Six Simple Rules of Camping Etiquette

February 18, 2021

Six Simple Rules of Camping Etiquette

So you're looking to spend some time in the great outdoors? Well, being out in the wilderness doesn't mean manners go out the window! 

Most veteran campers are fun and friendly people, but they won't take kindly to you treating your campsite like it's your personal playground. And nature is one mother who will NOT be picking up after you. 

Being mindful of your camping manners is a great way to make friends with fellow campers, which comes in handy if you ever run out of T.P. It's also just an expected courtesy when you're in a public place meant for everyone to enjoy! But more than being polite to your adventurous peers, camping etiquette is about taking care of nature and making sure it's around for many years to come and for many future generations of camping to enjoy.

Read on for the top tips you simply must know before pitching your tent!

1. Plan to Bring the Right Gear! 

Planning for your camping trip means you'll have everything you need. It'll be a better experience for you, but it also means you and your fellow campers will be safe! 

Be sure to research the area you're visiting and their policies for camping. Depending on where you're going, for example, you might be required to bring a bear canister to store your food safely. This makes sure your food won't be eaten by bears (yikes!) AND that you won't be attracting bears to come sniffing around you and your fellow campers. 

Planning ahead also means ensuring you have the following essentials:

  • The right amount of food for the length of your trip
  • The proper maps for your chosen terrain
  • The right clothing and shelter for the weather

Unprepared campers have about as much fun as people who get caught in the rain without an umbrella (Not much). Unprepared campers are also more likely to get caught in dangerous situations — definitely not what you want on your camping trip — and can drain environmental resources on costly rescue efforts. Getting airlifted out of a remote campsite is really not the way you want to experience your first helicopter ride. 

2. Choose the Right Campsite 

If you're booking a numbered campsite at a designated campground, you can skip this one, but for those doing slightly more adventurous camping, listen up! 

Most nature preserves have rules about where you can and can't set up camp. Standard camping tips advise 200 feet from any body of water and 200 feet from the main trail. 

It's also best to set up camp someplace that looks like it's been camped on by many others before or on surfaces that aren't easily damaged, like dirt, rock, and gravel. Throwing your tent down on top of some leafy green foliage is a big no-no. 

This particular bit of camping etiquette ensures you aren't causing damage to the often-fragile ecosystems in the great outdoors! 

3. Take out the Trash

If you thought a camping trip would mean a break from taking out the trash, you thought wrong! 

If you're camping somewhere with a latrine (or, even more luxurious, running water!), this one's pretty simple: go to the bathroom in the designated places and pick up after yourself. If you carried it in, you're going to have to carry it out. This means trash too!

There's nothing worse than getting to a campsite to find that the previous visitors left a mess behind. And it's not just rude — leaving trash behind can attract pests and predators, which put you and other campers at risk.

If you're camping somewhere a little more barren, it's important to know proper camping bathroom etiquette. In most places, this means burying number twos so they don't contaminate water sources or spread harmful bacteria. 

Make sure you're 200 feet away from campsites, the trail, and any bodies of water, and dig a six to eight-inch hole (Fun fact, seasoned campers refer to these as “catholes”). Put your business in there and then cover it up with dirt and leaves, so it's less likely to be discovered by curious critters.

If you have biodegradable toilet paper, you can bury that in the hole too. If not, true camping etiquette would ask that you collect all your used toilet paper in a baggie to carry out with you.

4. Don't Mess with Nature

Mother nature is undoubtedly a powerful force, but she's also pretty fragile. It's up to all of us to ensure that the nature we love to explore is still here for many generations to come. And much as we love to be out in nature, taking care of her often means: don't touch! 

Carving you and your partner's initials into a live tree may seem romantic, but camping veterans will not think you're romantic. And it may not seem like a big deal to pick a few wildflowers, but if everyone who visited your campsite did that, there'd be none left. 

Take pictures instead of “souvenirs” and try to take in nature's beauty with your eyes and ears, rather than your hands. 

5. Be Careful with Fire

If you've ever heard of Smokey the Bear, you'll know a little something about this one. Wildfires are no joke, and inadvertently starting one is probably the worst thing you could do when it comes to camping etiquette. 

Before you set up a blaze to roast marshmallows over, it's important to ensure you've looked up the rules of your site. Some campsites don't allow fires at all, and most have regulations about where you can have them. 

If there's an existing fire ring at your site, use that. If not, make sure you set up your kindling well away from any overhanging branches, dead wood, or dry brush, and keep your extra wood a ways away. 

Fires should never be left unattended, and it's incredibly important to make sure they're fully extinguished before you leave! Use water or dirt to smother the fire and then a stick to stir and break up the embers. 

Ensuring your fire is out is the most basic thing to do when it comes to camping politeness. But if you're feeling extra generous, you could also leave a small stack of wood behind for the next visitors. 

6. Keep the Noise Down

Most people go out in nature to get away from it all. While your favorite tunes may be an essential part of your relaxation time, they could be the exact opposite to your fellow campers. 

This one's short and simple; be mindful of your noise level. It's common courtesy to your neighbors AND ensures you're not traumatizing the wildlife with classic rock! 

Conclusion

Camping is one of the best leisure activities to enjoy, but it's only fun if everyone is considerate to one another and showing respect to your gracious host: mother nature! Keep these camping tips in mind, and you'll be making camp friends in no time! 

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