Isn't Campground Etiquette Just Common Sense? 50 Unwritten Rules for RV Camping
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Whether you’re glamping at a 5-star RV park or boondocking at a primitive campsite, there are expected campground etiquette that every camper needs to follow. But aren’t these unspoken camping rules just common sense?
Unfortunately, good camping etiquette isn’t always common sense. Many campgrounds know this—that’s why they post a long list of rules to manage difficult camper behavior. To avoid being that person who always ruins other people’s experiences, use this guide to educate yourself on how to be a good campground neighbor.
We have rounded up everything you need to know about camping etiquette, including why it’s important, plus all the unwritten rules you need to be aware of.
And if you haven’t booked a camper for your upcoming trip, don’t wait until the last minute. Head to Go RV Rental’s website to compare prices and rent an RV. And make sure the owner gives you a walkthrough of the RV systems to avoid looking clueless at the campground.
What is Campground Etiquette?
Campground etiquette is a set of social rules that everyone is expected to follow when camping. These basic manners remind campers to be considerate and mindful of each other, as well as the wildlife, vegetation, and the entire ecosystem around them. These rules should be followed when staying at an RV park, a national or state park, BLM land, or even an urban boondocking spot.
Why is Campground Etiquette Important?
Here are a few good reasons why you need to adhere to a campground’s code of polite behavior.
- Keeps Everyone Happy – Being considerate provides a pleasant and positive experience for everyone around you.
- More Respect, Less Conflict – When you’re a good neighbor, other campers will treat you with respect. This helps everyone get along and eliminates conflict.
- Prevents Closure of Camping Locations – Because of inconsiderate camping behavior like littering and vandalism, officials in charge of public land and urban boondocking spots are shutting down these areas. Adhering to the code of good manners when camping will keep these places open and accessible.
- Protects Nature – Polite practices such as leaving no trace help protect wildlife, plants, and water bodies, keeping the ecosystem in its natural state.
- Less Headaches for Your Host – When everyone is responsible, life is easier for the people managing the campground. They are able to focus on more important tasks like maintaining facilities and organizing fun activities.
- Gives Everyone a Chance to Find Inner Peace and Solitude – Most people go camping to escape modern distractions and immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature. Minimizing disturbances allows everyone to chill and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of nature.
- Keeps Destinations Pet-Friendly – Irresponsible behavior by a few pet owners can cause campground owners to prohibit pets entirely. Good camping manners will keep RV parks open to pet parents.
50 RV Campground Etiquette Rules
Here are 50 unspoken rules and expected campground etiquette for campers to follow. We will divide them into different sections, starting with the most important.
1. Observe Quiet Time
Noise is by far the biggest complaint campers have. The common rule of thumb is to adhere to quiet time. But what does quiet time mean at a campground? These are designated nighttime quiet hours, typically from 10 pm to 7 am. Around this time, you are expected to turn off your generator, switch off the music, and use your library voice. As a considerate person, you can start observing quiet hours immediately after it gets dark.
2. Be Mindful of Your Daytime Noise
During the day, no one wants to be bombarded by music from a neighboring campsite. Keep the volume low enough so it can’t be heard beyond your campsite. Preferably, use your RV’s indoor speakers. If you’re a large gathering, make sure you aren’t too loud. Most people go camping to escape the chaos, bustle, and noises of modern life. Campers want to enjoy the symphony of natural sounds—bubbling brooks, rustling pines, croaking frogs, crashing waves, and crackling fire.
3. Maintain Silence When You Arrive Late or Leave Early
Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances can force you to arrive well after dark. If you get to a campsite late at night, try to set up quietly. Don’t shout and avoid banging staff around when unpacking—especially metal items. The same applies when you want to break camp. If you plan to leave before daybreak, leave quietly. Try to pack and clean up the previous day.
4. Don’t Run Generators and Vehicle Engines For Extended Periods
Just because generators are allowed during the day, it doesn’t mean you should keep them on from morning to evening. The vigorous whirring, rattling, and buzzing of generators is usually annoying, and it shatters a campground’s serenity. Also, don’t fire up your motorhome or truck and let it idle for hours.
