RV Etiquette Part Three

Campground or RV Resort Etiquette

There was a question posted on an RV magazine awhile back which asked what the rules of campground etiquette should be. Nearly 100 campers responded, with the following listed in order of what they voted on as most important. I may disagree with some, but I bow to the majority, as they always rule. (I have edited where I thought it necessary).

#1. Don’t let your kids run wild!

Camping can and should be a great fun experience for kids, but it’s always better when the parent takes part in it. Do things with your kids to guide and teach them.

The rest of us are not your baby-sitters, and it’s not our jobs to watch your kids to keep them safe and out of trouble! Know where your children are at ALL times, and what they are doing! They are YOUR responsibility, not ours!

#2. A campground is not a place to have loud drinking parties!

Have a party if you want, but watch your language, and keep the noise down. No one needs to be yelling! Your friends are right there with you, and I’ll bet they don’t have a hearing problem! Some people get loud and obnoxious when they drink. As the host of the party and the person who rented the spot, it’s YOUR job to keep things under control, and YOU will be the one barred from the park if your friends don’t behave! So keep things under control.

#3. Don’t “trespass” on other people’s sites or cut through just to save some steps.

They could have a very protective big dog hiding in the shade, and that could ruin everyone’s day! When people rent a camping spot, that is the same as paying rent on any other property, and they have an expectation of feeling safe and secure there. How would you like it if a bunch of people you didn’t know or invite onto your property suddenly started cutting through your yard at home whenever they felt like it? IT’S THE SAME THING!!!

#4. Keep your dog quiet! 

Most everyone realizes that dogs will be dogs, and will bark occasionally. But constant yapping for no reason is a good way to get you kicked out of the campground!

Having a dog shouldn’t be like owning a piece of property. They are your friend and companion, so treat them like you love them! And when you love someone, you want to make sure they grow up well adjusted and accepted by others.

If you can’t do that for your friend, your “child”, your companion… then why do you have a dog? Some people aren’t even responsible with their kids, and the last thing they need is a dog to ignore! They have feelings just like we do, and are capable of incredible love and loyalty, so show them some love and respect in turn! Your neighbors and friends will love and respect a well behaved dog, and your dog will also love the attention!

#5. Respect the quiet hours!

Kids may be in bed and some adults prefer to go to bed when the sun goes down to save power for lighting. Or maybe they just like to watch the sunrise when they get up in the morning. It doesn’t matter! It’s not your right to impose your habits on them and keep them awake half the night! Maybe they would have preferred a quieter spot, but maybe the campground is getting full and there weren’t any that was far enough away from your campsite! They may not have had a choice but to be there! Don’t wait until the manager has to come and tell you to quiet down, or he may put you on a barred list for coming there again!

#6. Put your fire out when you aren’t there to tend it.

NEVER leave your fire unattended. Winds can come up quickly, and embers can be picked up and deposited in or around other campers. We have all heard about fires that got out of control and somebody lost everything. If you caused a fire in which someone lost everything or got hurt, how would you feel?

#7. Pick up after your your dog!

You don’t like to step in it. Neither does anyone else! We don’t care how you live at home… the rest of the world is not your toilet!

#8. Keep your entertainment to a level that can only be heard on your own site!

Everyone has their own choice in music, and your neighbor may not like what you like.

#9. Obey the speed limit in the campground!

There are kids and animals of all kinds around that could jump out at any moment! And if you are on a gravel road, no one likes the dust blowing all over them! Be respectful of others and they will be respectful of you.

#10. Don’t let your campfire just smolder and smoke!

It smells really bad! Always use dry wood and kindling on your fire to keep the smoke issues to a minimum. And always think about yourself as well as others when placing your fire. Pay attention to what direction the wind is coming from and where it’s blowing to. Don’t impose your stinky smoke on other campers. People may have asthma or breathing problems and won’t enjoy your smoke as much as you do!

#11. Keep your pets on a leash at ALL times when in public places!

