Best Blackstone for Camping | 5 Griddles for Explorers

Best Blackstone for Camping

Bring the diner out to the woods by finding the best Blackstone for camping, however you like to camp and cook!

Camping grills haven’t seen much change until the Blackstone griddle popped up a few years ago – Most gas grills needed pans or extra accessories to cook a burger when the wood is wet, adding to the amount of gear you had to bring each time. That changes with a griddle where the only clean-up is scrape and go!

We’ve found the five best Blackstones for camping that help bring these heavy grills to the outdoors with ease.

Sneak Peek: Best Blackstone Griddle for Camping

Best for Most: 22 Inch Tabletop Griddle

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  • Two separate heat zones
  • Tabletop style is flexible and low-weight
  • Uses standard 1lbs propane tanks
  • 339 sq inch of cooking surface to cook for 2-6

Upgrade Pick: Flat Top Griddle Station

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  • Largest ‘portable’ option with 470 sq inches of cooking area
  • Includes storage shelf, prep area, and trash holder
  • Two heat zones for versatile cooking
  • Collapsible and includes wheels for transportation

What to Consider

First, let’s take a look at all the important factors you should keep in mind when buying a Blackstone griddle for camping. These factors include weight, portability, and size.

Weight

Since Blackstones are built with cast iron tops, all of them are going to be much heavier than your other camp stoves. The lightest Blackstone on this list is 21lbs while the highest tops out near 90! While some of these come with whee, all will need to be taken in and out of the car at some point so ensure you have the ability to load up a 90-pound piece of equipment or stick to tabletop models to start!

Portability

How far you need to go from car to campsite is going to be critical in picking the right camping griddle. Since all of the Blackstones are fairly heavy, the design of the griddle is going to be your main differentiator.

These Blackstones come in a few styles:

  • Tabletop: Coming in 17-inch and 22-inch versions, these are made to sit on top of a picnic table. Lowest weight but you’ll be on the ground if you don’t have anything to place the griddle on at camp
  • Fixed-Leg: These griddles come with legs but use a fixed structure that folds out. These usually have more storage or shelving available but require flat ground to operate right. The Blackstone ‘On the Go’ and Griddle Station are examples of these.
  • Adjustable-Leg: The Blackstone Tailgater has four individually adjusting legs which allows you to easily use the griddle on unstable ground

Camping Griddle Tip

To lower the weight and give yourself even more flexibility – consider an open fire griddle that can be placed over the campfire or on a gas camping stove!

Size

The most obvious factor is size – you need a griddle that can keep up with your needs! Cooking for a couple can be very different than cooking for a family, especially if you need to cater to a diverse set of preferences. Having a larger griddle means more space and more heat zones so you can cook larger amounts or more different types of foods at the same time. If size is your main concern – the largest Blackstone’s suitable for camping are the Blackstone Griddle Station (feeds 2-8) or one of the 22-inch Models (feeds 2-6)

Detailed Review

Keep your individual weight, portability, and size needs in mind as you dive into these five Blackstone griddles we think are best for camping.

22 Inch Blackstone Tabletop Griddle (1666)

Best Blackstone for Camping

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Pros

  • Two separate heat zones
  • Tabletop style easy to set up on picnic tables and keeps weight as low as it can
  • Compatible with standard 1lbs propane tanks
  • 339 sq inch of cooking surface

Cons

  • Like all Blackstones, this still weighs over 30 pounds making it hard for any type of primitive camping
  • If you don’t have a picnic table, you’ll be using this on the ground

The 22-inch tabletop griddle is the larger brother of the 17-inch model, packing 24K BTU in a fairly small package, this griddle stands above the smaller one by having two different heat zones. This provides control on each side so you can use high heat to sear those steaks while cooking eggs or keeping veggies warm on a lower setting right next door!

If you’re cooking for more than two, the 22-inch model has 30% more cooking area than the 17-inch and will save a lot of time when cooking for a small group. Be sure to bring a couple extra propane tanks as the larger Blackstone will use up more fuel with double the burners!

17 Inch Blackstone Tabletop Griddle (1650)

Entry Level Blackstone for Camping

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Pros

  • Tabletop style easy to set up on picnic tables
  • Lowest weight of all Blackstones at 21 lbs
  • Compatible with standard 1lbs propane tanks
  • 260 sq inch of cooking surface

Cons

  • Only one heat zone
  • If you don’t have a picnic table, you’ll be using this on the ground

The 17-inch tabletop griddle is the smaller of Blackstone tabletop models but still gets you very far with its single large heating zone. You may not be able to get the corners as ripping hot as a larger Blackstone but the tradeoff means that this griddle is almost 10 pounds less than the 22-inch upgrade! This griddle is a great option for couples camping together or the weekend solo camper who doesn’t need a ton of space to upgrade their camping kitchen.

Blackstone Tailgater Grill/Griddle Combo (1555)

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Pros

  • Multiple setup types from grill and griddle to grill and boil for the most versatility of any Blackstone
  • Two separate burners
  • Wide table-leg design pops up cooking surface in seconds and compacts for easy storage
  • Adjustable legs for better standing on uneven surfaces

Cons

  • No wheels – you’ll be carting all 75 pounds on your own two feet
  • Requires larger propane tanks

The most unique Blackstone on this list, the Tailgater series is a grill and griddle combination but with even more optionality. Both the griddle and grill can be moved or shifted around depending on your cooking needs. Each side can also be used as a normal gas range, exposing the burner underneath for more efficient heating of pots to boil water and more. The two sides have different burners, giving you more power when you need it using a cast-iron burner on the left and a steel H-burner on the right.

Flat Top Blackstone Griddle Station (1517)

Upgrade Pick

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Pros

  • Largest ‘portable’ option with 470 sq inch of cooking area
  • Includes storage shelf, prep area, and trash holder
  • Two heat zones for versatile cooking
  • Wheels to help cart this 70lbs beast around

Cons

  • Despite compact folding, will still take up a fair amount of trunk space
  • Like all Blackstones, this thing is heavy
  • Requires large propane tank (could be a pro!)

The largest Blackstone on this list, the Outdoor Griddle Station packs 34K BTU on a surface large enough for more than 40 hot dogs at once! This is the right investment if you’re used to camping in a large group. While initial setup will be a bit heavy, once the station is assembled – you’ll be able to store the entire camping kitchen in one place, including garbage!

The griddle station is the best Blackstone for family campers looking to upgrade for the season.

‘On the Go’ Blackstone Scissor-Leg Griddle (1935)

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Pros

  • Wheeled stand with easy setup, takedown, and transportation
  • Two separate heat zones
  • Includes side cooking shelf for prep
  • Compatible with standard 1lbs propane tanks
  • 339 sq inch of cooking surface

Cons

  • Needs flat ground for scissor-leg stand
  • Wheels help but it’s still 85 pounds and will take up a fair amount of trunk space

The Blackstone ‘On the Go’ griddle is essentially the 22-inch tabletop griddle housed in a scissor-leg stand. The stand truly upgrades the entire experience by giving you a side shelf to aid in prep and keep essentials close by during cooking. The wheels help cart the griddle from car to campsite without having to carry it the whole distance. The whole package secures into a luggage-style wheeled dolly that fits right into your trunk (with some planning).

The griddle offers the same specs as the 22-inch model, packing 24K BTU across two different heat zones. If you’re worried about carrying your griddle around the campsite or that you might not have a picnic table – the ‘On the Go’ is right for you!

Conclusion: Best Blackstone for Camping

While each Blackstone model will fit different needs, we think the tabletop options are the best for most campers! Combined with a regular gas camping stove and you’ll have 3-4 burners to create an entire kitchen on a picnic table in the great outdoors. If you are a large group camper looking for an upgrade – the Griddle Station packs all the head you’ll need in a compact setup.

Happy grilling!

More Kitchen Gear Guides

4 Tent Brands to Avoid in 2022

Worst Tent Brands 2022

When buying a tent, be sure to avoid these tent brands to keep you safe from the elements on your explorations outdoors (and avoid waking up in a puddle)! These tent brands to avoid may not hold up to the stresses of the rain and wind so opt for one of our recommended brands instead!

