Camping Ninja, Pitchup & UKCampsite

Online camping directories have grown in popularity massively over the last couple of year, and we’re putting three of them to the test in our virtual hunt for a perfect camping destination. We’ve come up with a scenario for a camping trip, and we’re going to be using all three sites to find a campsite which suits our needs. Our review will rate each on how easy, informative and pleasing the experience was.

So… We’ve decided to take a long weekend’s holiday in a 3-man tent over April 15th-16th, somewhere near the Welsh border (we like Ludlow so somewhere within 30 miles of there would be nice), but we want a rural setting. We’ll have our dog with us, and some friends will be coming with us on motorbikes for one night.

Camping Ninja main page

CampingNinja is a great looking sight, with bold colours, a really simple interface and an inviting little South-Park-esque Ninja character, which is quite fun. They’re the newbie of the three and heavily into social networking, blogging and hooking up with other sites like Fidgetstick.

They allow you to create a membership log-in so you can bookmark your favourite campsites and make bookings through Campingninja without having to go to the campsite directly.

However, the flip-side of being a new and exciting-looking site is that Camping Ninja only has 116 campsites listed in its directory so far. Actually, I quite like this fact because it means that they haven’t just ‘borrowed’ reviews from other sites in order to create an instant directory.

So, on with the booking!

Right on the front page there’s a large search box which asks all the pertinent information (where, when, how long for, tent or van). Alas, the Ninja is unable to find me a site within 30 miles of Ludlow. I expand the search to 50 miles. Success, 4 sites found and displayed on a map for me.

Clicking on any map result gets you a summary of each campsite, a photo and a rating out of 5. You can then click through for more information or to make a booking. Out of the 4 results I choose Oak Cottage Camping which says it allows dogs, is VERY secluded and is on a farm, which is right up my street. It’s a comprehensive description with lots of photos and really gives an idea of what the site is like. There are 5 user reviews, 4 of which paint a similar picture of peace and tranquility (and one which says that the site doesn’t exist!).

Amenities list

Camping Ninja also has a very comprehensive listing of what is, and isn’t provided at the site.

Booking is very simple, and you can use a credit card to pay the campsite a deposit. Camping Ninja themselves don’t take a cut, which is nice.

All in all, Camping Ninja was an excellent browsing experience. I easily found a perfect campsite, got loads of information on it and some very useful reviews. The layout was easy to follow and the process quick and simple. The only thing letting Camping Ninja down is the depth of their database, which they are trying to grow.

Facebook: Camping Ninja

Pitchup main page has the same light-hearted and playful styling as Camping Ninja, with an inviting front page and a heavy involvement in social media.

However, since they’ve been around a lot longer (since 2009) they’ve amassed a database of some 5000 UK campsites, which is quite impressive!

Their front page has an easy to use search facility, and under the ‘advanced options’ you are able to search with specific criteria like ‘dogs allowed’, ‘open fire’ and so on.

My search generated 5 results, which can be displayed on a map and each come up with a basic set of icons saying which type of camping they allow (tent, van etc.)

Unlike Camping Ninja, Pitchup doesn’t diplay any pictures of the sites** (see comments below), and their list of amenities is a list of ‘does have’ rather than ‘does have and doesn’t have’ – I prefer the latter as per Camping Ninja. And unlike the Ninja, Pitchup‘s ratings (where they are used) are taken from official ratings, rather than reviews. [There are plenty of user reviews, but Pitchup has so many sites listed that a lot of them aren’t covered by reviews]

What Pitchup does bring up though is a set of local attractions for each site – cycle routes, pubs, National Trust sites and Walking routes. That’s a nice touch.

Pitchup's results

However, the biggest difference between the two sites is that you can’t book through – you have to follow their links to the campsite’s own website or phone number.  **See note below

Overall, Pitchup has a great offering. It’s easily searchable database and criteria based searching are excellent, and it’s number of listed sites is impressive. It lacks slightly in the photo and review department, where Camping Ninja’s listed sites all have photos and reviews, but therein lies the trade off between the two.

Facebook: Pitchup

** Pitchup sent us an email with a couple of interesting points in it. I’ve copied this into the comments below. Andy

UKCampsite's main page

UK Campsite is a behemoth of a site. Its discussion board/forums have hundreds of thousands of posts and I think it’s the UK’s largest camping site. I’ve been using it for years to find campsites around the UK, but that’s not to say that I love it.

The front page is very, very yellow and quite overbearing on first sight. However, the campsite search is front and centre, so you can ignore everything else unless you’re interested in it.

