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20 Golden Camping Rules Every Camper Should Know

20 Golden Camping Rules Every Camper Should Know

Just like anywhere else, there are certain guidelines for being courteous while you’re camping. If you’re new to the campground scene, it’s especially important to be aware of a handful of universal camping rules. These rules make camping an enjoyable and positive experience for everyone!

Let’s take a closer look at the twenty most common camping rules, why they’re in place, and how to abide by each one.

Camping Rules Keep Camping Fun for Everyone

When you experience disrespect from another person, doesn’t it just get under your skin? Sadly, disrespect can sometimes show up at campgrounds. All it takes is one rude person to ruin a perfectly good camping trip!

However, not all rules are written, so it’s important to show some grace and set a good example for others. Being a good camping neighbor means treating others and the campground the way you would want to be treated. You can’t always control how others act or whether they follow common camping rules, but you can do your part to keep camping fun for the masses.

RV campground
Following the rules ensures everyone has an enjoyable camping experience.

20 Golden Camping Rules Every Camper Should Know and Follow

We put together a list of rules we’ve acquired during our seven years of RVing and spending time in campgrounds. These rules originated from stories other RVers have shared with us, as well as our own first-hand experience. Here are the rules you should follow to be a good neighbor in the RV community:

1. Don’t walk through other people’s sites (and make sure your kids understand this, too). 

Use the designated paths to navigate the campground instead of cutting through in a straight line. When you’re camping, your campsite becomes your own little rental space. Unless you’ve received permission from the campsite inhabitant, it is rude to cut through their space. Similarly, make sure to keep your camp setup clearly on your site, and not spilling into your neighbor’s.

2. Keep your distance and respect others’ space.

This camping rule is referring to your parking and camp setup. If you pull into a sparsely populated campground, it’s considered courteous for you to pick a site away from the other campers to give everyone, including you, more space. For many people, camping is a getaway to enjoy the great outdoors and listening to the neighbor’s music or generator right next door would be nice to avoid if possible.

This tip also goes for boondocking. While you might find comfort in being close to another camper, or the best view might be right beside them, choose a spot a respectable distance away to be respectful of their space.

Pro Tip: If you spend more time boondocking than parked at campgrounds, make sure you follow these 9 Boondocking Rules You Should Never Break.

3. Don’t trash your campsite.

The Golden Rule is to leave your campsite area at least as clean as you found it, or better!

It’s really not fun to arrive at a campsite that has been trashed, so don’t be that person. If you moved anything on the site, like a picnic table, be sure to put it back where it was for the next camper. If you dug any holes or trenches, make sure to fill them back in.

YOUR FIRE PIT IS NOT A TRASH CAN. It’s really gross to arrive at a campsite with the garbage left from the last person. We’ve even found some fire rings with bags of dog poop in them! Throw all of your trash away in the proper receptacles before you leave.

campfire
Never burn trash or leave trash in a fire pit.

4. Put out your fire – all the way out!

We shouldn’t have to remind you about all the wildfires that have caused major destruction to homes, businesses, and natural lands. It’s been all over the news for the last decade.

Campfires are a fun and classic camping activity, but burning a fire needs to be done responsibly. Before you go to bed at night or leave your site, make sure the ashes are cold. You don’t want to be responsible for starting a fire that gets out of hand and causes damage. Besides, leaving a smoky fire smoldering is miserable for everyone around as well.

5. DO NOT BURN TRASH!

This gives off bad smells to other sites and can release toxic fumes into the air. You don’t want those fumes sticking to your marshmallow!

6. Be mindful of quiet times.

This camping rule means keeping music, shouting, loud laughing, or any other disruptive noises to a minimum. And don’t forget that your RV walls aren’t very thick. Even if the noise is coming from inside, your neighbors can still hear it.

Generators are one of the biggest complaints in this area because many campers buy cheaper commercial generators that aren’t designed for sound dampening. If you’re going to be camping a lot, we recommend investing in lithium-ion batteries to reduce overall generator run times. At the very least, go for a quieter generator like the Honda EU2200i.

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With any generator, keep usage to a minimum, set it up as far away from other campers as you can, and do not run it early in the morning or late at night. Also, check campground rules for generator use, as some have specific policies.

travel trailer with porch light on
Turn off your exterior lights at night.

