Sunday, October 2, 2022


Around the Campfire: Personal rights vs. doing what’s right when camping

A few nights ago, several campers gathered around the campfire. We began to discuss the “unwritten rules of camping.” Several newbies in the fire circle were curious about these rules. Who created them? Who, if anyone, enforces them? Why are these rules needed? And why aren’t the rules written down?

Good questions! The conversation that followed seemed more like an airing of grievances, but in retrospect, maybe that’s exactly how the unwritten rules first originated.

Here are some of the unwritten rules:

  • Turn off all outside lights at dusk so that others can enjoy the stars.
  • Use the road or pathways to get across the park. Never cut through RV front or back yards.
  • Any type of noise is a disturbance. Think: barking dogs, leaf blowers, children, and talking on a cell phone outside. Also, exterior TVs and radio speakers, screechy awnings or slides, and loud diesel trucks.
  • Do not use wood for campfires. Use propane fires to prevent excess smoke.

Wait! What?

The newbies were understandably confused. Their questions included: How do you see to get to the showers and back in the dark? Why can’t I take the most direct route? What if we want to get an early start to the day and our truck and slides make noise? Aren’t campfires a quintessential part of the camping experience?

Good questions! It all seems to come down to whose rights matter most. In the current state of our society, finding an answer that is acceptable to everyone can be a challenge.

Whose rights matter most?

Does the right to walk safely in the darkness supersede the rights of stargazers? Or can using a flashlight help respect the rights of both campers?

Does my right to own a dog supersede the right of another camper’s need for sleep? Or could a brief, civil conversation defuse a potential argument? For example: “I’m really sorry our dog was barking this morning. I should have walked him before I showered. I’ll do that from now on.” Or: “I like to sleep with the windows open when the weather is nice. It’s hard to sleep if your dog barks, even though he sure is a cute little guy.” Both campers verbalize their feelings and needs and perhaps discover or enhance a new friendship.

And the campfire? Many people have real health issues relating to smoke. The propane campfire systems eliminate the issue, but if you knew the smoke from your campfire posed a problem for a fellow camper could you forgo the fire? Or if you realized that your camper neighbor wanted to make a campfire, could you close your windows to keep out the offending smoke? Would it be kind to alert your neighbor: “You may want to close your bedroom windows tonight. We’ll be leaving early in the morning. I apologize in advance for any noise. We’ll be as quick and quiet as possible.” Concessions? Yes. Helpful conversations? You bet! Keeping the peace? Absolutely.

Knee-jerk niceness?

Most times when we feel our rights are infringed upon, our first response is anger or frustration. What if instead we responded with kindness? Being kind doesn’t mean suffering. It may be as simple as closing a window or grabbing a flashlight. It may mean a civil conversation in which you clearly but kindly explain your problem. Then if your camper neighbor fails to respond you still act kindly. You do what you can to eliminate the problem from your end. After all, life is short. Who wants to live angrily?

Your take?

How do you see it? Is it always best to do whatever it takes to keep the peace? I’d love to hear your take on this.



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1 month ago

Generational differences. I am 56, unless alot of alcohol is involved, most my age practice empathy and respect and are approachable. The younger generation is far less approachable and more all about themselves. I raised 6 kids, so I don’t mind at all and actually appreciate kids being kids and the families, getting out and about.

Carson Axtell
6 months ago

Staying in a campground is like living in a small town or village, but often without the benefit of having neighbors who know how to behave in a small town. I’ve lived in big cities, suburbs, and small towns, and I’ve found that many metropolitan denizens take full advantage of the anonymity that comes with being just “one of many” by ignoring consideration of others. They do so because there are so few consequences for their behavior. In a small town, acting out or being inconsiderate will quickly earn you a bad reputation, and you’ll soon find yourself ostracized by others if you don’t change your ways. Campers need to learn to think and behave more like small town folks.

Last edited 6 months ago by Carson Axtell
7 months ago

Just back from 8 weeks on the road and one thing I’ve learned is that some men need to learn proper etiquette with regards to women campers. Twice I’ve had my camper door knocked on well after dark by men. My traveling friend and I will not open our respective rigs to them for safety reasons, nor (if we chat with them in a common area) will we tell them which campsite number we’re at or whether we’re alone- you’d be surprised how often I’ve been asked these things. A wave and a ‘hello’ from the road are nice, but men shouldn’t enter (or cut through) a woman’s campsite unless invited. Most of these ‘rules’ apply to everyone, but women bear the burden of having to always be aware of our personal safety. And yeah- barking dogs and generators, ugh!

