Inspiring families to travel outdoors and enjoy what our planet Earth has to offer. 

Inspiring families to travel outdoors and enjoy what our planet Earth has to offer. 

Camping Etiquette 101: Proper Camping Rules Campers Should Follow

In this camping guide you can learn all the proper camping etiquette for campers. Camping is a great way to make quick overnight stops during a road trip or just a camping trip for a weekend or longer. However, there are proper camping rules that every camper should follow to help keep a positive environment for everyone.

In this article I am going to go over the different rules for camping. I will be covering camping etiquette for campgrounds, group camping, dispersed camping, camping in an RV, and camping with dogs and kids.

Photo of a tent during a camping trip with overlay. Posted on a camping guide talking about camping etiquette 101 - Proper camping rules that campers should follow

WHAT IS CAMPING ETIQUETTE?

Camping etiquette is a set of basic and common sense rules for campers to abide by. By following these rules of  camping you are creating a positive atmosphere for yourself and those around you. You are also helping preserve the campground for future visitors as protecting the wildlife and environment around you. In this guide I am going to break every aspect of the different camping etiquettes for you.

WHY CAMPING ETIQUETTE IS IMPORTANT!

Following the proper camping etiquette helps provide a pleasant and positive experience to everyone around you as well as future visitors to the campground. These etiquettes will also help preserve the campsite, wilderness, and wildlife found where you will be camping at. It is important to follow them so that you can make the most of your camping trip as well as be a positive impact to other campers around you.

CAMPING ETIQUETTE 101: CAMPING RULES CAMPERS SHOULD FOLLOW

Before I dive into all of the details I want to break up these etiquettes into different categories. There are many different styles of camping as well as different settings when camping. Whether you are camping solo, with kids, or with a group, I want to make sure you know the etiquette tips for each style. This way you can be prepared for what’s ahead.

A tent set up and surrounded by fall foliage at Shawnee National Forest in Illinois. Camping Etiquette - Rules for Campers

BASIC CAMPGROUND AND CAMPING ETIQUETTE FOR CAMPERS: THE GENERAL CAMPING RULES

Before going camping it is important to read the rules for the campground you will be staying at. See what the fire regulations are, what the campground quiet hours are, check in and check out times, etc. This will help you plan ahead and be prepared for your camping trip.

By doing this research ahead of town it will make it easier for you to follow a few basic camping etiquette rules. These include:

FOLLOW CAMPGROUND QUIET HOURS

This helps provide a quiet time for everyone camping to be able to rest peacefully. By being loud and obnoxious you are creating an unpleasant atmosphere for other campers around you. It is important to always be courteous to others.

FOLLOW THE CAMPGROUND RULES

This will help you keep everyone safe, your campground tidy and neat, and create a positive experience for yourself and others. If you are camping at a state park or a national park it is important to go to the ranger station for any questions regarding the campground rules. Sometimes at the national park service station you can find a more detailed flyer with everything that you need to know about the rules for the park.

PROPER CHECK IN TIMES AND TRAVEL TIMES

It is important to plan ahead when traveling. While many campgrounds allow late check-ins, it is crucial to arrive at a descent time. Arriving late or leaving way too early can bother your neighbor while they sleep. It also makes it harder for you to set up camp or take down camp when it is still dark out. It’s best to arrive at a good time where there is good visibility. Of course there will always be exceptions such as delays during your travels or emergencies.

ALWAYS PUT ALL FOOD AWAY

Leaving food out, even on picnic tables, can attract unwanted visitors such as bears. It is important to put food away properly when not cooking or before going to bed. This will help keep you and others safe.

Respect Wildlife - Deer Fawn

RESPECT WILDLIFE

It is important to always leave the wildlife alone. Never feed other animals or do damage to their home or even to the animals you find around the campground.

FOLLOW PROPER CAMPFIRE PROCEDURES AND REGULATIONS

Not every campground allows campfires. It is very important to know how to build a fire, never leave it unattended, never make a fire if it’s not allowed, and know how to keep your campfire contained. I will go more into detail about this below.

LEAVE THE CAMPSITE LOOKING BETTER THAN BEFORE

Before you leave make sure to do a last walkthrough around your campsite. Pick up any trash you see, put all items back where they belong, and do your best to leave it looking cleaner and better than before you arrived.

KEEP YOUR CAMPSITE CLEAN AT ALL TIMES

It is good to always leave your campsite clean during your stay. Always dispose of trash properly and never leave any trash laying around the campsite. Campgrounds usually have a dumpster to properly dispose of trash so make sure to know where the nearest one to your campsite is located at.

A tent set up and surrounded by fall foliage at Shawnee National Forest in Illinois. Camping Etiquette - Rules for Campers

RESPECT YOUR CAMPING NEIGHBOR’S SPACE

One thing that really bugs me is when campers walk through my campsite to get to theirs. It has happened to me many times even when I’m in my tent getting dressed. It can be a bit nerve-wracking to say the least. It is important to always be mindful of your camping neighbor and to always respect their space. That is their campsite so it’s good to not walk through it or do any other things that can make their camping experience a bad one.

