11 Things You Should Never, Ever Do in Campgrounds, According to Seasoned Campers 

We’ve all experienced certain campground faux paux, and sometimes, we even have to educate other campers. Here is our top list on what NOT to do in campgrounds. What would YOU add?

Ever since I was a child, I’ve stayed in campgrounds with my family. As a full-time van lifer for almost a year, I don’t stay in campgrounds often (I tend to prefer dispersed camping when possible), but I’ve quickly learned the ins and outs of what to do and how to act in a campground. Maintaining campground etiquette is important because it keeps you and other campers safe and helps everyone have an enjoyable experience. 

With that said, here are 11 things you should never do while staying in a campground!

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1. Leave Your Trash

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Would you like to pull into a campsite to find it covered with trash, empty cans, and dog poop? Probably not! So don’t be the person who leaves a mess for someone else to deal with.

Whatever you pack into the campground, you are responsible for packing out! Most campgrounds also have dumpsters where you can drop your waste before you drive out.

2. Leave Food Unsecured

Image Credits: Unsplash

Food attracts wildlife that can be dangerous or leave you without meals for the rest of your camping trip. Even if there is no chance of a bear encounter, there is still a risk of attracting other animals like mountain lions, coyotes, raccoons, rats, squirrels, birds, or rodents.

It’s best to leave your food secured inside your rig or in a bear canister placed at least 100 feet from your campsite.

3. Burn Plastic and Garbage

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

When burned, plastic and garbage release toxic (and often smelly) chemicals and pollutants into the air. These toxins harm humans and the environment, and your campground neighbors don’t want to smell these while enjoying their campsite. It can also harm wildlife and leave behind ashes that could contaminate nearby soil and water sources.

4. Walk Through People’s Campsites

Me standing by my Chevy Astro conversion at Great Basin National Park
Photo Credit: The Wayward Home

It’s campground etiquette to stick to your campsite and avoid walking through others’ campsites (unless they invite you over). Even if walking through someone’s campsite is a shortcut to the bathroom, it’s just poor manners to invade someone’s personal space.

Since I usually camp with my dog on a leash attached to our Sprinter van, she often gets scared or defensive if a stranger approaches or walks through our campsite.

It’s best to respect space, maintain the peace, and say hi to your campground neighbors from a distance.

5. Let Your Dog Off-Leash

Photo Credit: Amy Warner and Michael Ross

Most campgrounds don’t allow dogs to roam freely. Be the best dog parent and camping neighbor by leashing your dog and cleaning up after it (no one wants to step into a mess).

Even if your dog is the friendliest in the world, some people aren’t dog people, are allergic to dogs, might be afraid of dogs, or don’t want to say hello for another reason. My dog gets easily startled by other dogs and would probably whimper in fear if another dog unexpectedly ran up to her.

For these reasons, leash your dog so it doesn’t disturb other campers or animals.

6. Shine Bright Lights

Image Credits: Deposit Photos

Of course, there’s no rule against using a headlamp, flashlight, or lantern to help you see at night. However, you should avoid shining these bright lights into other campers’ eyes or their rigs.

When possible, use a red light as it is less blinding to the eye. Avoid turning on your vehicle lights at night since these are even brighter. 

7. Play Loud Music

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Some people like to bring a portable Bluetooth speaker, play a guitar, or use their phone or a radio to play music at their campsite. I understand the appeal and have done this before while dispersed camping (away from others).

However, when campers are parked close together in a campground, loud music can disturb the peace. It’s annoying for your neighbors who wish to relax, enjoy the sounds of nature, or sleep, especially when you play music early in the morning or late at night. I’ve stayed at a campground where someone did a guitar campfire singalong until 2 am, and I couldn’t fall asleep until their show was over.

8. Leave a Fire Unattended

man sitting on trelino composting toilet by fire
Photo: Trelino

Fires can get out of control when not monitored carefully. If there are small children around, this could also lead to unfortunate burns or injuries. An adult should monitor the fire if you have one while camping. You would hate to be the person who causes the next tragic wildfire due to your ignorance!

9. Ignore Campground Rules

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Each campground has its own set of rules and regulations. At some campgrounds, you can use the sinks in the bathroom to take a “sink shower” or even wash dishes; at others, doing these things is against the rules. Campgrounds may also have quiet hours, check-in/check-out procedures and hours, and campfire guidelines.

Make sure you read the regulations carefully and follow them.

10. Damage Vegetation

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

When you stay at a campground, you must watch where you step. There could be plants, wildflowers, trees, and other vegetation near your campsite that is fragile.

Don’t drive into unmarked areas, and avoid hanging certain hammocks that can cause damage to trees. Remember to skip the wildflower picking, too!

Leave the spot exactly as you found it without altering it or taking anything with you so others can enjoy it.

11. Feed Wildlife

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Although the little ground squirrels and other wildlife might look cute enough to want to share with, resist the urge to feed them human food. When a wild animal eats something outside their normal diet, it can cause digestive issues (or even kill them). It also causes wildlife to be more attracted to human food and scraps in the future, increasing the amount of critters and animals in an area.

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9 Comments

  1. Angie Weeks says:

    Great tips! Would also add to skip the generators – most campsites have electricity hookups, but for the ones that do not… I can’t stand generators running all day & night. The sound of machinery is something we are all trying to escape from.

  2. what bout generators ŕun time. They run all night?

  3. I like your 11 rules their is nothing worse than arriving at a campsite full of garbage thanks for letting people know like fn 2year olds some people’s kids eh 🍺🍺🇨🇦

  4. Margaret Huff says:

    My addition is inspired by your picture #8…Don’t pull your pants down and sit on your potty doing your business where anyone can see you. Nobody wants to see that. Potties should be used in private…inside your unit, in a small tent designed for that purpose…even a four foot high screen would be better than sittin’ and shittin’ in view of your fellow campers.

  5. 3 more –
    -Running generators for hours.
    -Talking loudly at campsite or while walking thru campground.
    -Smoking cigarettes in close proximity to other campers.

  6. Kendra Fay says:

    Two more –
    -If the campground is not crowded, don’t set up camp practically on top of another camper.
    -Dont park your vehicle on the campground road as others may need to get by.

  7. Bud Morgan says:

    oh my, not the campfire guitar playing……why would anyone want to sit around a camp fire at night and play music and sing and enjoy the outdoors…..I’ll tell you one, at my boat in the Marina or on the hook, I like waking up and listening to Nora Jones. I won’t play music before 8am, but I had a guy in a sailboat across from me come out of his boat at 9:30 am on a Sunday Morning, and just yell out loud “Can’t we just sleep in one morning without music”, and so I said to him, “That’s why God made anchors”, and no it was not loud and no I did not turn it down. By the next weekend he was gone, maybe headed out to the Pacific Ocean for a month or two. Guess what? All the neighboring boats said thank you, he was a real jerk. And Life Goes On…………Have fun, it’ll be over before you know it, and you’ll be old……

  8. Nurse Kathy says:

    Due to an unfortunate incident I had while tenting, I did some research and found that, depending on the state you are in, stand your ground laws due apply to renting of a campsite. So if you are harassed by somebody (drunk, of course) bothering you while on your site, and not leaving your site, you might want to mention that fact. After hours there is nobody to call, the gates are locked and the local police supposedly have a key to said gates. Somehow I doubt that said keys are handy enough.

  9. William Cook says:

    Number 10 Paragraph 3 begins: “Leave the spot exactly as you found it…” I was taught leave the campground better than how I found it. Any trash already there, if possible pack the other person’s trash out. Repair any damage if possible. Conscience is a higher code to live by than courtesy.

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