One of the most important things to consider when tent camping is how big your tent pad will be. Pads come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to know what to look for before you make a purchase.
Here we will discuss how to measure a campground tent pad and some standard features you can expect to find.
What is a tent pad at a campground?
Chances are that you’ve seen a tent pad before but didn’t know what it was. A tent pad is a level, cleared campground area designed for pitching a tent. Tent pads vary, but most are around 10 feet by 12 feet.
Some campgrounds have group sites with much larger tent pads that accommodate multiple tents or even RVs. Remember that RVs don’t use tent pads but have their own designated parking spots.
The tent pad size is essential to consider when choosing a campsite. Ensure that your tent will fit on the pad and that there is enough room around the perimeter to set up your gear. We’ll dive into your gear later in this article.
What is the average size of a tent campsite?
The campsite itself can vary significantly in size. From our camping experiences, most standard camps are around 12′ by 30′. This is the campsite, not the tent pad. The tent pad itself averages approximately 10′ by 12′. Why the extra space? Well, you’ll probably have a vehicle and some gear that need to go somewhere.
Of course, not all campsites are created equal. Some are much larger and can accommodate multiple vehicles and tents. Others are pretty small and only have room for one tent. It varies depending on the campground.
A small, basic campsite may only have room for your tent and not much else. These types of sites are common in state and national parks. Amenities are usually minimal, and you may have to walk distance to the bathroom or water source.
On the other hand, some private campgrounds have large “glamping” style campsites that come complete with a fire ring, picnic table, and Adirondack chairs. These sites usually have enough room to fit multiple tents and your gear.
The bottom line is that the campsite size will vary depending on the campground you’re staying at. Be sure to ask about the size of the campsite when making your reservations.
Pro Tip: Use Google Maps to get a satellite view of the campground before you arrive. This will give you a good idea of how much space each campsite has. You can even use the measuring tool to get an idea of how much space you’ll have. We usually check out the pads at a few different sites before reserving a spot to ensure we have plenty of room and gorgeous views.
What is the largest size tent pad you’ve seen?
We’ve seen plenty of large tent pads, but the biggest one had to be at a private campground in Idaho. This campsite was massive and could easily fit ten tents. It also had a fire ring, picnic table, water, and shore power. It was glamorous!
By the way, when you have shore power (20 amp, 30 amp, or 50 amp) you don’t need to bring a generator with you.
How much space do you need?
When choosing which campground and campsite to stay at, you must consider how much space you really need. If you’re planning on bringing a lot of gear or have a large group, you’ll need a more significant site.
On the other hand, if you’re traveling solo or with just a few friends, then a smaller site will do just fine. You can always leave some of your gear in the car if you need to save space.
Are you the type to bring multiple vehicles, totes full of games and gear, coolers, and grills? Then you’re going to need a larger site.
However, most campers and even glampers will be fine with standard-size campsites with one or two tent pads.
Plan and pack accordingly for your camping trip.
Many campers do precisely what we do – find the campground first, then plan out what gear they need to bring based on the size of the site. It’s always a good idea to get a little extra just in case you find a larger place or have more gear than expected.
Other campers bring all their gear first, then look for a campsite that can accommodate everything. This method works great if you have a specific type of camping in mind and know exactly what gear you need to bring.
For example, if you’re planning on backpacking, you’ll need to bring a smaller tent that can fit in your backpack. In this case, you’ll want to find a campsite with a small tent pad. Don’t forget the tent stakes while you’re packing up as well.
We’ve seen some neighbor campers pull up with an SUV and a flatbed trailer full of camping gear and tents. Great for them – they know how to camp in style! Those types will need a bit more space for their tent camping vehicles.
What do you put under a camping tent?
You’ve figured out how big the tent pads are at the campgrounds you’re interested in; now it’s time to start thinking about what goes under your tent.
Most importantly, you’ll need a ground tarp to protect the bottom of your tent from moisture and sharp objects. You can find these at any outdoor retailer. We usually get ours from REI or Amazon. They’re not that expensive, usually $20-$30 for a new one, and they last forever. They’re very heavy-duty.
You’ll also consider bringing along some sleeping pads or cots for a comfortable night’s sleep. We’ve found that air mattresses work great for car camping, but they can be a bit bulky and take up a lot of space. If you’re backpack camping, you’ll want to invest in a good sleeping pad.
If there is not a tent pad, what do you do?
Many times, if there isn’t a designated tent pad, you can camp wherever you want as long as it’s not too close to the water or other campsites. This is usually the case when you’re boondocking or dispersed camping.
If you’re unsure where to set up camp, just ask the Ranger station when you arrive. They can give you some great tips on where to set up and how to leave no trace. When in doubt, always err on the side of caution and make sure you’re not disturbing the natural landscape.
To create your own tent pad, follow these steps-
- Find a spot that’s level and clear of debris. If there’s too much vegetation, setting up your tent will be challenging, and you might end up damaging the plants. Also, you don’t want too much of sloping ground, but you also don’t want your tent floors to be in a spot that will collect water.
- Once you’ve found a good spot, start clearing away any rocks, sticks, and leaves. You want to create a flat surface for your tent.
- If you have a shovel, you can use that to excavate a small area for your tent. Just be sure to fill in the hole when you’re done, so you don’t disturb the natural landscape. This is also great for creating a drainage ditch around your tent if it rains.
- Once you’ve made a level spot, put down your ground tarp to protect the bottom of your tent.
- Now you’re ready to set up your tent!
When planning your camping trip, you must know how big the tent pads are at the campgrounds you’re interested in. Most sites will have one or two standard-size tent pads, but if you have a larger group or more gear, you’ll need to find a campsite with a larger pad. If you have a family tent or two, you might need a large tent pad for all of the tent campers that will be at the tent site.
Finding the ideal camping spot with tent pads that fit your needs and fire rings for some leisure camping can make or break your trip, so it’s worth taking the time to do some research. With a bit of planning, you can ensure a comfortable and enjoyable camping experience.