You may love your pet, but he may not love strangers! Some breeds of dogs don’t accept people until they get to know them for a few days of constantly being around them. Some children and even adults have been bitten or been frightened by aggressive pets. Some people are afraid of dogs, and if anyone is injured for any reason by your pet, YOU are responsible! If they are bitten, and you can’t produce proper health records, the authorities can even confiscate your pet and put them down to have their brain examined for rabies. Nothing will ruin your day like having your best friend killed and autopsied! Think about it!

#12. If you smoke, then put your cigarette butts in a proper receptacle!

Just because you are outside doesn’t mean the world is your trash can! The rest of us have to live here, too! Plus a spark can smolder and start a fire. If you’re so sure it’s not going to be a problem, then put it in your pocket!  Oh, you don’t like that idea?! Well, we don’t like seeing them all over the ground, either! It just means you are a slob with your filthy habit! For many RV’ers the outdoors is our “living room”. If you don’t throw your butts on the floor at home, then don’t throw them on ours!

#13. Don’t throw anything but wood or paper in your fire!

It not only stinks, but cans won’t burn, and plastics produce lethal and carcinogenic fumes! No one wants to smell your trash burning! Put your trash in a trash bag and dispose of it properly! If there’s a place to recycle things like cans, plastic and glass, then do it if possible. Putting recyclables in the landfills is only adding pollution to our planet and making it unfit for future generations!

#14. Clean the dump station when you’re done!

After using the toilet, you flush everything down the little hole. Do the same around the dump station!

#15. If you have a dangerous dog, leave him home!

Have a friend watch  him or take him to a kennel. If you can’t do that, then stay home and keep him company. A campground is no place for vicious dogs!

#16 Do not throw bottle caps or pop-tops on the ground!

Many people run around in bare feet at a campground, and the last thing they need is stitches and tetanus shots because of your slovenly stupidity!

#17. Clean up after yourself and try to leave ALL facilities in better shape than you found them!

(a) In the bathhouse, clean up the counter after shaving/brushing your teeth. Nobody
wants to use the sink with water, spit, shaving cream and toothpaste all over it.

That’s nasty! Just wipe it with your soiled towel or face cloth. Remember, your mother doesn’t work there!

(b) If you had a snack or a drink while using the clubhouse, then throw the paper or can in the proper trash receptacle before you leave. If you spill something, then clean it up. Again, your mother doesn’t work there, so be responsible for your own actions!

(c) If there’s a meal of some kind at the clubhouse, clean your spot at the table off when you’re done and dispose of what you need to dispose of and return anything else to its designated place! And the same goes for fast food restaurants! Your mother doesn’t work there, either!

#18. Don’t walk around naked after your shower unless you’re in a designated nudist resort!

I don’t care if you are in a restroom facility or not! You’re not at home and it makes some folks very uncomfortable.

#19 Don’t smoke in the bathhouse!

It may smell like other things in there, but smoke tends to linger. Other people may have just taken a shower and prefer to stay nice and clean! They don’t want to walk through your smoke! If you want to stink that’s up to you, but stay downwind from the rest of us!

#20. Do not use fireworks in public places!

Even if park owners OK certain kinds, it’s still not a good idea! I had a good friend lose fingers to some cheap fireworks that went off too soon. Somebody could get hurt bad. Plus it drives the animals crazy. Have some respect. If you want to see fireworks, then go to a professionally run display.

#21. Don’t honk your horn.

We don’t care if you just got the latest Duke’s of Hazard electronic horn with pop-up rebel flag!  Just a simple wave is good enough!

#22. Only run your generator during daylight hours…

…if you have to use it at all, and even then, limit the length of time it has to run.  Sometimes they can be louder than a  radio and that’s really annoying.

#23. Campgrounds are no place for loud motorcycles!

We all appreciate Mr. Davidson and what he has done for Wisconsin and America, but if the Japanese can invent quiet mufflers, then why can’t we use them in this country? There’s what is considered a “nice tone” and then there’s downright obnoxious! Especially before 10 AM or after 10 PM!

