No Regrets Camping: How NOT To Enjoy a Camping Trip

Numerous things can go wrong when you are camping and sometimes it’s completely out of your control, but other times it’s your own mistakes that can ruin your trip. Read along to learn some common camping mistakes and how to avoid them!

You don’t have to be the Born Survivor to enjoy a camping trip; there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste. Camping choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your preferences, here are 15 bad moves make while camping. 

Camping at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Ignore fire bans. As awesome as smores are, adhere to campground rules regarding fires. If the authorities in charge of the campground or national forest say no fires, they mean no fires. It is your responsibility to be fire safe when camping. Before you go, check to see if there are fire bans in place where you plan to visit, and act accordingly.

Camping at Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Gather wood without checking. Even when fires are allowed, gathering of wood may not be. Ask first, and then gather only down and dead wood in designated areas. Never cut live trees or branches from live trees.

3. Start a fire with gasoline. Assuming that there is no burn ban, you should be prepared to start your fire with appropriate fuel. If not, then we hope you remembered your first aid kit.

Camping at Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Burn wood that does not fit in the fire pit. So you found an awesome log that will burn for hours, only it doesn’t fit in the designated fire ring. And you forgot your hatchet. Your plan is to just lay it across the fire or stick in one end. It will only burn the part in the fire, right?  Wrong! Keep your fire to a manageable size. Make sure children and pets are supervised when near the fire. Never leave your campfire unattended

Camping at Fort McDowell Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Miss the stars. How you could you ignore this amazing view?! It’s easy when you live in the city to forget that stars even exist. Look up at night when you camp. It’s life-changing. 

6. Feed the wildlife. As much as your social media page would be enhanced by photos of chipmunks eating potato chips, nothing about it is good for the animal. And then there are the campers that occupy your site next who will not be able to enjoy a sandwich without being harassed by begging critters.

Camping at Creekfire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Play loud music. Camping is about enjoying the natural world. Try listening to the wind in the trees, the gurgling of the stream, or the chattering of the birds. Besides, your music is annoying to the neighbors.

Camping at Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Don’t give your kids camp chores to do. Camping is filled with life lessons for children. From setup to cleanup, there are confidence-building tasks that your kids should be doing. 

9. Stay glued to your devices. And don’t let your kids do it either. Camping is the perfect time for a digital detox. 

Camping at Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Watch TV. Stars > Netflix anyhow. Every moment of a camping trip that you spend watching TV is a moment when you could have been enjoying your companions, your surroundings, and the simple serenity of doing nothing.

Camping at Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Overestimate your vehicle. Don’t take a two-wheel drive SUV off-roading. Don’t take chances with bald tires or faulty gas gauges. Know what your vehicle can and cannot do and camp somewhere within that range of ability.

Camping at Hilltop RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Overestimate your outdoor skills. Rock climbing on a cruise ship does not qualify you to climb the face of a mountain. Nor does watching two seasons of Naked and Afraid make you a survival expert. Be honest with yourself about your skills and plan accordingly.  

Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Underestimate the wildlife. That ain’t no teddy! Bears, raccoons, and other wildlife can make your camping trip miserable if you underestimate their survival skills. They can unzip, unlock, and chew through things with astonishing efficiency. Learn how to critter proof your trip before you ever leave home.

Camping at SeaWind RV Park, Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Leave anything behind. “Leave no trace” is the campers’ creed, and it applies even in organized campgrounds. It means that when you pull out of your campsite, there should not be any sign that you and your group were ever there. 

Camping at Texas Lakeside RV Park, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Disrespect the campground. Respecting the facility goes beyond simply cleaning up after yourself; it means not carving initials into picnic tables, parking only on designated hard surfaces, and finding a way to leave it better for the next guy, not worse.

Worth Pondering…

Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

15 Bad Camping Decisions

You don’t have to be Bear Grylls to enjoy a camping trip; there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste

Campground and RV park camping is distinguished from wilderness camping by the presence of facilities and designated campsites. Campground choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your camping preferences, here are the 15 worst moves you can make at a campground

Camping at White Tank Mountains, a Maricopa County Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Fail to give someone your camping itinerary. Before you set out on your adventure, be sure to let someone know your plans. What may seem like a silly precaution could actually save your life.

2. Forget to bring insect repellant. It does not matter where you camp, there will be insects and you need to arm yourself appropriately.

Camping at Jekyll Campground, Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Assume there will be toilet paper. Pack your own roll. It’s the first rule of camping. Paper towels and Kleenex are also necessities.

4. Assume that there will be running water. Depending on the season and the camping area or facility you choose, you may need to bring your own water. You do need to stay hydrated and brush you teeth.

Camping at My Old Kentucky Home State Park Campground, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Take more stuff than you need. Whether you will be sleeping in a tent or in a luxury RV, there is no reason to take things that are not essential for your journey and destination.

