One of the reasons I enjoy backpacking is because my friends, family, and I get to camp in spectacular places without fifty other campers nearby. Camping in an established campground can be a great experience too, but it all depends on those around you. Campsite neighbors can often make or break your weekend. Here are 5 suggestions for being the best campsite neighbor possible.
Hickiman Petroglyph campground near Austin, Nevada
1. Be neat.
This is especially important if you’re camping in bear country, but it holds true for most campgrounds with pests nearby. For your sake and the sake of your neighbors, keep a trash bag handy for all food scraps and trash. Before everyone goes to bed, tie it up and either put it in the campground-supplied dumpsters or in someone’s car. At least that way, the smells won’t attract critters to your site or the sites around you. Please don’t throw food in the fire.
2. Keep your pets with you.
Once, when camping at Navajo Lake near Brian Head, UT, some campers a few sites away left their dogs in their truck all day while they went out hiking, biking, and fishing. The dogs barked all day long. All. Day. Long. They wanted to go out and play, too!
More recently on a trip to Crested Butte, our neighbors had two adorable Daschunds along. While incredibly cute even when wandering through our camp site, these two could get annoying when they stayed under foot while we were trying to cook dinner. If you’re going to bring your pets with you, it’s your responsibility to keep them in your camp area when you’re there and keep them happy and occupied when you’re off exploring.
3. Party like it’s, well, a public place.
And get up like that too. For many folks, us included, camping is a time to relax, kick back with some great food and drinks, and visit with friends. What we try to remember, however, is that everyone else is doing this too. And most have plans to go do something fun the following day. Maybe you don’t usually go to sleep until midnight, but those around you might go to sleep at 10 or 11. This is one area where everyone has to have a little give and take. While we might go to bed earlier, we understand people want to chat and hang out by the fire later than we do. Still, when it’s 12:30am and you’re singing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” to the moon? That’s not cool. Be respectful of those around you. Stay up late, but try to talk softly and keep the lights low.
On the flip side, people also like to sleep in. If you’re an early riser, try to be courteous to those who aren’t. We try to make as little noise as possible when opening the car, setting up the stove, etc. When I walk to the bathroom, I make sure to carefully close the door behind me instead of just letting it slam shut.
Yuba Pass Campground not far from Sierra City, California
4. You don’t need to burn all the wood there ever was.
A fire is a fine thing when camping. It’s a gathering spot, a spot for cooking s’mores, and a place to get warm. Still, no one needs a bonfire in a campground. Keep your fire in the fire pit and keep a close eye on it. On our Tahoe trip last year we watched a guy squeeze half a bottle of lighter fluid onto wood in the fire pit, light it, and then sit a huge stump of wood on top. As it was blazing away he turned around and walked back into his camper. His giant campfire was left crackling away unattended. Enjoy a great campfire, but don’t burn down the forest.
5. Respect others’ space.
This guideline can apply to many different scenarios. Sometimes a person might be camped near easy access to the creek or a hiking trail. If they are, and you must step through a portion of their site to get to a trail or access point, at least say “excuse me,” or acknowledge the campers there in some way. If it’s not absolutely necessary to walk into someone else’s campsite, then don’t. It’s sort of like walking into someone’s living room when you weren’t invited.
By the same token, if a campground is mostly empty, we try to pick a site far from the few other campers there. We know everyone likes their space and privacy, so we try to give them as much as possible.
Campgrounds are great places. They make it easy to find a nice comfortable spot to get out into the wilderness and unplug from technology for a while. Still, in order for us all to enjoy these places, respect for others is paramount.
Your Turn: There’s still time to get in some great camping before winter! What are your best tips for enjoying a campground?