Campground etiquette


I will never forget Memorial Day weekend 5 years ago. We were camping next to a family on their first camping trip. They made several major mistakes, but the one that bothered me the most was the generator they brought. We were in tent-only sites without electricity, which I love because of the distance from the RVs (which tend to be a little noisier). The first evening, our neighbors cranked up their generator, and I thought for sure they would turn it off when quiet hours started. Nope, they ran that thing all night. I woke up frequently during the night (fortunately this was pre-children!), and each time I tried to think of some scenarios that made taking a generator tent camping an absolute necessity. The next day while they weren’t around, I peeked over at their tent while we were walking by. (That’s a no-no, by the way! Don’t do that.) The generator was hooked up to a big box fan. I was definitely annoyed – yes, it was end of May in Georgia, it was hot… but not worth running a noisy generator all night! We complained to the ranger, who said he would come by that evening and remind them of quiet hours, but we needn’t have worried. In the later afternoon, they packed up and left.

Perhaps they didn’t realize the unspoken etiquette shared between campers. I thought I’d share them here, so you know to leave your generator at home the next time you head out for a camping trip.

Be conscious of noise levels and respect quiet hours

Tents are great for sheltering you from the elements, but they do almost nothing for noise control. Keep that in mind when you’re in your campsite, even during the day. Avoid unnecessary noises, like running a generator or playing a radio. If you must have electricity, look for a campground that offers electrical at their campsites. (Sometimes that means you’ll be near the RVs, but some have tent-only sites with electrical outlets available.) Keep voices to a normal tone, and encourage your kids to do the same – happy screams and shouts should be reserved for the playground! Most campgrounds have quiet hours, so be especially conscious of those. At night, sound travels even further – just remember that when you start baring your deepest darkest secrets around the campfire at night.

If you are setting up or tearing down your campsite during hours when your neighbors are still asleep, try to be as quiet as possible. One of the loudest things is car doors opening and closing, so try to avoid that repetitive noise. If you plan to tear down in the wee hours of the morning, pack up as much as possible the night before.

Respect the boundaries of the campsites

While you are camping, the campsite you are staying in is your home. Respect the boundaries of your neighbors. Do not walk through occupied campsites, even if it does shave 3 minutes off the trip to the bathroom. Do not peek into other tents or walk into the campsite uninvited, even if the campers are not there. (I broke this rule in my story in the first paragraph. Don’t do that, though I secretly am glad I solved the mystery of “Why the heck were they running a generator?”)

Make sure your kids understand this as well. Keep to the posted roads and trails when walking around the campground, and especially if your kids are riding bikes.

Be friendly

I have found most campers are pretty friendly. Greet your neighbors as you pass by them, and don’t be shy to engage in friendly conversation if they reciprocate. There are many interesting people out there, and part of the fun of camping can be listening to their stories. My older daughter loves to make new friends on the playground, so she often helps me break the ice.

As always, though, some people prefer solitude. Respect their wishes if they would rather not talk. It probably isn’t personal, so don’t take it that way.

Leave no trace

Leave No Trace is a movement for enjoying the outdoors responsibly. You are a guest of Nature, so treat your space as such. Your other campers will appreciate your consideration! Keep your campsite clean and tidy while you are there. Make sure all trash is in the appropriate receptacle. Keep to designated areas for pitching tents and building fires. Follow campground rules for collecting wood – usually they don’t allow you to collect wood from the area around the campsite. Be VERY cautious with your food – don’t leave open packages lying around, keep your food close to you while being cooked and packed away when not. (I usually keep all food in the trunk of my car, though you may want to call the campground and ask their recommendation as I believe it changes from region to region.) I think this rule is easier to break when you have kids dropping their crackers as they run around the campsite. It’s important, though, because you don’t want to do anything to attract unwanted wildlife – especially bears and raccoons.

When you pack out, leave the campsite cleaner than you found it. Stack any extra wood near the fire pit for future campers to use. The next camper to use the site will appreciate your efforts!

Respect public areas

The campgrounds I frequent are the ones with bathrooms available to all the campers. Keep that in mind when you are using the facilities, especially the showers. Be aware of people who may be waiting on you, and hurry along if possible. Clean up the area when you are done. Don’t use the bathroom sink to rinse out your dirty dishes. Think twice about where you are lighting up the cigarette – I know many campgrounds have designated areas for smoking, and please do not toss the cigarette butt on the ground. If your dog is along for the trip, be sure to clean up after him or her.

It all boils down to one rule: Respect your fellow campers. Everyone doing their part will make it a more enjoyable experience.


2 thoughts on “Campground etiquette

  1. I would only want to add one point. If a neighbor is doing something that is bothering you while camping, I recommend walking over and talking to them first, before reporting it to the park office. Some people do not realize they are breaking a rule or bothering other campers with their actions, so we always recommend trying to reach out to your fellow campers and offer your suggestion that the generators should be turned off during quiet hours as it might bother other campers. It is part of meeting other campers and it will look as if you are trying to help them and not complaining. If you go right to the office and complain, and you both are staying a while, there is now a wall of tension built between camp sites instead of perhaps a new friendship.

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