Pitch the Tent, Check the E-Mail: Campgrounds Going Wireless

Ah, camping. The tent. The sleeping bag. The camp fire. The laptop.

Yeah, the laptop!

What's a campground or RV park without Internet access these days? People say they want to get away from it all, but that doesn't necessarily mean they want to live without e-mail.

If you happen to drive past campgrounds or RV parks this summer, chances are you'll see the signs that advertise "Wi-Fi" access right up there with showers and propane.

You can also find Wi-Fi campgrounds and RV parks on the Internet. Web sites listing Wi-Fi facilities include http://www.wififreespot.com/rv.html. For listings for Kampgrounds of America sites only, go to http://www.koa.com/wireless/.

Wi-Fi means that the location provides wireless Internet access. Often campers can log on to the Internet right from their camp site without going to any special area of the park.

Jef Sutherland, vice president of information services for Kampgrounds of America, said that campers not only want to stay in touch with family and friends, but they also want to manage online banking transactions and check in with the office.

"We've become a society where e-mail is as important as our phone for business and personal communications," he said. "Our guests just expect Wi-Fi at KOAs."

The service is also increasingly provided for free. In the 2007 KOA Directory, 324 of the 379 KOAs offering Wi-Fi list it as free. In 2006, only 281 KOAs offered Wi-Fi, and only 167 of those were free.