6. Forget your first aid kit. Consider the first aid kit your failsafe in the event that you make all the wrong decisions while camping. Your first aid kit should include Tylenol or Advil to ease a headache or fever, Cortizone 10 cream to soothe an itchy insect bite, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or Bacitracin to prevent infection from minor cuts or scrapes, Band-Aids of varying sizes to cover those minor cuts and scrapes, and Benadryl to relieve allergies.

Camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Assume that your GPS is always correct. It isn’t. Learn to read a map…a paper one! And make sure you have clear directions for your destination before you leave home, preferably from more than one source.

8. Set up camp in the dark. Unless you are very familiar with the campground and all of your equipment, plan to arrive before dark. Setting up in the dark is not only a logistical challenge; it’s annoying to other campers trying to enjoy a peaceful evening that does not include all the ruckus of you fighting with your gear.

Camping in Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Invade other people’s space. Space invaders are the worst campers in any campground. Do not walk through other people’s camps, even if you think they aren’t there. It’s rude and creepy. Don’t let your children do it either.

10. Expand beyond your assigned camping site. Second worst camper is the space hog. It doesn’t matter if you are in a luxury RV resort or a rustic forest campground; don’t take up more than your designated space. It creates problems for the park management and is rude to other campers.

Camping at Bird Island Basin Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Picnic in an empty campsite. Campsites are for camping, not picnicking. This is a subtler way of hogging space, but still a bad decision. Do you want to be the guy who misses a prime campsite because somebody was using it for an afternoon snack when you arrived?  

12. Leave open food containers outside. Never, ever, leave food outside especially in bear country. Unless you like ants, flies, feral cats, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bears, or irate neighbors. Worse yet, don’t leave them in your tent overnight.

Camping at Seawind RV Resort, Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Leave garbage near your camp. See the previous bad decision. Garbage belongs away from your campsite, inside cans or dumpsters, if they are provided.  

14. Leave things in public spaces. There is a distinct yuk factor involved in finding someone else’s toiletries in a campground bathhouse. The same applies to buckets, hoses, dishpans, or dishcloths left at communal water faucets.  

Camping at Fort McDowell Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Underestimate the weather. You did check the forecast before you left home, right? Just know that it will likely be hotter, colder, windier, or wetter than you expect. And you do have a NOAA Weather Radio!

Worth Pondering…

You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.

—Yogi Berra

Camping Etiquette: Getting Away From Each Other & Doing It Together

Be smart. Be kind. Be considerate.

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.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Jack’s Landing RV Resort, Grants Pass, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Eagles Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Lockhart State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Deadhorse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Monahans Sandhill State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Have an enjoyable and safe camping summer.

Worth Pondering…

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?

On Being a Good Camping Neighbor

There is an old expression, “be the person your dog thinks you are.” In line with that statement, campers should be the neighbor you would like to have.

Camping courtesy (the unwritten rules of campground 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 campground etiquette that will help create a friendly atmosphere and make the camping experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Lakeside RV Park in Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Obey Campground Rules

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.

Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Social

A campground or RV park is your temporary home complete with new neighbors. Just like at your permanent home, you should get to know your neighbors. You don’t have to spend your vacation with them, but you should be friendly.

When you travel with kids, it’s especially important to get to know your neighbors. Kids will often play together around the campground or RV park and can form lasting relationships.

Jekyll Island Camoground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Respect Campsite Boundaries

You would never imagine cutting/walking through someone’s backyard to get home. But at a campground, it happens all too often. There are no fences or boundaries letting you know you are entering someone’s living space.

When camping, there is an imaginary boundary surrounding each campsite. It’s assumed the you know that this boundary exists and that you’ll respect it. Children, especially, need to be reminded of the boundary and told to stick to the path instead of walking through someone else’s campsite. Walking through another person’s site may be the easiest, most direct path to the bathroom, but it should be avoided.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clean Up After Yourself

Just like at home, you are expected to pick up after yourself. Bag your trash and throw it away in approved trash bins. Don’t be tempted to throw your trash into the fire. It creates a nasty smell that no one wants to endure. Plastic, especially, is foul smelling and is toxic if inhaled.

For RV owners, ensure that your wastewater is handled properly. Be sure that all your hoses and tanks are in good condition, attached properly, and nothing is leaking.

Galveston State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Mindful of the Noise

Sound pollution is a real thing and it can be cause for a bad camping experience. Be mindful of the noise you create and keep the volume down whenever possible.

Yes, you’re camping, but that doesn’t mean the family next to you wants to hear your generator running at 1 a.m. or a kid’s movie blaring on an outdoor television.

Most parks and campgrounds have “quiet hours” in the evening to keep noise to a minimum. Power down at night; shut off your generator and dim the lights. Respect those quiet hours. They are there for a reason. Your camping neighbors will thank you for it.

Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pick Up After Your Pets

Be a responsible pet owner. 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.

It’s great to have a furry friend as a camping companion, but make sure your pet isn’t leaving any surprises behind. When taking your dog for a walk, always pick up all pet waste. Many campgrounds provide pet waste collection bags to make clean up easy and convenient.

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be a good neighbor, make a new friend. Enjoy!

Worth Pondering…

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?