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The 10 Unwritten Rules for Campers

| Updated May 5, 2021

With so many newcomers embracing the RV Lifestyle, this is a good time to go over 10 Unwritten Rules for Campers.

For the fact is, there are too many inconsiderate campers these days, people who think it is all about them and that because they rented a space in a campground, they can do as they please with no regard to those who also rented their spaces and are camped nearby.

They also need some etiquette suggestions about driving their campers and parking it in parking lots.

I know this post will stir up some angry reactions.

Whenever you suggest that people adjust their behavior in consideration of others, there are a few who will loudly push back.

But in the interest of making it better for everyone, I'm going to share them anyway. We talked about this a lot in Episode 343 of our RV Podcast

You can listen to the podcast in the player below. And scroll down this page for shownotes and a transcript of the interview, plus links and resources about all the things we talk about.

We did a video version of the rules for our RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube. Click below to see:

Our 10 Unwritten Rules for Campers

The reason these rules are unwritten is that there once was a time when people were polite and considerate. Some things didn't need to be said.

Unfortunately, those days are gone and the same rudeness and incivility that we see in social media becomes evident in all aspects of life, including camping.

Jennifer and I have been RVing for almost 10 years,

We've covered at least 250,000 and crisscrossed the country numerous times staying in all sorts of campgrounds.

And we know, there already are lots of rules you'll see posted along the way. Rules like:

  • Don't burn trash in your fire pit.
  • Clean up after your dog
  • Make sure your TV antenna is down and the steps are in before you take off
  • Don't drive fast in campgrounds
  • Don't overload your RV

You know all about those kinds of rules, or if you are a newbie, you'll soon find about them.

But, there are also some unwritten rules we want to pass on, some things that we've learned probably through trial and error. A lot of error. On our part and the part of others. 

Ready? Take 'em or leave 'em, here they are:

#1 – Try not to park right next to another camper

image about rules for campers for post

Now, there are times you're going to have to break the first of our unwritten rules for camping if there is just no other room except next to somebody. 

People will understand that.

But if you're in a campground and there are two empty spots on both sides of somebody who is already there, and there are other empty spots down the way, take one of those other empty spots. Let them enjoy that space, and you'll get some extra space too.

Just because they have a good spot, don't think have to get right next to them. It's kind of like when somebody is in a fishing hole and you've come into your boat right next to them, it's just not good manners. 

That especially is true for when you're boondocking. I remember we were boondocking somewhere in Arizona, and we're in the middle of nowhere and when we woke up in the morning, we had somebody right next to us. 

It was crazy. There was room. It was a huge national forest, and they set up right next to us.

#2 – Don't leave your porch and outside awning lights on all night long

This makes our unwritten rules for campers list because, well, shining your lights all night long is just plain rude.  People want to be in the dark and quiet and see the stars. They don't want to see your porch light.

No matter how cute the little flamingos or lanterns or whatever may be, all that illumination ruins the camping experience.

If you want to leave them on right after dark for a little bit when everybody's still up, that's great. But at 2 AM it just causes light pollution 

BONUS: Lots of RVers have Pet Peeves and suggest different Rules for Campers. CLICK HERE to read a similar post from one of our friends on the blog:

#3 – Don't smoke cigars if there are other campers within a hundred feet of you

The 10 Unwritten Rules for Campers 1

Nothing fouls the air like a cigar. Now, I know some of you guys, you love your cigars. But listen, honest, I used to smoke cigars. I'm telling you this. Trust me, brothers. They stink.

So don't do that. Not in the campground near others. If there's nobody around, great.

I actually saw in a KOA near Rocky Mountain National Park two guys almost get in a fistfight because one of them was smoking a cigar and the odor stunk up the whole campground.

He ruined the experience for all those people around him and when somebody asked him to please stop, the guy became indignant and it got very out of hand. 

Please don't smoke cigars if you're within a hundred feet of anybody else. 

#4 – Try not to arrive and set up at a crowded campground late at night

image for RV Campground tips

A lot of parks have that posted with their rules for campers. Or they'll lock the gate so that you can't do it.

But it's quite rude to come in at midnight, 1:00 and pop open some adult beverages and start setting up your camp.

Trust me. We've had those experiences. Typically, that happens on Friday nights when people leave the city to go camping and they don't get there until very late.

Again, sometimes this is unavoidable. But for the sake of all the sleeping people near you, set up quietly. A campground is a community. It is not just you in the wild.

To be frank. there's very little wild about a campground unless you're boondocking.

So be considerate.            

#5: Don't drive in the left lane, unless you are actively passing another vehicle

Now let's talk about some non-campground rules for campers.

It's illegal to keep driving in the passing lane in many states now. You shouldn't get in that left lane and just stay there. I mean, unless you're passing. Then pass, and get over.

But you see these guys, these white-knuckled guys. They seem to be saying “I'm going the speed limit. And I will do the speed limit in the left-hand lane. It's my right.”

Sorry, buddy. You are causing a traffic hazard out there. You're making people angry and you're giving all RVers a bad name.

Please don't drive in the left lane unless you're actively passing somebody. Please remember that. Even if you think you have a perfect right because you're going the speed limit and others are violating the law. If you do that you're just an old curmudgeon.