Tent Brand Tips

When shopping for a new tent, keep these three tips in mind to avoid poorly manufactured or overpriced tents:

  • Opt for specialized retailers. Whether online like backcountry.com or in-person at stores like REI, try to find outdoor-focused retailers to avoid poorly developed house brands found at Target and other general stores.
  • Check repair and service policies. Good tent brands will back their products with a robust repair or replacement program. Many brands have lifetime service warranties or low-cost repair departments, just take a quick look online or ask a store associate for more information.
  • Check trusted reviews. While online reviews can’t always be trusted these days, using trusted blogs and other gear review sites to find recommendations

Camping Tent Brands to Avoid

Sierra Designs at Target

This one is difficult because the Sierra Designs brand is usually fairly good, the problem is their Target products. The line of tents sold exclusively at Target were made to sell at 1/4 of the price of the normal brand. They clearly needed to cut corners to meet these price points and the result is a poorly developed tent that likely won’t get you through your first storm.

For an alternative at budget price points – try Coleman instead!

Ozark Trail

Ozark Trail is Walmart’s favorite outdoor brand with dome tents as low as $34 all the way up to massive cabin tents for 14 people at somehow only around $150. These prices are unfortunately too good to be true, Ozark Trail tents are great for playing in the backyard but will quickly fail you if you are hit with an unexpected storm in the outdoors.

The prices are attractive but to get to that point, they have had to cut corners on waterproofing, fabric strength, and stitching quality making this one of our tent brands to avoid.

For an alternative brand that makes large tents, check out Kelty!

Stansport

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Stansport Scout 2

Stansport makes some good options in camping cookware but their tents do not hold the same quality. Priced at concerningly low prices, these tents have both outdated designs and use low-quality materials which makes them a definite tent brand to avoid until they make some real changes to their strategy.

The most unfortunate part about the designs and materials is that they lead to higher tent weights even for their backpacking tents.

For better backpacking tents at a more realistic price, check out NatureHike!

Wakeman Outdoors

Wakeman Outdoors manufacturers a line of pop-up tents at extremely low prices. Pop-up tents have become more common for beginner campers in recent years as the designs have been improved to be more reliable and slightly less clunky.

Unfortunately, Wakeman’s biggest issue is how they react to rain. Many of their pop-up tents only use a single-layer design which is far more likely to leak during a storm. These tents are also smaller than most other brands which makes for an uncomfortable time when you need to spend long hours sleeping within.

For a better pop-up budget brand, check out the Coleman Pop-Up tent. For a premium pop-up option, Gazelle makes a great tent you can stand in that sets up in seconds.

How to Select the Right Tent Brand for You

Now that you know which tent brands to avoid – how do you find the right tent?

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Type of Tent

There are a few types of tents to select from, primarily based on how many people you need to pack inside and how you’ll be getting to your campground. Almost all of these brands make both car-camping tents and more specialized backpacking tents. Backpacking tents will prioritize shaving weight down by saving space and reducing peak heights while car camping tents will be more spacious, taller, and will likely be heavier given the extra materials.

Weight Needs

While lighter might always sound nicer, if you are going to be car camping most of the time – you may be completely fine with a mid-weight option. Weight needs should be prioritized for backpacking but families don’t need to worry as much unless you have a long trek from the trunk to the site! Poor tent brands will cut corners to save on weight and boost their specifications on-paper.

Capacity Needs

The easiest way to filter down all of the options available within each brand is to consider how many people you’ll need to fit in the tent! Don’t forget to add at least one extra ‘person’ to consider your gear, especially in some of these tent brands to avoid.

Service Options

If you use your tent regularly, it is highly likely that you will need to repair it at some point for small rips or tears. Be sure to consider what the repair or return policy is for each brand. Some of the best tent brands have a better brick-and-mortar presence (like REI or the widely distributed Coleman & Kelty brands) compared to online-only brands and retailers (like NatureHike and Backcountry.com)

Differences Between Premium Brands and Tent Brands to Avoid

The main surface-level difference between a premium and budget brand is going to be their price. Budget brands have a price floor starting at $100 or under while budget brands’ most basic tent will usually be $200+. The tradeoff of spending half the price is usually going to be less reliability and longevity. The best premium tent brands should be able to hold up to tough circumstances, heavy storms, and offer more spacious interiors at lower weights.

Beginners are certainly ok going with any of our favorite budget tent brands below while anyone looking to use a tent for more than a couple of years in a row should stick to the premium brands for the best results and bang for your buck. Not all budget brands are created equal – stay away from most ‘house’ brands from generic retailers like Walmart and Target. Focus your search on more reputable outdoor budget brands like Coleman and Kelty for a similar price range at higher quality.

Conclusion

Now that you know which tent brands to avoid and how to find the right tent for you – Head over to see our favorite tent brands or use our tent finding tool to narrow in on your perfect home away from home!

10 Best Tent Brands for Camping in 2022

Best Tent Brands 2022

When buying a tent, choosing from one of the best tent brands is important to keep you safe from the elements on your explorations outdoors (and avoid waking up in a puddle)!

Overview

How to Select the Best Tent Brand for You

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Type of Tent

There are a few types of tents to select from, primarily based on how many people you need to pack inside and how you’ll be getting to your campground. Almost all of these brands make both car-camping tents and more specialized backpacking tents. Backpacking tents will prioritize shaving weight down by saving space and reducing peak heights while car camping tents will be more spacious, taller, and will likely be heavier given the extra materials.

Weight Needs

While lighter might always sound nicer, if you are going to be car camping most of the time – you may be completely fine with a mid-weight option. Weight needs should be prioritized for backpacking but families don’t need to worry as much unless you have a long trek from the trunk to the site! The best tent brand for you will fit your specific needs.

Capacity Needs

The easiest way to filter down all of the options available within each brand is to consider how many people you’ll need to fit in the tent! Don’t forget to add at least one extra ‘person’ to consider your gear

Service Options

If you use your tent regularly, it is highly likely that you will need to repair it at some point for small rips or tears. If you are comfortable working to patch your tent up on your own, then you should be ok! Otherwise – Be sure to consider what the repair or return policy is for each brand. Some of the best tent brands have a better brick-and-mortar presence (like REI or the widely distributed Coleman & Kelty brands) compared to online-only brands and retailers (like NatureHike and Backcountry.com)

Differences Between Premium & Budget Brands

The main surface-level difference between a premium and budget brand is going to be their price. Budget brands have a price floor starting at $100 or under while budget brands’ most basic tent will usually be $200+. The tradeoff of spending half the price is usually going to be less reliability and longevity. The best premium tent brands should be able to hold up to tough circumstances, heavy storms, and offer more spacious interiors at lower weights. You’ll be paying for higher-quality materials that are strong and shave off ounces.

Beginners are certainly ok going with any of our favorite budget tent brands below while anyone looking to use a tent for more than a couple of years in a row should stick to the premium brands for the best results and bang for your buck.

Best Camping Tent Brands

Premium Tent Brands

Premium tent brands will run a bit more expensive but they are backed by impeccable customer service improving their long-term value. Unless you want to change your type of tent up, you can probably buy one premium tent and keep it for over a decade. These are the six best tent brands for those looking to buy a forever tent!

Big Agnes

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Best For

Backpacking & Backcountry campers

Available Capacities

1 – 8

Cost Range

$200 – $1,300

Big Agnes is our favorite premium tent brand due to their high quality, superior customer support, and great value that you can find across their tent models. Built primarily for backpackers, Big Agnes offers a wide range of tents from normal backpacking models down to their ‘crazylight’ line for those who want to shave every ounce off on their next trip!

Quality is always most important to protect you against the wind and rain and Big Agnes has you covered with strong taped seams and a repair program that is seemingly more focused on customer happiness than the bottom line. Whether they replace your tent for free or end up charging one of their low-price repairs – getting your tent back to 100% should be less than $20 at Big Agnes instead of buying a whole new tent. This commitment to quality and service is what makes Big Agnes rise to the top of our favorite tent brands.

REI Co-op

Mountain View REI

Another brand known for their service and quality commitment – REI is one of the most popular outdoor retailers in the country for a reason! With a very flexible return policy and great pricing for the size and quality of the tents they produce, REI should be one of your first picks for anyone looking to grab one of the best tent brands around.

Both a retailer and a manufacturer, the REI house brand is perfect for beginners and weekend campers as any employee will be happy to help answer questions at locations across the United States. Most manufacturers don’t have their own locations so this can be especially helpful if you run into a repair need mid-trip. With a cost range from $140 – $600, the REI brand has great mid-range pricing for premium quality.

Personally, an REI backpacking tent (the Passage 1) kept me safe during plenty of downpours hiking a month in Appalachia and their Grant Hut (discontinued) is our current car camping tent for everyday weekend use.

Best For

Backpackers, Beginners, & Weekend Campers

Available Capacities

1 – 6

Cost Range

$140 – $600

MSR

MSR

Founded to improve the safety of climbing equipment, MSR is a tried and true brand that excels at developing high-quality equipment that stands the test of time. If you need a refresh after a few years – the MSR repair team will patch up holes, repair zippers, and replace tent poles at almost no-cost.

