Article written for Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine 6/2017
If like me, you spend much time camping, you’ve probably come to the same conclusion that campers for the most part are pretty respectful and friendly people. Whether we’re tent, hammock or RV campers we all have one thing in common, we love the outdoors and enjoy the time we spend camping. So if everyone is so respectful, why is it some campgrounds have so many rules? The obvious of course, not everyone is so respectful. There are always those few bad apples which require a set of rules to ensure they don’t infringe on those around them. I’ve stayed in campgrounds which had a lot of rules and those that had few and honestly, I’ll take the campground with a lot of rules any day.
I remember years ago my wife, son and I pitched our tent in a privately run campground in Southwest Virgina. When we checked in we weren’t given a list of rules and none were posted that I could see. Our first (and last) night the campers next to us had a few visitors over, I counted 12 cars. Their music, hooting and hollering sounded throughout the park and the party didn’t simmer down until 3:00 AM. If they had been in one of the many beautiful Virginia State Parks, that wouldn’t have lasted 30 minutes before a Ranger would have broken it up.
Now it’s not always so blatantly disrespectful and in fact, even some of the friendly, respectful campers don’t realize their actions are annoying and disrespecting those around them. So we can all get on the same page, here are 8 simple etiquette rules we should all follow to help make everyone’s camping experience a happy one.
- Pets – (Specifically dogs)
I’m a dog owner, dog lover and I know I’ve broken some rules when it comes to my pet. An occasional bark isn’t a problem; however the yapping dog that won’t stop is definitely an issue in a campground. I remember last year staying at Douthat State Park near Clifton Forge Virginia we had our newest addition to the family with us, a 5 month old Border Collie named Charlie. Now Charlie wanted to play with everyone who passed by our camp and let he them know by aggressively barking at them. By the end of the weekend everyone in the campground knew what to expect when they walked passed our camp. I imagine we were the topic of a few conversations.
A few other rules to remember related to pets, (1) keep them on a leash at all times, (2) when they potty pick up after them, (3) if you are just going to keep them locked up all day while you are gone maybe you should consider leaving them home.
I love children but I’ve raised mine already. Please continue to raise yours while in the campground and not allow them to have free reign. Not only can children be intrusive but it isn’t safe to allow children to run free unattended. I’ve had little children come up to me in my camp and want to hang out. I’m pretty sure if someone asked them to get in a car to go get ice cream they would. Be smart and safe.
Consider each person’s camping area their own property and give them the same respect you would if it were their home. Don’t take shortcuts across their land, don’t hang out on their property or let your children do so. If you just want to be friendly and say hi, do so when they are outside and make it short and sweet. If they are enjoying your company they will invite you to stay.
It is very unsettling to see someone speeding though a campground. Please drive very slowly; remember there are children with free reign playing.
Oh My Gosh, this is my pet peeve. I wanted to write this article for this issue alone. I don’t care if you smoke; it’s up to you if you do so. However, I don’t want to walk into the bathroom or shower room and smell your cigarette smoke. I get it; you enjoy sitting on the toilet and smoking. Sounds like it could be relaxing but please save it for home. I also don’t want to walk through your cloud of smoke to get to any of the facilities.
- Arriving after dark
One year we went to Sherando Lake family campground in the Jefferson National Forest near Waynesboro, Virginia. We didn’t arrive until after dark. You can be the most experienced camper in the world but setting up camp in pitch black is challenging for anyone. I remained respectful for a full 15 minutes before I decided I was tired and wanted to get into my tent. On came the truck lights shining directly into the camper’s tent across from me. They didn’t say anything but I got the message when they exited their tent cursing and throwing things around their camp. Of course I’ve been on the receiving end of those lights shining into my tent and it isn’t nice. Always do your best to arrive before sundown with plenty of time to setup camp.
Sound usually carries across campgrounds pretty well. So even when you’re not making a lot of noise it still may be heard by your neighbors. Keep this in mind when you have company and everyone is getting excited and talking at once. Another consideration is for generators in primitive campgrounds. Just because they are permitted doesn’t mean you have to use one all the time. I was camping at North Creek Campground in the Jefferson National forest about a mile from Buchanan, Virginia when I experienced a neighbor with a loud generator. We were enjoying the solitude that comes with primitive camping when all of a sudden we hear this loud generator start up next door. We looked over at our neighbors and they politely smiled and waved. I on the other hand was considering the possibility of cutting their gas line. The noise completely ruined the camping experience.
Some of our best times camping is when friends come over for a cookout and get together. While enjoying your company make sure you share the rules and ensure your visitors are being respectful to other campers. Most campgrounds have visiting hours, so make sure you adhere to those times.
Camping should be fun and relaxing. For a lot of families camping is a time to teach children about the great outdoors and instill a since of adventure and respect for their environment. For many of us it was during our own childhood that we got hooked on camping and why we still camp today. Remember if you are being disrespectful to those around you it might not just be someone’s camping experience you are ruining, it may be someone’s first camping experience you are ruining.
If you adhere to these eight simple rules you’ll increase the likelihood of having a good time as well as contribute to the overall, positive experience of those around you. Happy camping!