BE MINDFUL OF YOUR PET

As a dog owner we tend to tolerate their little misbehaviors here and there but our camping neighbor’s may not be too fond of your dog barking or digging holes. As a responsible dog owner it is important to be mindful of your pet and making sure that your pet is not causing others to have a negative camping experience. I will go more into detail about this below.

FOLLOW THE SEVEN LEAVE NO TRACE PRINCIPLES

The seven LNT Principles are the backbone of exploring the great outdoors. While these principles recap many of the camping etiquettes, it is still important to always adventure outdoors while following these simple guidelines. These are the 7 Leave Now Trace Principles.

  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize campfire impacts.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.
A campfire photo of a log surrounded by yellow and orange flames. Proper Campfire Etiquette

PROPER CAMPFIRE ETIQUETTE AND SAFETY RULES

Proper campfire etiquette is crucial to the health of the environment. Not following the proper fire regulations for the area or knowing the proper campfire etiquettes can result in serious risks and dangers. A small fire can easily get out of control and turn into a huge forest fire. This is why I stress these etiquettes so much.

Note: I will be writing a more detailed guide on campfire etiquette which I will link here once it’s published!

These are the campfire etiquettes and safety rules you should follow:

  • Always check local restrictions about open fires.
  • Be cautious and follow Leave No Trace Principles when foraging for firewood.
  • If available, use an existing fire ring. If there is one not available make sure to build one using stones and dirt. Before you leave make sure to break your firepit and place the stones back.
  • Always keep your campfire to a small and manageable size.
  • Use common sense when creating a campfire.
  • Safety first! Make sure to always have a way to quickly extinguish your fire. This can be sand, water, or even a fire extinguisher. A shovel can be handy as well.
  • NEVER leave your fire unattended! It doesn’t hurt to ask a camp friend or even your camp neighbor to watch your fire if you have to grab something or run to the bathroom. Also be respectful and don’t just pawn your campfire on to someone else and be gone for long periods of time either.
  • Be mindful of the items that you are burning. Some items can release toxic fumes. Keep the items you are burning to natural items such as wood, leaves, and maybe even paper or cardboard.
  • Always make sure to completely put your fire out before leaving or going to bed.
Two girls playing by the lake during their camping trip. Camping Etiquette -  Camping with Kids

PROPER CAMPING ETIQUETTE WHEN CAMPING WITH CHILDREN

As a parent I know how kids can be. They can be loud, play around without thinking twice of where they are running too, and are quick to make friends and want to hang out. Its okay to let kids be kids but it is also important to teach our kids proper camping etiquette. Some of the things I like to teach my kids and to also keep in mind when camping with children are:

  • Keep voice to a decent tone. No yelling across the campground or campsite.
  • No running or playing in other people’s campsites. The only exception is if they are playing with a camping friend and it is okay with the parents.
  • No touching, messing, or getting into another campers belongings.
  • Always follow the campground quiet time.
  • Be courteous to other adults.
  • Never play by the water unsupervised.
A group of campers sitting altogether and talking. Rules for Campers - Group Camping

PROPER CAMPING ETIQUETTE WHEN CAMPING IN A GROUP SETTING

While I do love camping with just my family I also don’t mind camping in a group setting. However, when you are around others having fun, sometimes you can forget about the world around you. It is important to always be mindful of those around us and to keep in mind what their camping experience is like as well. Not everyone is there to have fun in a group. Others may be getting away just to relax and enjoy what the wilderness has to offer. Here are a few things to keep in mind when camping in a group setting:

  • Always respect campground quiet hour.
  • Keep noise to a normal volume. Don’t be that noisy campsite.
  • Keep your campground clean.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Follow proper campfire etiquette even as a group. There is no excuse here to leave a fire unattended.
  • Don’t crowd other campsites or park on other campers spots.
  • Be respectful of others.

Overall, just follow the basic camp etiquettes as a group. Together you can keep each other accountable.

PROPER CAMPING ETIQUETTE WHEN CAMPING WITH DOGS

I love camping with my dogs but as a responsible dog owner I am always mindful about their whereabouts. Dogs can get into things and if they are not properly trained or obedient, they can make your camping trip a headache. Here are some proper camping etiquettes for you to follow when camping with dogs:

  • Always keep your dog on a leash. Even the most well trained dog can have a moment and run off. I know my dog and she usually listens to me but the minute she sees a squirrel, cat, or other small animal, she is gone.
  • Make sure your dog is up to date on their vaccines. It is important to always keep your dog up to date on their core vaccines every year. These include their Rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and canine hepatitis. You can also do the Bordetella (also known as the kennel cough vaccine) and Leptospirosis vaccine for extra precaution. It is also important to deworm your dog every 6 months to a year along with the monthly heartworm, flea, and tick prevention. This helps keep your dog safe and other dogs that your dog may meet along the way.
  • Make sure your dog is eating and drinking water throughout the day.
  • Store all dog food at the end of the day to prevent unwanted visitors from coming to your campsite.
  • Make sure to keep your dog from barking excessively throughout the day. Don’t be that noisy camper!
  • Follow campground quiet hours with your pet.
  • Always, and I mean ALWAYS pick up after your dog and dispose of their feces properly. We usually just pick it up with a bag and place in a dumpster or trash bin.
A woman "The Walking Mermaid's Jessica Tejera" backpacking through South Cumberland State Park in Tennessee. Camping Rules for Dispersed Camping

