When you think of camping, do you think of escaping the rules and realities of your life back home for a while? Although you might be on holiday, it doesn’t mean camping doesn’t come with its own rules and guidelines.
Is there such a thing as camping etiquette?
Yes, and this generally refers to how you respect other campers and the environment around you. But there are also some other important camping rules that everyone should follow when they head out into the great outdoors.
What are the basic rules of camping?
What are the rules you should know and follow even if they’re not expressed? Here’s what you need to know about camping rules so you don’t hurt or upset anyone – or get asked to leave.
What Are The Written Rules Of Camping?
Basic camping rules are usually written at campgrounds. If they’re not, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow them.
Most of these rules are based on common sense, although you should always check with the campground staff to find out what the exact rules are as they can vary a bit from one campground to the next. Here are some of the most important written rules of camping that you should follow.
Stick To The Speed Limit!
There’s a speed limit in campgrounds that everyone needs to follow, for their safety and the safety of people around them. You’ll be able to spot the speed limit signs, so always heed them.
Bear in mind that campgrounds are often filled with adults, children, and sometimes their pets, who use the area for recreational purposes so it’s important to be aware of their presence and slow down when you’re driving.
Follow The Rule Of Quiet
While you’re not prohibited from doing your regular activities in campgrounds, such as listening to music and some outdoor podcasts, it’s important to be mindful of those around you. The noise you’re producing might be too loud for them and this could be destroying the peace and quiet that they came to the campground to enjoy.
One of the written rules of camping when it comes to being quiet is that you have to obey the quiet hours that are generally between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. These hours might be different from one campground to the next, so always make sure you check.
There are other things you should do on campgrounds to ensure you keep the noise down as much as possible. These include the following:
- If you’ve arrived at the campground at a late hour, make sure you respect that other people could be sleeping so keep your voice down and avoid making noise.
- The use of generators is also something that you need to consider before you head out to a campground. Some campgrounds don’t allow generator usage, while others only allow them at certain times of the day and in certain areas of the camp, so you must check the rules. Even when generators are allowed on campsites, they should never exceed noise that’s greater than 60 decibels.
Follow The Fire Restrictions
Your campground might have a fire restriction in place. For example, if there’s been a drought in the area, a fire ban could mean that you can’t make a fire.
There are also other fire rules that are generally in place, such as the following:
- You should build your campfire in the pits and fire rings that have been provided in the campsite.
- If there are no fire rings in the campground where you’re staying, you should follow the rules for building campfires.
- If you’re camping in a remote area, you will have to pay special attention to where you build your fire so that it’s not dangerous. You’ll need to dig your own fire pit in a spot that’s far from overhanging tree branches, power lines, or other potential dangers. After it’s been dug in the ground you will need to put rocks around it in a circle while ensuring that there’s an area around the pit that’s 10 feet (304 cm) in size and clear of anything that could be ignited by the fire.
- It should go without saying: never leave your fire unattended, even if you’re just leaving your camp for a short while!
- Finally, you should never burn your trash in your campfire. Plastic bags are filled with chemicals that will leach toxins into the air, which pollutes the land and water in the area, while also endangers the health of people. If you have any trash that you’ve produced during your camping trip, put it in a trash bag and take it back home with you where you can dispose of it correctly.
Don’t Trespass In Anyone’s Camp
You want to ensure that you don’t get on anyone’s bad side when camping. Your neighbors in the campgrounds want privacy, so it’s important to respect this right.
Never trespass into another person’s camp, even if it’s empty. This is a basic camping rule that everyone should know to follow.
Respect The Environment
When camping, one of the most important rules that you should follow in any campsite, whether established or primitive, is to respect the environment and wildlife. You shouldn’t disturb the land in any way.
This includes activities such as carving your initials into the bark of trees, creating new trails with foot traffic, or picking vegetation. It’s important to leave nature just as you found it so that people who camp in the campgrounds after you leave will have a lovely experience and get to enjoy the natural wonders.
Here are some other tips:
- You should always carry trash bags with you so that you don’t leave litter behind at the campsite. This can pose a danger to the wildlife in the area, plus it reduces the natural beauty of the campgrounds. It’s also disrespectful because someone else will have to go and clean up your litter.
- When it comes to wildlife in the area, try to be quiet when going on hikes or walks so that you don’t disturb the animals that live close by. You should never feed the animals as this can encourage them to get closer to the campgrounds or become vicious in their quest for food.
- To further prevent animals from wanting your food, you should ensure you cook your food downwind to prevent its scent from reaching nearby animals.
- Respect the balance of the ecosystem. Hunting and fishing regulations are put in place to ensure that the ecosystem remains balanced, and these are therefore important to follow.
- Don’t contaminate the water. Always set up your campsite at least 100 to 200 feet (3048 cm to 6096 cm) away from the nearest water source, and avoid polluting the water with dirty dishes, clothing, or garbage.
- You should also avoid storing your food in your tent. Rather store it in bear-proof canisters high in the trees or in your car to be on the safe side. Find out how to hang bear bags here as they offer some great advice.
Leave No Trace That You Were There
Earlier, we mentioned that you should respect the environment and nature enough to leave it as you found it. However, you should follow the same rule when it comes to your campsite.
