Camp etiquette

As I have mentioned before, much of the camping we do is in State Park camping areas, or private camp grounds. Usually we are surrounded by dozens, or even hundreds of other campers. At some campgrounds, the sites are in very close quarters, and you can sit in your camper and listen to conversations at the campfire, or even the camper next door.

With so many people in such small spaces, a bit of common courtesy, or camp etiquette is needed to keep everyone happy. Here I will mention five key items to remember when camping around others.

Respect the space. At every campground we have used, the assigned spaces are clearly marked and partitioned from one another. I was taught as a young Scout, that one should never go into the campsite of another camper without permission. The same holds true for adults. Don’t use your neighbor’s campsite as a handy cut-through to the road, the beach, or anywhere else. Respect the fact that they have their space and you have yours.

One example of this etiquette gone awry happened to us last August. We were sitting in our camp chairs, reading a book, when a young girl on a bicycle suddenly passed between us and our campfire. She was about 12 (old enough to know better), and was doing laps around her campsite and ours. We politely reminded her to stay on the roads, or in her own campsite, and she obliged.

Mind your Pets at camp. Many people like to bring their dogs along to camp. And most of the time the dogs are well behaved and don’t have an impact on other campers. When deciding to bring your pet to camp, remember that even the most well behaved pet at home may act differently in the strange environment. Most campgrounds require that pets be kept on a leash of not more than 6’ in length. This is to keep the pets in your site, under your control, and away from other people and pets. While you may find this overly restrictive, it is for the safety and security of your pet, and everyone else around you. It should go without saying that you must clean up after your pet when camping, but experience says that some people out there do need a reminder.

The worst experience I can remember with poor pet etiquette happened while my wife and I were camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in 2011. While trying to enjoy a brief afternoon nap, I became aware that the barking of the dog in the next campsite was closer than it should be. I hopped out of bed to find that the small dog was racing laps around and under my camper to the delight of its middle-aged owner. I thought this might be an isolated incident, perhaps because the dog had gotten off the leash by accident. But, later while we were eating dinner the pup was at it again, and it was obvious the owner had allowed it on purpose.

If you decide to bring your pet to camp, please keep it on your site, under your control.

Watch where you ride on your bicycle. Bringing a bike along to camp can increase the fun for children and adults alike. Many camps have bike paths nearby, and most camps have paved road that connect all of the sites. A ride around the site can be a relaxing experience. Some care has to be taken, though, to keep you and your fellow campers safe.

I have seen instances where children race their bikes through the camp as though they are on the streets of Monaco. And I have seen accidents happen. The advice here is to keep your speeds down while in the campground and stay ever aware of campers who are moving about.

Please keep the noise down. There are few things at camp that will irritate me more than excessive noise, and I am certainly not alone among my camping friends with that notion. Part of my enjoyment of camping comes from the peace and quiet, and the ability to hear the rustling of leaves, the singing of birds, and the scurrying of chipmunks in the leaves. That is very hard to do when  someone 5 sites away has their boom box cranked up for their campsite dance party. I am not saying that you should turn all your radios off. I am saying that you should do your best to keep the sounds you are enjoying within the confines of your campsite.

While we are on the subject of noise, two other things come to mind… barking dogs and motorcycles.

Dogs are going to bark from time to time, there is no getting around that. And the occasional yapping of a pup isn’t what I am talking about here. I am talking about dogs barking at night, without their owner attempting to silence them. Last year on a trip my wife and I, and campers in many sites around ours, were awakened by a barking dog. The dog continued to bark, unabated, for over 40 minutes. I honestly don’t know how much longer it may have gone on, because I finally went back to sleep. For the sake of the rest of us, if your dog barks at night, please get it to stop!

Motor cycle riders love to camp as well. I have seen some really cool tents, trailers and other gear for them. The one thing to remember is that motorcycles (especially those made in Wisconsin), can be very noisy. Again, during the day is one thing, and even at night the normal rumble of the bike as it cruises into a site is acceptable. But, some feel the need to rev the bike as they go to make sure everyone else knows that they have a machine with a trademarked sound. That revving is inappropriate at all times of day in a campsite.

The crown of unnecessary noise goes to someone we encountered on our last trip. We heard a sound that initially made me think of someone filling an air mattress. But when it went on for a very long time, my wife and I realized that this joker had an electric leaf blower, and was meticulously blowing the leaves and sand off the asphalt pad next to his 5th wheel camper (did I mention the campground was nestled among sand dunes?). After about 30 minutes, he had all the sand squared away, and went inside to watch TV for the rest of the evening. We were a good hundred feet away from him, and we were annoyed with the noise. I cannot imagine how those camped immediately next to him must have felt.

I am starting to sound like a crabby old man here, and that’s not my intent. Most campers know and respect the idea of keeping the noise down. If you want to stay on the good side of your fellow campers, try to keep the noise within your site.

Clean up your site when you break camp. As a Scout leader, when we would break camp at the end of a week or weekend, we would line the boys up and have them police the site to make sure that there was no incidental trash left on the ground. Our motto was to leave the site cleaner than we found it.

At almost every campground we use, I find miscellaneous trash in the site. When you have dropped your tent, or buttoned up your camper, and you have that last bag of trash on the hood of your car for the trip to the dumpster, take a few minutes to walk your site and pick up anything that might be laying around.

And, please remember… the fire pit is for your campfire. It is not a trash barrel. Don’t make the next campers have to spend their first moments of the evening cleaning your cans, bottles and other trash out of the ring.

If everyone can keep these five, simple things in mind, then camping can be an enjoyable  and safe time for everyone. Happy camping!

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1 Response to Camp etiquette

  1. Forrest says:

    This should all be common sense, but, sadly, it isn’t. And that’s why I tend to avoid campgrounds in favor of backpacking and dispersed camping in national forests. Especially the barking dogs and loud children…!


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