As we prepare for a return to normalcy this year, many of us have begun dusting off the camping gear and started up the old RV. Because social distancing is easy when camping, this activity didn’t get hit as hard as other pastimes in 2020. Indeed, last year saw many first-timers try their hand at navigating the great outdoors. And some experienced campers found themselves dealing with more people in need of campground etiquette lessons.
If you’re a relatively new camper or even a veteran, know you should never break any of these unwritten campground rules.
Rule #1: Clean up after yourself
Part of the appeal of camping is enjoying nature’s beauty and fresh air. Unspoiled by human beings, the trees, plants, and animals around you are a joy to behold. And after you leave, the camper who comes after you hopes to enjoy them too.
We can camp precisely because some areas have been conserved for our collective enjoyment. When we leave our trash lying about a campsite, we harm the very thing we’ve enjoyed and also undercut the experience for others.
Insects and wild animals are attracted to your trash, which in some cases could put you in harm’s way if, say, the animal is a large bear. Your waste could also harm an animal that consumes it. Additionally, some of your trash might not be biodegradable and could damage local flora. These impacts transcend any annoyance you cause the next camper, who’ll likely have to pick up your mess to enjoy themselves.
For those reasons, properly dispose of your trash when camping. Bring garbage bags, and don’t leave food or waste out unattended, especially overnight.
Rule #2: Don’t be excessively loud at night
Of course, people go camping to have a good time. And as the sun sets, you and your buddies start to settle in and crack a few beers. Sure, some noise is expected. Whether it’s raucous laughter, raunchy songs, or sidesplitting stories, some camping parties get a little rowdy. And double that likelihood if you also have a Wi-Fi connection from your RV and are playing some tunes.
Yes, some noise is to be expected. But it shouldn’t be too loud after hours. And it shouldn’t go on all night. In fact, you could be breaking local noise ordinances if you’re loud after a certain time.
Plus, noise carries to other campsites. If too loud and too long, it will prevent other campers from sleeping. Profanity might reach children’s ears. And disturbances could result in unwanted — and unnecessary — confrontations with other campers. Avoid conflict by being courteous and reducing your volume later at night.
Rule #3: Don’t pass through or claim others’ campsites
Another way to drum up an unnecessary conflict? Passing through someone else’s campsite. Campers view their sites as their personal space. Most experienced campers consider traipsing through another’s area rude. Imagine how you would react if you were at a beach and someone walked over your beach towel while heading to the ocean.
Walk around, not through, to avoid disturbing other campers. And try to give them their space in general. This may be challenging if you’re camping in a small RV park, for example. But make an effort.
Further, when you arrive, don’t take someone’s reserved space. If there’s an occupancy tag, leave it there. Select the best site from what’s available rather than from someone else. If nothing great is available, lesson learned. Reserve your campsite early on Recreation.gov or a similar website. The same rule applies to RV drivers. If someone has clearly claimed the spot, find another.
Rule #4: Don’t let your dogs off-leash
It’s only natural to take your dogs with you when camping. After all, they are your companions. Plus, campgrounds are among the few vacation places with no logistical hurdles. Transporting your pets is not an issue. They can get their exercise when you disembark, eat food you bring, and bathe in nearby streams. You won’t have to scramble to find a sitter or pay hefty kennel fees while worrying about how strangers might treat your pooch.
So, yes, it’s perfectly normal for your dogs to accompany you. But make sure to keep them on a leash.
Plus, unleashed dogs might roam and wander off, forcing you to spend precious vacation time searching for them. They may find their way to other campsites, sniffing around for food, making a mess, or otherwise disrupting others who are camping. And if the other camper has a dog, it could become territorial and attack your pet. Respect other campers and keep your dog safe by using a leash.
And by the way: Don’t let your dogs bark incessantly. The sound is infuriating.
Following these rules won’t earn you a gold star. But the courtesy you show others while adhering to these rules will undoubtedly be paid forward.