DISPERSED CAMPING ETIQUETTE FOR CAMPERS AND BACKPACKERS

The etiquettes to follow for dispersed camping and for backpackers is pretty straight forward. Just follow the basic camping etiquettes when in the backcountry and be mindful of others, the environment, and wildlife. However, there are a few other things I would add to this. These include:

  • Always stay on the trail while backpacking or hiking.
  • Follow proper hiking trail etiquettes.
  • Follow Leave No Trace Principles when setting up camp and building a campfire.
  • Never trample on any delicate vegetation. If you have to scoot to the side of a trail make sure to be mindful of where you step at.
  • Dispose of your waste properly. Pack out what you packed in. Don’t leave anything behind for others to pick up.
  • Always carry the 10 hiking and camping essentials with you to be safe.

PROPER CAMPING ETIQUETTE FOR USING THE BATHROOM: WHERE TO PEE AND POOP WHEN CAMPING OUTDOORS OR AT AN ESTABLISHED CAMPGROUND

We all have to do the deed! You know, the poops and pees! It is important to know how to properly use the bathroom and practice good hygiene outdoors. Most campgrounds will have a bath house where you can go to the bathroom, shower, and do other hygiene routines needed. However, there are places such as dispersed camping where you need to do your hygiene outdoors. I have a full detailed guide on how to practice safe and eco-friendly hygiene outdoors below. And for women, there is a detailed guide on how to cope with your menstrual cycle outdoors as well.

A red chevy silverado attached to a Gulf Stream camper trailer setup at camp. Etiquette for Camper Trailer RV 5th Wheels

PROPER CAMPING ETIQUETTE FOR RV PARKS: CAMPER TRAILERS, 5TH WHEELS, AND RV’S

Besides the basic camping etiquettes covered above, there are a few other camping rules you should follow when you’re camping in your RV, camper trailer, or even a 5th wheel. These include:

  • If your camper trailer, RV, or 5th wheel has a slide out please take into consideration the space of it when parking and setting up camp. You wouldn’t want your slide to be too close to your camping neighbor’s or on their side.
  • Don’t be afraid of asking your neighbor for help. Majority of campers are super nice and willing to lend a helping hand if possible so if you need help, don’t hesitate to ask.
  • Always let your neighbor park and get settled first if they’re trying to get things set up before going to say hello or introduce yourself. Making friends with other RV’ers is always fun but not in the middle of trying to get things set up.
  • Always dump at the proper locations. It is important to follow LNT Principles always and to discard of waste properly.
  • Always be prepared for when it is time to go to the dump station. Have the proper hoses, gloves, and your tank ready to go when you arrive.
  • Always park in your own campsite. This includes bikes, tow vehicles, golf carts, etc.
  • Dim the lights at night. Make sure to dim your lights and turn off any othere lights that may bother your neighbor throughout the night.
  • Arrive and depart at a reasonable time. Parking an RV, camper trailer, or 5th wheel can be a bit noisy especially when backing it in and getting set up.

THE MOST IMPORTANT CAMPING ETIQUETTE TO FOLLOW

While I think all of the things listed above are very important, I think that the most important camping etiquette is RESPECT. I know it’s probably not listed as an actual camp etiquette but I believe that if we follow all the camping etiquettes, it all comes down to showing respect.

This can be respect for the wildlife and the nature around us by following Leave No Trace and proper fire regulations. Respect for other campers by obeying quiet hour, being kind to each other, and by remembering that we are sharing that little part of the Earth with other people. Even respect to the future visitors of the campground by cleaning up after yourself and leaving the area looking better than before you arrived. So with this said, LET’S CAMP RESPECTFULLY!!!

A tent set up and surrounded by fall foliage at Shawnee National Forest in Illinois. Camping Etiquette - Rules for Campers

BASIC CAMPING TIPS FOR CAMPERS

Are you looking for more basic camping tips? Here are some other blog posts that you may find useful.

SUMMARY OF THE CAMPING RULES TO FOLLOW

Well I hope that this article helps you learn the rules for camping. They’re pretty simple and easy to enforce in your camping routine. A few simple and common sense etiquettes to follow are:

  • Abide by quiet hour.
  • Follow campground rules.
  • Check in and check out at a descent time.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Follow LNT Principles.
  • Be mindful of your kids and pets.
  • Follow campfire rules.
  • Always put all food away.
  • Keep your campsite clean.

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