4 Rules of Camping Etiquette

June is National Camping Month. But no matter what time of year you decide to camp, it’s always important to be a good neighbor.

by posted on June 5, 2023
Rao Campsite Lede

Being a good neighbor is always important, especially when camping. The good news is that you already have something in common with most of the other campers: the desire to be out in the great outdoors. Just as you want to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, remember that everyone else does too. To that end, there are things you can do that will ensure you are a good neighbor and avoid encroaching on someone else’s enjoyment.

Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life and the daily grind is good for the soul. But no one wants their long-awaited camping trip to be spoiled by anyone, least of which are other campers. You can contribute to everyone having a good time by following four simple rules of camping etiquette: campsite etiquette; daytime etiquette; nighttime etiquette; and fire pit etiquette.

Campsite Etiquette
Always leave an area cleaner than you found it. It goes without saying, if there is any trash in the area, even if it is not yours, pick it up and dispose of it. This also includes moving any large rocks or logs that you used to sit around the campfire back to where you found them. You want the next camper to enjoy the same clean campsite you would expect.             

Always ask permission before entering someone else’s campsite. Avoid entering, cutting across or walking through someone else’s area. If there is something that strikes your curiosity within their campsite, such as a neat cooking gadget or new tent, the proper procedure is to stop outside of their area, introduce yourself, then ask permission to enter their campsite to ask about whatever peaked your curiosity. Try not to put your gear right on the line of you and your neighbor. Leave green space in between your two campsites.

Daytime Etiquette
Of all the rude things you can do while camping is to deny other campers the enjoyment of hearing birds, listening to the wind wisping through the trees, and other wilderness sounds heard in nature. Nobody cares about your taste in music or listening to your favorite sports team blasting on the radio. Either put in your ear buds or refrain from this type of noise pollution while camping.

This also goes for unnecessarily loud vehicles. Some people love the sound of exhaust. Very few fellow campers may share that same love of sound. Harley-Davidson motorcycles are a good example. Without starting a discussion on the merits of owning a Harley, try to minimize the time you are idling while in the campsite. This also goes for high performance vehicles and even diesel trucks. If your vehicle makes a lot of noise, do your best to enter and exit your campground as quietly and quickly as you can without speeding.

Nighttime Etiquette
Quiet time is customary to be 10 p.m. Some people enjoy the nighttime sounds and looking up at the stars. It is considered extremely rude to talk loudly and make unnecessary noises at night. This includes running generators, kids playing and screaming, and adults engaged in loud conversations. If you have dogs with you while camping, be mindful of your neighbors and keep them quiet and not barking throughout the night.

Probably one of the biggest nighttime annoyances are lanterns and other unnecessary lights. The first thing many people do at nightfall is turn on bright flashlights or hang lanterns. If you give your eyes time to adjust to the nighttime, you will be amazed how well you can see. When you turn on a bright light you are impacting everyone else’s enjoyment by washing out the stars and denying others the experience of being in the woods at night.   

Be mindful if you are arriving to your campsite after hours. Other campers may have already turned in for the night so be respectful when setting up your area after dark. Avoid slamming car doors and the telltale sound of locking your vehicle with the audible “beep” or “honk.” Keep conversations to a whisper and try not to make unnecessary noises when unloading your vehicle.

Firepit Etiquette
Be aware if there are any burn bans in effect before you consider starting any campfire. Always use the existing fire ring. The purpose for this is so you do not continue scorching the ground when you start a new fire. If for some reason the existing fire ring is in a bad area, such as too close to a downed limb or forest debris, you should disassemble the existing ring and reassemble the new fire ring using the same items from the last. Use the scorched rocks that make up the fire ring, so you do not scorch new rocks. The old area should be blended into the surrounding environment as best as you possibly can. There should be no indication that a previous fire ring existed.

There is proper etiquette to extinguishing your campfire. When you are ready to put out the fire, sprinkle water on the hot coals to avoid a bunch of steam bellowing out of the fire at once and potentially scalding your face. Always get the initial steam out and stir the ashes around with a stick until they are cool. Once it stops steaming, pour liberal amounts of water over the coals. A cool fire pit is when you can place your hand on the wet coals and they feel cool to the touch. Once the fire is cool to the touch, this is called “cold out.” At this point, remove the askes with a shovel and either place them in a designated receptacle or disperse evenly in the brush.

Make this national camping month something to remember. Get outdoors, have fun and always practice good camping etiquette. There have been many friendships made in campgrounds because of courtesy and respect between neighboring campers. There is nothing to be gained by being rude and disrespectful, but there is a lot to be gained from being friendly. Being courteous adds to your enjoyment and the enjoyment of others. You never know who you are going to meet when you are doing activities around other like-minded individuals. Sometimes meeting your camping neighbors leads to friendships and relationships which last a lifetime.

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