The Golden Rules of Camping Etiquette

There are now more than 94 million camping households in the U.S., and if you’ve camped in recent years, then you’ve probably realized that not everyone is playing by the same rules or even following basic camping etiquette.

The thing is, whether you’re new to camping or not, if you employ the Golden Rule and take your five-year-old sharing, caring, good-mannered self on your next camping trip, everyone benefits (and so does the environment). So why not freshen up on some of the dos and don’ts of camping before your next trip to help spare yourself from a confrontation with an annoyed neighbor, or worse, the ranger or camp host? 

Camping Etiquette 101

Camping Etiquette 101

1) Law of the Land

Respect the regulations where you’re camping. Be sure to check posted signage or chat with the ranger or camp host.

DO: Honor the leash law in places where pets are invited and dispose of waste appropriately.

DON’T: Burn, baby, burn when a fire ban is in effect. If campfires or stoves are allowed, make sure to equip yourself with any necessary fire permits.

Campsite at OARS American River Outpost

2) Stake Your Claim

The best campsite is one that is already there. It’s physics, baby. Use what others have done before you and conserve your energy for playing outside. 

DO: Set your tent up in established spaces. It protects the surrounding wild by keeping it…well, wild.

DON’T: Set up too close to water. Unless an established campsite places you closer, try to stay 200 feet away from streams, rivers or lakes.

Camping tips & advice

3) Keep it Clean

Camping may involve lots and lots of dirt, but it’s actually all about keeping it clean… at least when it comes to the site. You do what you want with yourself you dirty bird. 

DO: Dispose of trash and recyclables properly in provided bins. Take it with you where required to pack it out or when there is no more space in the provided bins.

DON’T: Wash the dishes from your giant, one-pot-feeds-twenty spaghetti dinner in the bathroom sink. Do your dishes in your camp and dispose of the strained dishwater in provided drains or by scattering it.

The Golden Rules of Camping

4) Volume Control

Whether your go-to shower song is “Let It Go” or “Shake It Off,” these catchy tunes are meant for playing on incessant repeat… inside your head.  

DO: Strum a guitar and sing in the round ‘round the fire with friends before the campground’s quiet hours.

DON’T: Blast your portable speaker. Sharing campground space is all about keeping the decibels to a minimum and lower volume means better chances for wildlife sightings.

Watching wildlife from afar in Dinosaur National Monument

5) Creature Care

Your campsite may be your temporary home, but it is, and has been, home to many more.

DO: Take lots of pictures of wildlife and quietly observe them from afar.

DON’T: Feed the animals; keep your cheese puffs to yourself. Also, leave cultural artifacts intact, and leave them where you found them.

When in doubt, use the Leave No Trace guidelines for camping.


The Ultimate Guide to CampingLooking for more camping tips and advice?

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Camping, including car camping essentials, how to pack a cooler, menu planning, and more. 


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*An earlier version of this post first appeared on the blog in 2015 and was last updated May 2021.