Camping 101: Campground Etiquette

Tammie Dooley from Solo Road Trip.

This is the final part of a series on camping by Tammie Dooley. Check out her previous articles about getting a good night’s sleep while camping and knowing what to pack. If you enjoyed this series, be sure to subscribe to enjoy future articles.

South Dakota, USA

Badlands National Park. Photo taken in South Dakota, USA by Hayden Carlyon.

A series on camping wouldn’t be complete without a discussion about etiquette. We camp to get away from it all. The problem with that yearning is that during high season, most campgrounds are crowded. So you either need to toughen up and camp during the off-season (meaning you’ll need to deal with colder weather), or learn some manners. Even for those who consider themselves a seasoned camper or outdoors person, the leap to knowing how to play well with others when your playground is a campground isn’t always a given. I assure you however that it is possible to happily co-exist in nature when the most you’ve got separating you from your neighbor is a few feet and a tent wall.

First things first: Get along with your camp mates

Getting along with your neighbors must be preceded by getting along with your camp mate(s). Camping is not an activity that can be performed solely from the lawn chair. There’s a time for that, but most people do not need that time pointed out. It’s the “participating” part for which they need a gentle nudge.

• Discuss ahead of time duties and who’s going to do what. Do a blind draw and plan to switch jobs mid-trip so that what appears to be the draw for an easy job doesn’t create hard feelings for the entire stay.

• Everyone should be prepared to volunteer to take on unforeseen chores (guaranteed to be some).

• If you’re the cook, cook like you’ll be doing the clean-up instead of utilizing every pot, pan, and utensil to make your job easier/quicker. If you’re doing clean-up, clean-up like you’ll be cooking the next meal.

• Clean and pick up after yourself. Too basic? Camp with others a few times then share some sob stories about how many people lack the grasp of this basic concept. Get out a hanky – there’ll be plenty of stories.

• If you’re an inexperienced camper, don’t wait to be asked to do something. When meals/clean-up are in process, campfires are being prepared, camp being erected or broken down, hover and be enthusiastic to help.

• Only go camping with people you know and like — another obvious and oft-overlooked basic that deserves to be mentioned.

Getting along with your campground neighbours

About those neighbors…

• The tent wall I spoke of previously? They’re thin. As in NON-EXISTENT. Don’t be lulled into thinking that tent protects you from anything other than a bit of weather. In the dark, quiet of a campground even a whisper carries. And if you’re camping anywhere near water, be prepared for the world to hear your every utterance. People get behind tent walls and become the child in a box in the living room floor thinking they’re hiding, all the while giggling and begging you to find them.

• After dark make an effort to keep your flashlight pointed at the ground. That beam of light is even more unwelcome than loud, late conversation.

• Pets. Not everyone loves them. Respect that.

• Know the rules of the campground. Follow them.

• Leave the area spotless by picking everything up, including the small stuff. It’s the small stuff that’s harder for others to remove and causes the most unsightliness over time.

• Think about others. Treat them the way you want to be treated.

• Check out the Leave No Trace website. The principles associated with this environmental edict sum it up: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

Don’t be deterred by the fact camping requires a bit of thoughtfulness and civility! My husband and I camp frequently in the late summer and fall in a fairly crowded campground. Most campers are there for the very same reason, are respectful, know the rules and follow them. Regretful instances of pitching our tent are rare. The guy with the chain saw for firewood or the family that zips and unzips their tent enough times to replace the exercise of counting sheep are few and far between. Most campgrounds have a ranger or campsite volunteers that can be found after-hours if you need them (be familiar with your campground). I’d recommend doing that over directly approaching an offensive camper. Short of finding a ranger, chances are if you’re offended, others nearby are as well. A group effort to quiet a rowdy camp is the diplomatic choice should you be faced with such.

About the author:

Tammie Dooley’s preferred mode of travel is on foot or by 4WD. All done solo, of course. Her blog, Solo Road Trip, is an attractively designed invitation to follow along on her journeys.

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Discussion »

  • #1Travel-Writers-Exchange.com

    OMG! What a great post! It brought me back to my days of camping, it’s been awhile. Camping Etiquette is important — especially cleaning up and keeping the area clean. I’m not sure if I would go camping at a “camp site.” I’d go to a more remote area that didn’t have that many people so I can really commune with nature and have a great time with my camping buddies.

  • #2edj

    What about the campers with the loud stereos? They are my least favorite, since never ever, even once, in spite of the odds, do they play even one song I like. Or maybe it goes without saying. I would have thought so, but I was wrong.

  • #3Tammie Dooley

    Travel-Writers-Exchange.com, I too love to go remote. And that is what I do for the most part. But several times a year my husband and I camp in a “local” spot that’s beautiful, has great fishing and is only an hour away from home. But it’s crowded. That experience however is what spawned this camping series. It seems a lot of people are interested in camping, but don’t have the time to go remote. Anyway, thank you for your comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

    Edj, Yep the loud stereos are a nuisance. Especially when they never ever play the songs you like. LOL

  • #4Andy

    What gets me here in Australia is that you can arrive at a completely deserted campground and pick out a spot well away from pretty much everything. Then, when the next person arrives they’ll camp right next to you. And there’s about 15 acres of empty space all around.

  • #5paul

    I always make sure that when I’m done camping, I leave my campground clean. I hope those abusive campers will have their conscience bother them.

  • #6Mauricio

    Thank you for writing and putting this up on the web. I’ll never understand how so many people that frequent public campsites can be so rude, obnoxious and ignorant. Trash, noise, barking dogs with no leashes, children running through other peoples camps, clowns chopping at trees with hatchets. The list goes on. I guess that’s why I like to go out in the middle of nowhere via 4X4 just to find some solitude and peace. For all of you who tread lightly and respect others and the beautiful nature around you- thank you!
    Happy walking-

  • #7Christian Rene Friborg

    I really like camping per se and I cannot agree more with the things that you said here. Good camping etiquette is really important especially if you’re sharing the place with other campers. Respect is very important.

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