We almost always have good experiences when we camp. For the most part, other campers are thoughtful and conscientious. If fact, when we first started camping, I was pleasantly surprised by how well-behaved most camping folk are. I’ve had my share of sleepless nights in hotels, because people were yelling in the hallways and slamming doors until the wee hours of the morning. I expected to find the same when we started camping, but it’s just the opposite. There seems to be an unwritten code of Campiquette – etiquette for the campground. However, we have encountered some bad behavior from time to time.
1. Don’t air your dirty laundry – The worst camping experience we ever had was one night when two families camping together next to us got into a domestic dispute at midnight. Two sisters started arguing. Then one of the sister’s husbands took his sister-in-law’s side over his wife’s! I wanted to run out there and tell him to just shut up unless he wanted to commit marital suicide.
After it went on for an hour, my husband went to get campground security, because we heard them threatening each other with physical violence. It ended right before security got there, with the wife shouting at her husband that they were packing up the campsite in the morning, and when they got home she was calling the divorce lawyer.
The noise kept our kids up way too late, and they were exhausted the next day. Plus they got quite an education from all the foul language flying around. Most campgrounds have quiet hours. It doesn’t mean you can’t sit around the campfire talking after dark. It just means you need to do it quietly. And watch what you say, because your neighbors can probably hear anything above a whisper.
2. Don’t drink yourself into a stupor – Judging by the numerous cans left scattered around the campsite after our neighbors vacated, the little domestic dispute I mentioned above was fueled by Bud Lite. First, if you’re a loud, angry drunk, don’t get drunk at a campground. And men, never, ever side with anyone BUT your wife, drunk or sober.
Second, make sure your campground even allows alcohol. Many don’t. A couple of years ago we were camping during Memorial Day weekend. A campsite near us was occupied by a group of young people with plenty of beer on hand. Alcohol wasn’t allowed in that section of this particular campground. Park rangers saw them and went over to tell them they couldn’t drink. They discovered many of them were under age. It resulted in all of the campers getting kicked out, as a well as several tickets being written.
3. Don’t Walk Through Someone Else’s Campsite – Just as I stepped out of our pop-up camper at 3 a.m. to make a trip to the bathroom, a person walked right through our campsite, under our awning. I gasped and jumped about three feet in the air. He was just on the way to the bathroom too, but I wasn’t expecting someone to walk that close to my door in the middle of the night.
Maybe it’s a shorter walk to the bathroom if you walk through three occupied campsites instead of following the designated path, but the folks camping on those sites won’t appreciate your intrusion. They have personal belongings and valuables stored there. Their kids and pets are at the site. At home, you wouldn’t walk through your neighbor’s house on the way to the park, would you? Don’t do it at the campground either.
4. Don’t let your pets run wild – Speaking of pets, last year we were setting up our campsite when all of a sudden an enormous mastiff came lumbering after my seven-year-old son. It turned out to be a very friendly dog whose worst intention was to lick my son on the cheek. But the dog was huge and scared my kid half to-death anyway. It took quite of a bit of consoling to calm him down and convince him the dog wasn’t trying to eat him for dinner. Most campgrounds require you to keep your pet leashed or tied up at all times. Do it! It’s safer for other campers and your dog.
5. Don’t let your dog bark all night – Once we camped across from a family with two, yappy little dogs. The dogs barked at EVERYTHING: people, cars, birds, leaves blowing in the wind. That was just during the day. They left them in a pen outside their camper at night. Three or four times every night, we were we were awoken by the dogs barking and howling at the moon. If you have a dog who barks at every sound and growls at every stranger, he probably shouldn’t go camping with you. If your dog tends to bark at night, bring him inside your tent or camper where you can keep him quiet.
6. Don’t leave your dog’s business around for everyone to step in – One campground was stayed at sat on a lake with a lovely beach. Lovely, except for the huge piles of poo one camper’s great dane left steaming in the sand. Not exactly something you want to spread out your beach towel near. No one wants to step in your dog’s poo. Not even you! Also, it attracts flies. Yuck! Clean it up, and dispose of it appropriately. If you don’t want to scoop poop, leave your dog at the kennel.
7. Don’t wash you dog in the community shower – One time as I was leaving the bathhouse, I saw someone take their basset hound into the shower. True story. Other people have to shower after you. Also, try not to splatter your shampoo and conditioner on everything. Don’t pee in the shower. I mean, come on. The toilet is just steps away. Didn’t your mother teach you to go before you get in the shower? In general, try to keep the bathrooms clean. Flush the toilets. Put trash in the trash can. Try not to get water all over the sink counter. Don’t wash your kid’s poopie underwear in the sink. Another true story. P.S. ALWAYS wear your shower shoes.
8. Don’t drive like a maniac through the campground – I once saw a kid on a bike come inches away from death when some jerk came flying around the corner of a campground street about 40 miles an hour, without stopping to look for pedestrians or other traffic. This should be a no-brainer. There are kids all over the campground. They’re riding bikes and walking to the play area. Slow down and keep your eyes open. And at night, even when the streets are empty, it’s loud when you fly past all the campsites in your big ol’ diesel pickup. You’re on vacation. Don’t be in such a rush.
9. Don’t feed the forest animals – Someone in a campsite next to us thought it was fun to feed the local chipmunks their leftover toast. The next day a particularly bold chipmunk skittered up the side of our picnic table right in front of me and tried to make off with half a package of hamburger buns. ALVINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN! Feeding animals just encourages them to hang around. Today, you’re feeding squirrels. Tomorrow, a bear is knocking on your door looking for dinner.
10. Don’t leave garbage all over your campsite – I’ve seen people leave their campsites in rough shape: trash everywhere, broken glass, food discarded in the fire pit. I know, if you’re camping in a modern campground that whole “leave no trace” thing doesn’t really apply. Still, you don’t have to be a slob, even if you aren’t in the middle of the forest. First, trash and food attracts animals like I mentioned above. Second, if it’s hot, it smells. Third, I don’t want to look at the trash all over your campsite. It kind of ruins that whole outdoorsy feel. Fourth, campsites are usually cheap. You didn’t pay enough for the campground workers to clean up after your filthy self. Want housekeeping? Stay at the Holiday Inn.
What’s the worst behavior you’ve seen at a campground? Do you have anything to add to this list?