While they have expanded beyond mountaineering, MSR is still one of the best tent brands for backpacking and mountaineering. If you are looking for a premium 4-season tent brand, MSR is the best place to start.

Best For

Backpacking & Backcountry campers

Available Capacities

1 – 6

Cost Range

$200 – $850

Marmot

Another great premium tent brand option is Marmot. Marmot makes tents focused on backpacking and tent camping at mid-range prices. This price difference usually means an extra few ounces and maybe a bit less space compared to a Big Agnes tent but Marmot tents will still keep you well protected against the wind, rain, and sun like any good tent brand on this list will.

Some of their larger models will hold up to 6 people for families looking for a new tent but their backpacking tents cap out at 4 people. Similar to other manufacturers, these recommended capacities still run a little small when you take gear into consideration.

Best For

Backpackers or family campers looking to shed weight

Available Capacities

1 – 6

Cost Range

$200 – $850

Gazelle

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Gazelle is a unique brand known for their luxury T4 pop-up tent (pictured above). This tent uses a specialized pole design to go from bag to tent in about a minute! This kind of convenience does come with a price but family campers looking for the simplest set-up possible will want to give this tent a hard look.

Gazelle does not make any backpacking tents so give this brand a pass if you plan to cart this more than a quarter-mile to your campsite!

Best For

Family Camping, Beginners, Weekend Campers

Available Capacities

4 – 8

Cost Range

$200 – $600

NEMO

NEMO

Slightly less well known, NEMO is a fun and unique tent brand that pushes the limits of innovation when it comes to developing backpacking tents. NEMO tents have different designs apart from the classic dome or backpacking tent styles to create more spacious interiors without increasing weight.

NEMO tents are great for almost any type of camping, with backpacking tents being constructed to split between two packs and their larger wagontop model being one of the only 8-person tents available at a premium brand. Check out NEMO for the best tent brand with fresh takes on backpacking and car camping tents!

Best For

Backpacking & Backcountry campers

Available Capacities

1 – 8

Cost Range

$300 – $900

Budget Tent Brands

Not ready to drop $200+ on a tent for your first weekend trip? No worries – these four budget brands are the best tent brands to get outside without breaking the bank! You’ll still be well protected from the elements but may not have as many bells and whistles (aka pockets and zippers) as the premium tent brands. These tents will also need a bit more upkeep to keep them waterproof and in good order for more than a few trips.

Coleman

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Coleman is one of the oldest and most well-known outdoor value brands you can find and their tents are no exception. With one of our favorite beginner tents, the Coleman Sundome can usually be picked up for under $100 and will hold up for a whole summer of trips for the average camper. Coleman tents won’t be the lightest you can find but that weight sacrifice is put directly into their prices without sacrificing fabric, stitch, and zipper quality.

Coleman prices are almost too good to be true but we’ve seen the Sundome in a storm more than once without issues and recommend it as the best tent brand for entry-level campers. Coleman cabin tents are a bit less stable but still the cheapest way to get a few dry nights outdoors for up to 12 people!

Best For

New Campers, Family Campers

Available Capacities

1 – 12

Cost Range

$70 – $700

Kelty

kelty

Kelty is another great value camping tent brand that offers high-quality backpacking tents at a low price. Kelty tents will have a more comprehensive rain fly than most Coleman tents and can take a few more hits than other value brands. If you take a look at the Coleman photo in the last section, you can see how the rain fly only covers the very top of the tent. This is common for Coleman tents while Kelty rainfly are closer to full-cover for more reliable protection in high wind storms.

Kelty tents are known to be sturdy; with the right upkeep, you can go hundreds of miles on these budget tents!

Best For

Backpacking & Backcountry campers

Available Capacities

1 – 6

Cost Range

$100 – $500

Eureka

Camping spot the First

Eureka is another step up in the world of value tent brands. Eureka tents got my entire scout troop through years of camping when I was growing up and the brand hasn’t changed much since! Featuring similar coverage and quality as Kelty, Eureka offers more varied capacities and options for family and car campers looking for a tent to get them through the next few years of the big summer camping trip!

Best For

Car Campers & Family Campers

Available Capacities

2 – 12

Cost Range

$125 – $600

NatureHike

Naturehike is a European brand that focuses on offering budget options for backpacking tents. Designs are virtually indistinguishable from premium brands like MSR without a significant quality dip. The tents feature full-cover rain flys and lightweight options only a few ounces more than the higher-value tents.

New backpackers should definitely consider trying out the hobby with a Naturehike tent.

Best For

Budget Backpacking & Backcountry campers

Available Capacities

1 – 6

Cost Range

$120 – $250

Words of Warning

Avoid buying tent brands from unknown brands that you can’t find much information on or ultra-cheap store brands. There are many ‘brands’ on Amazon that use poor quality stitching and materials and will not hold up to the slightest breeze. Another skippable brand is Ozark Trails – commonly found at Wal-Mart. See our list of 4 tent brands to avoid for full details!

Learn More

Still not sure which tent is best for you? Check out all of the different types of tents, or our favorite models!

Best Camping Tent for Beginners | 2 Best Choices For New Campers

Best Tents for Beginners

Tents are expensive enough that the first time purchasing a camping tent for beginners can be stressful and overwhelming. We’ve done the research to find the top tents on the market and help you skip from planning and go straight into your weekend exploring the outdoors!

Sneak Peek: Best Camping Tent for Beginners

Best Value: Coleman Sundome

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  • Unbeatable value for price
  • Weighs only 7 pounds
  • Thicker rain repellant fabric and reinforced corners
  • Large mesh windows for airflow

Upgrade Pick: Gazelle T4 Pop-Up

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  • Simplest setup on the market
  • Unique box design offers a spacious interior
  • High peak height for comfort
  • Removable floor is easy to clean

What to Consider When Finding the Best Camping Tent for Beginners

There are almost a dozen different types of tents that you can choose from, some will be much easier for beginners. Here are our six most important factors for beginners to consider when picking their first tent!

Considerations When Buying the Best Tent for Beginners

Ease of Setup

The most frustrating part of a camping trip is getting the tent up and down. To ensure your beginner camping experience is positive, pay close attention to the instructions and consider a pop-up tent style if you are worried about classic cross-pole designs like the Coleman Sundome.

Capacity

While many of these tents are listed as two-person capacity, a lot of manufacturers don’t take gear space into realistic consideration. We’d recommend the three or four-person tents to make sure that you have plenty of room to make your tent a home! You’ll definitely want to think about jumping up a size if either of you are tall or uncomfortable in small spaces.

Other Important Factors

Peak Height

Outside of capacity, this could be the most important factor for comfort in your tent design. Higher peak heights that allow you to stand up in the middle can feel like a luxury after trying to change in a short backpacking tent for a few days. Peak height is usually easy to understand from the photos and design of the tent itself but take a look at the product descriptions to make sure it meets your needs!

Weight

If you’re car camping, weight may not be a critical factor but for primitive campers and backpackers, every ounce counts. When you’re hauling every bit of supplies out to the site, a pound over a mile or three will really add up! Pay special attention to the backpacking tents below if you’re looking to save on weight.

Seasonality

Many tents are rated as 3-season tents and shouldn’t be relied on for shelter in the winter. 4-season tents have thicker fabrics and fewer air vents to try to keep you warmer camping in the snow. The vast majority of tents marketed towards car campers are 3-season tents. 4-season tents are used for mountaineering and other cold-weather camping. We’ll stick to mostly 3-season tents in this guide.

Material & Stitch Quality

As your mobile fabric shelter, having high-quality materials and strong seams can make or break your fight against the rain. Take a look at recent tent reviews to ensure the manufacturer quality is up to par and you won’t wake up in a puddle!

Detailed Reviews

1. Coleman Sundome

Best Value Tent for Beginners

best camping tent for beginners

Pros

  • Great value for price
  • Weighs only 7 pounds
  • Thicker rain repellant fabric and reinforced corners
  • Large mesh windows for airflow

Cons

  • Easier to set up with 2+ people
  • 2-person space does not leave much room for gear

Coleman has always put out great value products and the Sundome is no different. The Sundome uses a two-pole system for the frame and has mesh walls on two sides of the tent, making this a perfect choice for the summer humidity. Coleman uses thicker fabric than a lot of other value brands that help repel the rain if you get caught in the rain.

Some of the smaller features include two side pockets within the tent for your personal gear and a small pocket intended for running power cords from a generator, car, or electric box into the tent. Bring a power cord and you won’t have to worry about running out of juice for directions on the way home.

