What Is Frontcountry Camping?


If you’re new to the camping adventure, you may wonder why there are so many different types of camping. Different types of camping refer to where you are camping and what gear you will need to camp there responsibly. The most common type of camping that people do is frontcountry camping, but what exactly is it?

Frontcountry camping refers to camping at a campsite that you can drive to. Typically, this will be at an established campground. Usually, basic amenities such as pit toilets, water spigots, or trash bins are available at frontcountry campgrounds.

As with any type of camping or outdoor activity, there are specific rules and principles you should follow to ensure you have the best possible experience for yourself and others. If you’re new to frontcountry camping, let’s look at a few things to help you get started.

Frontcountry Camping – Breaking it Down

Frontcountry camping is often referred to as car camping because you park your car or vehicle with you at the campground. Having your vehicle closeby means you can bring whatever you want that you can pack in it.

Since you can bring whatever will fit in your car with you, there is no need to feel like you’re “roughing it” when frontcountry camping.

There is generally no limitation to what you can bring with you frontcountry camping as long as it fits in your vehicle. That being said, there are some basics you’ll want to have covered below:

  • Shelter to sleep: Tent, car, RV, van, or some type of protection from the elements.
  • Food: Bring along easy to prepare menu items that will last for the duration of your stay. Meals that you have premade or something that you can quickly warm up or prepare over a campfire or a camp stove are the best choices.
  • Sleeping bag or blankets: Know how cold it will get at night and plan accordingly to be warm. It is better to be warmer than to freeze all night.
  • Water: Bring your own supply of water if you’re not sure if there will be potable water at the campground.

As long as you have these basic points covered, you will be okay. Of course, you should plan for additional items to make camping more fun.

What Amenities Can I Expect?

When frontcountry camping at an established campground, you can expect certain amenities.

Any established frontcountry campground will provide a pit toilet or porta-potty at the bare minimum. Bathrooms are particularly important when staying at a campground if you don’t have a van or RV with one built in.

Often, a frontcountry campground will provide either trash bins or dumpsters. By providing these services, people are more inclined to pick up their trash and keep campsites clean. A clean site reduces the likelihood of mice, raccoons, and bears scavenging through campgrounds.

If there are no trash services provided, you must pack everything out. For frontcountry camping, I have an old bucket that has been designated as the trash bin. This way, I am prepared to pack out all of my trash if need be. The trash bucket also helps keep the camping area clean since I only need to take one trip to the dumpster to take care of my trash.

It is essential to practice “leave no trace” principles even when frontcountry camping. You should at all times leave the campsite cleaner than you found it, no matter where you are.

Many frontcountry campgrounds also provide running water. In the United States, most areas will have potable water meaning the water is safe to drink. If the water is not drinkable, that fact must be clearly signed.

If, for any reason, you are unsure whether the water is safe to drink, bring your own. The 5-gallon jugs sold at grocery stores and online are a good option, or if you want to reduce your plastic usage, you can get a reusable water container sold at most outdoor stores.

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How Do I Cook at a Frontcountry Campground?

For cooking, a frontcountry campground will have a firepit and sometimes a charcoal grill provided. I like to cook some of our meals in a pie iron. They don’t take up much room and are convenient to use. We have a post that will give you more details about pie irons.

Make sure you check on local fire restrictions before you have an open fire while camping. A frontcountry campground should have the fire danger and any fire restrictions in place listed where you check-in. If you are unsure if you can start a fire, ask a ranger or campground host if any fire restrictions are in place.

If fire danger is high and you are not allowed to have an open fire, a camp stove is another way to prepared food while camping.

Coleman makes a two-burner stove that is excellent for camp cooking. The burners give you 20,000 BTUs to cook your food to perfection. The three-sided wind block lets you cook in windy conditions. It is easy to carry, weighs eleven pounds, and is backed with a limited 3- year warranty. When using a pound propane tank, it will run for about one hour.

The larger two-burner propane or white gas stoves are an excellent investment if you will be camping a lot. However, a small backpacking stove is also a great way to heat up easy meals or boil water and costs a lot less upfront.

Jetboil has the Mighty Mo, which is compact, lightweight, and has a pushbutton igniter. It comes with a stand that supports the fuel can, it is easy to carry and can reach a boil in about three minutes. These features make it perfect for camping, backpacking, survival camping, and emergencies.

