Military Camping: Military and Veterans Camp Cheaply

Did you know that if you’re Active Duty Military, Retired Military or Disabled Military Veteran who enjoys RVing or tent camping, there may be ways for you and your dependents to camp cheaply or even free?

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Military Camping: Military and Veterans Camp Cheaply or FREE!

Military Family

Military FamCamps

FamCamp is short for family campground. Originally coined by the Air Force, general military terminology refers to all campgrounds on any military base or post as a FamCamp.

Most military posts and bases have a camping area where Active Duty Military Servicemembers and Military Retirees and their immediate families (must be dependents) and some qualifying military Veterans can utilize for outdoor recreation.

Typically, RV sites have hookups (electric, water and sewer) and separate tent camping sites may be in the same RV park or may be separate campground. Campsite fees may vary based on geographic location, economic region and amenities.

Some FamCamps and military campgrounds may offer long-term camping while others may have stipulated time limits. On the average, a stay at a FamCamp or military campground is about $25-35 per night unless there is a monthly rate which offers a long term discount.

Military FamCamps and campgrounds are heavily sought after due to their affordability, availability to military base facilities (medical, commissary, PX/BX, Class 6, movie theater, etc.).

Tent Couple

These military campgrounds are operated and managed through Outdoor Recreation (Army and Air Force) or Morale, Welfare and Recreation (Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard). FamCamps typically have one or more camp hosts to keep order and discipline within the campground or outdoor recreation facility.

To qualify use of a Military FamCamp, you must be Active Duty or Military Retiree along with their dependent spouse or minor children (based on DEERS enrollment). But also, National Guard, Reservist or 100% Disabled Veterans may use them as well as surviving dependent family members of Service Members who were killed in action who retain benefits and privileges such as healthcare, commissary, etc.

As of recently, there has been an amendment adding VA qualified Veterans with a service-connected medical % rating to the  pool of qualified users.  As well, some (not all) military facilities may allow qualified FamCamp users to sponsor family or friends to utilize the campground facility (must accompany). 

Here’s the criteria of qualifications that may allow you to reserve and stay at Military FamCamps (Veterans) per MilitaryBenefits.info:

      • Military retirees and families
      • Medal of Honor Recipients
      • Purple Heart recipients
      • Former Prisoners of War
      • Veterans with service-connected disabilities (VA documented disability rating)
      • Authorized family caregivers of eligible veterans enrolled in the VA Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program
      • Reserves members, Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service or a commissioned officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the meets the requirements for being considered a veteran AND also meets the above criteria are eligible for campground access.
      • Honorably discharged veterans are not authorized, unless they meet the additional criteria listed above.

All of that said, despite qualifications, Active Duty and their families always take precedence; especially during PCS (Permanent Change of Station) season or times. After which, RV and campsites are based on other precedences and space availability.

And be aware, there may be prescribed time limits allowing you to stay at military campgrounds or FamCamps. However, user and occupancy regulations all come down to each individual Command authorization. The best way to find out who can use specific military campgrounds, it’s best to call the particular Outdoor Recreation or MWR office for details and reservation.

Speaking of military camping at FamCamps and military campgrounds, did you know that military-based MWR and Outdoor Recreation programs offer camping gear rentals such as kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, cots, sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, camp cookware and other camping equipment? But get this! Some military recreation facilities rent out cabins and cottages, campers and boats too!

So, don’t think you have to go out and buy all of that just to go camping for a weekend with your battles or shipmates.

Tents for Troops

Tents for Troops
Courtesy of Tents for Troops

Tents for Troops, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, is for Active Duty military personnel to camp for FREE after joining the program. It’s participating campground and RV park owners, RV dealers’ and RV manufacturers’ as well as RV industry associations’ and suppliers’ way of saying ‘thank you for your service’.

To show their appreciation for your patriotic duty and sacrifice, these RV parks and campgrounds all across the United States offer a complimentary two night minimum campsite to active military and their families. Some of those participating parks and campgrounds may offer RV units or park models for military guests.

All currently-serving military members need to do is find participating parks through the Tents for Troops website. Once you find campgrounds or RV parks you’d like to stay at, you’ll need to make a reservation by calling the RV park or campground directly. Upon check in, you’ll then need to present your Active Duty military I.D. at the time of check in.

But if you don’t have an RV but still want to experience RV camping, Tents for Troops also has an RV Loaner Program. These loaner RV trailers will will be fully set up on full hook up RV Sites at some campgrounds and parks to use for one week free of charge other than a one time $100 deposit of which the Host RV Park is allowed to keep $35 to help cover costs such as toilet chemicals and utilities. If RV is left clean the balance $65 of the deposit will be returned to guest.

Sorry, the Tents for Troops program is not available for Military Retirees, Military Veterans, Disabled Veterans, and/or their dependents or Gold Star Families.

National Park Pass

National Park Passes

Interagency Annual Military Pass

The National Park’s America the Beautiful Active Duty Military National Park Pass is FREE to current US military members and the dependents of deployed military in the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy, as well as most members of the Current Reserves and National Guard.  To apply for your pass, you will need a current military ID (CAC Card or DoD Form 1173).

On November 11, 2020, agencies began issuing Interagency Annual Military Passes to Military Veterans and Gold Star Families upon request and with proof of eligibility.