A ‘quick search’ for Ludlow brings up a load of results, none of which are particularly relevant to me, so you’re much better off clicking the ‘campsite search’ button at the top of the page and then doing a specialised search from there. I reckon they should dump quick search altogether.

In specialised search, you’re able to narrow down an area of the country (by clickable map, so your Geography has to be decent) and then narrow down search results by selecting criteria (dog friendly, tents). You can’t, however, use site-specific criteria like ‘quiet site’, so by narrowing down as far as possible, you then have to read the site synopsis to get a feel for what their style is.

One great benefit of UKCampsite is that there are so many users on it that almost every campsite has a load of reviews. And those reviews tend to be much, much more in depth than Camping Ninja and Pitchup’s. I guess that would be down to an older audience with longer attention spans…?

UKCampsite's results

UKCampsite don’t rate their sites, and reviews don’t accomodate ratings either, so you are left to read through each review in order to know if it is positive or not.

UKCampsite is the site I’d go to if I wanted reams of information, or a broader view of a campsite from more reviewers. The lack of photos means that I’d have to search elsewhere as well though (I like photos). I can’t spend too long on UKC though, it gives me a headache.

More: UKCampsite

Tags and search info for this review: This is a campsite finder review. tests and reviews campsite finders, outdoors websites, outdoor gear and camping equipment.

  • Thanks for the review – very useful for people trying to work out what kind of website is best for them in terms of finding a campsite. Glad you liked – we have done our best to make it really useable – basically just made something we really wanted to use! We decided from the start to not be a listing or directory, but to only have campsites which can be booked through us, like people do with hostels, hotels and flights. So, we’re working really hard to sign up more and more campsites and focussing on ones which people have been asking about at shows – e.g. dog friendly campsites; campsites with campfires etc. The main thing is we really want people to have choice and be able to book any time of day – this is our mission!

    p.s. Interesting that someone couldn’t find Oak Cottage – it is pretty secluded I guess!!!!

  • Email received from

    Our model is actually a hybrid booking/listing model at the moment: because not all of the managers have updated their listings from the basic information, some listings still lack content, but we do also offer fully-featured bookable listings too. We also connect directly into a couple of reservation systems for ‘live’ availability for some sites.
    Well over 1,000 of our sites have uploaded pictures, for example Old Oaks site in Glastonbury, and we offer not only site pictures but also pictures for each individual pitch type (camping pod, tent, touring pitch, lodge, etc.).
    Bookable sites are ranked first in our search, but many searches don’t yet feature bookable sites.
    We publish user ratings alongside official ratings (e.g., but as you mention are still building up the number of reviews so not all sites yet have them.
    Currently, 41 of our sites are bookable but we’re in the process of upgrading sites to the booking service from the free service, having launched the booking service last summer. We will be improving the demarcation beween ‘bookable’ and non-bookable sites but one of main strengths of our system is that the exact price displays in the search results – prices are comparable for your party size whether the site charges per pitch, per person or a combination of the two.

    [Andy: So, with thanks to Pitchup for the response, it seems that they’re working hard to add features to the site. Great stuff. And I love that fact that neither Pitchup nor Campingninja have complained about the direct comparisons. I think there’s definitely room for all three sites in the UK camping market – the more that the niche is expanded, the more that we will all benefit from a better invested future in low-cost outdoor holidays]

  • Dominic

    hello there, fine blog page! 1 for my bookmarking.

  • Excellent in-depth review. I totally agree with your comments above Andy and congratulate both commenting companies for focussing on what they are trying to do to make life better for the Camping consumer, rather than worrying about each other as competitors. This is such a big challenge to get the Campsites and the Camping Industry to understand a) just how far behind the rest of the travel/accommodation industries that they are and b) what the potential opportunity is with improvements in customer experience.

    For me, anything that assists in getting more people off their behinds and outside is a hugely positive thing and a massive challenge for us at Fidgetstick and for society as a whole. If Camping can (and has proven to) be a gateway to a more active participation in outdoor, adventure and action sports, then those making Campsite accessibility and information better need our full support and will certainly get it from me.

    CampingNinja, Pitchup and the Big Yellow Website – keep up the good work, but don’t stop pushing!

    Andy and Muz – great reviews, keep them coming!

    • Cheers Steve.
      It’ll be interesting to see where the balance between anachronism and over-modern falls for camping as a genre. Especially online. Whilst the ‘charm’ of some campsites is that they’re not very well known – secret almost – exposure on t’net could lead to them being irrevocably changed; overrun. I predict that there’ll be secret camping forums for local people popping up sooner or later.
      Andy 🙂