Plus, Jetboil also has a handy device for measuring how much fuel you have left in your canister. The JetGauge has a digital display that lets you see if you are close to running out of fuel. You can use it on 100, 230, and 450-gram JetPower canisters. Now there is no more wondering how much fuel you have left!

What Types of Camping are Allowed at Frontcountry Campgrounds?

Any type of camping is allowed at frontcountry campgrounds from tent camping to big RVs as long as you can find an established campsite to park it in. You could even backpack in with a tent to a frontcountry campground if you wanted to.

Many frontcountry campgrounds have different campsites depending on what type of vehicle you will be using to camp. If you are in a car or van under 20 feet, you will most likely choose a tent site. These sites will provide a flat place to pitch your tent, a flat spot to park, and usually a picnic table. In my experience, these smaller sites are generally prettier and more secluded.

The other option is an RV or trailer site. These sites sometimes will have hookups such as water or electricity that go with them. The parking area will be much larger to accommodate a large RV or trailer.

At frontcountry campgrounds, you are required to camp in a designated space. You cannot park and camp just anywhere.

Do I Need to Worry About Animals?

When camping, no matter where you are at, you do need to be concerned about animals. If you keep the campsite clean and pick up any spilled food and trash, you shouldn’t be troubled by animals coming into your site in the middle of the night.

Picking up all small bits of dropped food or trash will keep mice, raccoons, and other animals away from your campsite. When getting ready to go to bed, make sure all food is either locked in your car or a provided bear box. NEVER store any food in your tent.

If you do a good job cleaning up and don’t store any food in your tent, then animals shouldn’t bother you at night. If you’re questioning if an animal could smell something and mistake it as food, it is best to be safe and store it in the car for the night.

How Much Does Frontcountry Camping Cost?

There is no basic answer to how much frontcountry camping costs, unfortunately. A lot of it depends on where you are. Frontcountry campgrounds with lots of amenities such as running water or even hot showers will be more expensive than those with just a pit toilet.

In my experience, frontcountry campsites can range from as little as $5 (or even free during off-season dates) to $35+ per night. Popular areas with high demand will cost more during peak season. Recreation.gov is a great place to check on price and what amenities National Park, National Forest, or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campgrounds offer.

What is the Difference Between Frontcountry and Backcountry Camping?

As we discussed earlier, frontcountry camping is accessible by car, and there are usually established campsites and some amenities. Backcountry camping, on the other hand, is remote and cannot be accessed by car.

When frontcountry camping, you have access to your car and can get out and back to civilization very quickly. It is difficult for things to go very wrong while frontcountry camping. Whether it’s inclement weather or raccoons ransack your food supply, you can always pack up the car, crank up the heat, and head out to find a hotel.

Backcountry camping, on the other hand, takes a lot more planning and knowledge. Backcountry camping is remote and away from roads or convenient modes of transportation. You cannot easily get back to civilization if things were to go wrong.

Backcountry camping comes in many different forms. What most people imagine when they hear backcountry camping is backpacking. Backpacking is when you carry all the gear you need on your back. Other forms of backcountry camping are overnight river rafting trips or bikepacking. Sometimes there are established backcountry camp spots, other times, you must pick a location on your own.

If you have never done either type of camping before, it is recommended that you become comfortable frontcountry camping first before going backcountry camping. Take time to familiarize yourself with good camping practices so that you are prepared to go backcountry camping.

Final Thoughts

Frontcountry camping is a great way to get into the outdoors. You can bring everything you need in the comfort of your car, van, or RV. Basic amenities are provided if you aren’t quite comfortable roughing it yet.

My advice is if this is your first-time camping, to start easy. Find a campground with lots of amenities like running water, flush toilets, picnic tables at every campsite, etc. While you are there, talk to the campground host and see what advice they have for you. As you begin to feel more comfortable camping, start to branch out to campgrounds with fewer amenities.

The more experience you possess and the more often you go camping, the more prepared you will feel. Over time you will acquire more camping gear, ultimately giving you a more enjoyable experience. You will also learn what works and doesn’t work for you.

Cindy

Ever since I was little I have been a traveler at heart. It all started when I was six years old and my family took a road trip to Alaska. I enjoy visiting new places and revisiting some of the great locations that I have been to already.

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