Getting out in nature is a wonderful escape from your everyday routine. You likely go camping to unwind, enjoy the fresh air, explore and spend time relaxing with friends and family. But aside from the written campground rules (which you should know and abide by), what camping etiquette should you follow? Here are five ways you can be a good campground neighbor.
1. Respect Other Campers’ Private Spaces
If you have neighbors close by, be respectful. It’s OK to be friendly and say hello, but don’t invite yourself to their campsite or their cookout. If you have animals or kids with you, let them know the boundaries, too. Nobody likes a loose dog or a child roaming around their campsite without an invitation. When walking around, don’t cut through someone’s campsite. If you must cut through, most people won’t mind if you simply ask first. Just don’t presume. Treat others with the same respect and privacy you’d want while camping.
2. Avoid Bright Lights at Night
You may need to start your vehicle to head into town at night, or maybe you’ve just arrived and are trying to locate your campsite. Make a conscious effort not to shine your bright headlights into someone’s campsite. As a general rule, use your low lights when you’re arriving or leaving the campground at night.
The same goes for flashlights. It’s OK to use lights in the dark — you do need to see where you’re going. Just be mindful of where those bright lights are shining. You can imagine how it would feel to be sound asleep in your tent when a bright light suddenly shines on your tent and wakes you up.
3. Don’t be a Mooch
You should arrive at your campsite prepared. It’s fine to borrow the occasional tool or camping essential from a neighbor if you’re really in need, but don’t overdo it. Make sure you have your essentials by creating a checklist before you leave and checking your gear. Think of how bothersome it could be if someone asked you to borrow multiple items throughout the weekend like firewood, a camp chair, an ax, a towel, dish soap or food. Don’t be “that guy.”
4. Avoid Washing Your Dishes in the Bathroom
Dirtying dishes while camping is unavoidable. You’ll most likely need to wash dishes. Although you may be tempted to wash them in the shared campground bathroom, it’s considered a camping faux pas. Not only does it impose on other campers, if food goes down the sink drain it could cause major plumbing problems for campground managers. So, bring a washing tub with you and be prepared to wash your dishes at camp.
5. Be Kind
As a general rule, you should be kind to other campers. Playing music loud late at night, leaving garbage around the campground and dominating all the picnic tables and playgrounds could make your neighbors wish they would’ve stayed home. Keep in mind that a campground is a shared community. If you’re celebrating or lighting off fireworks, be kind. Ask your neighbors if they mind first. A little communication goes a long way at the beginning of your camping experience.
Another way to be kind is to leave your unused campfire wood in a nice pile for the next camper. Think of how nice it is to pull up to a campsite with a dry pile of firewood next to the fire pit. When in doubt, pay kindness forward.
Suzanne Downing is an outdoor writer and photographer in Montana with an environmental science journalism background. Her work can be found in Outdoors Unlimited, Bugle Magazine, Missoulian, Byline Magazine, Communique, MTPR online, UM Native News, National Wildlife Federation campaigns and more.