5. Be Mindful of your Vehicle’s Alarm and Horn
If your car alarm goes off frequently for no good reason, you may want to have it fixed before the trip. The last thing you want is to blast people awake in the middle of the night. Also, turn off the feature where your car honks every time you lock the doors. In addition, don’t slam your doors late at night or in the morning. Close it slowly and then give it a firm bump.
Practice Light Courtesy
6. Use Outdoor Lights Sparingly
While most campgrounds do not have regulations regarding lights in your campsite, make sure you minimize your light pollution. That’s because bright lights affect others who may be trying to sleep or enjoy the dark, starry skies. Minimize the number of lights you use outside, use soft/dim string lights and lanterns.
7. Turn Off Your Vehicle’s Headlights
No one wants to be blinded by someone pulling into a campsite late at night. Don’t be that camper who shines bright headlights into the neighboring RVs and tents. Dim them. After parking, turn your headlight off. And when it’s time to go to bed, turn off your porch, awning, and step lights. If you’re worried about security, install motion-sensitive lights.
8. Shield Your RV Interior Lights
It’s also good RV camping etiquette to close your camper’s curtains, blinds, or shades to keep the interior lights from spilling out of the windows. This is really important in tight campgrounds. Your bright internal lights could affect the sleep quality of your neighbors, especially if you keep them on for too long. It also makes stargazing difficult.
9. Don’t Point Your Headlamp Towards Other Campsites
Flashlights and headlamps are super handy at the campsite. From preparing meals, navigating around the campground, and retrieving items to scaring off wild animals. But when used incorrectly, they can ruin your neighbors’ campground vibes. Be careful not to point them towards other campers. Get a flashlight with a red light setting, as it’s easier on the eyes. Further, use the lowest brightness setting.
Campground Pet Etiquette
10. Keep Your Dog on a Leash
If not controlled, pets can be a real disturbance to peaceful settings. No matter how friendly or well-trained your dog is, always keep it on a leash. Letting your dog run off leash into other people’s sites is one of the major campground do’s and don’ts. The only place you’re allowed to let your dog loose is in a fenced-in dog park. If you’re using a retractable leash, make sure the dog can’t reach neighboring sites.
11. Keep Your Dog Quiet
Dogs that constantly bark, howl, whine, and snap at strangers can really ruin the mood for other campers. Do your best to keep your pets quiet. Bring some treats as a reward for calm and quiet behavior, and go for walks to burn off the excess energy. Before a trip, it’s always a good idea to train your pup basic commands like come, sit, quiet, and leave it.
12. Never Leave Your Dog Unattended
Don’t leave your dog inside the RV or tethered at the campsite while you go outside the campground. In fact, why bring Fido camping if you aren’t prepared to bring it on your adventures? Pets left tethered can become anxious and bark constantly, irritating other campers. Or they could entangle themselves and get hurt. When boondocking in a wild area, they can be attacked by predators. Get a pet sitter or leave them at a kennel if you have an emergency.
13. Always Pick Up After Your Pet
Abandoned dog waste is a major reason some campgrounds and natural areas like beaches prohibit pets. Whether your four-legged friend is potty trained or not, bring plastic bags and a poop scooper. Clean up whether your pet relieves itself on the trail, dog park, or at your site. Make sure you dispose of the waste in the proper trash can.
14. Consider Your Pet’s Behavior
Be mindful of your pet’s behavior before booking a campground. You’ll want to avoid booking an RV park that’s small and crowded if your dog is usually noisy, unpredictable, too energetic, or aggressive to strangers. Preferably, look for campgrounds that offer lots of space and privacy. Also, it’s best to avoid traveling with dogs that are in heat, too young, or sick. Of course, make sure your furry pal is healthy and up-to-date on his shots.
Campground No-No’s Regarding Trespassing, Privacy, and Interactions
15. Don’t Walk Across Other People’s Campsites
A key common sense camping rule is to never walk through another camper’s site. Even if it’s quicker to get to where you’re going. Stick to the designated paths even if you’ve made friends with your neighbor.
17. Don’t Invite Yourself Into Someone Else’s Campsite or RV
Even if your neighbor seems friendly, always respect their personal space. Don’t enter their campsite or RV without being invited. It’s okay to invite your neighbors over to share some food, but don’t be too pushy if they politely decline your request. And, read social cues to see if new neighbors want to talk.
