Some campgrounds offer tent pads where campers can set up their tents. These are designated spots in each campsite designed specifically for holding the tent.
A campground description that includes something such as “Tents must fit inside a 20×20′ footprint” means that the sites each have a tent pad. Campers have to set up their tents on these pads, not on other parts of the campsite.
Why do some campgrounds use tent pads?
The main reason a campground has tent pads is to protect the vegetation and try to preserve the natural beauty of the area. When tent pads are used, the grass and plants in the rest of the campground are protected from the damage caused by being covered by tents and having stakes driven into the ground.
Tent pads can also open up more area for camping. A place that otherwise doesn’t have space for pitching tents can be turned into a nice campground by building raised tent pads.
The photo above was taken at Hungry Mother State Park in Virginia. The 11-site “Campground C” probably wouldn’t exist as a campground if not for tent pads. Our tent pad was one of many that projected out over a sloping hillside. Without the tent pad, it would have been impossible to find a level spot for our tent.
The tent pads at this campground, as you can see, are built just like a deck. Other tent pads may be lower to the ground and covered with indoor-outdoor carpet like you’d find on a putting green.
A couple drawbacks to tent pads . . .
The deck-style pads are hard. Imagine sleeping on your deck, and that’s exactly what the deck-tent-pad feels like. We’ve never stayed at a site with any other type of tent pad, so we can’t offer any feedback on what they feel like. (If you can, please comment below!)
If you have an air mattress, cot, or other sleeping surface besides just a sleeping bag, the hard surface shouldn’t matter much. For us, it was tolerable for sleeping, but we were pretty sore the next day. (The kids don’t seem to notice, though!)
On a tent pad, you can’t stake down your tent. If the weather gets especially windy, an un-staked tent might be going . . . going . . . gone!
Our tent side windows must be tied out, or they flop toward the inside of the tent. At Hungry Mother State Park, it worked well for us to tie the window lines to the deck railing. I’m not sure how it could be done if the tent pad had no railing and no place to drive in stakes.
Have you camped on a different type of tent pad? We’d love to hear your experience! Please comment below or send us a message. We may be able to feature your comments in a future article.