Camping Etiquette

I know you probably can’t imagine “Ms. Etiquette” roughing it among the elements. Yet my husband and I make a point of camping each year. It’s a great way to relieve the pressures of city life, get back to nature, and to simply relax.

Here are eight tips and courtesies to help you enjoy your next camping trip:

1. Keep your distance. Don’t set up camp too close to another camp. In a public or forest service campsite, with toilet facilities, tables, and parking, set up your camp as far away from others as possible. If you like to pick a spot in a national forest or the backcountry, camp far away from trails and other camps so that no one can see or hear you. Never walk or drive through another’s campsite.

2. Be aware of noise and lights. If you play music, watch TV, or turn on a generator, stop by 9 p.m. or earlier, if neighbors appear to be quiet or retire. In the morning, make sure they are up before you make noise. If you arrive after dark or before dawn, keep noise to a minimum and dim your headlights.

3. Practice “no trace” camping. Leave your camp as clean or cleaner than you found it. Pack out your rubbish or put it in the proper containers. Never put metal, glass, or plastic into your campfire because they do not burn. Don’t bury metal, glass, plastic, paper, or food scraps because animals will dig them up or wind and water will unearth and scatter them. For more “no trace” tips, see

4. Keep nature beautiful. Do not wash dishes or clean fish in streams or lakes which will pollute the water. Throw the dishwater and entrails onto the ground at least 200 feet away from any camp, stream, or lake. Animals will dispose of the entrails.

5. Use proper toilet facilities: Always use the provided bathroom facilities. If there are none, set up your latrine 100 yards or so from any camp. Try to make it downwind, downstream and at least 200 feet from a stream or lake. Do not urinate on trees or plants, because animals desiring salt will eat the tree bark or plants, often destroying them. Try to urinate on bare soil or rocks away from streams or lakes. If you’re hiking, the best place is often on the trail, where no harm can be done to any plants.

6. Keep trees healthy. Never drive nails or shoot guns into trees. The holes allow access for insects that could destroy the tree. Don’t leave wire or rope around a tree trunk or branch when you leave. Never cut live trees or brush for firewood. Instead, find dead wood, unless you see a sign prohibiting the gathering of firewood. In many improved campgrounds you must supply your own firewood. Some campgrounds sell it at the office or host’s site.

7. Stay somewhere appropriate if you have small children. Choose a family-friendly campground where they are welcome and have safe places to play. Keep children under age 8 or 9 under direct supervision. They can wander out of your sight in a moment and be miles away before you find them. Teach older kids these camp etiquette tips so that they, too, will be welcome in any camp.


8. Manage your dog. Dogs are never a good idea in the woods or wilderness because they can terrorize wildlife, bark too much or leave messes that people don’t clean up. If you must bring your dog, it must be quiet and under control. Keep it on a leash no more than 6 feet long, never let it free to chase birds, squirrels, deer, or other wildlife. And you must clean up after it around the campsite.

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Happy Practicing!

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