Camping Etiquette- The Unspoken Rules of Campground Camping

Today, we are discussing etiquette for campground camping.  There are certain unspoken rules when you camp- laws of the land, if you will. Knowing these rules can keep you and your family from being labeled as rude, obnoxious or a newbie.  These rules have been passed down from generation to generation.  Don’t forget to pass these rules down to your camping kids.

  1. Quiet time is for being quiet.  I’m not sure why that is confusing for people.
  2. Campers are some of the friendliest people you will meet. Be friendly. Have fun. But always respect your camping neighbor’s space.
  3. Leave no trace behind.  My family always told us to leave it like you found it.  Clean up your mess and don’t destroy nature while at the campground.
  4. Don’t feed animals at the campsites.  Wild animals are like mooching friends- feed them and they will never leave.  They may become aggressive as they demand more food.  This is not safe for your family or for future campers.
  5. Don’t leave food out at night.  Contain it or hang it.  Secure food in airtight containers or hang from a tree limb or hook.
  6. Don’t bring firewood with you. Buy firewood close to the campground where you are camping.  Moving firewood long distances transports insects and disease and may destroy trees and forests. Look for more information in an upcoming post (later this week). Or visit for more information and state guidelines.
  7. Playing music at your campsite is fine.  Blaring music is not.
  8. Honesty is the best policy, even while camping.  I am surprised by the number of campers who arrive late at night and try to sneak out early the next morning.  Few campers get away with this nonsense.  The campground hosts are diligent when working the campground.  Besides, renting a campsite is cheap. Just pay the money.
  9. When fishing at the campground, if someone catches a fish, don’t try to force your way into their fishing spot. That is just rude.
  10. Place grey water in grey water drains located in campground or other approved dumping stations.  Grey water is waste water from washing dishes, laundry and bathing.  Dumping grey water into the environment has been found to be a significant risk to public health due to the large amount of bacteria in the water.
  11. Never leave your campfire unattended and always completely extinguish your campfire when you are done with it.  As Smokey says, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Respect nature.  Respect the animals.  And respect the other campers.

We have all encountered ignorant or obnoxious campers from time to time.  By following these simple rules, you can have a fun-filled trip without getting sideways glances from the other campers. These are just a few of the camping rules we follow.  Do you have any camping rules you would add?

I’ll see ya around the campfire.


Photo Credit:  Wooden Signs1 by Dora Pete @

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Tiffany loves tent camping and knows how to bait a hook.

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  1. I wish all campers would follow these rules! It never ceases to amaze me how stupid & rude some people are! We have been camping for about 20 yrs & have taught our kids from the beginning to always leave a camp site nicer than you found it. If you pack it in you pack it out! Still Love Camping but in the last 20 yrs the campers that camp around us have defiantly gotten ruder & less friendly.

    • Leaving any place nicer than you found has always been a golden rule for me that I learned from my parents, and I intend to pass it on to my kids. It’s a shame that campers have gotten ruder and less friendly. We have just started camping, and I hope our kids follow our example: smile and say good morning, hello, how’s it going?…make eye contact!

  2. The music one is by far my biggest pet peeve. You get out in the woods or mountains with birds and a rushing stream or river or at the beach with the waves and you still need to play Lady Gaga? Isn’t the music of nature enough for you?

    I’m always astonished by hikers with headphones, too. That doesn’t affect me personally, but isn’t absorbing the sounds of the outside world a major part of the experience, even separate from potential safety issues that you otherwise can’t hear?

  3. I always figure the more places the rules are available the better for everyone! We like to find spots on non-generator loops or equestrian specific campgrounds because they tend to be quieter.

    One question though – I know in the past we have used our grey water to douse our fire thoroughly – this is what my dad did and I assumed it was OK as well as a good reuse of the water. Any idea if that is permissible?
    jesser recently posted..Grilled Chicken ParmMy Profile

    • I would say no. From what I have read, there’s tons of bacteria in grey water, about as much as there is in black water (sewage). I don’t think it is worth the risk (my opinion).

      We haven’t stayed at an equestrian specific campground. Is it BYOH? Bring Your Own Horse?