All of this combined with the reliability of the Coleman brand makes this the best tent for beginners that are looking for a general-purpose car camping tent for beginners!

2. Gazelle T4 Pop-Up Portable Camping Hub Tent

Upgrade Camping Tent For Beginners

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Pros

  • Very easy to set up thanks to the pop-up design
  • Unique boxy design gives a lot of space
  • Good peak height
  • Comes with water-resistant technology
  • Durable zippers
  • Comes with rainfly and integrated poles
  • Has a removable floor

Cons

  • Not very good for windy nights
  • Heavier
  • Doesn’t come with the strongest stakes

Our upgrade choice when looking for beginner tents is the Gazelle hub tent meant for four people. It is so easy to set up that it actually takes only 90 seconds. When it is not standing tall, this square-shaped tent can be packed into a 67.5-inch duffle bag.

The peak height is 78 inches and the floor space is 61 square feet. It is made of a 50+ UV-rated material and can resist water, wind, and mildew, which not only makes it impressive but is also extremely convenient.

This tent comes with a waterproof rainfly that has integrated poles and taped seams. You must insert the poles in all corners before you pop it on the roof. The tent itself comes fully assembled which means you just need to pop it open for set up. The innovative framework uses metal hubs and fiberglass for the structure and it resists strong winds quite well.

The floor is held together by a hook-and-loop tape that can be seen on the interior thanks to the extra strip which also gives it strength. And it can also be removed easily if you want to shake the dirt and sand. And by the way, the two doors of the tent are equipped with durable YKK zippers which are known not to snag or break.

Best Beginner Tents for Camping | More Reading

Not sure you’ve found the right tent still? Check out some of our other tent guides and see if another model strikes you!

Illinois State Parks Pass | Affordable Illinois Camping in 2022

You may be having trouble finding where to buy an Illinois State Park pass. While many state park systems have annual passes to help reduce fees – you won’t need anything like that in Illinois because there are no fees! Other than $1 parking charges present at some parks with beaches, there are no entry fees at Illinois state parks.

Unfortunately, this also means there are few ways to get discounts on camping at Illinois State Parks. The state parks do offer Illinois camping discounts for seniors, veterans, and those with disabilities.

Hopefully, this clears up your questions about finding an Illinois State Parks Pass! Now, it’s just time to find the right park for you, check out our Illinois camping recommendations for hidden gems across the state!

More about Illinois State Parks Passes

Camping Near Chicago | 18 Best Campgrounds Within Two Hours of the City

Camping Near Chicago

Take it straight from an Illinois native – While we may be known for cornfields, there are still some found the best options for camping near Chicago – within a two-hour drive of the city! Skip the research and snag a reservation at one of these campgrounds within two hours of Chicago!

State Park Campgrounds Near Chicago

Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park | Closest State Park to Chicago

Illinois state park within one hour of chicago

As the only one of Illinois State Parks along Lake Michigan, Illinois Beach State Park offers great views of the lake less than an hour away from the city! This state park is full of natural preserves and marshland beyond the sand dunes that border the 6.5 mile shoreline.

With over 240 Class A sites and a lakeside sunset a short walk away, Illinois Beach State Park is a great place for quick trips away! Bike campers in Chicago can use the state park as a jumping-off point onto the Zion Bike Trail, while non-bikers enjoy five miles of nature trails found inside the park.

Rock Cut State Park

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The largest state park in Northern Illinois, Rock Cut State Park has unique options not available at many other Illinois State Parks near Chicago like a swimming beach, almost two dozen miles of mountain biking trails, and an off-leash area for dogs and their owners to explore with freedom.

Adding to the park’s activities are forty miles of hiking trails crisscrossing the park through forest, along the lake, and through the many acres of prairie in the park. Spot over a hundred different types of wildflowers through different trails and times of year!

The fun doesn’t end in winter either – Rock Cut maintains groomed cross country skiing trails and you can rent snowshoes to make your way through fresh powder and experience the silent winter woods.

There’s so much here that you might want to consider spending a weekend at any one of their 250+ campsites. Launch your kayak right from the tent if you plan ahead to grab one of the lakeside spots! If the waterside sites are full, there are plenty of other private locations throughout this Winnebago County State Park (far more spacious and tucked away than most other IL State Parks).

 Kankakee River State Park

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With 4,000 acres of protected forest and 11 miles of river shoreline, Kankakee River state park is great for any outdoor explorer.

A simple 60-minute drive from Chicago, this park has over 25 miles of hiking and equestrian trails (open for snowmobiling in the winter) and a great way to paddle on cleaner water than the Chicago River can offer. Fishers can try their luck at the catfish, walleye, Northern pike, and smallmouth bass that live in the Kankakee River or use local retailers for a relaxing float trip down the river.!

Want to really get to know the park? Take advantage of the closest Illinois state park camping near Chicago with over 200 sites varying from Class A to Class C for tent campers and RVers alike! A cheap weekend awaycamping outside Kankakee is a serene way to get away from the city noise for a few days.

Chain O’ Lakes State Park

Illinois state park within two hours of chicago

Chain O’ Lakes State Park is a Lake County State Park for Chicagoans looking to enjoy some water activities in a calmer and smaller lake than Lake Michigan! The park borders Northern Illinois’ largest natural chain of lakes and the Fox River, giving you ample opportunities to boat, fish, and more!

Hosting over 200 campsites for RVs and tent camping near Chicago, there is plenty to do for a long weekend trip. The marshy shoreline isn’t great for fishing straight from the side of the lakes but boats may be rented to get onto the water for some walleye, crappie, catfish, three separate species of bass, and more.

Despite the large area of the park, there are only a few trail systems available for use – less than 3 miles for hikers with another six miles of biker/hiker trails – but there are plenty of other parks nearby if you run through those too quickly.

Shabbona Lake State Park

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Shabbona Lake is one of Illinois’ largest state parks with over 1,500 acres of prairie and an additional 315 acres of man-made lake that was named one of Illinois’ Best Fishing Lakes by the state legislature in 2011. The park contains eight miles of hiking trails and some of the few lakeside campgrounds in the state if you’re looking to launch a canoe right from your campground. This park is great for last-minute trips from Chicago as they hold 60 campsites in reserve for campers without reservations.

Starved Rock State Park

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If you’ve heard of any parks on this list, you’ve almost certainly heard of Starved Rock.

Likely the most popular Illinois state park, Starved Rock has 13 miles of well-maintained hiking trails and more elevation changes than you’ll find at almost any other campground near Chicago. Take the different trails down into the water-carved canyons to find waterfalls and distinctive natural beauty. Many trails have constructed stairs and walkways for beginner hikers or hikers with difficulties in elevation so check in at the visitors center for recommendations if you meet this description!

If you’d rather take to the water during your trip – launch your boat right into the Illinois River or take advantage of kayak rentals to see a new perspective of Starved Rock or catch any number of fish species that call the river home.

The park is home to 129 campsites but they have a tendency to fill up very quickly due to the park’s popularity. Be sure to make a reservation early in the season!

Illini State Park

Less than an hour and a half away from Chicago, Illini State Park is a campground and day-use area perfect for groups looking to spend some time outside.

While there are only a few miles of trails available, the park has shelters and tables scattered through the area as well as a little over one hundred campgrounds if you’d rather spend the weekend! This state park can be a great starting point for campers that were hoping to spend their time in Starved Rock or Mattheisen but were too late to reserve or prefer a smaller campground than the one at Starved Rock.

Lowden State Park

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A little under two hours outside of Chicago, Lowden State Park sits along the Rock River offering a nice place to unwind and walk four miles of mild trails. The riverside trail features stunning river bluffs and a 50-foot tall statue dedicated to local Native American tribes that used to call this area home.

Lowden has a higher range of camping experiences than many campgrounds near Chicago, with a wide range of options offering electricity all the way to primitive campsites deeper in the forest. The shower house available offers a better restroom for campers than the outhouses at White Pines so consider Lowden as your Illinois State Park of choice for your next weekend away

White Pines Forest

Just about two hours from the city, White Pines State Park is a tent campers paradise with 385-acres available for family camping near Chicago, hiking, and fishing! The most distinct feature of White Pines is the concrete fjords built to allow driving through flowing water to access different parts of the park (you’ll cross a few on the way to the campground).

With about 5.5 miles of trails, the park is well suited for families looking for a nearby weekend excursion or camping trip near Chicago! White Pines has over 100 campsites primarily for tent camping or other campers who do not require electricity so RVers might want to seek elsewhere.