18. When Dispersed Camping, Don’t Pick the Site Right Next to Someone
When you’re staying in an area that has plenty of empty camping spots around, don’t park your RV right next to an already established campsite. Many campers prefer to have some space between themselves and others.
19. Don’t Touch Other People’s Stuff
Another RV park etiquette rule is to avoid touching or borrowing other people’s belongings. Whether balls, bikes, toys, firewood, or other items. If you happen to find an empty lawn chair at the campfire, don’t assume you can just occupy it. Instead, bring your own equipment or book a campground where you can rent gear.
20. Don’t Clutter Your Campsite
It’s good camping manners to keep your campsite organized. Clutter that overflows to your neighbor’s site won’t earn you much goodwill. Keep your grill, lawn furniture, sports equipment, firewood, slide-outs, and vehicles within your site.
Campground Etiquette With Kids
21. Don’t Let Your Kids Scream, Yell, and Throw Things Near Other Campers
Campgrounds are the perfect place for kids to unwind and go wild. And that involves a lot of noise. There are limits, of course. Let the youngsters loose at the playground or in the nearby woods. No one will give you weird glances when they yell at the top of their lungs at their designated play areas. Plus, they’ll be worn out and calm by quiet time.
22. Don’t Let Your Kids Wander Everywhere
Don’t let your kids go to other people’s campsites. This may irritate other campers, plus it may expose your kids to dangers like fires and aggressive dogs. Also, don’t let them play or ride bikes on a busy campground road. Before the trip, talk to the youngsters about how they are expected to act.
Camping Etiquette on Respecting Wildlife and Nature
23. Don’t Feed Wildlife
Never feed wild animals and don’t leave your food out, as it may attract wildlife. Even in areas that don’t have bears, secure your food. There’s other wildlife around, like raccoons, coyotes, and ravens. Feeding wildlife only hurts them, as they may get ill or become more dependent on humans.
24. Don’t Create a New Campsite When Dispersed Camping
Another of the unspoken etiquette rules that campers must know is you should never construct a new campsite when boondocking in remote areas. Look for a spot where others have camped before. If the area is full, move on to a different area. This rule helps minimize your impact on the environment.
25. Respect Water Bodies
Always set up your campsite at least 200 feet away from any water sources such as lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds. Do your dishes at least 150 feet away from water sources. Don’t bathe or wash clothes in the water body. Even if you have biodegradable soap. Swimming in undesignated places is also a no-no. Camping near the beach is okay if there are no restrictions.
26. Think Twice Before Hanging Your Hammock
If you love to set up a hammock, make sure you know whether they are allowed. Hammocks are prohibited from most campgrounds if attached to a tree. If you are in a dispersed camping area, ensure the trees you pick as anchors are strong enough to support your weight. We recommend trees with a minimum diameter of 6 inches and use hammocks with straps that don’t damage tree bark.
Campground Etiquette on Campfires, Firewood, and Smoke
Here are some campfire do’s and don’t at RV parks and campgrounds:
27. Check Local Fire Restrictions
Campfires are restricted during periods of high fire danger. Before starting a campfire, be sure it is permitted and check if you need a permit. Rules around burning open fires change from place to place. They also change seasonally. Consider using a fire pan in fire-prone areas.
28. Never Leave Your Campfire Unattended
Never leave an open fire unsupervised. There should always be someone present, awake and sober, who is in charge of the fire. Don’t go to bed and leave it smoldering, as it could ignite nearby objects and become a raging inferno.
29. Extinguish Your Ashes Properly
Whether you’re going to bed, on a hike, or heading back home, make sure the campfire is properly extinguished. It should be flameless with no glowing coals or smoke. Clear the fire ring down to bare soil before exiting.
30. Never Chop Live Trees for Firewood
One of the etiquette rules of camping concerns cutting down live trees and breaking branches. Don’t rely on foraging for firewood on-site as both living and dead trees are an integral part of many species’ habitat. Instead, buy firewood locally and bring it to the campground.
31. Do Use Local Firewood
Another of the main camping do’s and don’t revolve around transporting firewood. Don’t bring wood in from another region. Source it locally. Wood can carry invasive bugs and seeds that can spread out of control and damage a fragile ecosystem.
