A Guide to Camping Rules and Etiquette

Camping Rules and Etiquette

Wouldn’t you love to be able to save some money while traveling and just pitch a tent in a grassy area on the side of the road? Load up the car with the basics and just take off, no reservations to be made, complete freedom. Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking, and camping on the side of the road could get you ticketed. If you’ve ever wondered just exactly what you can and cannot do while camping, this is the article for you.

Camping Regulations in the USA

How many countries have almost every type of ecosystem all in one? Where can you go from desert, to tropics, to arctic circle without having to take an international flight? The United States of America has just about any type of camping you could possibly want. Similar to Canada (see below), you are only permitted to camp in designated campsites. When it comes to your vehicle off-roading is not an option. All cars, trucks, and RV’s need to be kept in designated campsites or driveways. Vehicles should always be operated with care on the designated pathways and roads. Once you have found the perfect campsite you can, unfortunately, only stay there for 14 consecutive days within a 30 day period. There are general quiet hours in place from 10 pm to 6 am, and the number of people allowed on each site varies by location. Before going on any trip it is best to check the website or call that specific campground and/or national park to see what their specific policies are.

No matter where you are camping you must follow the current fire regulations in place for your area. When having campfires you are responsible for your fire. You should only be lighting wood from the area in a controlled ring, pit or designated fire area. Never leave a fire unattended and always make sure that you are putting your fire out completely. To help keep everything in a healthy and natural state, all garbage and waste must be put into the proper receptacles provided where you are camping. You should never leave anything behind at your site.

Camping Regulations in Canada

Canada, the great white north. A country that is known for its amazing landscapes and expansive wilderness all of which is just begging to be explored. Canada has just about any type of camping you could want including backcountry, frontcountry, coast and fully serviced camping options. There are many national and provincial to choose from, so you are sure to find the perfect place.

Anyone who is a Canadian citizen or has lived in Canada for 7 months out of the last 12, can camp in our national parks with no permit. Those that are not Canadian citizens must have a valid camping permit to use these lands. It is worth noting that you are only able to camp at one site for 21 days out of the calendar year. Each park has different fees and you can find a comprehensive list of fees for every park and activity here. These regulations only apply to national parks. Each province has their own regulations based on the park you choose to visit and their specific ecosystem. Before planning your trip be sure to check the website of your chosen location. Outside of the parks, you are able to camp on any public land as long as you have a permit to do so. In all cases campers are required to comply with the posted rules of the chosen location, this includes the current fire permissions.

Camping Etiquette

RV or Tent?

It’s the age-old question and a constant debate in the camping world, do you camp in an RV or tent? Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. You can find sites in most camping locations that are full service for your RV or camper as well as sites that are set up for tents only. If you prefer the comforts of home with close access to the great outdoors, then tents might not be the best choice for you. No matter how you choose to camp, the most important thing is that you choose the proper site. Many campgrounds have tent only sites that are not suitable for an RV or camper, even if you don’t need the hookups. These smaller sites should not be occupied by an RV, so leave the tent sites for those in tents and book yourself a larger camper/ RV site.

Noise Levels

You’ve probably experienced a noisy house party around your neighborhood or loud people in a hotel while you are trying to sleep, and it’s annoying. You can imagine how awful it would be to have your peaceful nature-filled getaway interrupted by noisy camp neighbors, so while you’re on your site make sure you follow the quiet times set by your chosen location. Things like car alarms, generators, and loud music are very disruptive to those around you. If you are camping with kids, make sure you let them have their fun in a way that is not disruptive to those around you.

Campfire Etiquette

Aside from following the current fire regulations, it is important to be respectful of others when having a campfire. While there are no specific rules for campfires in most sites other than burn regulations due to wildfire risk, it’s general practice to not have fires if the wind is blowing smoke directly into the campsite next to you or into their tent/camper. Remember, you don’t always need a bonfire. If there is already a designated campfire area do not create a new one. Remember to take extra care when you are burning. This means never leave a fire unattended, only burn wood and leaves, and always completely put the fire out.