7. Be aware of and respectful with your lights.

To respect other campers, don’t leave your awning lights on all night. This can bother others around you, and it’s a common complaint some campers have.

Think about it: you don’t want to be trying to sleep with your neighbor’s light glaring through your window all night. Don’t do that to others.

If you’re arriving at your campground in the dark, use your low beams or fog lights to avoid blinding other campers who may be enjoying their evening by the campfire. You should also use string lights and lanterns instead of constant bright flood lights to light your entire campsite.

8. Don’t be chatty with your new neighbor as soon as they pull in. 

While this might seem like the friendly, neighborly thing to do, they’re kind of busy unhooking and settling in! For many, arriving and backing into a campsite is one of the most stressful parts of camping.

To alleviate that stress for your new neighbors, don’t gawk or provide parking assistance unless they ask (or unless they really look like they’re going to damage something).

RV Neighbor comic
Get access to our comic library here.

9. “Bring Your Own” when going over for a social visit 

Bring your own beverage, cup, plate, and even silverware, too!

Many RVers don’t bring enough food, drinks, plates, cups, and silverware for more than just themselves, especially if it is a new meeting at the campground. This also helps with dishes at the end of the visit, as most RVs don’t have dishwashers like you might have at home (although some do!).

10. Don’t assume everyone loves your pet as much as you do. 

Pet etiquette while camping could be an entirely separate blog post. But the golden camping rules here are:

  1. Keep your pets leashed.
  2. Try to reduce barking as much as possible.
  3. Pick up pet waste and properly dispose of it in trash cans.
  4. Don’t let your pets wander into other people’s sites.
  5. Don’t leave your pets outside unattended.
dog at campground
Keep your pets leashed while camping.

11. Don’t assume everyone loves your kids as much as you do. 

Camping is a great way to get your kids out and let them play in nature. But it is your responsibility as the parent or guardian to be aware of your children’s whereabouts, talk to them about being courteous to other campers, and help them follow the camping rules.

If you’re not a parent yourself, don’t immediately get angry with noisy kids at the campground—give the parents a chance to teach proper campground behavior and ALWAYS be kind. 

12. Don’t just pop-in. 

Plan visits ahead of time, text, or wait until your friends are out and about before dropping by. Many RVers are looking for some peace and relaxation time, too. Also, it’s getting more and more common for campers to be working while at the campground! 

With connectivity improvements and employers opening up to remote work arrangements, your neighbor might be on a phone call that you wouldn’t want to interrupt. 

Elderly couple visiting other RVers
Never drop in on your RV neighbors without planning the visit ahead of time.

13. Familiarize yourself with campground rules – not all are the same. 

Most campgrounds post or hand out camping rules unique to that park. Check for quiet hours, fire & BBQ rules, pet rules, check out times, and speed limits to make sure you avoid complaints and a chat with the park ranger.

14. Don’t bring your own firewood. 

Insects and bacteria can travel in firewood. If you bring in a type of wood from another area, you can release these foreign pests into the natural environment and cause extreme damage to the forests and greater ecosystem of that area.

Many campgrounds sell local firewood that is safe. If you have extra, leave it for the next camper instead of moving it back home with you.

Read more about Why It’s Important To Buy It Where You Burn It.

15. Don’t cut down branches or trees in your campsite for firewood.

If everyone cut down a tree at the site for firewood, there would be no more trees and it would destroy the campsite. 

16. Respect the campground facilities.

Don’t trash the bathrooms, showers, pool, playground, or any other areas of the park. Keep them as clean as you found them.

Campground directional sign
Respect the campground facilities.

17. Don’t park your tow or toad vehicle in another person’s way or block an open site. 

Many campgrounds were built years ago when RVs weren’t as big. Some have smaller sites than others in an attempt to fit more spots into a certain acreage. You have to be mindful of how you park your secondary vehicle (if applicable) so that you don’t make maneuvering around your vehicle difficult or impossible. 

Honestly, you also have to make sure others aren’t in danger of clipping your vehicle, so consider how another RV would have to move to get into the sites around you.

18. Don’t set up camp at overnight parking, rest stop, and lot-docking areas.

If you’re parking overnight to rest at a Walmart, a rest stop, or another parking lot by permission, do not set up camp. These places are not designed for “camping” and, therefore, you should not be setting up lawn chairs, grills, or even putting all your slides out and jacks down. 

