Since I am writing this article during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ll start with the caveat that camping etiquette now includes respecting the health of others by maintaining social distancing and sanitary protocols. Much as we crave our former levels of interaction, this is a time when it’s absolutely okay to politely decline an invitation to a potluck or other gathering—unless you know your neighbors well and/or are comfortable with the level of safety precautions that will be taken.
With the arrival of summer, one thing is certain. Americans and Canadians will flee the cities by the thousands in search of open space and a chance to get away from the rest of us. The situation is akin to the hippie movement of the ’60s when everyone was being different but doing it all together.
That means that virtually every campground and outdoor recreation venue within four hours of every major cities will be full each and every weekend—full of people getting away from it all and doing it together.
Plan ahead and take care of last-minute errands sooner rather than later since a brief stop on the way out of town Friday afternoon could cost you that last available camping spot.
Campground courtesy (the unwritten rules of etiquette) is an easy way to ensure that a group of people living in close proximity together where sounds travel and light can be a disturbance continue to camp together in harmony.
Spending time in a campground requires a certain level of community patience and a willingness to live and let live, there are some basic rules of camping etiquette that will help create a friendly atmosphere and make the camping experience more enjoyable for everyone.
Be friendly and greet other campers. Again, this is part of being within the camping community and even though you may not know the other people, you all have a common goal of enjoying the camping experience.
Keep in mind that I may be in the campground to get away from it all and wish to hear the wind blowing through the aspens, the chatter of squirrels, or perhaps the call of a jay. While I recognize your right to enjoy a little music, I don’t necessarily share your musical taste unless, of course, it’s Willie’s “On the road again…“. That is why they make headphones.
In that same vein, remember not all generators are created equal. Some are designed to run very quietly, and others are not. Quiet hours are there for a reason.
Follow the campground rules and regulations. These rules usually include speed limits, fire regulations, quiet times, and so on. Adhering to these rules is one of the basics of campground etiquette. Be sure to review and enforce the rules with your children, as well.
Be considerate when arriving late or leaving early. If you arrive at the campsite after dark or leave before dawn, remember that others may be sleeping. Be as unobtrusive as possible. If setting up, do the least amount you need to get through the night and keep voices quiet and lights dim. If you are leaving early, pack up the bulk of your items the day before so you can make a quick get away with the least amount of disturbance possible.
Contain yourself and your camping gear and supplies within your campsite area. When you set up your RV, don’t allow slideouts or awnings to extend beyond your site and into the neighboring area. Keep all belongings, chairs, mats, toys, etc. within your campsite. If you need to place your satellite dish in another campsite in order to receive a signal, ask for permission from the people occupying the site.
Another common misstep is that of walking through another person’s camp without being invited. Treat other campsites as private property. A campsite is a person’s home away from home. When someone is set up in a campsite, that site becomes their property for the duration of their stay. It is their personal space, and it should be treated that way. Never cut across another occupied site without permission. If the washrooms or beach access are on the other side of a site, walk around.
Be a responsible pet owner. If you are traveling with pets, make sure they are well taken care of. Keep dogs on leashes whenever they are outside so they are not bothering your neighbors and discourage them from barking. Never leave a dog that barks or howls unattended. Clean up after your pet—always.
Clean up after yourself. When you prepare to exit the campsite, be sure to remove all trash regardless of its origin. Always leave the campsite as clean, or cleaner, than it was when you arrived. The camp host and the next camper will appreciate it.
The bottom line is that camping requires us to respect the land and one another. When it comes down to it, continued success of this ongoing social experiment requires it.
Have an enjoyable and safe camping summer.
When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?