  4. Couldn’t agree more with these rules. Honestly how hard is it to follow a few rules? We camp to get away from the noise and the commotion of city life and we want to enjoy nature, not burn is down and act as our own logging company. The noise and radio issues are by far the biggest of my pet peeves. Great reminder of what all should be doing!
    Jayson recently posted..We’re Guest Posting Again!My Profile

  5. I love these rules – simple but true. Last summer on a family campsite the group behind us stayed up very late most nights being quite rowdy – hard to get kids to sleep in that circumstance. Hope my kids learning to resect everyone else on a site..
    Becky Willoughby (@LakesSingleMum) recently posted..Metric v ImperialMy Profile

  6. Diane Normandin says:

    my pet peeve is people walking through our campsite. I would never do that to anyone else!

    • Mary Pautz says:

      Diane I totally agree, this should have been #1 on the list I.M.O. We have had people pull their boats thru our site, ride bikes thru, and potty their dog IN OUR SITE!

  7. Well, it sounds like we have all encountered some very rude people while camping. Thanks so much for all your great comments.

    I will add that we actually had people driving around through the campground very late one night. My hubby and I kept saying where are these people going? Are they cruising the campground? The gates close at a certain time, so are they driving in circles? It is hard to get to sleep when there are lights from cars bouncing off the tent walls all night.

    • Love these rules too and wish others would follow them better. However, I sheepishly admit that we have been “the family” in the campground with the screaming kids. Which led to us driving around (which probably meant annoying headlights in other’s tents!) AH!!! Let’s just say we tend to do more dispersed camping for that very reason (among others, of course!)

      • :) It did not occur to me that it could be parents of a little one doing the “drive around”. We have been known to do that a time or 2, but luckily not at the campsite- yet. As far as screaming kids, yes we resemble that from time to time.

  8. I’m still somewhat new to backpacking and car camping and even I am disgusted at the rudeness of previous campers tossing uneaten food mere feet outside the campsite even when there are signs posted about storing food properly because of animals. We backpacked in Rocky Mountain National Park a couple years back and used bear canisters for everything. We discovered, as we were putting the canister away from our tents, that previous campers had tossed egg shells and food leftovers right out in the open. At another campsite we saw what had to have been the contents of an entire can of beans sitting on top of leaves. In bear country! Because of this I am really nervous about our Yosemite trip this summer.

  9. Great list. Most of those things on the list are a pet peeve of mine, but feeding wild animals irks me the most. I cannot stand it. People do this at the beach, too, and it annoys me so much.
    Traci Lehman recently posted..Weekend Getaway: Cabin Camping at William Heise County ParkMy Profile

  10. Michael & Donna Douglas says:

    Obey posted Speed Limits!!! Donna and I always take our bikes camping and love to ride around the campground. We continue to be amazed at the people that feel posted speed limits are ‘suggestions’. We’ve been run off the road more than once!

    We have noticed that the Park Rangers in Georgia in State Parks are taking a more active role in enforcing traffic laws…an effort we certainly applaud.

    (We realize this is an older post…but we just found you!)

  11. I am especially fond of “don’t feed the animals”. That can cause a real problem for future campers when they (the raccoon) for example, comes looking for food. It has become accustomed to there being campers in the area, and it might become hostile if there is no food for it.

  12. Wow! I can’t get over some of the comments posted here. We have encountered rudeness, but nothing compared to what the others have experienced! It scares me! People can be extremely self-centered, thinking rules do not apply to them. We have been camping 3 times, and each time I have made at least 1 phone call to the camping office to complain about other campers. My husband wishes I wouldn’t, but I refuse to have my camping experiences ruined by these people.

    You’re right about the grey water. We went camping in a state park in June, and their were signs posted everywhere warning campers not to drink the water because it was contaminated with E coli! For a year! Gross!

  13. The music is my biggest pet peeve. I figure, if you want to listen to music it should be a personal thing and limited to your space. If I can hear your music from my space – it’s too loud. I love Lady Gaga but I don’t want her blaring across my campsite. And we all have different tastes in music. It’s hard when camping because people view their site as their space, their “home”, and feel like they can do what they want in that space. Fine. But the air belongs to us all and when your music is in my air, I’m not happy.

    • I understand your point of enjoying the sounds of nature. I agree music shouldn’t be loud or played outside of quiet time but camping is the only time I really get a chance to listen to some of my favorite cd’s.

  14. France's says:

    All of these. And the worst: fireworks. Quite apart from the noise, tents and fireworks don’t mix. I grew up with 3 of 4 siblings who were badly burned in a tent fire caused by fireworks (the 4th died; fireworks were banned in my province for years after that but they’re back. People forget). Every time I hear them in a campground I get shivers, and that’s it for sleep for me. I can’t assume anyone who thinks the noise alone is ok is going to be using good judgement about safety.