7 months ago

My biggest pet peeve is generators. I find them so obnoxious, loud and smelly. Even the “quiet” ones aren’t really all that quiet. I will do my best to ignore it if it runs for a somewhat short time but when it runs all day that drives me nuts. Why even go camping if you sit in your camper all day and watch TV? We get by just fine without a generator. We have solar panels that keep our batteries charged. If you need that much juice find a campground that has electrical hookups.

7 months ago

Doing what’s right doesn’t just apply to camping.

7 months ago

We started camping in sites that were primarily water access only; but even prior to COVID they were ‘shared’ in the Cascades due to overuse.

Our attitude has been live and let live. If those girls who walked in to our remote site want to swim at our campsite access point we don’t let our lack of privacy destroy our peace of mind. Their dog romping through our tent site is harder to tolerate when it goes on for hours.

7 months ago

When dog owners leave their trailer with a dog inside; they should walk out of sight of the dog, a short distance away and see if their dog barks. I’m amazed how many people will tell you their dog doesn’t bark and it barked non-stop the whole time they were gone…. hours, not minutes.

7 months ago

Campfires: On a 10 day trip last fall; Twice we pulled in next to a completely vacant rv site; the campfire was still burning strong and no one in sight. They left that morning with a large fire burning. I doused them with water but their lack of common sense could have started a huge fire; I guess they were too busy to put it out.

7 months ago

I like campfires but not in close crowded campgrounds. I have seen campgrounds where there are fire pits between sites that are barely 8 feet apart! Fire around RVs worries me about burning them to the ground very quickly.

Richard Cranium
7 months ago

Ah, there’s nothing like getting away from it all and pulling into a full campground and closely parked rvs…
The problem is with what “camping” has come to. We don’t want kids playing late, we don’t want dogs to bark, loud trucks, fires, skateboards, etc. Etc. Etc. And we expect that to happen in a full campground with 250 other campers…
A lot of this article is pure common sense as to etiquette. The biggest gripe I have is with the fire statement. Smoke might cause someone else discomfort???? Sure, maybe even those that burn the fire, but let’s all burn propane???? Get real. Campfires are synonymous with camping much like charcoal to barbecue competitions. As long as there is no burn ban in effect, if someone has a problem with my fire on my site that is private they can deal with it, just like I deal with there kids yelling, dogs barking, and outdoor lights left on. Expectation verses reality: camping will get me away from it all…then books the last site at a 300 space KOA

7 months ago

I try to be a good camper. I arrive at check in time and out at check out time. My truck is not loud and I keep my two 4lb house dogs in check. I only build a fire if we cook out. I stay on my site and don’t run pickup in and out every 15 minutes. I usually carry extra supplies if you need something it’s yours for the asking. I make sure I observe the quiet time and turn off the light. These are my ways of having an enjoyable trip

7 months ago

“One bad apple can spoil the bunch.” That popular phrase is used to refer to a situation in which one person’s negative demeanor or bad behavior can affect a whole group of people, influencing them to have a similar negative attitude or to engage in the same bad behavior.

No doubt the influx of inexperienced first time campers as a consequence of the pandemic has exacerbated the problems – but it’s been growing steadily worse for many years now.

If you’re one of the millions of unhappy campers then you might want to consider signing this petition to the agencies responsible for enforcing the rules. Simply posting the rules at the campground entrance is not enough – they need to start enforcing the rules!

7 months ago
Reply to  JOHN OLSEN

I certainly agree. It looks like people are not signing the petition, probably because they don’t know about it. And if i remind someone to keep their dog on leash, i am the bad guy. The rules are for everyone else, it seems.

John F
7 months ago

So, they “were sitting around a campfire” explaining to newbies to never burn wood because of the smoke? You make it hard to take seriously anything that you say.

7 months ago

After my recent Very Bad experience with a camper parked Way into my site i am thinking of buying some vinyl fencing that can be easily rolled up. I decided to go to the office and report the issue. Latee i went to the store, they had not moved yet, when i got back it was dark out and i had almost gotten to my site and a guy was walking towards my truck – i didn’t know who he was, but i rolled down my window and stopped- it was the offending “neighbor” and he was MAD – said get out of your trucj and we’ll settle this” to which i said firmly & calmly “you are being ridiculous, go away” he said things before the “get out of your truck” like it shouldn’t matter since i have a small camper…i said you are in my campsite. I want ti look out my back window and see the pond Not your truck…he also said something like how dare you make a complaint while i was visiting family — yep he had Entitlement disease….

