How Electric Vehicles are Transforming Camping Experiences in America


Morning chirps and raccoon rustles are soon to be the only wakeup calls in the campgrounds, as the roar of internal combustion engines gives way to the whisper of electric vehicles. Campers are four times more likely to own an EV than non-campers, and that percentage is growing as companies strive to make EVs and trailers more camper-friendly. But hold your s’mores, as it’s not all sunshine and rainbows: the transition has its challenges, from ensuring campsites have the proper infrastructure for EV charging, to enhancing vehicle range affected by towing a camper. It’s a wild ride, y’all, but quieter campsites and cleaner air is on the horizon!

Electric vehicles roll in, nature’s music plays on

Future camping trips might experience an unusual silence with the absence of the low growl of car engines waking up at dawn. From bird chirps to owls hooting, that familiar rumble could be replaced by the faint hum of electric vehicles (EVs).

As electric trucks and SUVs make their way to campgrounds, traditional fuel vehicles could become a rare sight. According to a survey by Kampgrounds of America (KOA), campers are more likely to own an electric vehicle, with about 4% of regular campers owning EVs, while only about 1% of the general population do.

EV manufacturers and trailer companies are both working to improve this new camping experience. Electric motors give a distinctive advantage while towing camper trailers, offering strong pulling at low or high speeds without needing to shift gears.

However, range anxiety remains a common concern among campers. While gasoline or diesel vehicles also lose a significant driving range when towing a trailer, refilling a liquid fuel tank tends to be quicker and more convenient than recharging a battery pack.

The camping industry is adapting to these changes. Companies like Thor Industries, the owner of Airstream, is focusing on aerodynamics research to reduce wind resistance during towing. Similarly, Airstream’s competitor Bowlus is emphasizing aerodynamics and even has a trailer that can charge an electric vehicle in an emergency.

Charging the vehicles is a crucial factor, both at campsites and on the road. While campgrounds typically provide power outlets for household power, these aren’t designed for EVs. KOA is working on installing EV chargers and educating campers that it might not be acceptable to use regular outlets for EV charging.

On the road, electric vehicle maker Rivian is not only enabling its customers to use Tesla’s charging network, but it’s also creating its own network of chargers in off-road locations like Yosemite National Park.

Designing EV charging stations that can accommodate vehicles towing trailers is a challenge due to turning radium and parking limitations. Rivian is conducting studies to ensure that drivers should not need to unhitch their trailers at its trailer-friendly chargers.

Another feature of EVs is that they bring power along with them, thanks to their hefty batteries. The F-150 Lightning Truck from Ford, for instance, has 11 power outlets including those in the truck’s bed and in the front trunk, providing ample power for camping appliances, reducing the need for a loud, gas-powered generator.

As more and more people switch to EVs for camping, there will be less noise pollution in the outdoors, making camping even more in tune with nature.

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