#24. Don’t shine your flashlight into other people’s sites.

You have no business walking there, and it’s none of your business what is on their patio mat! They might think you are looking for something to steal.

#25. Don’t run your loud truck during quiet hours!

Loud trucks (diesels in particular) are even noisier than generators, and should never be left idling near other campers. Not only is the noise disturbing, but diesel exhaust stinks up everything downwind of it!

#26. Disable your car alarm!

Maybe you think you need it in your neighborhood at home, but we all got to the campground with our own cars. We don’t need yours!

#27. Don’t slam doors!

We don’t care if you are headed out at sunrise to your favorite fishing hole! You don’t need to announce it to the rest of us that “were” still sleeping!

#28. Don’t block other vehicles OR people’s views with your rig!

Even if they don’t have to leave in a hurry, they may like to have a nice view, too!

#29. If you have to use your slide-outs, keep them out of other people’s way!

Some campground spaces are tight enough as it is without hanging over someone else’s patio!

#30. If you have toddlers, then dispose of their diapers in a proper manner!

That doesn’t mean throwing them on your fire! If something falls out of a diaper, then pick it up the same as you are expected to do for your dog! If you don’t have a diaper pail, then walk the trash over to the dumpster and dispose of it properly. Putting it in a sealed bag also helps keep the smell down around the dumpster. You don’t want to attract wild animals!

#30. Don’t let kids play with a campfire… EVER!

#31. Leave your guns at home with the dangerous dog!

If somebody breaks in maybe he can shoot them! The campground is no place for guns and there’s no reason to bring them here!

#32. If you have to have alcohol with you, keep it on your own site!

Nothing will degrade a park quicker than allowing people to carry open beer bottles all over. Respectable parks don’t allow it, so don’t do it “anywhere” and you can’t go wrong!

(Please know that this next one is not “my” rule!)

 #33. If your child doesn’t have a motor vehicle license to drive cars, then don’t let them drive anything else around the campground, including golf carts!

Not that golf carts are all that fast, but the child may not have the skills necessary to keep himself out of trouble.

Personally, as one who has been driving farm trucks and tractors since the age of ten, I think a person has to use some common sense and discretion with this last rule. If you would trust your kid to chauffeur your 90 year old mother around in a golf cart, then I would think he would be trustworthy enough and skilled enough to drive around a campground. I didn’t write this last rule, but it came up on the list that I have been rewriting and commenting on in my own words.

The kids today have all kinds of toys, so we have to expect to give them a little leeway on such things. After all, they have gas dirt bikes that are small enough for a three-year-old to ride, so hopefully, by the time they can reach the pedals on the golf cart they should know how to handle it!  Also, they have electric scooters, bikes and mopeds now, so we certainly can’t complain about a noise issue with them. And I’m not one of those old fogies that are going to clamp down on all the fun stuff kids do. Anyone can misbehave with anything, including the adults, and speeding through the campground in a 6,000 pound truck is far worse than anything a kid could do on a golf cart or any other ride! Let’s just put the blame where the blame is due, and not convict any particular age group before they are even guilty!

Besides, having run an 866-acre resort where ATV’s were the normal mode of travel, and having visited all kinds of resorts all across the country, I know that some of them are poorly laid out, and you can’t get from point “A” to point “B” by walking without packing a lunch and an extra pair of shoes! On many of them, if you don’t want to spend your day walking, you HAVE to have some means of getting around! A normal vehicle is too expensive to run around with, so it’s either an ATV, motorcycle, golf cart, bike or scooter, any of which can be motorized, and I see nothing wrong with it… as long as they follow the rules that everyone else is expected to go by!

And as long as they are skilled at driving whatever it is, I don’t think age has anything to do with it! But as always, check with the campground and go by their rules, not mine!

Besides, the parents are supposed to know where their kids are at all times and be supervising them, and if they were all doing that, there shouldn’t be an issue.