7 months ago
Reply to  Dane

Cont’d…soon after i said “you are being ridiculous, go away” he said something else and i repeated “you are…go away” then i guess he was frustrated and called me an “a$$hole” and i said back to him “go look in mirror” then i rolled up my window and parked my truck. I waited a bit and went and told the camp office what just happened. The employees (2 of them) were not very helpful – as i left the office i said i will call the police if i need to or handle it myself if i have to, i used to be a police officer” – one of the employees said wait and asked what i wanted them to do – i said go talk to him and tell him to leave me alone – because i have no idea if this guy is going to do something else. I went outside numerous times that night – each time i took my dog and carried my old police baton – which are Supposed to be as a Defensive weapon Only – that is what i was taught – a friend of mine suggested buying some bear spray – good idea

7 months ago

I don’t think all lights need to be turned off, except special cases i.e., when it is a certain time of the year for breeding turtles or baby turtles on the east coast of Florida, i would prefer it if people didn’t leave a lot of bright lights on at any time…

7 months ago

Walking through someone else’s campsite? NO!!! When you pay for a site it is renting that space. I don’t want people in my space unless invited. Many people have no common sense- i have had to tell a number of people & kids (and then their parents) to Not go through my canpsite.

7 months ago

The rules aren’t that different from the ones in our own neighborhoods. We don’t cross through others’ yards; we don’t park across their driveways; we do actually have a law about excessive noise (including car radios) before 7 a.m. and after 11 p.m. in our little town — even the ambulances try to keep it down during the night! We don’t have backyard parties late at night — we take it inside and shut off the loud music.

But, then again — maybe that is what campers are trying to get away from? Question is, how do we get away from them?

It’s called common courtesy, or as Aretha would say…R-E-S-P-E-C-T. For oneself and others.

7 months ago
Reply to  pursuits712

You said it! Common courtesy (which serms to be less common these days) and R E S P E C T!

7 months ago

Loud diesel trucks? Any idea how to get your unit into your campsite when pulling a trailer w/ a diesel? Mines not loud by any means but if “someone” listed this as an unwritten rule, you are off the deep end!

7 months ago
Reply to  Bud

Of course you can tow in and out or run necessary errands. You should think twice about multiple late-night comings and goings in any vehicle WITHOUT a necessary reason, just because the proximity of other campers and the relative lack of soundproofing magnifies the impact. No one is able to go around without footprints or noise, but anyone can try to minimize their impact on others and leave no damage.

Common sense
7 months ago

People should just be respectful of each other. That includes you and your “Unwritten Rules “. I can agree that people should quiet down once the sun sets. I can agree that dogs should be under control. Kids too to the extent that they should be kids and enjoying the pleasures of their friends and a vacation. But expecting others to douse lights and neglect the safety of using a flashlight to walk through the dark is ridiculous. If you are out to see stars, that’s awesome. Go boon docking so you can be you and not be a liberal jerk who thinks only your rights matter. When it comes to campfires, do propane if you like. I won’t judge you. But in the fifty years I have camped, wood is where it’s at. The smells and the experience of tending your fire an enjoying the ambiance.

Last edited 7 months ago by Common sense
7 months ago
Reply to  Common sense

I think if parents want to allow their kids to scream & run around they should take them to a playground – and NOT allow them to disturb a bunch of people who want to enjoy nature and have peace & quiet.
Imagine if Adults were doing this?
They could be breaking an actual campground rule about being a
You wrote “liberal jerk”
Please keep politics out of this.

7 months ago
Reply to  Common sense

I agree with Dane, who says take the screaming, running kids to playgrounds. Unfortunately, even when there is a playground right in the campground, they don’t want to use it! Even as a child, there was no need for screaming.

I’ve had adults, kids, and dogs come into my space, which is not acceptable. One guy came into my space to ask if he could come into my space!

I don’t have fires to respect those who have asthma or are allergic to smoke. My dog does not bark, he is to ignore people and dogs, but some people won’t teach their dog anything–nor their kids. Dogs off leash have been a huge problem, and i carry a big stick.. For outside lights, I don’t use any unless I go out in the night a couple minutes, after which, i turn it out. The thing is, it’s really easy to respect others. I don’t want to draw attention to myself. I don’t want to make a racket or be obnoxious.

If I had kids, they would be learning about nature, trees, wildlife, and how to respect it and preserve it.

Even those of us who live in the woods, with no close neighbors, like to go somewhere once in a while–to photograph, walk different trails with the dog or whatever, but the last few years, “getting away from it all” means going back home.

Jason Anderson
7 months ago

A barking dog is a profound nuisance, don’t ever share it with others, your dog isn’t trained.
Wet smoking logs, isn’t pleasant, at all, go boondocking.
We paid for the site, boundary to boundary, trespassing through that, because of your self delegated entitlement, could easily lead you into being a thief.

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