"Reserved" Camping?

Barry brought up an interesting question in the Who Cheated? thread. How much space can be reserved in the main campground? Any? I can see myself marking an area for a buddy who has yet to finish, but not a whole section for 20 or 30 riders. It really should be first come first served in my opinion. Do teams have a non-rider drive ahead to mark a place? What are the “rules” for this? I use a charter, so I have never considered this. It seems to me that when a rider gets to the campground any place without a tent is fair game. I would be upset if I were told I had to move.

7 Replies

Holly Puorro, August 7, 2019 at 3:48 pm

If you are big enough group you can get reserved space. The bad thing is, if you are a small group every where you try to go the volunteers at the entrance tell you everything is reserved. The logistics of the campsites is absolutely atrocious. After all these years, there should be a better system. Every group knows how many people, tents, sizes of tents, RV’s, etc. but the map just says oh you can camp here. The big groups/charters when they are assigned space should be assigned in a block for just them and have a map for themselves. Everyone else should get a map for the non-reserved and the volunteers NEED to know and control setup. Way too much wasted space in places.


LawnchairMan, August 7, 2019 at 7:44 pm

Hi Holly,
Thank you for contributing to the discussion and opening my eyes. Are you a Ragbrai official, or are you sharing your experience? I go with a charter where we are usually by ourselves. I had no idea that parts of the main campground could be reserved. What are the steps to reserve space? Do they have to pay more? I am already paying for a spot, so if I choose, I should qualify to camp anywhere in the main camp area that doesn’t already have a tent. I have checked the online FAQs and General Information, but I can’t find these policies anywhere. Who determines who goes where? Where are these rules?

One of the reasons I go early is to finish early enough to find a place that will be shady in the afternoon. I would be outraged had I got in to find a good spot and then someone told me it was reserved. If you want a good spot, then get there early! If it is a question of paying more, then that option should be made public.
I feel like purposely camping in a roped off section to challenge this practice. If I pay the same, then I should have the same privilege.


hnschipper, August 7, 2019 at 8:16 pm

The overnight towns typically have information in their websites if contact information for large groups/charters to contact to reserve a camping space. I don’t believe there is any additional cost to this.

I wish that large groups/charters would do a better job of anticipating how large of an area they need so they aren’t taking away camping space (sometimes in prime real estate) from other riders. And once most of all of your group is in, take down the tape to free up any leftover space for other riders.


jwsknk, August 7, 2019 at 9:33 pm

One time RAGBRAI told us to figure 10×10 per tent. This year we had 80-85 people. So figured 65 tents. If we have the full 120 that’s about half a football field. plus room to park 26 ft Ryder and a SUV. It’s not an exact thing. People come and go all week. Towns assign spots but dont know what they base space needs on, last years number maybe? We had a lot more last year being a more central route. Sometimes we have connections for a place. Like a church in Indianola where a rider us a member. Sometimes too much space, sometimes not enough.At 6:00 we can still have a lot of bags sitting.


SFC JKL 2, August 7, 2019 at 10:10 pm

The main campgrounds have always been land grab. In our early team days, we had someone going to the next town at 5:00 to reserve our spot. We still had trouble in some places. The key was know how much space you needed and not exaggerating. If I was setting up and someone told me it was “reserved” and not marked, they could set up around me.
When we got up to about 40 people we evacuated the main camp grounds and started paying for places with access to electric and water. Normally $100-200. That is one of the reasons we downsized to around 20 riders. Easier to coordinate places to stay. Now we have everything set by June if possible. We stayed in the RV lot at Council Bluffs, then 4 businesses and 2 houses during the week. Only one had no ammenities.


LawnchairMan, August 8, 2019 at 7:54 pm

I emailed the Ragbrai staff for the official policy of reservations in the main campground. This is what I was told:

“Campgrounds are not reserved within the Main Campgrounds. Reserved campgrounds are sometimes located right next to the main campgrounds, and may only be separated by rope.. again, it depends on the town. It could look like an area is reserved within the main campground if they butt up next to each other, but that’s not the case.. it’s simply a separate campground.

The Main Campgrounds are always open to all registered riders… not reserved.”

So, no saving a space for a buddy or two or twenty. I suppose a scout could pitch all the tents for a team. At least that wouldn’t waste space. But if you can find an empty spot in the main campground it’s first come first served.


Barry Schnoor, August 8, 2019 at 8:30 pm

Thank you all for the replies, especially LawnChairMan for the research. I feel somewhat vindicated for thinking this person didn’t quite subscribe to the “Iowa Nice” way of thinking.

Next year when I get treated this way, I’ll still just walk away. But I might piddle on their tents in the middle of the night.

Y’all are awesome. Ride hard…I’ve got 65 coming up this weekend. Great Allegheny Passage.


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