And the one thing that the other lists all missed is what Good Sam shows as the first on their list, and that is to

“introduce yourself” to your campsite neighbors!

What a lovely idea! But use your best discretion here. If they aren’t outside and don’t look like they want company, maybe another time would work better! Don’t be a pest! But if you are out and about, going for a walk or whatever, for Heaven’s sake speak to people that you meet, and act like you have at least half a brain in your head!

If there’s one thing I hate, it is to walk past someone and say “Hello” and have them totally ignore me! I don’t care if they are stone deaf and have cataracts and can’t speak English… there’s no excuse for behavior that rude! If they can get out and walk, I know they can see! They know when another person is near them! What’s wrong with looking up and giving a smile at least?! I don’t even care if they don’t wave! At least look alive and happy to have woken up in the morning! If you can’t be happy with that, then why are you here? If you can’t be cordial to other people, then maybe you don’t belong out in public!

Another great rule I found was

“don’t run unnecessary laundry lines through your campsite”.

When camping, we realize that you probably don’t have a clothes dryer with you, and may have to make do with a small clothes line. That doesn’t give you permission to do a months worth of laundry including the blankets sheets and pillow cases, and hang it all out to dry at once! There are such things as laundromats, so use them when needed! One small clothes line no longer than ten feet should be more than sufficient for campsite needs (dish rags, dish towels, wash rags and towels, swim suits, etc.) and if you can keep it out of sight…great! The rest of us don’t care to look at your dirty laundry!

That sort of gets to “clutter” also.

Keep your camp site neat.

Don’t pack half the house and garage with you when you go camping. Some chairs, maybe a table (in case they didn’t provide one) and your BBQ grill is about all you need outside your rig. If you have to drag more crap than that out of your rig in order to be able to sleep in it, then you should probably examine why you have all that other useless junk with you. Too much crap outside your rig and you start looking like some cousin of the Beverly Hillbilly’s.

Camping is supposed to be relaxing and a time to un-clutter your life and get with nature. When you start making a half day’s work out of clearing out your rig to sleep and then repacking it when you leave, it kind of defeats the purpose… wouldn’t you say?

And one more rule that shouldn’t have to be stated….

”respect all living things”.

Plant or animal, it doesn’t matter. I know some kids get a kick out of chasing the ducks around the pond, but think about it… how would you like to have a herd of elephants charge into your neighborhood and chase you all around your yard? Other animals have feelings too, They have families, little ones, mates, and sometimes their “tribe” of like animals that they hang with. They’re social animals just like us. Respect them, and teach your kids not to disturb them!

Just because we use plants for food doesn’t give you the right to drive nails into trees just to hang your hammock, and end up killing the tree off slowly long after you’ve gone! It doesn’t give you the right to trample a field of clover just because you can. There may be healing herbs also growing in that field, that you may never know about if you don’t learn what is there and how to take care of it.


These rules particularly apply to store parking lots, which are someone’s private property.

Get permission from the manager…

…and get his name. Just because you don’t see any signs saying you can’t, doesn’t mean you can. You might even ask if they have security guards, and whether they have been trained in the store’s policies. I have read about more than one situation where the evening guard has said yes and the morning guard says no. It’s always good to find out the security guards names, in case an issue comes up.

In one instance, after being told by the manager that it was OK, someone had a couple of “guard looking” people come around WAY early in the morning and tell them to leave, and later when they checked with the store manager, were told that the store didn’t employ security guards! Now there’s a scary thought! So who were they… some disgruntled campground managers who lost a few sales that night and thought they would get even? That’s why you always get names! If they refuse to give them, then let it be YOU who calls the police!

Protect the pavement!

If you have hydraulic, electric, or even mechanical jacks, and have to use them (such as to keep a refrigerator level) then carry some heavy plywood or boards with you to keep the jacks from digging into the pavement! Just as in camping in the boonies, LEAVE NO TRACE that you were ever there!

