Camping Etiquette

My aunt lives just miles from where fire ravaged more than 250 homes in the Lake Tahoe area last month. According to officials, the blaze displaced 3,500 residents and caused more than $160 million in damage. Fire investigators are now saying that a campfire may be to blame for starting the inferno.

In light of the tragedy that occurred at one of our family’s favorite vacation destinations I’ve decided to list some camping reminders. Summertime is typically when thousands of families take to the woods to enjoy time in the great outdoors. If you’re one of them consider some of these rules of camping etiquette before you pitch your first tent.


Most campgrounds have a trash policy posted at entrances to the grounds. Others simply provide garbage cans, dumpsters and recycling bins and leave the rest up to you. Regardless, you should know better than to leave trash — especially food items — lying around. Your unwanted items don’t only make a campground look bad; they can also attract a host of unwanted critters. Remember to close containers and trashcans, and lock your coolers. Raccoons, squirrels and bears are notorious dumpster divers.


As we’ve seen in the past few weeks cleaning up after yourself is especially important when it comes to campfires. Never leave a campfire unattended and when you are done roasting your marshmallows make sure you completely extinguish your fire. Douse it and stir the remains to make sure it is completely put out before walking away. Supposedly cool charcoal briquettes or campfire embers placed in garbage pails and discarded improperly can ignite fires.


Obviously when you are out in nature—-during the day–there is no reason to tiptoe around and whisper. However, that doesn’t mean you have the right to turn the grounds into your personal shouting arena. Remember, people come to the great outdoors to get away from it all, so be mindful of your fellow campers. Also keep in mind that your conversations and the sound from potable TVs, radios or CDs, carry easily through open spaces. Keep noise within reason during the day and to a minimum after 10 p.m. when most campgrounds impose “quiet time.”


Bathrooms if you are lucky… outhouses if you aren’t. Either way, everyone has to go sometime and it’s important to remember some general rules. First, the seat should be lowered (or raised) depending on your gender. And everybody should lower the lid when they are done. Also, remember to close the door when you are done. It helps keep flies out. And don’t throw trash down the hole.


No matter how tempting it may be–resist the urge to take a shortcut through someone else’s campsite—-even if it’s the shortest route to the bathroom or outhouse. Stick to the paths. You will inevitably encounter other people who have a different definition of “roughing it.” Be patient and tolerant. However, if someone’s behavior seems really out of line, don’t hesitate to seek out a ranger and ask him or her to intervene. It’s not necessary to have your entire trip spoiled because of a few bad apples.

Related Articles:

Camping: A “Devil” Of A Good Time

Camping Options For The Anti-Camper

Visiting Hells Canyon

Summer Travel: Camp For The Entire Clan

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.