Private Campgrounds Near Chicago

Northwest KOA

Northwest KOA offers some of the best winter camping near Chicago! Like other KOAs, Northwest serves RVs and car campers alike, with added amenities like frisbee golf, mini-golf, a pool, and cabins available to reserve.

For an extra private experience, check out the romantic Pioneer tent. Tucked away in the corner of the campground, this solar-powered canopy tent has a nice wooden porch to give you the perfect place for a morning cup of coffee or midnight stargazing.

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Northwest KOA Pioneer Tent (Yelp)

Lasalle / Peru KOA

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Tent Campsite (Yelp)

KOA offers a few different types of experiences at this private campground. Enjoy one of the four golf courses within a fifteen-minute drive, kick back at the KOA pool, or check out one of the nearby state parks mentioned earlier!

Looking for a bit more privacy? Check out the ‘Honeymoon corner’ with three tent sites. You may have to carry some of your gear to get to the campsites, but you’ll enjoy much more seclusion than the rest of the campground and many other places on this list.

Check out the next time they’re available here!

Local Camping in Chicago: Cook & Suburban County Forest Preserves

Camp Reinberg

Camp Reinberg Tent Campsite in Cook County
Tent Campsite at Camp Reinberg (Cook County Forest Preserve)

Boasting 9.7 miles of unpaved trails and an additional 4 miles of paved trails, Camp Reinberg has enough mileage to keep you walking all weekend straight out of your campsite. Located in Palatine, this is a hidden campground and cabins right in the middle of the suburbs.

Camp Reinberg has space for groups of all sizes camping in cook county, from car campers permitted all year, up to full campground rentals for up to 200 of your closest friends. This campground can support RVs and has a nature play space for families to keep the kids occupied outdoors.

Whether you choose cabin camping near Chicago or stick to the tents, don’t forget to take advantage of the 4 miles of paved trails and another 9.7 miles of unpaved hiking and cross-country ski trails just outside your campsite. Take a look at the next available date here!

Camp Bullfrog Lake

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Camp Bullfrog Lake (Cook County Forest Preserve)

Another option from the Cook County Forest Preserves, Camp Bullfrog Lake has almost a dozen campgrounds and over thirty tent campsites available for camping near Chicago. The namesake lake offers kayak rentals and fishing opportunities while the nearby trails are great for hiking, mountain biking, and bird watching!

For families at Camp Bullfrog Lake, the nearby Little Red Schoolhouse Center has live animals and paved self-guided trails. Once finished at the schoolhouse, the Swagawau Environmental Learning Center offers guided tours through unique preserves for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Plan your experience here!

Camp Sullivan

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Camp Sullivan’s Red Barn (Cook County Forest Preserve)

The last entry from the Cook County Forst Preserves, Camp Sullivan offers camping near Chicago for any camper (including electric hookups). There are even better tent campsites that lie slightly deeper within the woods. You’ll need to carry your gear from your car but the privacy is worth the walk.

Camp Sullivan’s Red Barn holds a thirty-foot climbing wall that you won’t find at any other campground on this list. The campsites are minutes away from the Tinley Creek trail system for gentle looping hikes.

Blackwell Forest Preserve | Camping near Chicago’s Western Suburbs

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Early Fall at Blackwell (Midwest Camping)

Out in the western suburbs, this 1,366-acre forest preserve has something for everyone. Walk, jog, bike, or even ride your horse along their many trails!

Blackwell Forest Preserve can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs. Each site offers electricity, gravel parking pad, fire ring, and a picnic table. It’s important to note none of the sites offer sewage or water hookups. To learn more information or make a reservation, give them a ring at 630-933-7248 or visit the forest preserve website!

Out of State Campgrounds

Crossing state lines will bring new life to camping near Chicago as you have the opportunity to explore new topographies without increasing travel time too much!

Indiana Dunes National Park | Indiana

The closest national park to Chicago, Indiana Dunes is also one of the most recent national parks to be established in the United States. Just over an hour from the city, the main feature of this park is the namesake sand dunes that can be found near the lakefront. These 200-foot peaks of sand were formed by the glaciers over 14,000 years ago and remain one of the most unique geological features of the midwest.

Camping space is fairly limited within the park – Only 66 total campsites are available through the NPS but there are other private campgrounds nearby to check out if the official National Park campground is full.

Warren Dunes State Park | Michigan

Another 30 minutes north of the Indiana Dunes you’ll find the Michigan Warren Dunes! The Warren Dunes have slightly sandier dunes but also less to explore than the Indiana dunes. On the bright side, there are less fees compared to visiting the National Park.

With over 200 campsites, there is significantly more space than at the Indiana Dunes. Consider camping in Michigan and taking day trips back to Indiana if you really want to visit the national park!

Kettle Moraine State Park (Southern Unit) | Wisconsin

The Kettle Moraine State Forest southern system covers over 22,000 acres of forested hills and lakes across southern Wisconsin. There are three campgrounds about two hours away from Chicago that offer over 240 campsites from full electric hookup to primitive only.

The Kettle Moraine area has countless hiking trails including the ice age trail and the John Muir Hiking-Biking trail for days of fun!

Conclusion

Ready to go a few more hours to find great camping near Chicago? Check out our other campground recommendations! Southern Illinois might not always come to mind but it is the home of Illinois’ only National Forest and different topography than the flat cornfields you might be used to.

Camping in Central Illinois | 14 Incredible Campgrounds to Escape to Nature

Camping in Central Illinois

Central Illinois has campgrounds for every type of camper! While camping in central Illinois usually surfaces visions of flat forests and fields, we’ve found hidden gems throughout the state to explore state parks, local forest preserves, and private campgrounds in central Illinois with unique waterfalls, lakes, and more!

State Park Camping in Central Illinois

Illinois has one of the best state park systems in the country, and one of the only ones that is still free for anyone to enter every day. While camping in central Illinois state parks might not be free, the DNR still operates some of the lowest cost and best-maintained campgrounds in the state.

Kickapoo State Recreation Area

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(peregrinations-chichlee)

One of the most popular state parks in Illinois, Kickapoo State Park offers access to over 2.8K acres of forest, lakes, and hills to explore. Home to 22 different lakes, there are lots of water activities that can be tough to find in the middle of the country like scuba diving, great fishing, and some larger-scale boating than many other central Illinois lakes.

For those who prefer dry land, there are 12 miles of mountain bike trails and many hiking or running trails to take advantage of every corner of the park. The winter seasons offer cross-country skiers, snow-shoeing, sledding, ice skating, and ice-fishing opportunities!

With a total of 184 campsites, everything from tents to trailers to groups can be accommodated. Over one hundred of the campgrounds have Class AA amenities so you don’t have to skip the shower for a weekend!

Learn more about Kickapoo on the DNR website or go straight to ExploreMoreIL to plan your trip!


Moraine View

camping near bloomington il
(hipcamp)

McLean County’s Moraine View State Recreation Area is home to 1,600 acres of opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. Miles of horse and hiking trails surround Dawson Lake where you can take a dip on a hot day or try ice fishing during the winter. There is even a restaurant and boat rental right on the banks for a great day trip!

Less than half an hour from Bloomington, IL, Moraine View has both drive-up and backpacking sites for camping in central Illinois. One trail has 32 separate primitive campsites spread throughout the trail for those looking to try their hand at backpacking. There are also equestrian campgrounds and more traditional Class A trailer and tent camping sites.

Reserve your spot today!

Rock Island Trail State Park & Kickapoo Creek Recreation Area

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(Enjoy Illinois)

If you’re looking for a primitive central Illinois campground right outside of Peoria, look no further than the Rock Island Trail! You can pick this trail up in town and hike, bike, or ski to any one of the trail-access-only campsites that lie near Kickapoo.

Built on top of an abandoned railway, this passage spans 26 miles that will give you a taste of backpacking before you start something a bit longer.

These campsites are walk-in only but for more information, check out the IL DNR website.

Jubilee College State Park

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(Drew Luster, alltrails.com)

If you’re looking for miles and miles of trails to hike during your outdoor vacation, look no further than Jubilee College State Park! A 20-minute drive northwest of Peoria, IL, Jubillee College sports 45 miles of trails for hikers, bikers, equestrians, and cross-country skiers across its 3,200 acres.

This state park includes over 100 campgrounds with shower access (and some with Electricity as well). There are group campsites available and equestrian sites for reservation on ExploreMoreIL. For more information about Peoria camping at Jubilee College, check out the IL DNR website!