Purchase something from the store as a way of thanking them.

Even if you don’t really need anything, at least take a look around. The manager will thank you for at least making an “attempt”.

Park away from other vehicles if possible…

…preferably along the perimeter of the parking lot. In a truck stop, look for a designated area for RV’s. If you don’t see one, ask the store manager.  If there isn’t one, then park off to the side or to the back away from truckers. Truckers will appreciate you not taking their spaces, plus it will be less noisy for you. Many truckers never turn their diesel trucks off, for various reasons. Give them their space.

Do not get furniture, awning or BBQ’s out.

You’re supposed to be somewhere worth visiting during the day, and only use store parking lots for a place to sleep! Abusing that privilege makes it look bad for the rest of us… and that’s impolite! You make yourself look bad as well as ALL RV’ers!

Avoid using your slide-outs if possible.

Just because they have let you park there to get some sleep doesn’t give you the right to make it look like a campground…it’s NOT. If you “have” to put your slide out in order to get into your rig (truck campers often have this issue), then try to park so that the slide-outs are over the curb somewhere, out of sight, and not in the way of parking.

Pop-ups of any kind should never be used in a public parking lot…

…except to get in or out of your vehicle to get things out or put them away! The more “stealth” you can be, and not make it look like you’ve “moved in”, the better it will be for all of us. Again, use common sense and don’t abuse the privilege!

Stay only one night.

Although some people may think otherwise, Wal Mart is NOT a destination to spend a week’s vacation! It’s simply a convenience stop along the way, for sleeping ONLY!

Spend the night if you have to and then leave in the morning!

A store parking lot is NOT a place to buy and install repair parts!

Do your work somewhere else!

Pick up any trash you have generated.

It’s only common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t have any… sense (not trash)!

Be aware that boon-docking on Wal-Mart’s parking lot or in any store parking lot is a very controversial issue in many towns. Private campground owners are losing money every time you park for free somewhere. Following these simple guidelines will help keep these places available to travelers who want a night’s sleep before moving on. Making your parking spot look like you’ve moved in for a lengthy stay, is what gets local RV park owners upset, and cause them to start lobbying the local governments to pass ordinances against free parking. They see RVs in a Wal-Mart or any other parking lot as revenue they should have had. So wherever you park for the night, keep it “stealth”, make sure it’s safe.


Boon-docking, usually makes us think of camping in wilderness areas, often on public lands. Many campgrounds in public lands don’t have the usual hookups. Typically, the term boon-docking refers to not having hookups, no matter where you are. For ourselves, we always consider it as not having electricity, since we don’t always connect to water or sewer even when it’s available, if we’re only staying one night. A normal camper or RV (or even a tent setup) can usually carry enough water, and propane, and get by for a few days without dump facilities, and that’s not a big problem. But being without electricity is, for many, the ultimate form of “roughing it”.

The National and State Forestry Departments and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also sometimes allow camping outside their designated campgrounds. In some places, it is called “dispersed camping.”

Serious boon-dockers modify their RVs so they can visit and camp in places that few of us get to see, except in pictures. Solar panels keep their batteries charged and an inverter can supply 120-volt power.  By utilizing propane heaters (catalytic style) that don’t use electricity, and propane for cooking and heat, they won’t need to use battery power. Besides a porta-potty, they may also employ portable waste-holding tanks, so they can take gray and black water to a dump station without moving their whole RV. Besides the fresh water tank on their RV, they may carry extra water jugs to extend their stay.  Boon-dockers also learn how to conserve both power and water so they can extend their stays, and may even use solar ovens for cooking and solar water heaters.

Most campers are there for a wilderness experience; they enjoy the peace and quiet. Following these guidelines will help all enjoy their stay as well as protect the environment.

Always get the proper literature for the area you are visiting, and make sure everyone knows what the rules are.

Whoever has their name on the pass is responsible for the members of their party. Many times, younger travelers may not know the rules and have to be taught. Do it before the ranger has to tell you, and everyone will get along better.

