What’s Camping Etiquette? What YOU Need to Know About It!

Since Covid-19 there has been an influx of first time camper owners. Prior to Covid the number of first time RV owners was already on the rise, and once the world came to a screeching halt, that number skyrocketed. 

Regardless of the reason for the addition in numbers, camping etiquette is something that should be addressed. Even if you’re not new to the RV Lifestyle, I think we could all probably use a little refresher sometimes.

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camping etiquette
Question Bubbles

What is Camping Etiquette?

A basic, and broad, definition is: Respect the regulations where you’re camping.  This should also include respecting your fellow campers at your chosen location.

Who is Responsible for Camping Etiquette?

EVERYONE! If you’re camping, you’re responsible.  None of us should require the security at the resort or the ranger in a park to notify us that we’re breaking the rules. 

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When you checked in, you were likely handed a flyer with the campground rules.  If you’ve opted to stay in a National forest or state park, those rules are posted on a sign.

Make sure that you read all of the rules and adhere to them too. I know some of them can be inconvenient. But they’re there for a reason.

Where Do You Need to Worry About Using Camping Etiquette?

Everywhere. Again, it doesn’t matter where you’ve chosen to set up camp or how long you plan to stay, there are still rules that need to be followed.  Just because you’re all alone in the middle of a National Forest and no one can see you, or what you’re doing, doesn’t mean you don’t have to follow the rules.

View of Mountains
The view from our camp site at Glacier National Park

Why Do You Need to Worry About Camping Etiquette?

Because it makes the camping experience more enjoyable for everyone involved. If we all follow the simple guidelines for camping, we can all have an opportunity to enjoy the wonderful atmosphere and environment that camping provides.

What Are General Camping Etiquette Rules?

Rules and regulations can vary greatly depending on where you’re staying. However, there are a few that are consistent no matter where you go. Here is a quick reference…

1. Parking

Park all vehicles, including the camper, within the parameters of your site. You’ll have more freedom to spread out in some locations, but keep your things on your site. You need to treat your campsite like you live in a development.  You don’t want your neighbors kiddy pool on your front lawn, and they don’t want your dog on theirs. 

2. Pick up after your pet

I get it! Picking up poop isn’t fun for anyone. But stepping in it is far worse. And worse than stepping in it yourself, is when a child or pet through it and it is now tracking all through your camper. 

Poop Bags and Leash
Poop Bags and Leash

3. Leash your pets

Just because you love Fido, doesn’t mean everyone in the campground will. Dogs are scavengers. If your neighbors are cooking bacon for breakfast, you don’t want Fido going for a visit while you’re making pancakes. It doesn’t matter if Fido has never walked away from you and is perfectly trained to stay by your side. You still need to leash your pet.

4. Holding Tanks

Don’t dump your tanks on the ground.  There’s a reason your toilet flushes into a sewer system. First, it’s gross. Second, it’s unsanitary and carries and promotes disease. The same holds true for your black tank. Keep it in the tank until you’re connected to a sewer dump.  It’s easy to think that it would be OK to dump gray water on the ground. It’s sink water. Shower water. But the bottom line is that it’s still dirty water. You’re pasta water and soapy shower water attract animals, that puts everyone in danger.

5. Time to Leave

Don’t stay longer than you’re allowed. Respect checkout times when you’re in a campground. When you’re dispersed camping, don’t stay longer than the posted number of days allowed.  Other people would like to enjoy the very same space that you are currently occupying. Give them that opportunity.

6. Trash

If there are receptacles, one unlucky person in your group is responsible for getting all of your trash to the proper receptacle. If there isn’t a receptacle, guess what!? That same unlucky person is responsible to get it to a proper receptacle when you leave.  Don’t leave your trash out. Don’t leave your trash behind. Take it with you and dispose of it properly.  This is the Leave No Trace that you keep seeing, hearing, and reading about. The best advise we can give is to leave the site looking better than when you arrived there. The only thing that should be there when you leave is your footprints and the tire tracks.

7. Campfires

These should only ever be in the designated campfire ring. If you are dispersed camping and a ring is not provided, you need to make one with rocks in the area.  That being said, there are vast portions of the country that experience fire bans on a regular basis. Don’t burn when you’re not allowed to burn. Campfires should also never be too large. They need to be contained to your fire ring and never out of control.