  15. As a campground manager, I agree with all of these, but would like to add just a few more:
    1) If there are camp “sites” (in other words, you’re not camping out in the boonies), please keep your tent/trailer/car and toys ON the site. Just because there is no site behind you, or nobody is currently camping on the site next to you, doesn’t give you the right to sprawl out. I’ve actually seen people that spread out their camp (tents, cars, pets) as much as 50 FEET behind their marked camp site!!!
    2) Keep your pet on a leash or tether WITHIN your camp site. Just because your pet is friendly doesn’t mean everybody else’s pet is friendly…and, if yours can run loose, so can theirs. Please don’t use the electronic tethers in a campground for the same reason – others see your dog “loose” and so they let theirs run loose too…
    3) Clean up after your pets and dispose of the waste accordingly. The fire pit is NOT the proper place to leave this type of waste…the next camper (or the campground management) gets the privilege of cleaning up after you, and that certainly does not endear you to them.
    Thanks for letting me vent!

    • HaHa! This post invites venting. I agree with Erin. It’s amazing how rude other campers can be. Thanks for your comments, Deb. I bet as a campground manager you have seen it all!

  16. We have been camping now for 20 years. We went from tent camping, pop up camping, trailer camping and now back to tent camping. It amazes me also how rude people were back then and remain so today. We taught our kids that loud noise was for the play ground not the camp site. Now we are in the third generation and continue to teach your rules but when they see adults not minding how they behave they have questions. Mostly our kids look at us now and say “I can’t believe no one ever taught them better,” This also applies to other areas of life. Great post.

  17. As one of the folks who has helped look after campgrounds (Forest Service) a goodly number of years ago, one more thing. Please, please, please – only human waste and toilet paper in the toilets. Soda cans are the same size as the hose for cleaning the vaults, and other materials are just miserable to remove. I know it seems odd to bring up to campground users, but if you are the person who needs to have the toilets cleaned and there’s a line the day of cleaning you’ll understand why it can’t go any faster. (Unfortunately the one lacking this knowledge was our “host” who wanted a pristine commode for immediate use and wanted me to speed it up.)

  18. Christina says:

    Oh my gosh…I know this is an old post, but here’s my two from this summer:

    1. Don’t cut through other people’s campsites. This was the number one rule I was always taught…why don’t people get that it’s your home for the time you’re there?

    2. Setting up camp late- I know it’s not always possible to get to where you are going in a reasonable time, but try to limit the noise. Set up the tent with whispers, leave the car doors open until you know you have everything out…all just little things after dark when the rest of us are sleeping.

    That said, most people are WONDERFUL to camp around. Oh, especially us :)

    • Don’t cut through other people’s campsites– thank you. This past weekend, as we were setting up our tent, kids kept riding bikes right through the middle of our campsite. Really? Of course, when we got everything setup, they finally went around. Makes you wonder where their parents are…

      Thanks Christina. I am sure ya’ll are great to camp around!

  19. Hunter/camper says:

    I agree with all of your tips. I would just add that campers should respect other campers. That is I camp in campgrounds many times during hunting season. What I am doing is completely legal, and I grew up learning how important it is to hunt ethically and within the rules. I respect my fellow campers, in that I would not skin or field dress an animal in the camp ground. Why then am I subjected to campers that seem to make it their mission to disrupt my hunting ie: yelling, honking horns, driving on roads around the area I have had told I would be in for safety. I understand some people don’t think we should hunt, but celebrating diversity includes people doing things within the law that not everyone agrees with. I would just ask that I be treated with the same respect that anyone else would want. We all should enjoy the great outdoors in our own ways. Respect nature and each other. Peace.

  20. Oh Tiffany, this is BILLIANT! You don’t know how excited I am to find you. Straight into my feed you’re going!

    And thanks for spreading the news about not feeding wildlife!

    4.Don’t feed animals at the campsites. Wild animals are like mooching friends- feed them and they will never leave. They may become aggressive as they demand more food. This is not safe for your family or for future campers.

  21. crfty camper says:

    Unruley kids,just as rude as their parents.Campgrounds are NOT automatic babysitting environment.As well as cutting threw campsites. If you wanna drink and party do it at home /bar its getting so that camping isn’t a family outing anymore. So sad.Just saying.