32. Be Mindful of What You’re Burning
Don’t burn green or damp wood. It’s not only difficult to burn but also creates a lot of smoke, creating a health hazard and irritating other campers. Also, don’t burn plastics, tires, plywood, chemically treated wood, diapers, accelerants, magazines, and trash.
33. Keep the Fire to a Manageable Size
Create a modest-sized fire. It should be large enough to keep you warm and cook your food. Not a huge bonfire. Keep it less than 3 feet in diameter and not more than 3 feet in height. Never assume a bonfire is going to be okay. If you’re a big group, you’ll need permission from park managers to create a bonfire.
34. Don’t Build New Fire Rings and Always Leave Your Pit Clean
Don’t move or make your own fire pit when there is already one there. You are only allowed to create a new one in emergency situations. And before you head back home, leave the pit clean. Remove aluminum foil and any trash out of the pit.
Campground Code of Conduct Regarding Trash
35. Bring Trash Bags and Dispose of All Rubbish Appropriately
When it comes to camping waste, the general rule is to leave no trace. That means packing out all your trash, whether food scraps, packaging, or tissue. It’s also a good idea to leave the campsite better than you found it. Even if it means collecting other people’s trash. Before you leave, do a walk-around of the area to ensure there is no trace of your visit. If a campground or RV park has designated bins, use them. If there are no garbage cans, take the trash with you.
36. Dispose of Waste Water and Human Waste Appropriately
Another RV etiquette rule that may seem obvious is to never dispose of gray or black water on the ground or in water bodies. Only empty your tanks at a dump station. If your RV has no toilet, use established toilets. And if none are available, dig a hole at least 6 inches deep and 200 feet away from a water body, campsite, or trail. Then cover it with soil when you’re done.
More Campground and RV Park Etiquette Rules
- Drive slowly through the campground. Speeding can cause an accident or kickup dust, which is nasty if someone is trying to enjoy a meal outside.
- In a congested campground, don’t back up without a spotter, especially if you have a big rig. You could risk the lives of others or back into trees, picnic tables, trash cans, or fire pits.
- When dispersed camping near a road, don’t block access to sites further in. And definitely don’t set up camp on the road.
- Don’t wash dishes at the water pump and leave it a muddy mess. Bring a bucket or a dish tub. And definitely don’t wash dishes inside a bathroom.
- If you’re new to RV camping, be aware of proper tank dumping procedures and practice before the trip. Also, it’s good RV etiquette to keep your sewer hoses in good shape. This ensures they won’t leak and create a nasty mess.
- Don’t overload campground power pedestals or hog access to shared water faucets.
- Be courteous and empty your black tank during less busy hours at the campground or when your neighbor isn’t around.
- Ask permission when taking photos of other people. Not everyone is comfortable with other people having photos of them.
- Avoid flying of political flags, banners, and signs. You may alienate or annoy some of your neighbors.
- Avoid target shooting in dispersed camping areas. It may scare and put the rest of the campers and hikers in danger. If you really want to do it, make sure you’re far away from established campgrounds and hiking trails.
- Don’t arrive before check-in time. Stick to arrival hours, as this gives the management crew enough time to clean, mow, weed, empty fire rings, and pick up trash that the previous camper left. Also, leave your site by check-out time to avoid inconveniencing the next camper who is eager to move in.
- Never occupy a campsite you haven’t reserved. Even if the site is empty for the entirety of your stay. The only exception is for sites designated as a first-come, first-served.
- If an RVer makes an innocent rookie mistake, don’t be critical. And don’t judge other people’s backing-up skills. Instead, be ready to help when someone is having trouble maneuvering into a site, hitching up a trailer, dumping tanks, or hooking up water.
- Finally, obeying posted campground rules is the best way to demonstrate politeness. Most developed RV parks and campgrounds have a list of rules you should read and abide by. Usually, they’re posted at the campground entrance and on their website.
Campground Etiquette Makes Camping Fun for Everyone
Learning the unspoken rules of camping will help you be a good campground neighbor, ensuring everyone has a memorable experience. Always remember the golden rule of camping—treat others how you want to be treated. Be on your friendliest behavior, be respectful, and offer to lend a hand if you see someone in need.