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Campground Etiquette: Lights On or Off While Camping?

| Updated Nov 14, 2023

Do you leave your lights on or off while camping? It's generally considered bad camping etiquette, but there are some valid reasons some campers leave lights on…

Whether campers should leave their lights on or off all night is often a hot topic in our RV Lifestyle Facebook group. 

Many RVers argue the pros and cons, and both sides make valid points. So, in this article, we shed some light on why some RVers leave their exterior lights on but also explain why it's generally considered bad camping etiquette.

At the end, we’ll share advice on how to deal with camping neighbors whose lights are disturbing you.

If you buy something through our links, we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps keep our lights on so we can continue to provide helpful resources for RVers. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.

Why Do Some Campers Leave a Light On All Night? 

Campground Etiquette: Lights On or Off While Camping?

Many RVers prefer to keep an exterior light on all night or late into the night. While this is generally considered bad camping etiquette, there are four valid reasons that can't be easily dismissed.

Understandably, the first two reasons are often cited by solo campers and older RVers. Newbie campers often give the third reason, and the last reason happens to all of us.

1. Safety 

Many campers feel unsafe in the dark. Some worry that emergency services wouldn't be able to see them if necessary.

And some worry that they would injure themselves if they had to quickly exit their RV during the night. RVers who feel this way tend to like to keep their porch light on.

2. Security 

Adequate lighting can deter unwanted visitors or wildlife from approaching the campsite. This can contribute to a sense of security and peace of mind for campers, particularly in unfamiliar or remote areas.

This is a very common reason for solo RVers or RVers who have had bad experiences in the past.

3. Ignorant of Camping Etiquette

In many cases, the RVers simply don't know it's bad camping etiquette to leave their lights on all night. They may be new to camping or have simply never been told otherwise.

Some campgrounds specify “lights off” hours in their rules, but many do not. So, it often falls under the Unwritten Rules & Etiquette of RV Camping.

4. They Simply Forgot

It's happened to most of us. We simply forget to switch our RV porch lights or outdoor lights off.

So, these RVers don't mean to disrupt your sleep or pollute the night with unnecessary light. They just made an honest mistake.

Why Leaving Lights On While Camping Is Bad Etiquette

Stargazing for Campers Kit (10 Must-Have Items)

In general, not turning your exterior lights off when you go to bed is considered bad camping etiquette. There are several reasons why, which we will now outline for you.

1. Stargazing

Many campers enjoy the opportunity to stargaze and observe the night sky in its natural, unaltered state. Artificial lighting can create light pollution that diminishes the visibility of celestial objects.

Campers who are into astronomy or simply appreciate the beauty of the night sky tend to prefer dark skies for stargazing.

(By the way, if this is you, check out 5 Best Dark Sky Locations for Stargazing in U.S. and Stargazing for Campers Kit (10 Must-Have Items).)

2. Nature Immersion

Camping is often seen as a way to connect with nature and escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Natural darkness without artificial lighting allows campers to fully immerse themselves in the outdoor environment and enjoy the peaceful, quiet, and untouched atmosphere.

These campers prefer as little artificial lighting as possible, for as short a time as possible.

3. Sleep Quality

Artificial lighting can disrupt your camping neighbor's sleep, especially if they are camping in a tent or if light shines into their windows.

Understandably, they want to be able to get quality rest before their next adventure.

4. Pest Prevention

While lighting deters some wildlife from approaching, it can also attract others. Lights often attract insects and can also attract mice, raccoons, and other wildlife.

Keeping lights off late at night can keep these nocturnal creatures at bay.

5. Environmental Conservation

Excessive or poorly managed lighting in campgrounds can contribute to light pollution, which can have adverse effects on wildlife behavior and ecology.

As we mentioned, light or lack of light can affect wildlife behavior and ecology, which arguably goes against the Leave No Trace mission all campers should strive for.

Campground Lighting Rules & Etiquette

Campground Etiquette: Lights On or Off While Camping?

Before your camping trip, take the time to review the campground's rules and regulations regarding lighting. 

Campgrounds typically provide this information on their websites, at check-in stations, or on posted signs throughout the site. Pay special attention to sections related to lighting, quiet hours, and specific rules about fires and campfires.

Choose lighting equipment that is compliant with the campground's rules. This often means using low-impact and energy-efficient options, such as LED lanterns, headlamps, or low-wattage campsite lighting. Ensure that your lighting is directed downward and not intrusive to neighboring campers.

You can also use timers or motion sensors to prevent your lighting from affecting your neighbors. 

In addition, always be sure to adhere to dark sky policies if the campground has guidelines regarding light pollution. 

How to Talk to Your Neighbors About Their Lighting

Campground Etiquette: Lights On or Off While Camping? 1

Approaching your camping neighbors about their lighting in a considerate and friendly manner is essential to maintaining a positive camping experience for everyone involved. 

Chances are you will encounter bad camping neighbors at some point and will need to talk to them. But remember, some camping neighbors have arguably valid reasons for leaving their lights on.

So, start by giving them the benefit of the doubt and approach them kindly! Here are some steps and tips on how to address this situation tactfully. 