Sangchris Lake State Park

best sangamon county camping

Just outside the state capitol, less than a thirty minute drive from Springfield lies Sangchris Lake State Park. A 3,000-acre haven of natural beauty, there are miles of trails surrounding the massive Sangchris Lake. The state park offers 120 miles of shoreline around Sangchris Lake from which anglers and boaters can take their leave of land and spend time on the water.

Two campgrounds within the park include classes of campgrounds for every budget from 135 Class A sites down to 15 Class C campgrounds and even two cabins. Reservations can be made online at ExploreMoreIL.

Beaver Dam State Park

Beaver Dam State Park is the perfect choice for camping in central Illinois near Carlinville! Despite its name, you probably won’t see any beavers on your trip as they are now gone from the area, but this state park did get its name from the beaver dam that created the park’s lake.

Visitors of the park can enjoy the range of outdoor activities the park has to offer. There are over 8 miles of trails to hike where you’ll be able to walk around the lake, past the marsh, and through wooded forests. You’ll love these trails and the incredible scenery you’ll see along the way!

Are you an archer who needs somewhere to hone your skills? Take advantage of Beaver Dam State Park’s free-of-charge archery range! All you have to do is bring your own bow and arrows! The park’s 59-acre lake provides a terrific fishing experience and the opportunity to catch largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, and channel catfish. Hunting is permitted at this state park and offers spring turkey, archery deer, and squirrel/furbearer trapping.

You’ll be hungry, thirsty, and fatigued after trying all the different activities at Beaver Dam State Park, but they have you covered! Visit the Plainview Winery Cafe, a full-service restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating along the lakefront. If you want to cook your own food to fill you up, visit the park’s picnic area where you are provided tables and grills. Kids can have fun on the playground that’s also located in the picnic area!

RV/trailer camping and tent camping are allowed at Beaver Dam State Park’s campground. Large oak and hickory trees provide the campsites with shade. The 40 RV/trailer campsites have electricity at each pad and a sanitary dump station. Water is available, but individual campsites do not provide water. A shower building with flushable toilets can also be found in the central area of the RV/trailer section of the campground.

Tent camping is permitted in a separate section of the campground. The tent camping area provides access to restrooms and water. Another separate area of the campground caters to youth groups and comes with restrooms, water, firepits, and picnic tables. There is one cabin available to rent on the campground. Reservations for all campsites and the cabin can be made using the ExploreMoreIL website.

Private Camping in Central Illinois

Private campgrounds offer more amenities than the average state park campground in Illinois (and many allow you to bring alcohol, unlike the Illinois DNR). These campgrounds can be great for cabin camping in central Illinois or for alternatives when the state parks are full!

D & W Lake Camping and RV Park

If you’re looking for a quiet lakeside RV park that’s a short 12-minute drive from the heart of Champaign, IL, D & W Lake may be just the thing for you. Rated “A” by GuestRated.com for multiple years, this peaceful retreat offers boat rentals and fishing as well as a playground for any little ones. From sports games to theater productions, the nearby University of Illinois is rife with entertainment. If golfing is your thing, visit one of the six public golf courses in the area.

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D&W’s Lake

Full hookups, laundry, WiFi, and propane make this an uncomplicated spot to settle down for as long as you wish, and a nearby convenient store can fill any of your other needs. This outfit offers various RV sites and tent-only sites. This campground near Champaign and Urbana can scratch your itch for diverting days and peaceful nights if you make a reservation with D & W Lake Camping.

Springfield KOA Journeys

2 room cabin

A short distance outside Springfield lies the Springfield KOA with all the amenities that KOAs are known for! Enjoy the pool, mini-golf, or rent a bike from the campgrounds to explore the area. Just a short distance away from Sanchris Lake, there are even more opportunities for hiking, boating, and fishing.

This location has long pull-through RV sites with 50-amp service and full hookup, cabins for rent, hookups with just electric, hookups with water and electric, and covered tent sites. For reservations, check out the KOA website.

Gillespie Lakes

Looking for some family-friendly outdoor fun? Visit Gillespie Lakes when you’re camping in Central Illinois for fishing opportunities across their two lakes! Gillespie Lakes is comprised of two lakes, Old Gillespie Lake and New Gillespie Lake. If your dream day on the lake mostly consists of fishing, there are 14 species of fish available here!

The campground at Gillespie Lakes consists of 24 RV/trailer lots and 4 tent lots. The RV/trailer campsites come with electricity, and tent campsites come with and without electricity. The campsites are easy to access, flat, and highly shady. Campers have access to indoor showers and indoor bathrooms. You can contact Gillespie Lakes through the phone number and email listed on their website.

Cabin Fever Campground and Hunt Club

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Cabin Fever Campground and Hunt Club is a private campground with five lakes and acres of camping and hunting land. The campgrounds are able to accommodate both tent and trailer campers and some include electricity and water are hookups.

True to its name, Cabin Fever provides cabins to rent as well! These single-room cabins can accommodate up to six people and comes with a small refrigerator, microwave, television, and a table with chairs. They also have air conditioning and electricity. Outside the cabin are a covered porch, charcoal grill, fire pit, and picnic table for guests to use. Guests are required to bring their own linens, towels, and cooking utensils.

You can inquire about a reservation for the campsites and cabins by calling the campground or filling out the contact form on their website.

Galesburg East KOA

Located just outside of Knoxville in Knox County, Galesburg East Campground is spread out across 28 acres of lush green foliage and gives campers an opportunity to escape from day-to-day life by immersing themselves in nature. This family-friendly campground offers a variety of amenities to keep everyone in your group entertained. Kids and adults alike can show off their skills at the campground’s mini-golf course! If you lose your game of mini-golf, try competing in a round of horseshoes, beanbag toss, or croquet!

Take a dip in their heated pool, practice your fishing skills at the catch-and-release pond, or take a hike on the campground’s private walking trails. Galesburg East Campground also frequently hosts exciting events such as bingo, an ice cream social, and movie nights!

Open from April 1st to October 31st, Galesburg East Campground is a seasonal campground with full hookups (water, drainage, and electricity) and large pull-through campsites to accommodate RVs. Picnic tables are provided, but you will need to ask for a fire ring if you would like one.

The campground offers complimentary WiFi and access to laundry machines, a clubhouse, and a propane filling station. Cabins are also available to rent, and all reservations for campsites and cabins can be made online on the campground’s website.

Local Camping in Central Illinois

Local campgrounds are operated by county forest preserves or sometimes even cities. These campgrounds are more comparable to a state park but may include hidden fees for non-residents camping in central Illinois.

Middle Fork River Forest Preserve

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Stretch your legs and your brain by visiting Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. This campground in Champaign County is about a 35-minute drive from Champaign itself, and it offers over seven miles of trails between 0.8 miles and 2.4 miles where hikers can see the restored prairie, wetlands, and river bottomland forest.

For nature nerds, there’s much to learn about their waterfowl management areas, prairie restoration tactics (including prescribed burns!), and local wildflowers on self-guided tours or in the nearby museum and interpretive center. Take advantage of the volleyball court, picnic shelter, and playground for a day of outdoor fun. Stargazers will especially value camping at this preserve as it contains Illinois’s first Dark Sky Park! If you want to swim, simply walk the short way from your campsite to the beach.

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Benefits of a Dark Sky Park

All 65 campsites in the Harry L. Swartz Campground have a grill, and all have electricity except for Indian Ridge campsites. Group sites and double sites are also available for reservation for the best opportunity for camping near Champaign. See the next available date here!

Comlara Park

camping in mclean county

Just 15 minutes out of Bloomington, IL can be found an extensive natural wonderland. Ten miles of trails ranging from easy to difficult accommodate hikers, bikers, and horseback riders as they traverse the shores and forests surrounding 925-acre Evergreen Lake. You can also spend your time relaxing during a nice boating, sailboarding, or fishing trip.

Camping in central Illinois is a breeze if you decide to stay at Comlara Park. There are 94 electric sites, 23 easily accessible non-electric sites, 27 primitive/walk-in sites, and two group tent camping areas. Reservations can be made in person or on the phone starting on the first Saturday in April. Visit their website for the most up-to-date information.

Forest Glen Preserve

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(tripadvisor.com)

Forest Glen Preserve, located 13 miles south of Danville, IL, is a great spot for the rugged outdoorsperson. Sporting an 11-mile trail and 15 more miles on top of that, the Forest Glen preserve is a great place for mushroom hunting, backpacking, or birdwatching! Several picnic areas can be found throughout the 1,800-acre park, and viewing the wildlife is common. For those unafraid of heights, climb the 72-foot observation tower to see the spread of the Vermilion River. Fishing in the river, as well as the four ponds in the preserve, is also possible.

