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Camping with my family, or even by myself, is one of the best ways I know to recharge my mind, body, and soul, whether I’m hiking deep into the woods, or setting up my tent at a local campground. All that relaxing and connecting with nature flies out the window if your camping neighbors are rude, noisy, or disrespectful. When camping in close proximity to others, especially in a developed, front-country campground, it’s important to respect the land and be mindful of your neighbors.
Want to ensure a that you get what you need from your adventure while still making friends in the woods? Follow these simple tips for camping etiquette, and everyone will have a good time.
Camping Etiquette: The Basics
Abide by quiet times in the campground. I know. You’re on vacation. You don’t want to go to bed at 10 pm. As long as you’re keeping things mellow, you can stay up as late as you want, but please for the sake of your camping neighbors — no radios, loud talking, or generators during quiet hours, which vary depending on the campground. Speaking of generators, many campgrounds mandate specific daytime hours for generator use. That’s because generators are ridiculously loud, especially for tent campers.
Respect your neighbor’s space. Don’t cut through occupied campsites for a quicker trip to the beach or the bathroom, and be mindful of your neighbor’s privacy. If you’re camping with kids, make sure they follow this rule as well.
Keep your campsite clean. And most importantly, don’t leave food or garbage unattended. Rodents, birds, and bigger critters are just waiting for the opportunity to vandalize your site and steal your food. The raven below had a great time at our neighbor’s campsite in the Grand Canyon, and while we tried to keep him away, he was really persistent and gobbled up several bags of potato chips when we weren’t looking!
Follow Leave No Trace principles. As a lover of the outdoors, you want to create as little impact on the ecosystem as possible. This means being respectful of wildlife, disposing of waste properly, and minimizing your camping footprint. You can read more about Leave No Trace principles here.
Don’t Move Firewood. Invasive insect species and other parasites are decimating our forests at an alarming rate. These critters don’t discriminate and will hitch a ride on your firewood as they search for their next victims. New infestations often begin in campgrounds and parks, so it’s really crucial that campers respect these regulations. You can view state-by-state information about moving firewood here.
Practice campfire safety. We don’t see much of Smokey the Bear these days, but he’s still out there, reminding campers off all ages to keep their campfires a manageable size and extinguish them completely when the fun is over. When building your campfire, be sure to remove dry leaves and other debris from the fire ring, and only build fires in designated spots. Yes, it’s still true — only you can prevent forest fires!
Don’t arrive too late or leave too early to your campsite. If you can help it, arrive to your campground before dark to set up, and don’t pack up and leave before 7 am. There may be times when you have no choice but to break this unwritten rule. If you do have to be setting up or breaking down in the dark, try and keep noise and lights to a minimum.
Camping Etiquette: Camping with Dogs
Camping with dogs can be either awesome or difficult, depending on the dog. Our pup has such an exuberant zest for adventure, and he helps me appreciate the magic of being outdoors. Following some basic dog etiquette while camping will make you more popular with your neighbors and helps keep your dog safe. As a general rule, I find that outdoor lovers are usually dog lovers, but not always. To keep the peace and become an ambassador for well-behaved dogs across the world, follow these camping etiquette tips:
Clean up after your pooch. You’re camping neighbors will not appreciate smelling (or stepping in) any gifts your dog leaves laying around the campground, and not cleaning up after your dog is a good way to make enemies of your neighbors! These biodegradable poop bags are vegetable-based and leak-proof so you can feel better about using them when you’re trying to leave no trace.
Keep your dog quiet. Does your dog bark at every single person, squirrel, or dog he meets? Consider looking for an out-of-the-way campsite to minimize distractions and pacify your camping neighbors. If you really don’t think you can keep your dog quiet while camping, please consider leaving him or her with a friend or dog sitter.
Don’t leave your dog alone at your campsite. Most campgrounds have rules about leaving your pooch unattended. To avoid problems, be sure you supervise your dog at all times.
Keep social interactions to a minimum. Just because your dog is the friendliest pup on earth, doesn’t mean he has to meet and greet everyone he comes across. While many people are enthusiastic about loving up other people’s dogs, others would prefer to keep their distance. If your neighbors are dog-lovers, they will be the first to let you (and your dog) know that they want to say hi, otherwise, keep interactions to a minimum.
A Few Tips for Making Friends While Camping
Now that you’re up-to-date on the finer points of camping etiquette, here are a few extra tips for making friends with your campground neighbors:
- Bring along some instruments. Guitars and campfires go together like cookies and milk, and a little night music will set the mood for a lively evening under the stars. As long as you’re not too rowdy and abide by quiet times, your neighbors will probably appreciate the music.
- Don’t forget the beverages. Whether you prepare the best camp coffee around, or you’ve got some extra homebrews in the cooler, sharing your beverage of choice with your neighbors is a great way to make friends.
- Roll out the welcome mat. Creating a campsite that doubles as a cozy retreat will encourage visitors. If you’ve got the room, why not bring a few extra chairs, some solar-powered twinkly lights, and a colorful tablecloth? This camping thing could turn into a whole lifestyle!
You don’t have to be a hard-core trekker to enjoy a night or two under the stars. Follow the above guidelines for proper camping etiquette to become an ambassador for outdoor recreation and wild spaces everywhere.
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Here are a few more resources to help you on your camping journey (click on the photo for more info):
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