Even when you're camping off the beaten path, you need to think of more than just yourself. Proper camping etiquette includes keeping your surroundings neat, disposing of trash responsibly, keeping your noise level down, respecting the wildlife, and more. If you do your part to make camping a pleasant experience, others will most likely follow in your footsteps and do the same.
Leave No Trace
To Leave No Trace basically means to leave your campsite as you found it and clean up after yourself, no matter where you camp. When you set up camp, be careful not to damage the surroundings. If you can't get set up camp without chopping down or smashing vegetation, then find another spot. This is especially important when you're boondocking. Look for an established spot where campers have already been. If you do this, you're not doing any additional damage to the land or natural resources that may be in the area.
It's tempting to feed the animals. They're cute, and maybe you want to get a closer look at them, but you have to remember that they are wild and need to stay that way. Feeding them can cause dependency on humans and if fed by humans often, they may not know how to find food on their own. If they cannot hunt or forage, once the human handout is no longer there, they will starve to death. Feeding them also can give them a false sense of security when it comes to humans. Unfortunately not everyone is as compassionate and there are some people out there that will take advantage of these animals and hurt them. To find out what to do when camping in bear territory, click here!
If you're camping in your hometown, it's ok to bring your own firewood. If you're venturing farther, then get firewood near your campsite. The trees in your area may have built up immunity to different types of vegetation diseases and illnesses. The firewood you bring can carry these diseases to the new area where the plants are not equipped to handle it and it can wipe out a lot of plant life there. Bugs are another reason for using local firewood. They burrow into the trees and dead wood to make their homes. In areas where the bugs belong, there are predators that help keep their population under control and thus keep the ecosystem in balance. If these bugs are introduced to an area where there are no predators, they will reproduce at rapid rates and destroy the area by eating all the vegetation. For these same reasons, never bring home any leftover firewood or you could unleash one or both of these issues right in your own backyard.
When it comes to building a campfire, be smart about it to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. Do not make a fire that is too big. Fires can spread quickly and easily. If the flames are shooting up too high, the trees above it could be at risk of catching on fire! Once you have a safe fire going, never leave it unattended. This may seem like it's not a big deal, especially if you have a fire ring, but there are dangers here. While it's every parent's job to watch their children, kids are crafty and have minds of their own. They can sneak away pretty easily and you don't want someone's child burning themselves on your fire. Even if it is the "parent's fault" for not watching them, someone could still get very hurt and suffer unnecessary burns. There's also the possibility of wind displacing some of your burning fire, potentially catching neighboring woods on fire. Always watch your fire and do not leave it unattended while it's burning. When you're done with your fire, extinguish it completely! Don't leave anything smoldering because just a slight breeze can reignite it and spread it to other areas. You can put a fire out with water or by smothering it with dirt. Make sure to use dirt and not sand if you're smothering it. Sand is light and air can get into it more easily and keep the fire going. Dirt is heavier and typically at least a little damp and helps put it out. If possible, pour water on it, and then cover it with dirt. Want to try building a teepee fire? Learn how to here!
Gray Tank Disposal
They gray water tank may not contain unsanitary human waste like the black tank, but you still don't want to just dump it on the ground. This water still contains soap, so dumping a large amount of it in one area can be harmful to the plants and animals. If you want to use this water, you can spread it around a bit with a watering can so the soap gets diluted. If you do this, ensure you are using natural soaps so there's nothing toxic. You can use it to water plants or even spread it around a dirt campsite to keep dust from kicking up if it's somewhat dry. Otherwise, dispose of your gray tank at the sanitation station along with the black tank. And never (ever!) dump any part of the black tank onto the ground.
Be respectful when it comes to your noise level. Even during the day it's rude to make lots of noise or blast loud music for the entire campground to hear. Typically there will be quiet time at the campground from 10pm to 6am. Maybe you and your buddies came to party, but it doesn't mean Fred and Edna next to you have to hear it.
Respect Their Space
Stay out of other people's campsites. This goes for your kids and pets as well. Don't let your dog run around doing his business wherever he wants and jumping on or barking at neighboring campers. If you're pitching a tent and your campsite is close to another one, make sure not to pitch your tent right next to your neighbor's tent. Give them a little space and privacy, especially since a tent has thin walls. When you're out boondocking, you typically do this to get away from other people. If you happen to notice someone else camping in the area, try to put a decent amount of space in between your site and theirs. Being right next to one another ruins the idea of getting away from other people. These are pretty simple rules to follow and should help you as well as neighboring campers have a great time exploring beautiful America and enjoying the RV lifestyle. If you're wondering if it's ok to do something, you may want to just avoid it to be safe. Be safe and be respectful for everyone's sake!