8. Quiet Time

Quiet hours exist everywhere. You may not have been aware of these before you started camping, but a lot of towns have noise ordinances too. I get it, you’re on vacation and you’re hanging out with friends.  Or you want to get up early tomorrow, pack up, and head out. You’re neighbors don’t want to hear it. If you’ve been out hiking all day and are looking to go to bed early tonight, chances are you don’t want to hear the rowdy couple across the campground kicking back a few beers.  Same thing in the morning. Doug and I happen to wake up ridiculously early. We aren’t pulling out the impact gun to bring up the manual jacks and heading out at 5am. I’m willing to bet that our neighbors, on vacation, wouldn’t mind sleeping a little late today.

Stay in the Lines

Don’t camp where you aren’t supposed to camp. This is more for the boondocker than the RV resort camper. But still an important rule.

Are there Unwritten Rules to Camping Etiquette?

Yes! I’m so happy that you’ve asked!

As I stated before, each campground will have their own rules. Just like every boondocking location will have their own set of regulations. But there are other unspoken or unwritten things that you should be aware of.

1. Don’t cut through occupied sites.

That’s someone else’s current residency. It doesn’t matter if it’s only a temporary home, it’s theirs right now, not public space. Use the designated roadways to go from the pool to your camper.

2. Be mind of your neighbors.

RV’s are not sound proof. Your neighbors don’t need to hear you yelling at your kids in the middle of the day.  And you don’t want to hear them having sex in the middle of the night.

Airstream parked right outside of our camper door.
Our Neighbors ~ An Airstream parked right outside of our camper door.

3. Help each other out!

If you notice that your neighbor is having difficulty backing in their camper, go over and ask if they’d like a hand. Maybe it’s their first voyage in their new home away from home and they’re nervous. Remember, you were new once too.

4. Patience.

You’re schedule is not the campgrounds schedule. We’re all creatures of habit. It just is what it is. Get up. Go to the bathroom. Get coffee. Shower. Whatever! Do so with the understanding that patience are required. Every other camper that you see is going through their morning routine too. If you’re using the communal shower, there may be others that want to shower the same time as you. And maybe today is a big excursion day for their family. Be patient. You don’t need to be outside banging pots and pans to make breakfast at 7am because that’s when quiet hours are over. You should still do so with a little respect to your neighbors.

5. Only Take What You Need

There are several campgrounds that you self book online, and even some that you self pay at a kiosk. When you chose your site, only take what you need. If you are in a 20 foot mini van, don’t take the 100 foot site. Take the 20-25 foot site. When the 40 foot camper comes in, they can’t park in the 20 foot site. If we all only take what we need, more of us can utilize the campground at any given time. This same rule holds true for firewood. Don’t buy more than you need, and don’t scavenge for more than you need. Leave it for the next person to have available when they get there too.

6. Say Hi!

Yup! Say hi! We are all out here doing the same thing. You may meet you’re new best friend! Or a new place to go check out. I’m not saying that every ‘Hi’ will lead to an in depth conversation. But if it does, let it! Don’t over stay your welcome either though. Just because you’ve said ‘Hi’ to each other a few times, doesn’t mean that you’re besties for life.

7. If you don’t know how to do something, just ask

Especially of it’s something that will affect the people around you. For example – connecting your sewer line. If you aren’t 100% sure that you’re doing it correctly, ask. Your new neighbors will be happy to help you if it prevent that line from leaking all over their site.

8. If a fellow camper asks you for help, help

If a fellow camper asks you for help, and it’s within your wheelhouse of knowledge, Help Them! Like the guy backing in his camper, or the woman connecting the sewer line. If they’ve asked you for help or advise, give them a hand.

I know when you look at a list like this it can seem a little daunting. In reality, none of it is more than common sense courtesy. Do unto others as you want done unto you. Or something like that.  The bottom line is to just be a good human. No one said that being a good human means that you can’t have an absolutely amazing and fun time! If we all just do our little part, we can ALL continue to enjoy the adventures out there in our RV.

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