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7 Unwritten Rules of Camping

Updated: Jan 27

Did you know people hate when you burn forks and wrappers in your campfire? Just like any community there are written rules and things unspoken that you just don’t want to do. Come on a walk with us through a number of RV Parks we’ve been to as we share the answer to

What are the Unwritten Rules of Camping?

We've been through a lot of unwritten rules. Most of them are general courtesy of the RVing and Campground community. Most of these are common sense and general care and consideration for others. when camping keep the noise down, lights dim, and the smoke of fires as clean as possible. Don't distract people while they are setting or breaking camp unless they ask for help. When possible arrive to your campground before dark and be mindful of others when pulling in late.

People violate these rules every day. Learn more about the guys you'll encounter in the campground and how to steer clear of being one of these people to avoid conflict through the rest of this post. Here are 7 unwritten rules of camping. Let’s Get Started! To watch the video version of this post go to YouTube here or continue reading below.

Can you Burn Trash in your Campfire when Camping?

Number 1 comes from the Fire Enthusiast. We’ve seen so many people burn improperly that this is a great place to start. Burning with wet firewood is the worst a neighbor could do near us. But, we have been to many campgrounds where people bring in wet firewood that they can’t burn hot that creates the thickest smoldering smoke. Or parents let their brood throw wet leaves and grass in the fire. There is something about RVs that just collect the smoke and you have to sleep in it all night. We also know people with conditions that will go into asthmatic episodes if the smoke is bad. But is burning garbage in your campfire worse? The fire smells and you are releasing toxic chemicals into the air you and everyone else breathes.

Be kind to your neighbors like here at Sampson State Park and burn dry firewood, and start it with good kindling and newspaper. Tend to your fire while it is lit to burn hot and thoroughly to limit smoke and extinguish your fire before abandoning it for the night. If you are looking for a good firestarter try using fatwood. It's pine pitch sticks that really help light fires quickly.

We have six more people to talk about. Which one are you?

How Loud Can You Play Your Music When Camping?

Are you the self-proclaimed Campground DJ? We all know about this person. Most of the time this is the guy that is blaring the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd for all of us to enjoy. You know the time around 6pm when you just finished grilling the perfect chicken and are sitting down at the picnic table to have dinner. The music comes on as the beers are flowing. You might be having a quiet conversation about your day or planning for tomorrow but you look down at your meal and can’t escape the irony that you are about to eat and he’s playing Free Bird at max level. This person can play anytime and you watch and wait until quiet hours to see whether they turn their music down.

When you want to listen to your music, consider other campers in the campground. Not everyone likes your music.

We’ve found a good bluetooth speaker on the picnic table or near the campfire like at this busy Trailer Village in the Grand Canyon provides greater sound at a lower volume than your RV can provide. Similarly if you are watching tv the bluetooth speaker can be placed near you and connected to your tv so the sound doesn’t have to travel from the tv to where you are seated.

Should I Help Others Park Their RV When Camping?

Ever been visited by the eager helper?

This is the person that comes onto your campsite as you are trying to pull in to offer help. Anyone who has camped for more than a year knows that this person is more of a impediment to you successfully setting up your campsite. We all know if you have an RV or tent that there is a lot to do to setup camp. Usually, your brood has roles and expectations and a process to park and make camp really well. Tell me, who has walkie talkies to communicate just for parking your rig into a campsite? When this is interrupted by another person it will waste time at a minimum and could cause damage or something to be forgotten.

As you are breaking camp a similar person can come up to you and start asking questions. For people breaking camp and getting ready to leave there is a similar process that takes focus and complete attention. One cotter pin or the flip of a switch or removal of a plug that is missed could cause significant damage to your rig when pulling out or more serious damage and injury after you leave the campground.

When people are parking and setting up camp and when they are breaking camp and pulling out, like here at Adventures on the Gorge near New River Gorge National Park, give them their time and don’t interrupt. Also, if you are a beginner or need specific help ask the campground staff or another camper. I think most anyone in the campground is eager to help. It’s probably better to ask seasoned campground staff that can help personally or might offer to help you ask a seasonal camper they trust to walk over and help you with your task.

