or from nearby. Bringing firewood in from outside the area can bring in pests like the emerald ash borer that wreak devastation on the local environment. Camping is also about leaving no trace.
Many campers say that you want to leave the environment in a better state than what it was when you were going in. Pick up all your trash upon leaving.
How to Pack Lightly
Since walk-in campsites require that you will walk back into the campsite, you should understand how to pack lightly for the trip.
Many campers apply a rule known as the one-bag rule. This means that no one should pack more than one bag. The bag will hold everything from clothing to bathing towels and entertainment.
Packing organizers can make everything easy to locate.
Resist the urge to pack luxuries. In camping, luxuries will just weigh you down.
Expert’s Tip: If you can’t carry a bag for longer than five minutes, that means that you have too much in the bag. See if you can’t remove some items from the bag. Camping teaches you how to practice minimalism.
Wagons with Walk-in Camping
Some campgrounds will provide wagons for walk-in campers.
With that said, you shouldn’t depend on getting a wagon. In some cases, taking along a hiking backpack will prove more useful.
Wagons have a disadvantage in that they can become tedious to use going up hills or over rough terrain. You may be better off without one.
Some campers like going out into the elements and challenging themselves.
Why You Should Understand the Difference Between Walk-in and Walk-up Campsites
You want to understand the difference between walk-in and walk-up campsites because campgrounds will often have both types of camping sites on the property.
If you don’t know the difference, it could be easy to go to the wrong one.
Walk-up campsites work on a first-come-first-serve basis, and you can pull in a truck with a camper.
Walk-in campsites often require a reservation, and you can only camp with a tent.
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of each so that you can decide for yourself which one is best for you.
Pros of Walk-up Campsites
- Can camp with campers
- Modern style of camping
- No need for a reservation
- Drive right up to the campsite
Cons of Walk-up Campsites
- Have to show up early to get a spot on weekends
- Hear car doors slamming and cars driving past
- Closer to your neighbors and less privacy
Pros of Walk-in Campsites
- More remote style of camping
- More privacy and campsites farther apart
- Less unnatural noises like car doors slamming
- More peaceful
- Teaches you how to practice minimalism
- Some argue the truer way to camp
- You can reserve the campsite
Cons of Walk-in Campsites
- Having to walk between the parking lot and campsite
- Far from immediate help in an emergency
- Not a good choice for the elderly
- People who don’t pack light will have a bad time
Hopefully, this sheds some light on walk-in camping to help you decide which one suits you best.
Tent campers can especially take advantage of this because of the greater remoteness of tent camping.
If you don’t mind the extra walk back between the parking lot and the campsite, walk-in camping provides you with a truer experience of camping.