Park in previously used areas whenever possible.

Do not create a new road or parking spot or run over vegetation unless you are in extremely rocky terrain such as some spots in the western parts of our country where off-road “exploring” is normal.

Only use ATV’s and other motorsport vehicles in designated areas…

…and always with proper caution. Out west especially, there are many crevasses and canyons that can swallow a vehicle, so always scout the area slowly at first and know what’s on the other side of a rise!

Park away from other RV’s that aren’t a part of your group…

…so each can enjoy what they came there for. You may be there to ride dirt bikes. Someone else may be there to photograph animals. If you and your rowdy friends want to ride bikes all day and review the football game at night, and that’s fine to all your friends, then  “circle your wagons” if you all agree to it. Don’t impose your noise on others.

Keep generator use to a minimum.

If you have a generator you absolutely “have” to run, park FAR away from other RV’s, preferably downwind of them so you won’t have to  smell the exhaust, and limit your use to daytime hours. Generator noise carries, especially after dark, and is not part of the wilderness experience. This is why solar power is much more preferred over generators!

Respect quiet hours.

Don’t run generators or play TV’s or radios loudly after 10 PM or before 8 AM. (Some areas may have different quiet hours so check with the authority in charge.) Pay attention to what your neighbors are doing. If you see that they have gone inside and closed their doors, and especially if their lights are out, then it’s time to respect their wishes. Just because you have a habit of staying up until midnight doesn’t mean other people do! Many campers go to sleep when it gets dark so they can conserve power used for lighting, and then they get up when the sun comes up… many times even earlier! Respect their lifestyle as you expect them to respect yours!

Don’t dump gray water on the ground unless it’s permitted.

In some areas dumping gray water on the ground is allowed, but you should always use bio-degradable soaps and detergents. Always check with the authorities first. Dumping black water on the ground is NEVER permitted.

Leave no trace! (of your having been there).

Leave the area cleaner than you found it. Carry all trash out. Dispose of trash in a proper trash receptacle after you leave.

Read and follow the agency’s rules regarding fires, and collecting firewood.

Many places forbid the gathering of firewood, so if you plan to have a campfire, always check the rules on where you plan to go, and if necessary carry your firewood with you. Some places sell it at a convenience store, but it’s usually expensive. And always keep your receipt, in case you have to prove that you didn’t use firewood  from the ground.

Respect usage limits, which are typically 14 days.

RV groups meeting on public lands should choose an area large enough to accommodate their group without damaging the environment and should respect the rights of nearby campers that are not part of the group. They should also educate their members, who may never have boon-docked before, on ways to extend their battery power without constantly running their generators and on ways to conserve water.

For many RV’ers, boon-docking is the true RV experience. The ability to camp without hookups is one of the advantages of RV ownership; you can camp free of charge and use the systems that were designed to be self-contained. Using courtesy and common sense can make your boon-docking experience… whether on blacktop or in the wilderness… a good one for you and other RV’ers.


Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you is a good…. no… it’s a GREAT rule to live by!

Most of the other rules that I have seen are pretty much the same as what was already mentioned.

Specific parks may have rules that pertain only to things that are unique to them, such as “don’t go in the cave after the bats have roosted”, or if they have a swimming pool, it is usually required by the health department to post rules specific to that feature, such as “no glass containers within the pool area”.

I have yet to see a campground where they didn’t hand you a page of rules when you check in, and sometimes even explain them to you. Either way, there’s no excuse for not knowing, and the reason they are printed out is so that you will actually read them. Yeah, I know that’s a stretch for some of you, but part of etiquette is so we don’t have to bail you out of problems, or have you infringe on our time or space, and you won’t know what problems you can get into unless you read what they are!

It’s all a part of social (not just camping) etiquette!

Happy camping!

And if you think of anything I missed, let me know in the comments. Thanks for taking the time to read these extremely long posts! If you only remember one of these rules that you hadn’t thought of before, it will make the experience better for all of us!