To spend the night in this central Illinois forest preserve campground, you may take advantage of the 42 camping sites at the campgrounds that can provide 50-amp electricity, water, a shower building, and a dump station. Sixteen tent camping sites are available as walk-in-only; water is available, and the shower building at the modern campgrounds can be used. There are six primitive sites (no water, only pit toilets) that require pre-registration. For those backpacking the Ridge Back Trail, one of the three sites must be reserved in advance.

If you don’t have a tent, they even offer teepee camping for a very unique experience! There’s plenty here to help you enjoy your stay! Give them a call at 217-662-2142 or check out their website for more information!

Closing

Still looking for more options for camping in Illinois? Check out our full Illinois state guide for campgrounds in every county!

Haven’t Found Your Perfect Campsite?

More state parks, private campgrounds, and primitive campsites are waiting! Check out 14 more of our favorite campgrounds north of I-80.

Northern Illinois Campgrounds

Camping in Northern Illinois | 14 Best Campgrounds North of I-80

Camping in Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois has dozens of campgrounds perfect for adventure seekers and families – if you know where to look. We’ve pulled our favorite state parks, local forest preserves, and private campgrounds in northern Illinois so you don’t need to spend hours going from Google Maps to websites and back again. Find your perfect spot for camping in Northern Illinois for fishing, hiking, boating, and more!

Camping in Northern Illinois State Parks

Illinois has one of the best state park systems in the country, and one of the only ones that is still free for anyone to enter every day. While camping in northern Illinois state parks might not be free, the Department of Natural Resources operates some of the best campgrounds in the state. We’ve compiled our favorites from the northern region here.

14. Chain o’ Lakes State Park

Camping in Lake County
Chain O’ Lakes State Park (Enjoy Illinois)

Chain o’ Lakes State Park is part of Illinois’ largest hub of natural lakes, offering a range of water-focused activities to any camper. From boat and canoe renting to fishing bluegill, largemouth bass, walleye, and catfish, you can spend the day on the water catching dinner for the campsite!

Looking to try something new? Check out their archery range or horse rental! Chain o’ Lakes also offers four trail systems where campers can walk, bike, or even ride a horse to experience the serenity of being surrounded by nature.

Chain o’ Lakes State Park has 151 Class A Premium sites, 87 Class B Premium sites, and a youth group camping area that can accommodate up to 150 youth campers. Check out the DNR for more information or to make a reservation at this picturesque state park!

13. Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park

Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park is one of the few campgrounds located right along Lake Michigan. In addition to the massive lake nearby, there are also smaller lakes for fishing and hiking around! Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park is perfect for RV and tent campers. It boasts 241 Class A Premium sites with electricity and access to showers and sanitary facilities. It also provides six handicap-accessible campsites.

This campsite is extremely popular during the summer months, so a reservation is recommended!

12. Shabbona Lake State Park

shabbona lake review

About an hour’s drive from Chicago lies the Muskie Capital of Illinois. Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area is a large lake nestled in 1,550 acres of prairie. Meadows, woods, and a natural fen transition into one another offering a beautiful look into the landscape ecology of Midwest prairies. Eight miles of trails wander the landscape for hikers and winter cross-country skiers.

Besides fishing, water activities on the lake include boating and winter skating. A camp store offers groceries, firewood, and other supplies for the 150 campsites within the SRA. Two cabins along the shore are available year-round and there are also group campsites that can hold up to 50 people each for scouts camping in northern illinois.

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Shabbona Lake Hiking Trail

Click Here to check out our Shabbona Lake State Park Review for even more detailed information about the Shabbona Lake experience & ideas on what to do nearby!

Find the next available date at Shabbona lake here!

11. Illini State Park

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Illini State Park (Yelp)

Illini State Parks offers dozens of campsites across six loops for RV, family, and youth group camping. If you plan far enough in advance, you may be able to snag one of the sites just along the river. Take advantage of the Illinois River to catch Bass, Bluegill, Catfish, Carp, Bullhead, and more.

During the winter months, they set up an ice-skating pool and there are great hills for sledding. Illini State Park offers a great place for families willing to brave the chill. Visit their website for more information!

10. Starved Rock State Park

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Starved Rock Waterfall (Flickr)

By far the most popular state park for camping in Northern Illinois (and the entire state), Starved Rock State Park has over 130 campsites and another six group campsites available for reservation. Campsites have access to showers and there are electric hookups at each site to make your stay a little more comfortable.

Explore over 13 miles of trails, stumbling on waterfalls, meandering into canyons, and enjoying lush forest all in a couple of hours. The park offers suggested portions for all types of hikers from the one-mile beginner to the ten-mile overhang – canyons trail combo. If you sign up early enough, you can get into a guided hike to learn more about the park from the Nature Resource Coordinator.

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Fall Trees in Starved Rock (Flickr)

Need more information? Check out our Starved Rock FAQs or explore their website here. Ready to go? Make a reservation today!

Primitive Camping in Northern Illinois

Primitive camping is great for privacy and for anyone looking to get into backpacking. While there might not be a ton of hills in Illinois, there are still natural formations that can only be accessed via walking trails. Find truly unique campgrounds and get off the beaten path by finding some primitive camping in northern Illinois.

9. Buffalo Rock State Park

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Buffalo Rock State Park (Yelp)

Tucked away between Buffalo Rock and Utica lie three primitive campsites open for first come first serve camping. The sites contain a fire ring but that’s about all in terms of amenities! Just be sure to bring your own water!

Buffalo Rock State Park itself is known for the five ‘living sculptures’ of critters found in Illinois’ rivers. Built out of soil, these sculptures are large enough to walk on! Be sure to also carve some time out to swing by the grazing area for the two bison that still call Buffalo Rock home.

Check out the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for more information!

8. Silver Springs State Fish & Wildlife Area

A mere twenty minutes from Oswego, IL sits Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area, an excellent place to camp and enjoy the outdoors. At 1,350 acres, this park—often favored by hunters—also includes a four-mile hiking trail through the woods following the Fox River, a one-mile trail through a prairie restoration area, and a seven-mile equestrian trail.

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Silver Springs (Wikipedia)

There is a primitive group campsite here in this Kendall County park that will require you to hike in your gear. This site is quiet and offers some peace from the traffic and hubbub of other visitors. You can’t reserve this campsite so the earlier the better if you’re trying to camp in Silver Springs!

Visit the DNR website for more information!

Private Camping in Northern Illinois

Private campgrounds offer more amenities than the average state park campground in Illinois (and many allow you to bring alcohol, unlike the Illinois DNR). These campgrounds can be great for cabin camping or for alternatives when the state parks are full!

7. Northwest KOA

Northwest KOA offers some of the best winter camping in northern Illinois! Like other KOAs, Northwest serves RVs and car campers alike, with added amenities like frisbee golf, mini-golf, a pool, and cabins available to reserve.

For an extra private experience, check out the romantic Pioneer tent. Tucked away in the corner of the campground, this solar-powered canopy tent has a nice wooden porch to give you the perfect place for a morning cup of coffee or midnight stargazing.

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Northwest KOA Pioneer Tent (Yelp)

See if Northwest KOA is available, today!

6. Pleasant Creek

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Pleasant Creek is a private campground located in Oglesby, Illinois, and has only been operating for a little under five years. While more focused on seasonal RV’s, they do have a number of primitive campsites, car campsites, and cabin campsites.  The campsite offers wi-fi and alcohol on the grounds, depending on the kind of weekend you’re trying to have! Located less than a ten-minute drive away from Starved Rock, this campground can provide a private alternative to the state park campgrounds with all of the same great access to the trails and waterfalls.

For more information, take a look at their website.

5. Lasalle / Peru KOA

LPKOA Yelp
Tent Campsite (Yelp)

KOA offers a few different types of experiences at this private campground. Enjoy one of the four golf courses within a fifteen-minute drive, kick back at the KOA pool, or check out one of the nearby state parks mentioned earlier!

Looking for a bit more privacy? Check out the ‘Honeymoon corner’ with three tent sites. You may have to carry some of your gear to get to the campsites, but you’ll enjoy much more seclusion than the rest of the campground and many other places on this list.

Check out the next time they’re available here!

Local Camping in Northern Illinois

Local campgrounds are operated by county forest preserves or sometimes even cities. These campgrounds are more comparable to a state park but may include hidden fees for non-residents.

4. Camp Reinberg

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Camp Reinberg Small Cabin in Winter

Boasting 9.7 miles of unpaved trails and an additional 4 miles of paved trails, Camp Reinberg has enough mileage to keep you walking all weekend straight out of your campsite. Located in Palatine, this is a hidden campground and cabins right in the middle of the suburbs.