    • Big Bad Campground Owner says:

      This weekend for the first time in eleven years I had to deal with a unruly 7 yr old. Now I am a jerk and his mother is posting bad reviews about our campground. This little guy was 13 sites away from his site riding his bicycle through another campers site. Ran into a folding metal cage with two small dogs in it. Then came within a inch of crashing into a brand new pickup $50k truck. I had to tell him to get out in the driveway with the bike. A few minutes later he had climbed up on top of the swing cross bar doing a tight rope walk 8 feet above the ground. I told him to get down go back to his site and he was not welcome in the play ground without his parents.While I was kicking him out of the play ground a lady sat there and did not say a word to me. I went up to speak to the parents and was informed that the lady was with their party. Later I found that she and the guy that nearly order to go to the playground was not this child’s parents. The other woman setting there was. She then proceeded to tear into me about being polite to them. All three adults were unresponsive to my concerns about the situation. As a result today I am drafting new rules specific to our campers with children. Because now I am the “kid hating drunken grumpy old man that was never a kid”
      We do have many families that love our campground. But only take one eye poked out.

  22. Jasmine says:

    We absolutely adore camping, and go every summer, several times. The campground we go to has some pretty good campers, everyone is usually polite and friendly, always stopping to chat or say good morning, comment on something in your site. We have these amazing light strands that have little plastic liquor bottles for the lights. We found them when someone moved out of our apartment building, and every time we have them up, numerous people comment on them. They are a great conversation starter! To the point we’ve had people want to buy them, and one person had come over while we were out for a walk and was trying to steal them! We ended up boxing them up for the remainder of the trip.

    My biggest peeve is people who walk through your campsite. We once had a site that was near a pass-through in the woods to the other side of the campground, and I guess they thought our campsite was the walk-through! Kids on bikes would blow through, so we put up some ‘barriers’ to keep it from happening so we could enjoy our weekend. Adults and kids would go around the barriers, literally walking through our living space. I’m sorry, but it would be like me walking through your front door and out the back!

    And things in a campsite belong to the person IN that campsite. If all that firewood is stacked by the tree in our site, it is OUR firewood! Can’t even begin to count how many people have walked right up to our area and started to take firewood – that has been stacked near our fire ring! Seriously?

  23. The most important ones in my opion were :
    –not transporting firewood elsewhere- you may save five or ten bucks but it could cost taxpayers and private owners literally millions of dollars to deal with the consequences.

    -food stays in the car or trailer or whatever is secure. Animals have to work harder for their food than we do so if they find easy meals at a campsite they will come back again and again. Until they end up being unecessarily shot as a nuisance or a danger to campers. Racoons are likely just a nuisance but remember, especially when it comes to bears, ” a fed bear is a (eventually) dead bear”.

    – on sound? I detest even a low level radio or stereo. Get headphones and an MP3 palyer! I go camping for the peace and quiet. If I don’t get quiet from you, you may not get any peace from me. Particularly so if, as recently happened, I had to remind a neighbour of the “no radio” zone we were in… which he had to have requested, to camp there!

  24. A fab list of rules! It’s true the overall tone is definitely respect for nature, animals and other campers.

  25. Sherri Barrett says:

    Please add: Don’t start up your generator when you are surrounded by tent campers. This happened on my last trip and it was like an alarm clock you couldn’t shut off. The guy even gave the ranger a hard time. Worse thing is, people start it up and then leave the campsite because they can’t stand it themselves.

    Also, there is no excuse for an adult to walk through your campsite. One weekend we had a middle aged man tell us that it was his right to walk within one foot of our tent because he had to use the restroom. When I confronted him after about his 5th time, we ended up with an audience of three other families.

    • Laura Jean says:

      A big AMEN on the generators. We pull a 14ft trailer, and never use a generator. We are camping. If the battery and propane aren’t enough.. maybe camping is not for you.
      We had an experience this summer where the campground HOST ran his generator from 8am – 10pm every single day! I fnally got fed up by the noise and exhaust, and asked him to PLEASE turn it off, at least while we ate dinner. He said “No.. I need it for my sleep apnea machine”.
      For 14 hrs?? He must sleep A LOT!


  26. Laura Jean says:

    A rule I’d like to add:
    Please, please keep your dogs on a lead. It doesn’t matter if you THINK you pet is well behaved, they will take off.
    We are always amazed how many campers let their dogs run free, and rush our 2 dogs.
    This summer, we were horrified to be camped next to people who had both of their older Labs unrestrained.. and one of them saw a rabbit.. and chased it, off a cliff.
    The saddest thing I’ve ever seen.
    For their safety, as well as everyone else. Abide by the law. Keep them in your control.


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