Use of the Facilities

When you’re camping, you’re essentially sharing the living space with every other person at the campground. That being said, make sure you clean up after yourself in the shared spaces, including bathrooms, showers and washing stations. If you have a portable shower that you are setting up, it should be placed near the waterspout but in a more concealed area if possible. When you are washing dishes, make sure you do so in the designated areas and not in the bathrooms. When it comes to the shared facilities, make sure you leave it better than the way you found it.

Mind Your Space

While camping you should treat your site neighbors the same way you would treat your neighbors at home. This means walking across sites is a huge no-no. When setting up your site be mindful of those that are already around you and keep all of your belongings contained on your spot.

Light Pollution

When the sun sets navigating your way around the campsite can be difficult, however, it’s important to keep in mind that light pollution can really put a damper on the camping experience for those around you. When lighting up your site make sure you use low beam lights on your vehicles and smaller portable light sources as opposed to bright stand-alone lights. Try to make sure the lights on your vehicles turn off quickly and never use your high beams in the camping grounds. If you have outside lights on your camper or RV make sure to turn everything off before going to bed or use a timer for your lights.

Respect Nature

If you’re going camping, the odds are that you want to connect more with nature. It is important for every camper to take extra care and ensure that they are being respectful of what is around them. This means under no circumstances should you alter where you are staying. This includes removing plants or animals, cutting down or attaching things to trees in a way that could damage them, bringing firewood from a different area, leaving behind garbage, or having a campfire outside of the designated areas. You should also avoid leaving food out that could attract animals to your site. This prevents you from getting any unwanted visitors and stops the animals from eating food that is not good for them.

If you are camping with pets it is important to keep them under control at all times. Even the best-behaved animal can act in ways that you do not expect, so it is imperative that you keep them contained to your site and clean up after them. Allowing dogs or cats to hunt in the area is damaging to the local ecosystem and is something that should never be done.

Another major part of respecting nature is taking extra precautions to stop the spread of invasive species. To do this, one needs to make sure they are only purchasing their firewood from the local area. This helps stop the spread of bugs found in the wood. Another important precaution to take is properly washing your water sports equipment before transferring them to different bodies of water. Fully wash all equipment with environmentally friendly soap and spray everything down with fresh, purified water. Never mix water from two bodies of water, you never know what you might be spreading.

Final Thoughts

Camping Rules

Whether you are camping in a national park or a fully serviced campground, no one wants to be the camper that everyone hates. You can make the experience better for everyone if you are mindful of your camping habits. Keeping noise and light down to appropriate levels for the time of day can allow everyone to make the most of their camping experience. When you are camping, you have a temporary home and it should be treated as such. Keeping your area clean and respecting the shared spaces and spaces of others will keep everything copacetic and avoid conflicts. Finally, you have to remember that you are only a visitor and the wildlife and natural ecosystem should not be altered in any way. Clean up all your messes, control your pets, and do your best not to harm “the locals.” Before your trip, you should check the specific rules and regulations of your chosen site as well as any campfire restrictions to ensure your trip is as smooth as possible. There are two common sayings to live by while camping: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints” and “Do only to others as you would have them do to you.” If you set out with these two things in mind you can be sure that you will be everyone’s favorite camp neighbor.

About the Author

Alex Wilder

My name is Alex Wilder and I’ve enjoyed outdoor activities my entire life, particularly camping, backpacking and hiking. As soon as the weather starts to warm up, you’ll find me outside and I try to make at least six camping trips a year. I have experience in several different countries including Costa Rica, France, Ireland, Canada and the United States. I am entering the fourth year of my Bachelors of Biology with a specialization in ecology, animal behavior and communication and I am currently writing my thesis on avian behavior and bioacoustics. I also enjoy cooking and often experiment with different recipes. I am in the process of building a conservation blog. If you’d like to read more of my writing you can find me on Instagram at @conservation.queen