Camp Reinberg has space for groups of all sizes camping in cook county, from car campers permitted all year, up to full campground rentals for up to 200 of your closest friends. This campground can support RVs and has a nature play space for families to keep the kids occupied outdoors.

Camp Reinberg Tent Campsite in Cook County
Tent Campsite at Camp Reinberg (Cook County Forest Preserve)

Whether you choose a cabin or stick to the tents, don’t forget to take advantage of the 4 miles of paved trails and another 9.7 miles of unpaved hiking and cross-country ski trails just outside your campsite. Take a look at the next available date here!

3. Camp Bullfrog Lake

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Camp Bullfrog Lake (Cook County Forest Preserve)

Another option from the Cook County Forest Preserves, Camp Bullfrog Lake has almost a dozen campgrounds and over thirty tent campsites available for camping in northern Illinois. The namesake lake offers kayak rentals and fishing opportunities while the nearby trails are great for hiking, mountain biking, and bird watching!

For families at Camp Bullfrog Lake, the nearby Little Red Schoolhouse Center has live animals and paved self-guided trails. Once finished at the schoolhouse, the Swagawau Environmental Learning Center offers guided tours through unique preserves for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Plan your experience here!

2. Camp Sullivan

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Camp Sullivan’s Red Barn (Cook County Forest Preserve)

The last entry from the Cook County Forst Preserves, Camp Sullivan offers camping in Northern Illinois for any type of camper (including electric hookups). There are even better tent campsites that lie slightly deeper within the woods. You’ll need to carry your gear from your car but the privacy is worth the walk.

Camp Sullivan’s featured Red Barn activity house offers an almost thirty-foot climbing wall that you won’t find at any other campground on this list. If you’re looking for something closer to the ground, the campsites are minutes away from the Tinley Creek trail system for gentle looping hikes.

1. Blackwell Forest Preserve

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Early Fall at Blackwell (Midwest Camping)

Another entry found right in the middle of the suburbs, this 1,366-acre forest preserve has something for everyone. Walk, jog, bike, or even ride your horse along their many trails! Catch bluegill, largemouth bass, northern pike, rainbow trout, and walleye at one of Blackwell’s fishing spots! Explore the beautiful waters of Silver Lake on a canoe, kayak, rowboat, or paddleboard.

Both experienced and first-time archers are sure to enjoy Blackwell’s beginner, advanced, and interactive archery ranges. If you’re feeling adventurous, test your skills with the moderately challenging self-guided compass course.

Blackwell Forest Preserve can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs. Each site offers electricity, gravel parking pad, fire ring, and a picnic table. It’s important to note none of the sites offer sewage or water hookups. To learn more information or make a reservation, give them a ring at 630-933-7248 or visit the forest preserve website!

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Still looking for more options? Check out our full Illinois state guide for campgrounds in every county!

Backpacking Tent vs Suspended Tent | Which is the Best for Camping?

Backpacking vs suspended Tents

When comparing a backpacking tent vs suspended tents, they each offer low-weight options great for traveling campers but are hammock tents right for you?

We’ve broken down the major similarities and differences of common tent types to help you make the right decision for your next outdoor adventure!

Backpacking Tent vs Suspended Tent

First, let’s break down each type of tent:

Backpacking

backpacking tent vs suspended tent
True to their name, backpacking tents are intended for backpacking! They are traditionally smaller than most other tent types as their primary focus is keeping the weight down while protecting you from the elements.

Suspended

a-frame tent vs suspended tent

Suspended tents are essentially hammock tents. While there are multiple designs between hammocks and suspended tents, they are defined by the hanging design that secures against trees, poles, or other objects.

Major Differences

The biggest difference between a backpacking tent vs suspended tent is the setup. Suspended tents hang from trees or beams to create an enclosed hammock that will protect you from the elements anywhere you can find 2-3 trees. In contrast, backpacking tents intercrossing poles to set up a shelter directly on the ground. Suspended tents are basically hammocks with a rain tarp and backpacking tents are mini versions of traditional tents.

Another difference between these two tent types is the cost. You can find comparable suspended and backpacking tents at the same price between $150 – $300 but you can also find backpacking tents for $1k+. If weight is the most important thing for your camping style and you have the cash to back it up, you can save pounds by opting for the higher-priced backpacking tents.

Both types of tents usually use a two-layer design to repel rain but a backpacking tent may be slightly more comfortable to spend a longer period of time inside during a storm as you can sit inside with more room easily compared to suspended tents. Being off the ground in a suspended tent prevents any kind of rain from pooling below the tent but also exposes you to wind on all four sides which may cause swaying as you hang.

Best Uses For Backpacking & Suspended Tents

While each tent can be used in almost any situation, they both are best for backpacking trips given the small capacities and tent weights. There isn’t anything holding you back from using backpacking and suspended tents for family or car camping but you’ll only be able to fit a couple of people in each one!

Backpacking

Suspended


Family Camping


Car Camping


Backpacking

Feature Comparison | Backpacking Tent vs Suspended Tent

Since suspended tents and backpacking tents have similar capacities and purposes, they are very comparable when it comes to their overall features. The primary difference stems from the way the tents form to their environment.

Backpacking tents being on the ground will hold up slightly better in storms (less swaying and strain against the straps/poles) than suspended tents. You’ll still be safe in a suspended tent but the wind on all sides may be less comfortable in the long run.

Product

Backpacking

Suspended

Sturdiness

Capacity

Cost

Portability

Lifespan

Want more?

Check out our infographic and larger article covering the ten most common tent types or use our tent finding tool to quickly find the tents that suit your needs!

Pop-Up Tent vs Tunnel Tent | Which is the Best for Camping?

Pop Up vs Tunnel Tent

When comparing a pop-up tent vs tunnel tent, these two different designs come with important considerations to think about before you make your decision! Extra space from tunnel tents comes with some tradeoffs that may change your plans.

We’ve broken down the major similarities and differences of common tent types to help you make the right decision for your next outdoor adventure!

Pop-Up Tent vs Tunnel Tent

First, let’s break down each type of tent:

Pop-Up

a-frame tent vs pop-up tent
A newer tent category with fewer offerings than most other types of tents, pop-up tents are specifically designed for the easiest set-up possible. The poles are integrated directly within the tent frame and fabric.

Tunnel

dome tent vs tunnel tent

Tunnel tents use poles to form a series of half-rings that frame the tent (compared to the cross-pole design of a dome tent). Tunnel tents frequently have extended vestibules for more space to store gear, your shoes, and keep wet things outside of the living area!

Major Differences

The biggest differences between a pop-up tent vs tunnel tent are capacity and portability. Tunnel tents come in capacities of up to about 8 people and may also be large enough to stand in. These tents use multiple arcing poles in a row to provide structure for the tent that allows for a semicircle-type roof that enables far more space than the sharply angled a-frame tent. In comparison, pop-up tents use a series of poles integrated within the fabric to spring into their shape that usually caps out around 4 people but are much easier to set up.

Pop-up tents typically employ a two-layer design to repel rain but the second layer only covers the very top of the tent, as opposed to longer rain flys present in A-frame or Dome tents. As seen in the photos above, pop-up tents use a single layer of rain protection for up to 75% of each side. Tunnel tents frequently use a single-layer tent which allows for larger windows and can allow for better airflow than pop-up tents.

While they should both offer fine rain protection, other tent types may be more reliable in harsher storms since pop-ups are built for convenience as opposed to protection and other structures may be stronger with more rain coverage.

Best Uses For Pop-Up & Tunnel Tents

Each of these types of tents is great for both small-family and car camping! Smaller families may prefer the simplicity offered by pop-ups or enjoy the larger amount of space offered by tunnel tents. Neither tent is appropriate for backpacking (there are better options) as they almost always have too large of a package to reasonably pack and walk miles with.

Pop-Up

Tunnel


Family Camping


Car Camping


Backpacking

Feature Comparison | Pop-Up Tent vs Tunnel Tent

Tunnel tents have the advantage of high capacity while pop-up tents are significantly easier to set up. Each have similar rain protection with the limited dual-layer of pop-ups and frequent single-layer tunnel tent design. Not sold on either type? We’d recommend a dome tent for any type of camper from beginner to expert!

Product

Pop-Up

Tunnel

Sturdiness

Capacity

Cost

Portability

Lifespan

Want more?

Check out our infographic and larger article covering the ten most common tent types or use our tent finding tool to quickly find the tents that suit your needs!

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