However, there’s one caveat. As we’ve learned through writing this article is the entrance fee waiver does not cover camping fees, transportation, special recreation permits, reservation fees or special tours. Sad as that is, there are other ways to getting discounted camping at National Parks or Federal campgrounds.

Access  Pass

If you’re a U.S. Military Veteran with a documented letter from the VA stating your permanent disability, you can apply for a free, lifetime National Park America the Beautiful Access Pass.

This Access Pass is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States and have a permanent medical disability (does not have to be a 100% disability and must have proper documentation). A permanent disability is a permanent physical, mental, or sensory impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

While the Access Pass is FREE, the cost of obtaining an Access Pass through the USGS currently is $10 (2021) for processing the application. Applicants must provide documentation proof of residency and documentation of permanent disability.

At many sites the Access Pass provides the pass owner a discount on Expanded Amenity Fees (such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and guided tours).

For more information on the Access Pass, visit the USGS website.

Military Veterans

Senior Pass

The National Park America the Beautiful Interagency Lifetime Senior Pass is for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over; regardless of Military Veteran status. There is a one-time charge is $80 for the pass that permits free entrance for life of the pass holder. 

The National Park’s America the Beautiful Interagency Annual Senior Pass is for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over; regardless of Military Veteran status. Its valid for one full year from month of purchase (through last day of that month).

The cost of obtaining an Annual Senior Pass through the mail is thirty $30. Applicants must provide documentation of age and residency or citizenship.

The Annual Senior Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass provides access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six Federal agencies.

    • National Park Service
    • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
    • Bureau of Land Management
    • Bureau of Reclamation
    • U.S. Forest Service
    • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Regarding Senior Pass benefits as stated on the USGS.gov Site pasted for accuracy:

In general discounts for the Senior Lifetime, Senior Annual and Interagency Access Pass  are honored as follows: 

    • Individual Campsites: The discount only applies to the fee for the campsite physically occupied by the pass owner, not to any additional campsite(s) occupied by members of the pass owner’s party.
    • Campsites with Utility Hookups: If utility fees are charged separately, there is no discount. The discount may apply if the utility fee is combined (seamless) with the campsite fee.
    • Group Campsites and Facilities: (including, but not limited to, group facilities, picnic areas or pavilions): There is no discount for group campsites and other group facilities that charge a flat fee. If the group campsite has a per person fee rate, only the pass owner receives a discount; others using the site pay the full fee.

Annual Pass

The National Park’s America the Beautiful Interagency Annual Pass is for those who don’t qualify for any of the previously mentioned National Park Passes. Unfortunately, the Annual Pass does not extend discounts on camping.

Family Camping

State Parks

There are several State Parks that offer minimum to even substantial discounts to Active Duty, Military Retirees, their dependents and disabled Veterans by showing your military ID or VA issued card. You may have to apply online or in person for a State Park pass.

Some States may offer free access for day-use facilities while others may offer a discount on overnight camping for Military Servicemembers, Military Retirees or Veterans and their immediate families. Each state is different. So, we highly recommend researching each state that you may be visiting to see what benefits or discounts they honor.

Lastly, while all State Parks operate under their own set of regulations, some may require you to be a resident  of said state to qualify while others may just require proof of Military or Veteran Status.

US Veteran Camper put together a list of States’ park passes, discounts and other benefits available  to Active Duty, Veterans and/or Disabled Veterans in State-operated parks. (This list may be inconclusive or need updating.) 

Another source, University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies put together a list of Access Pass Programs in State Parks information. Many state parks offer discounted admissions, fees or passes for people with disabilities. This information in this listing, too, is subject to change. For the most current information, please contact the state park administration in your State.

Military Discounts

We have found that a lot of commercially run campgrounds and RV parks offer a military discount for card-carrying Active Duty, Reserve or National Guard and/or Retired Military. And some, may extend a Veteran’s discount if you can show proof of military service and/or honorable discharge. Approved documentation may be your DD214, VA-issued medical card or your current driver’s license showing Veteran status.

All you have to do is ask when making a reservation and/or at time of check-in. Most of the time, the discount (about 10-15%) is equal to AAA, AARP, MOAA, Escapees, FMCA or other current memberships that the private campground or RV park accepts.

Military Camping Discount Programs for Active Duty, Retires and Veterans on campsites, RV parks, cottages, cabins and other vacation rentals:

    • Sun RV Resorts – Active Duty Military and Veterans in the United States and Canadian armed forces – Buy 2 nights, get 1 FREE! 
    • Jellystone Park Camp Resorts – Various discounts offered. Call your Jellystone Park to learn about their Hero’s Weekends.

Other military camping discount resources:

Allstays Military FamCamp Campgrounds (Apple)

Ultimate US Military FAMCAMPS (Google)

MilitaryOneSource also has a PDF list of Joint Services Campgrounds and Facilities in each state.

MOAA – Planning a Summer Camping Trip? Check Out These Military Discounts Across the U.S.

My Military Benefits – Free Camping for Service Members and Their Families

If we find more discounts, we will add them to this listing. So, you may want to bookmark this article and return to it often.

Night Tent Camping

Final Thoughts on Military Camping

We hope you got a great deal of helpful  information on how military, past and present can camp affordably. You earned the privilege to see the world and spend quality time with your family and friends. So, why not do it camping or RVing? There may be other ways out there to save money while camping. We’d love to hear about them in our comments.

Watch our video on what we thought of Holloman Air Force Base FamCamp:

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