What makes a camping trip wonderful might be subjective, but everyone knows what can make it awful: Noisy neighbors, trash strewn everywhere, slamming car doors, or a missing picnic table. Like the noise of a squeaky fire grate in the campground across the park from you, a little consideration goes a long way!
1. Speak Softly
A tent will keep the water out when it rains, but it does not keep the sound out – and it does not keep the sound in, either! Remember that everything you say will be heard by any person in the campground. This goes for what you say in your tent, too. Shouting should not happen unless there is an emergency.
No matter how good your taste in music is, it is unlikely that all of your neighbors will agree. Headphones are the best way to enjoy music while camping. And if you sing around the campfire, make sure to do it before quiet hours begin. Your neighbors inside their thin nylon walls will thank you!
Try to minimize your loud activities, or at least group them together. If you need something from your car, try to get everything you need at once so that you are not repeatedly making your car beep when it unlocks, or slamming car doors over and over.
The same goes for filling up air mattresses with a pump – a very loud, necessary activity that should be done as quickly as possible, and not during quiet hours. It is inevitable that noise will happen when you are camping, but try to minimize it and think about how it sounds to the people around you.
A good rule of thumb for the loudness of activity is this: Can you still hear the birds singing? If the answer is no, you are probably too loud.
2. Move Carefully
Campgrounds are busy places, and there are almost always people walking around. Someone is heading to the bathroom, someone else is hauling water or firewood, kids are riding their bikes, and no one is watching for cars.
When driving a vehicle in the campground, it is very important to follow the posted speed limit. If there is no posted limit, drive slower than you usually would and keep an eye out for pedestrians.
When you arrive at your campsite, it is good to back your vehicle into your spot. This makes pulling out safer next time, since you will not have to watch for pedestrians while in reverse.
If you like to ride your bicycle in the campground, make sure you give pedestrians the right of way, and alert them to your presence if you approach them from behind. Simply saying, “On your left!’ is a friendly way to make sure that they know you are near.
When walking, stay on the paths in the campground, and stay on the trails when hiking. Do not walk through other campsites, even if they are not occupied. When campsites are not occupied, the grass, trees, and plants need time to recover. If the campsite is occupied, think of it as the front yard of someone you do not know, and treat it accordingly.
3. Set Up Thoughtfully
Since your campsite is likely visible to other people, put some thought into your setup plan. If you are near a water body where others will be paddling or swimming, set up brightly-colored tents away from shore so that you do not disrupt the natural beauty of the shoreline.
If your campground provides carts to haul your gear, return the cart promptly once you have used it.
Even if the neighboring campsite is empty, do not take the picnic table or bench for your own use. The campsite might be occupied later that day, and a missing picnic table or bench makes for an awkward situation for everyone!
If you use a lighting source such as a lantern, tiki lights, or your car’s headlights, remember that in a campground, light causes as much pollution as noise does. Extinguish your lights during quiet hours so that your bright lights are not shining in the eyes of someone who is trying to sleep. If you wear a headlamp when walking at night, aim it toward the ground to avoid blinding people you meet on the path.
And a note about lights inside a tent: If you use a bright light inside and it is dark outside, your shadow and everything your shadow does will be on display for everyone to see.
4. Share Spaces Considerately
Sharing restrooms and showers can be one of the biggest challenges when camping.
Do not monopolize the sink spaces to do your hair and makeup. If you must use the electrical outlets, try to minimize the amount of time that you use it. A solar charger at your campsite is an effective (and environmentally-friendly) way to charge your phone that does not monopolize electrical outlets.
When you shower, keep your shower short to preserve water and give other campers the opportunity to shower. Make an effort not to drip water everywhere or track muddy footprints inside the shower. A pair of clean flip flops is helpful when showering, and it keeps your bare feet off the floor, too.
Walking around barefoot in a campground is unsafe, since you could stop on something sharp, but it is also less than sanitary, especially in a bathroom. Your fellow campers will appreciate your consideration!
If you catch a fish and plan to eat it, make sure you use the provided spaces for cleaning the fish. The same goes for washing dishes – either wash them at your campsite, or wash them in the provided area. Monopolizing the bathroom sink for dishwashing is not only unsanitary, but it can also cause big problems for the septic systems.
If you use the picnic grounds at your campsite, make sure to pack out all the trash that you generate. If you use one of the grills or fire pits at the picnic ground, make sure to dispose of any hot coals in the provided receptacles, or make sure the fire is completely out before you leave.
5. Treat Nature Gently
Of course, the main reason that everyone camps is the enjoyment of nature, so working to make sure that can happen for years to come is very important! Treating the natural world with care and respect is every bit as important as thinking of your human neighbors.
Only use firewood from approved vendors, and do not take leftover firewood with you when you leave. This helps to prevent the spread of dangerous insects that can devastate local forests.
If the campground allows you to gather firewood, do so carefully. Never peel bark from a living tree, as this can kill it. Never saw branches from a living tree, even if it is the perfect stick for s’mores – if every visitor to the campground took just one small branch, a healthy tree would die in one camping season!
If you use a hammock, you should hang it only with hammock straps, and never use chains or ropes that can damage the bark on a tree.
Do not burn trash in your fire pit. It is illegal in many places, and it also creates toxic smoke that is bad for humans and animals to breathe. Dispose your trash and secure all your food in the trunk of your car (or in a provided food locker) before climbing into your sleeping bag. Properly storing food means no one in the campground is awakened by the raccoons fighting over your marshmallows in the middle of the night!
Before you leave your campsite, pick up every bit of trash you can find. Remember to look for the small things, like twist ties, cigarette butts, or pieces of food wrappers. Work to make sure that the campsite is cleaner than when you arrived!
6. Good Neighbors For Generations To Come
Being a thoughtful camper is something that makes the experience of everyone in the campground better. Showing consideration for your neighbors, the natural world, and the shared facilities when you are camping helps everyone enjoy the beauty of the nature around them. Even better, thoughtful camping helps preserve natural beauty so that people in the future can have the same great experiences!
Have you ever had nighttime animal visitors to your campsite because you forgot to put the food away? Which song would you absolutely not want to hear someone singing around a campfire? Let us know!