How to Decode Campground Symbols

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How to Decode Campground Symbols

By Jeff Adams


You know where you want to go, and what you want to see and do; now it's time to start making those all-important campground reservations. The most convenient way is to book online at a camping reservation website. Simply select the state you want, the nearest city, or even the name of the campground. Easy enough.

Then it can get a little confusing.

In the list of campsites unfamiliar icons and symbols may appear next to each listing: tiny images of dogs, electrical plugs or lightning bolts (some with a number next to them), wheelchairs, and the like.

You may also notice exotic phrases like "primitive," "full hookups," "vault toilet," "loop," "pull through," "driveway surface," "accessible" and others.

Then there's the map of the campground. It shows tiny drawings of tents, trailers and motorhomes; plus someone taking a shower, and water faucets.

Now you start to wonder: What kind of campsite should you get? How far from the lake is it? Will your RV fit? What about water and electricity? Where are the restrooms? Are there restrooms?

The last thing you need is to pull up to a campground with your tow vehicle and 25-foot trailer, only to discover that you accidentally reserved a tent site with no adjacent parking. You've got no shade, no water, no power. Worst of all, there's not enough room for your trailer and your SUV. And there are no other sites available.

The best way to avoid that scenario is to know what you're getting into. Here's a list of campground symbols, and their descriptions, to help ensure you reserve the right spot:

Campsite Search Listing

site list header

Site #—The number of a specific campsite.

Loop—Since the roads in most campgrounds are narrow, their campsites are arranged on one-way loops to keep traffic flowing. The loops have names or numbers for easy identification. If there's only one loop, then no name or number is given.

Site Type—Indicates the level of creature comforts available, from absolutely none (often listed as "primitive"), to "standard" (usually a paved or graded drive, picnic table and fire ring), or "premium" (paved, picnic table, fire ring, electricity, water, sewer). These designations may vary from one reservation system to another.

Max # of People—The maximum number of campers that can stay in one campsite, based on its size. You don't want 15 friends trying to squeeze into a site designed for four people.

Equip Length/Driveway—The combined length of a tow vehicle and trailer or a motorhome that can be accommodated. For tent sites, the driveway length may be shown as "0" (zero), meaning that there is no parking space immediately adjacent to the site, although it is usually nearby. In the example above, "35 Back-In" means the driveway is 35 feet long and you back into it.

Amenities—Icons will indicate if there is electrical power and how many amps (usually 15, 30 or 50); hookups for water, electricity and sewer ("FULL" indicates all three); if the site is near water; and if pets are allowed.

Campground Amenities—Can indicate if there are campsites available for campers with disabilities, if there is fishing, and whether or not the campground has fire rings, restrooms, showers, hiking trails or a visitor center.

Campsite Map


Other icons you may see include:

  • Motorhome with Electric Plug Electric power is available
  • "Full" Electricity, water and sewer at that site
  • Water faucet Piped in water is available (check with park staff to see if water is safe for drinking)

Other Mysterious Phrases

Accessible Flush Toilets—For disabled campers.

Accessible Sites—Sites designed to accommodate disabled campers.

Dump Station—Where wastewater from RVs is dumped. Potable water for freshwater tanks or containers may also be available at or near the actual dump location.

Group—A large common area where many RVs can gather.

Group Horse—A large group area without individual sites, specifically for horseback riders and their steeds.

Group Tent—Aame as above, only for large groups in tents.

Partial Hookup—A site with water and electricity but no sewer.

Pull Through—A campsite where you can pull your rig through instead of backing in.

Season—The time of year that the campground is open.

"Vault" or "Pit" Toilet—Non-flushing toilet, quaintly known as an "outhouse."

Wooded Site—Describes a campsite where trees provide shade most of the day.

Once you get the hang of all the campground symbols, you should be able to make your next campsite reservation in a snap.

RAReserve a campsite.

Jeff Adams is a California-based freelance writer, contributor to and an avid camping enthusiast. He's been dragging his trailer and willing family around the western U.S. for more than a decade.