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The Dyrt

The Dyrt camper Corinna B. at Port of Cascade Locks in Oregon.

The Dyrt, an app for camping availability, photos and reviews, has found that first-come, first-served campgrounds are increasingly full. The Dyrt’s 2024 Camping Report presented by The All-New Toyota Tacoma revealed that campers encountered full first-come, first-served campgrounds twice as often in 2023 as they did in 2020, according to a release.

A first-come, first-served (FCFS) campground is a property that does not take reservations in advance. Campers claim their campsite when they arrive and set up shop, but due to the ongoing camping boom, some of the most-frequented FCFS campgrounds are filling up earlier, and more often.

In 2023, 23.4% of campers reported arriving at an FCFS campground and finding it full. Back in 2020, that number was only 11.1%. It’s been steadily increasing over the years, as the rate was 15.8% in 2021 and 21.4% in 2022.

“I experienced this trend firsthand so it was reassuring that the results in the Camping Report confirmed it,” said The Dyrt founder Sarah Smith. “For years we would go to our favorite first-come, first-served campground in Oregon. Recently we arrived to find it completely full, which had never happened before. Happy ending though — we used The Dyrt to find another awesome campground down the road and the weekend was saved.”

At campgrounds that accept reservations, 45.5% of campers reported difficulty booking a site because a campground was sold out in 2023. While that number is four times higher than it was in 2019, it marks a decrease from 58.4% in 2022. FCFS campgrounds have not seen a similar easing, with campers finding them more likely to be full every year since 2020.

“I have been to a couple of first-come, first-served campgrounds and have realized that unless I show up midweek, or in an off-season, I have trouble getting a spot,” said The Dyrt camper Nicole P. of Illinois. “One time we showed up at a first-come, first-served campground that was full but we didn’t have any other options. We ended up sleeping in our car close to the campground. When we are looking at first-come, first-served sites, we often have a backup plan, or we just accept that we may have to sleep in the car.”

Private campgrounds are responding to the increased popularity of camping by both adding more sites and in some cases additional types of camping. In fact, half the campgrounds that hosted campers during 2023 added new sites, but most FCFS campgrounds are public, making it more difficult for them to add capacity and turn away fewer campers.

“We dislike crowds and tend to camp either in the offseason or in places we know are unlikely to be full, but we did encounter this scenario in Yellowstone (no big surprise),” said The Dyrt camper Karuna E. of Colorado. “I’m happy so many people are getting outside, but it’s certainly a mixed blessing because all of the once-lonely areas I grew up camping in are so full now that it’s an entirely different experience.”