When I began camping again as an adult, I was not sure what primitive camping meant. Making a shelter with pine boughs? Starting a fire with a bow drill? Foraging for food?

In fact, primitive camping simply means camping in a tent. It's not nearly as popular as RV camping, which means tent campers often have more privacy and cheaper camp fees at campgrounds they frequent.

With many people scaling back their summer vacation plans due to less funds and higher gas prices, primitive camping not far from home can be a way to make sure your family still has a lot of fun this summer!

A couple of notes, I personally prefer to camp at sites that have a separate area for primitive camping due to the quiet and darkness that is vital for sleeping (especially for little ones). Also, it's usually advisable to make a reservation, as arriving at a full campsite is depressing, especially with children in tow.

Jim Edgar Panther Creek Fish and Wildlife Game Area (JEPC)
10149 County Hwy 11, Chandlerville

Known to locals as Site M, this is by far my favorite camping site, and not only because it is near my hometown. The primitive camping area is hike-in, as the parking lot is a quarter- to half-mile from camping spots. This 5-10-minute walk-in creates a low-demand environment, which is wonderful for a camper like myself whose primary concern is for the quiet nature of a place. The downside: pack lightly or you'll get in a good hike before you set up your tent.

Campsites offer three-sided shelters for inclement weather, picnic tables and fire pits. I greatly prefer sleeping under the stars, as JEPC is located in some of the darkest skies of Illinois, which makes for excellent nighttime viewing. The camp sites are spread out for privacy.

The state park itself offers hiking and mountain bike riding, as well as fishing and boating. Pit toilets are available, but there are no showers at the campsite.

KOA Springfield Journey
4320 KOA Road, Rochester

The new owners are making improvements to this KOA. Individual tent sites come with electricity. There is no water service, but access is nearby, as is a pool, playground, mini-golf, bike rentals, restrooms and dog park. It's fully shaded with level, grassy sites.

The Kampground
11380 Darnell Road,Mechanicsburg

A quiet and peaceful family campground on 25 acres, The Kampground's amenities include a fishing pond, hiking trails, basketball and volleyball courts, fire pits, swings, outdoor lounge and patio areas, and lots of family fun. Music events happen throughout the season. Primitive camping sites are available in the timber next to the pond and all around the pond or camping is available in the RV section as well.

Crazy Horse Campground
2114 Crazy Horse Road, Ashland

Crazy Horse is truly an affordable and exciting vacation not far from home. This campground is a favorite for my child because of all the extras it offers. He loves the big lodge with the pool table, foosball and arcade games. They sell snacks kids love, along with hot food, which is a nice departure from our normal steady camping diet of PB&Js. There are also canoes and paddleboats, mini-golf and more.

My family tends to camp here on quieter weeknights, but programming is available every weekend, from chocolate pudding slip 'n' slides to talent shows to adult prom. If you like excitement, you're in for a treat!

Lincoln's New Salem Campground
15588 History Lane,Petersburg

This campground offers a separate area for primitive campers, with the main attraction being its close proximity to Lincoln's New Salem. A playground is on site.

Riverside Campgrounds
4115 Sandhill Road, Springfield

Bordering the Sangamon River and Carpenter Park, the great outdoors (as well as close proximity to Springfield's Lincoln sites) is the main focus of this campsite, which allows tent camping in the grassy areas around the RV campsites. Showers and bathrooms available. There is a playground as well as a nearby BMX bike track.

Sangchris Lake State Park Camping
9898 Cascade Road, Rochester

Both the Deer Run Campground on the north end of the lake and Hickory Point Campground near the east boat dock allow primitive camping. The Hickory Point Campground has a shower house and restrooms. Amenities include fishing, boating and a volleyball court, as well as a playground. Views are spectacular as nature is the main attraction here.

Double J Campground & RV Park
9683 Palm Road, Chatham

Separate primitive camping sites are available. Amenities include walking trails, open-air game room, pool, shuffleboard, basketball, volleyball and horseshoes, with access to Springfield's bike trails nearby.

If your favorite primitive campground is not on this list, please write a letter to the editor to fill us in. Happy camping!

Carey Smith didn't realize how blessed she was as a kid to see the Milky Way, shooting stars and an extra-special aurora borealis, growing up in the darkest skies in Illinois.

About The Author

Carey Smith

In addition to freelance writing, Carey Smith also manages the Enos Park Neighborhood Gardens. She's a big fan of trees, prairies, board and card games, her family, and assorted nerd-out topics like soil science, archaeology and systems thinking. She loves living in the Enos Park neighborhood.

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