Choose the Right Time

Approach your camping neighbors at an appropriate time when they are not in the middle of a meal, a meaningful activity, or setting up their camp. Aim for a moment when you can have a calm and private conversation.

If they seem to be settling in for the night and their exterior light is still on, politely knock on their door as soon as possible.

Be Polite and Friendly

Start the conversation with a friendly greeting and a smile. Maintaining a polite and approachable demeanor will set a positive tone for the discussion.

Express Understanding 

Try to express understanding before you make any requests. Begin by acknowledging that they may have left it on by mistake or didn't realize it's affecting your sleep.

Explain Your Concerns

Clearly and calmly explain your concerns regarding their lighting. Be specific about what is bothering you.

For example, “I've noticed that your campsite lighting is quite bright, making it challenging for me to stargaze or to fall asleep.”

Use “I” Statements

Phrase your concerns using “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory. For instance, say, “I'm having a bit of trouble with the brightness of the lights,” instead of “Your lights are too bright.”

Suggest a Compromise

If they don't want to turn it off all night (i.e., for security reasons), offer a compromise that could work for both parties. For example, you might propose, “Could we reduce the lighting or adjust it so it's not shining into my window?”

Listen Actively

Give your camping neighbors the chance to express their perspectives and concerns. Listening actively shows that you value their viewpoint and are open to finding a mutually agreeable solution.

Avoid Confrontation

Stay calm and avoid confrontations or arguments. The goal is to find a resolution that benefits both parties.

Respect Their Decision

Your camping neighbors may have valid reasons for their lighting choices. A solo woman, for instance, may feel too unsafe to turn the light off. She may have had a bad experience or encountered someone that day that made her nervous.

In such cases, try to respect their decision and reach a compromise that all parties can live with. If you understand their situation but still can't deal with the light, consider moving campsites.

Talk to Campground Management

If your neighbors are unresponsive or unwilling to compromise, consider involving campground staff, especially if their lighting is in clear violation of campground rules and regulations.

The staff may be able to resolve the situation or offer you a different campsite.

Maintain a Positive Attitude

Regardless of the outcome, maintain a positive attitude and enjoy your camping experience. Remember that camping is an opportunity to let go of stress and embrace the moment.

Get Blackout Shades

If light often disrupts you during camping trips, consider purchasing blackout shades for your rig. That way, you can pull down your shades to shut out the light and get a good night of shut-eye.

The nice thing about this option is that it puts you back in control of the situation.

The RV RULE Book: Unwritten Rules & Etiquette of RV Camping

Like what you see in these videos? We'd appreciate it if you would Subscribe to our YouTube Channel (easy to do right here) and consider “ringing the bell icon” to be notified of any new video from us. 🙂 Thanks!

We know, we know! When you're camping, you don't want to think about rules and restrictions. BUT you also don't want to be “that guy” that doesn't know proper RV camping etiquette.

To save you from being “that guy,” we've written many articles on the unwritten rules and proper etiquette for RV camping. We've received excellent feedback on those articles, so we've decided to compile them into an “RV Rule Book” in the form of this round-up post…

Plan Your Next Adventure to Coastal Maine

By popular demand, we announce the publication of the latest in our library of RV travel guides – a 7-Day Adventure Guide to Coastal Maine.

Campground Etiquette: Lights On or Off While Camping? 2

With its dramatic rocky coastline, enchanting fishing towns, and windswept sandy beaches, Coastal Maine is a destination that should be on every RVers’ bucket list. 

We call these guides “7 days,” but they really are seven stops. They’re meant to be experienced at your own pace, a couple of days at one stop, a week at another, however long you want.

We have carefully curated this 66-page digital guide (not a printed book) so you can take in all Coastal Maine has to offer. We give you the routes to drive, the spot to stop, the places to eat, and the museums, excursions, hikes and adventures we think you will enjoy the most.

For an RVer, Coastal Maine has it all: stunning landscapes, short drives between stops, spacious campsites, that perfect small city and nature mixed with a seemingly endless variety of things to see and explore.

Campground Etiquette: Lights On or Off While Camping? 3
Mike and Jennifer Wendland

Curious about the gear, gadgets, accessories, and RV products Mike & Jennifer use and recommend?

On this RV Lifestyle Travel blog, our RV Podcast and our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel, we mention all sorts of RV-related products and gear that we use, So we created a special page that links to them. We update this all the time.  CLICK HERE to go to it directly. Have you caught one of our Amazon LIVE events yet? Just go here and Follow us – to be notified every time we go live.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2023-11-14

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

3 Responses to “Campground Etiquette: Lights On or Off While Camping?”

November 22, 2023at7:25 pm, Dragon K said:

I see few of the reasons for leaving lights on all night as “valid.” If in an established campground with rigs parked very close to each other, none of the reasons are valid. Especially with the new LED laser-like white lights which are very obnoxious.


November 14, 2023at11:03 am, Jim Emelander said:

Lights off. If safety & security are a concern try a motion light.


November 14, 2023at8:51 am, Nancy Einheuser said:

Lights off. Campgrounds are the biggest offender, cg lights are worse than neighbors lights.


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