These are temporary parking spots and important resources for weary travelers. When people start “camping” in these places, it often leads to parking privileges being removed. 

Pro Tip: Planning to spend the night in a Walmart parking lot? First, learn The Dos and Don’ts of Walmart RV Parking.

19. Respect wildlife.

Follow camping rules for food and garbage storage so as to not attract wildlife. Keep your site clean from garbage and use designated bear-safe containers when camping in bear country.

Don’t feed the wildlife, as this can cause dependencies or expectations, which can often lead to the removal and termination of that animal. This is what caused the downfall of grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park, who are barely back from the brink.

Don’t injure or harass wildlife, and don’t allow your pets to either. This is a big reason why dogs must remain on leashes at campgrounds and natural places.

Elk grazing in park
Never feed wildlife while camping.

20. Only Dump Your Tanks at a Designated Dump Station

Your RV black tank is full of human waste, and the ONLY place that should ever be dumped is into an official dump station. Do NOT dump your tanks on the ground.

Even grey water can have non-biodegradable surfactants in them that can damage ecosystems and poison the water for wildlife.

Use apps like Campendium, iOverlader, and RV Trip Wizard to find dump stations near you or along your route to keep our public lands and campgrounds clean for all.

Why Follow These Camping Rules?

While twenty camping rules might seem like a lot to follow, most of them are common sense and easy to remember. They also help make your camping experience more enjoyable, not just the experience of those around you. 

If all RVers followed these camping rules, we’d all reap the benefits of having respectful neighbors. We appreciate you taking the time to read through these and doing your part to keep camping pleasant for everyone.

Unspoken Camping Rules comic
Get access to our comic library here.

Will You Take The #DestinationDeclaration Pledge?

We’re pledging to be a positive part of educating the next wave of responsible RVers. Will you join us?

✅ When I ARRIVE, I will: not trample plants, properly contain my food and garbage, and respect my neighbors (wildlife included).

✅ When I EXPLORE, I will: give wildlife space, stay on designated trails, and be respectful to others and nature.

✅ When I DEPART, I will: properly dispose of all of my waste, drown my fire (cold to touch), and overall leave my site better than I found it.

Share this post and spread the word! Keep our public lands, campgrounds, and trails open for outdoor recreation by helping people be better campers.

This #DestinationDeclaration is a collaborative effort with the Conservation Alliance, Dometic, and other outdoor lovers across the globe. Together, we hope we will all #leaveitbetter for the next adventurer.

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Chazman

Saturday 17th of September 2022

I understand the "Don't bring your own firewood", but what about pallet wood? I have never seen a bug in freshly cut pallet boards. Not to mention, you can box up a good amount of pallet boards.

Susan

Sunday 23rd of January 2022

My husband is a very nice man and a very social human. He likes to chat it up with our neighbors and even invites himself over to their fires. Ends up getting tours of their Rv’s sometimes. I am not social and I feel he may be intruding but I’m not sure. What are your thoughts?

Mortons on the Move

Thursday 27th of January 2022

I think in that situation social cues are the best way to judge. We too tend to be private when we stay at campgrounds and usually brush off talkative neighbors if we are busy, when they don't take the hint is when it's annoying. Many people do go to campgrounds to be social however and if the interaction is positive then it's all good. I'm sure the opposite is true that social people sometimes find us rude.

SUSAN

Monday 23rd of August 2021

Please correct #17. It is not a toad vehicle, it is towed.

Mortons on the Move

Wednesday 25th of August 2021

This is a common misunderstanding. A "toad" vehicle is RV slang for a vehicle towed behind a camper.

Rj

Monday 12th of July 2021

Thank you for an excellent list. I had not considered the “use local wood” rule but it makes sense. I learned a new one today. I would add…please don’t let your pet urinate (or poop) on another RV or site. I’ve heard of and seen dogs urinating on tires, steps, fire rings, power pedestals, etc. That just doesn’t make for pleasant campsite essence. We all know, where one dog goes, there goes the next ten. Thanks for your commitment to RV community education.

Janice krietemeyer

Monday 1st of March 2021

Always ask to pet your pet. Some older dogs don't like petting. U gave good advice for all points of camping especially new campers. Camping is a good thing for all kids young and old.

Mortons on the Move

Monday 1st of March 2021

Great point, it's scary to see anyone go up and pet a dog they don't know.

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