When you are packing up your things and getting ready to go back home, you need to ensure that you don’t leave anything behind. This includes litter and food leftovers. If you moved something, like a picnic table, put it back where you found it.
If you broke something that was provided to you by the campground, it’s important to notify the staff of what happened. Bear in mind that if you violate the rules of maintaining the campsite and you leave without cleaning it up, this could result in you having to pay a fee. It’s therefore in your best interest to ensure that the campsite is clean and tidy before you leave.
Be Careful With Pets
If you’re allowed to bring pets into the campground, you have to ensure that they don’t disturb other campers. Your dog should always be on a leash, but there are other rules you will need to follow if you’re bringing your dog to a campsite. These include:
- If your pet is not inside a trailer or RV, he or she must be on a leash and accompanied by their owner at all times. This is non-negotiable.
- It’s your responsibility to clean up after your pet. No one wants to find your pet’s mess outside their camp or on a trail.
- If your pet is a nuisance and disturbs other campers, you might be asked to leave.
It’s a good idea not to bring pets with you if they bark a lot or become restless around other people.
Always make sure you keep an eye on your pets and whether you own dogs or cats, you’ll have to leash-train them if they’re used to going outside.
It’s simply not safe to let any animal roam freely in the campground, and it’s also unsafe for them.
What Are The Unwritten Rules Of Camping?
While some of the camping rules are written and clearly stated at camp, there are others that come down to camping etiquette.
These are just as important to know as the written rules, so let’s look at some of the most common ones.
Be Mindful Of Lights
Many campgrounds don’t have rules pertaining to the use of lights in your campsite. However, you want to be a nice neighbor to others who are camping in close proximity so it’s good to be aware of the lights you are using and at what times. If it’s very late, for example, using lights in your tent can disturb people’s sleep.
Also consider the location in which you’re camping. If you’re camping under the stars, having too much light in your campsite can prevent the views from being spectacular and it ruins the experience for other people.
Clean The Fire Pit
There’s nothing worse than setting up at camp and getting ready to enjoy food on the fire, then spotting that the previous campers didn’t clean out the fire pit.
It’s common camping etiquette to leave the campsite in good condition and prevent giving future campers extra work to do upon their arrival, so always make sure you clean out the ashes from the fire ring.
Never Wash Dirty Dishes In The Bathroom
It might seem convenient for you to clean up your dirty dishes in the campground bathroom, but this violates camping etiquette. This is unsanitary and takes up space that’s meant to be reserved for bathroom use.
Campgrounds usually have dish-washing areas set up, but if you tend to wash a lot of dishes then a good idea is to bring your own basin.
On the topic of campground bathrooms, you should also avoid hogging the facilities and ensure you leave them in a clean, tidy state for others to use.
Respect The Personal Space Of Other Campers
Don’t cut through another person’s camp to take a shortcut – you wouldn’t cut through a neighbor’s yard to get to the road, would you? Treat the boundaries between your campsite and that of your neighbors with respect, and ensure that you teach your children to do the same thing.
If you’re not in an established campsite but there are other campers around, give them some space so that they don’t feel like you’re taking all of it.
Regarding personal space, it’s also important to give people space when you encounter them along a trail. Step aside to let them move past you and give them enough room to do so. Be friendly but don’t engage in a conversation if you can see that the people who are camping just want to sit back and enjoy the peace and quiet.
You don’t have to be the most sociable person in the campground – and you probably shouldn’t try too hard to make friends with people around you because they most likely are camping to gain some peace and solitude.
But, you should always be kind to those around you. Smile at people you pass on the grounds or on trails, greet new people who have arrived, and offer to help anyone who looks like they’re struggling with putting up their tent or starting a fire.
You should also try to put yourself in the shoes of others and try not to hog the facilities. For example, free Wi-Fi is usually offered on some campgrounds but this is accessed by many campers so you want to use it in a courteous way. Avoid streaming lots of media that could use up the service and prevent other guests from being able to use and enjoy the internet.
It’s also good camping etiquette to think about the people who will be using your campsite after you, not just when it comes to cleaning your campsite and fire pit but also when it comes to any excess wood you might have that you didn’t get to use. Leave it behind for the next campers to use. It’s a nice way of paying it forward.
Should you bring your own wood from home?
While this might make sense, it’s best avoided. Taking wood to the campsite can bring insects and diseases into the local environment. Usually, campgrounds that allow campers to make open fires will have firewood that people can purchase.
How can you prevent kids from disturbing other campers?
While it’s good to teach your kids about respecting other people’s privacy, if you have very small children it’s a good idea to reserve a campsite that’s at the end of the campground. This will prevent other people in the grounds from being disturbed by noise.
While you might know of some general camping rules, you might not have realized all the hidden, unwritten camping rules that exist.
By following these as well as the clearly stated rules that pertain to specific campgrounds, you’ll ensure you have a better camping experience and allow other campers to do the same.
What questions related to camping rules and etiquette do you have that weren’t answered in this guide?
While camping can be fun and enjoyable, there are issues that can crop up which cause problems, so it’s best to go out of your way to ask about them before your next camping trip. Happy camping!