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Can I Have my Dogs Off Leash While Camping?

Who has witnessed the not so effective dog whisperer? We’ve seen this person in a few different ways while we’re camping. First while you’re quietly walking your dogs through the campground. We have two labs that are well behaved, credit to my wife, that I can handle with one hand while taking videos like these in the other. But, from out of nowhere a dog comes running at you barking uncontrollably until they find out they’ve reached the end of their leash. Or have you ever had a dog just walk through your campsite unleashed and unattended. We were at our campfire one evening and had a chihuahua malinois mix just come up and say hi. We figured it was a campground dog and thankfully it was pleasant and just went on its way. About an hour later the owner frantically drove by in his Suburban looking for clues to locate his lost dog. He was a seasonal owner in the campground.

We camp because we enjoy bringing our pets with us like we did at Streetsboro/Cleveland KOA near Cuyahoga National Park. But, dogs are animals with free will. If they are on a 6 foot leash with their owner and trained not to bark, most of the issues are covered. We could go on but,

As we work through our list, comment on unwritten rules we may have missed. Other campers especially beginners read these comments and we can learn together. Onto the next one…

When Can I Run My Generator While Camping?

The Need More Power Guy tends to upset tent campers the most. We really do empathize with the tent campers. Having a Class A Motorhome we try to reduce our effect on tent campers but it’s difficult. But running a generator all day and all night is clearly a violation of campground etiquette. This affects all campers in a couple of ways. First the engine exhaust, if not exhausted well, will be breathed in by everyone nearby but the noise the generators create are polluting the campground, too. If you need to run all of your electronics, consider a campground with electricity hookup like full hookup Campbell Cove near Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio, or run your generator a couple of hours during the day, to recharge batteries and limit your electricity usage.

The need more power guy may also be Mr Light Show - This person is in their prime after dark.

Should I Keep My Lights on at Night While Camping?

RVs these days have more lights than Wal-Mart and many campers like to show them all off. We’ve noticed the expansion from just incandescent porch lights outside doors to LEDs everywhere and the results have been extraordinary. But the other item that creates a lot of light pollution are outdoor TVs. We’ve seen them get ever bigger and brighter. We’ve also seen the inflatable movie screens and have seen people pull out flat screens and set them up for the big game. But there’s more. LED light ropes and under mounted ground effects have made lighting a campsite into some people’s favorite hobbies. Many people in campgrounds are looking to watch the stars near a campfire like Little Bear Campground in West Liberty Iowa. But the lights on by the campground and the lights put up by campers create so much light pollution that it blocks out the stars and satellites that people want to watch while they are having quiet conversation by the campfire. But tent campers and popup and popout trailers don’t have the ability to blackout their setups. So, these lights come into their sleeping area and prevent them from sleeping.

Be mindful of the light pollution you are emitting from your campsite and turn off unnecessary lights after dark and use focused lighting as needed with the light shielded to reduce the beam shining further than your campsite. We always carry LED lanterns and tactical flashlights to again have the light locally where we need it instead of rope lights or flood lights that shine across the campground.

Can I Arrive Late When Camping in a Campground?

This next one I struggle with because breakdowns or other unforeseen circumstances can make you

The Late Arriver? This is the person that arrives at the campground late at night. The later they arrive the more of an etiquette violator they are. Most campgrounds have quiet hours starting at 10pm. So for the sake of this video after 10pm is frowned upon. The late arriver who emulates this person the best is the one with the loud exhaust and bright headlights that come into the campground and drive around a few times to find their spot. When they pull in they shine their lights right at the campsite in front of them and yell at each other to get their rig parked. As they are setting up their rig they leave their engine and headlights on while they use their impact driver to set their leveling jacks.

Be mindful of your lights and use the least amount of light possible like here at the Grand Ole RV Resort in Goodlettsville Tennessee. We’ve seen some people pull in using their parking lights. Drive slow and turn off your engines as soon as you can. Consider doing the minimum and setting up camp in the morning. Manually set the leveling jacks or use a quieter drill. Do you think anyone arriving late should make a pit stop at a rest area or WalMart and pull in the next morning?

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