It’s relatively easy for cyclists to camp their way across America, using everything from basic government-run sites in areas of natural beauty to more polished RV parks and wild camping in remote areas.
The challenge is to find out which options exist on your route. There is no overriding directory of campsites so you’ll find yourself collecting maps and guides at tourist bureaus to get a reasonably full picture of what’s out there.
A better idea is to do some research before you leave home. Check out websites for the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Services, in addition to the State-run park services for the areas you’ll be visiting.
Prices for sites run by these government organisations range from free to $15. In some states, hiker-biker sites are available at a modest cost of $3-5 per person. For this, you usually get tenting space in a special area and not a private site.
As for facilities, some parks have showers (usually at a small extra cost) and flush toilets. Many do not. Most have water but always check before you go. Expect rustic facilities and be pleasantly surprised if you find more!
Private campgrounds are also plentiful but not all of them are set up for tenters. Some only take self-contained RVs. If possible, call before you turn up at the front gate! Expect to pay $15-30 and that will only get you a tent pitch (sometimes pitifully small) and a shower, not kitchen facilities or a lounge area to hang out in like in Australia and New Zealand.
Shade can also be hard to find in these RV parks – some are little more than glorified parking lots – so a tarp is a handy accessory.
In many rural areas, wild camping or free camping will be your only option. You can legally stick your tent up anywhere on BLM or National Forest land, although that doesn’t mean you’ll always find a suitable spot, on flat ground and away from the road.
Other good bets are snowmobile parks (they have tracks that go into the woods) and sometimes fairgrounds and rest areas. If you’re stuck, ask the locals. Some cyclists have been invited to camp in the local park of small towns. Just watch for the sprinklers coming on in the middle of the night!
If you need a shower after a few days of roughing it, ask at a local truck stop or go to the swimming pool to scrub up.