By Jamie Leary

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – With RVs and campers in short supply this year, chances are customers will pay a premium for a used RV or end up waiting until next fall to get their hands on one. For those who already made the purchase, finding a campsite will be the next hurdle.

“I would say there’s more demand but it’s a little bit different [this year], in the sense that people realize that it’s a really hard to get into some campgrounds and so what we’ve seen is more people wanting to disperse camp, which is generally camping out into the forest,” said Adam Bianchi, Deputy Director for the USFS Dillon Ranger District.

(credit: CBS)

While many are beginning to understand that planning ahead is the new normal for outdoor activities, it’s also created crowding even at popular dispersed campsites.

“Come up with your plan B and C things can change, that can be weather or availability of resources. When you’re dispersed camping for instance, we ask that you abide by all signs… we’ve put buck and rail fencing up at a lot of locations that we don’t want for resource protection, that we don’t want people to camp,” he said.

Bianchi said to look for areas that have already been disturbed by camping, which you can find a map of here.

On Monday, CBS4 met Summit County resident Bob and his daughter Bells. They found a camp site without issue at the peak of one campground in Breckenridge. The biggest hurdle was finding his dream trailer.

“We had to go 1,200 miles to get this trailer,” he said.

He drove to Lebanon, Oregon after searching for the 16-foot Airstream. The model, brand new, is backordered until January. Bob estimates he paid 10 percent over market value for the used trailer, but he said it was worth it for the experience.

Sarah Thorsteinson, another Summit County resident, recently upgraded from a pop-up to a midsize RV.

“We bought our popup six years ago for $10,000. It was two years old, and we sold it for $11,500 with a long waiting list,” she said.

Sarah Thorsteinson (credit: CBS)

The buying process was equally as surprising.

“We had to decide really fast because there were people lined up, wanting to get a camper as fast as they could, and every model is just in high demand,” she said.

For Thorsteinson, the challenge wasn’t only buying an RV, it was finding a campsite. She began looking in November, and while she was able to book sites at five different locations, they were not her first choices.

“Turquoise Lake, Grand Mesa, Jumbo campground… totally booked for the summer,” she said. “I mean, they’ve got some few open spots for the week, but I work weekdays.”

She bought her RV from Windish RV in Lakewood, which told CBS4 that at this point, most people are waiting until the fall to get their hands on popular models.

“The RV industry has definitely experienced a boom in sales from COVID, and we believe demand will remain strong through the end of the year,” said Corey Shaw, GM for Windish RV. “We like to say that RVing is the original social distancing activity.  Our goal is to make every Windish customer a lifelong customer by treating them like they are part of our family. That means making sure they have a smooth buying experience but also taking care of them on the service side after their purchase. Right now, our biggest challenge is the supply shortage from manufacturers impacting the availability of parts to build the trailers as well as service the trailers.”

The good news is, RV or not, there are still plenty of places to camp this year. If you prefer a campsite to dispersed camping, Bianchi says there are several in the Dillon Ranger district that are first come, first serve including: Cataract Creek Campground near Heeney, Pine Cove around Dillon Reservoir and McDonald Flats by Green Mountain Reservoir.

Jamie Leary