I recently spent a weekend in a crowded campground where my neighbors obviously knew nothing about campground etiquette.
They stayed up late into the night yelling and hollering around the campfire, parked their second vehicle practically in our site, and let their dog do its business in our yard. It got me thinking, what does it take to be a good campground neighbor, and is it really that hard?
Turns out good campground etiquette is as easy as following a few common sense rules.
Be conscious of noise.
Some campground layouts are noticeably tighter than others. (You know the kind where your awning touches the neighbor’s RV?) But even in a spacious park with vegetation between the sites, the sound still carries. For that reason, it’s important to keep your music and other noise to a reasonable level so everyone can enjoy the serenity of the great outdoors.
In addition to being part of basic campground etiquette, most campgrounds have quiet hours that every camper is expected to follow. Outside of those hours make an effort to keep voices, music, and laughter to a level that won’t disturb others. Having fun is fine—ruining someone’s vacation is not.
RV generators should be used sparingly.
No one likes the noise of an RV generator. Have you ever noticed that most people turn on their generator and then go inside and close all the windows? That’s because even they can’t stand the noise of their own generator.
Unfortunately, until a noise-free solar setup comes standard with every RV, generators will remain a fact of life in campgrounds without electric hookups. If you rely on a generator for power, follow these simple campground etiquette rules to keep the peace.
- Contractor-style portable generators are NEVER okay in a campground. These noisy, smoke-spewing beasts belong on the job site, not in a campground. In fact, many campgrounds have specific rules against this style of generator.
- Some campgrounds don’t allow generators at all, and others only allow them in certain sites. Respect these rules.
- Use generators only as a means to recharge the RV batteries (which rarely takes more than a few hours) or to briefly run electric appliances. Don’t use them to watch an all-day marathon of Breaking Bad on your T.V.
- If you use a portable generator, place it as far away from other campers as possible.
- Never, ever leave your generator on all night. I don’t care if you need to run a fan, cook late-night microwave popcorn, or keep your electric toothbrush charged. The fact is that if you (and your RV) are in need of a constant supply of power, the most considerate thing to do would be to camp only in campgrounds with electric hookups.
Be courteous if you’re a late arrival or early departure.
If you arrive late or leave early, have a little courtesy for your neighbors. Try to keep set-up to a minimum at night, and if you know you will be leaving early, pack up as much as possible the night before.
Most people will understand that you can’t always arrive and depart at the ideal time, but if you are constantly opening and closing doors, loudly arguing about how to back in the RV, or leave your engine idling for an hour, even the most understanding people have a right to be annoyed.
Keep your pets under control.
Yes, I know you have a perfectly behaved dog who always responds to voice commands and simply doesn’t need to be on a leash. Well, guess what? Keeping your dog on a leash is not only about you. Unleashed dogs often create anxiety among others dogs, small kids, or people who simply don’t like dogs. Plus, it’s nearly always against campground rules to let your dog run around without a leash.
While we’re on the subject of pets and camping, please don’t leave your dog home alone in your RV or tied up outside unattended if it tends to bark incessantly. This practice is unpleasant for both the dog and the neighbors who have to listen to it bark for six hours.
Respect campsite boundaries.
Cutting through another site when you’re walking around the campground is the equivalent of walking across someone’s front porch at their house. It might mean walking a few extra steps, but have some respect and take the long way around.
Night time is supposed to be dark.
As someone who camps in a small trailer that is shorter in stature than most modern RVs, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been subjected to the neighbor’s brighter-than-the-sun outside light shining down into my bedroom window. I can imagine this annoying habit is even worse for tent campers.
If you’re sitting outside and need the light to see that’s fine, but please don’t leave your RV porch or awning light on all night!
Campfire safety is always a priority.
Campfires are often the best part of camping. They can also be dangerous and quickly cause issues if not treated with respect. Practice common sense safety procedures when having a campfire.
- Campgrounds are for small, contained fires, not bonfires. Keep it under control.
- Use the provided fire ring instead of making your own fire pit.
- Follow the campground rules for wood collecting. If you are allowed to burn dead wood, take only what you need and chop it up with a small ax or hand saw, not a chainsaw. (You laugh, but we had a campground neighbor this summer who brought out his chainsaw every evening to cut up the firewood he had collected from around the campground. That is not good camping etiquette!)
- Never leave your fire unattended and always put it out before you retire for the night.
- If you’re traveling across state lines, leave the firewood behind. Moving firewood long distances transports insects and disease that may destroy trees and forests.
- Don’t use your fire pit as a trash can. Paper plates and napkins are fine, but in case you hadn’t noticed things like glass bottles and tin cans do not burn and should never be thrown in the fire.
- Be aware of current burn bans. Dry, hot summers are common in many areas of the country and campfires are often not permitted during these times. A handy alternative is a propane campfire like the Little Red Campfire.
Keep it clean.
Your campsite is your home. Keep it tidy and leave it as clean, or cleaner, than when you arrived. Also, don’t leave trash or food scraps outside at night where it could attract animals.
Part of campground etiquette is getting along with the other campers. It’s generally not that hard because campers are naturally a friendly bunch. While you don’t need to make lifelong friends with everyone you encounter, make an effort to greet people when you pass by and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation.
Part of the fun of camping is meeting people from all walks of life. After all, you know you already have love of camping in common.