Stop it. Get over in the right-hand lane.

#6 – When driving into a parking lot in your RV, always take the back rows

The 10 Unwritten Rules for Campers 2

This is a just really good policy to follow. It's considerate to everybody else. And it'll stop future laws prohibiting RV parking. If you're fit and able and able to camp, you are fit and able enough to park in the back row and walk to the store.

It's good for you.

Most RVs except the smaller Class B motorhomes take up a couple of spots. If you go to the back rows where it's always empty, no one will complain.

Besides, those extra steps are good for you. It's good to walk. Chances are you've been driving a long time. Good to walk.

Time to go back to unwritten rules for campers in the campground.

#7 – Don't play music or watch TV outside unless the volume is really low, so it doesn't disturb other campers

Almost all the bigger RVs now come with outside televisions. I just don't understand. That's really getting away from it, right? That's just not our style.

But we know many others agree with this.

Most people camp to sort of get somewhat close to nature.

So if you're going to watch that TV or you're going to play music, please turn it down. Turn it way down.

I think one of my biggest pet peeves happened when we were boondocking in the wilds of Montana. It was gorgeous and it was just totally wild. And some camper way back in the campground was playing bluegrass music really loud. Now I love bluegrass. But he was playing so loud it ruined the whole atmosphere of the whole place.

If it's during the day, that's a bit more acceptable. But at night? No.

Now let's turn to some other realities of the RV Lifestyle that warrant an unwritten rule.

# 8 – If your RV breaks down do not expect immediate service from an RV dealer.

RV dealers are almost always busy.

Here's a better solution.

Mobile RV repair techs are more responsive and usually can fix anything wrong with most RVs. We've learned that the hard way too, a couple of times.

They're there. You call them. They come. It's great.

It's a challenge for an RV dealer to get emergency repairs done. Usually, they will give first priority to their own customers.

So if you're traveling and you need help, call a Mobile RV Tech.

Most are ready to drop everything and tend to your problems. I have called them for help numerous times over the years and never been disappointed.

#9 – If it's really, really hot, your RV air conditioner is not going to be able to cool the interior down much below 80

One of the myths many newbie RVers believe is that with solar and the extra battery capacity found on many newer RVs, air conditioners are going to be super more efficient.

Truth is, they're not. An air conditioner presents the most intensive power drain in your RV. You are not going to be able to run it for hours and hours and hours and hours on end, and it is not going to cool you off much below 80 when it is really hot and humid outside.

Think about what you're in with your RV. Studies show a vehicle heats up really quick, rising 30 degrees in just like 15 minutes in the sun.

In an RV, it's like you're in a tin can. And even though you can do things like put ReflectX in your windows and keep the drapes closed and run your Fantastic Fan, if it is very hot and humid an AC is not going to get you down below 80. Not when it's in the nineties and the hundreds outside, as many of you experience in the Southwest during the summer.

#10 – It's going to get harder and harder to find camping spots in traditional campgrounds

Blame it on the incredible RV boom we've seen in the past few years, especially after to COVID pandemic. Tens of thousands of new RVers have joined you in searching for that perfect campsite.

You don't see tens of thousands of new campsites opening every year.

Instead, you are finding more and more crowded campgrounds.

It becomes more and more difficult to get a campsite without a reservation made long in advance.

And that's why we like boondocking and national forest and BLM land.

That's the way to go. So figure it out, get your maps, get ready.

What are your Unwritten Rules for Campers?

Okay, so those are our 10 unwritten rules for campers.

There are probably more.

You may have a couple more that you'd like to add. You can do so, just use the comments below and also let us know what you think of what we've just shared.  

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In each location, we provide a suggested route and itinerary (7 stops in each guide, one for each day of a week trip!) as well as links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, local tips, and interesting things to do at each location.

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2021-05-05

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.

15 Responses to “The 10 Unwritten Rules for Campers”

August 16, 2023at9:51 pm, Afton Jackson said:

It’s really helpful to read about how you can accidentally look rude to other campers. This does make me think that I should try and practice more of these habits you talked about before I start regularly camping. Once I find an RV park in the area, I’ll start making trips there to practice these habits.

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October 25, 2021at10:55 am, Lorelei said:

I don’t understand all this “unwritten rule” stuff because I see these things written many times, including here. Sometimes they differ a bit, but are not unwritten for the most part. If people had any common sense at all, there wouldn’t be need for all these rules. Most campgrounds DO have some of the rules written and on signs, and some even have people sign that they have read the rules. The biggest problem I’ve seen in every campground are dogs off leash. They don’t care about rules and no one will do anything about it in most cases, even though dogs and people are attacked quite often. I carry a big stick for dogs who come after mine. The people who need to read and follow all these rules will not be reading them and don’t care about the neighbors anyway.

September 18, 2021at4:16 pm, Mary Cook said:

We found a great spot on the ocean at Kalaloch State Park in Washington State but the camper next to the site was roped off by the camer next to it. They were saving it for a friend. Clearly against the rules but nothing was done by the rangers. Very frustrating.

June 13, 2021at12:32 pm, 5 Unwritten Rules Of The RV Lifestyle - 2boomersandababy said:

[…] you need faster service, Mike Wendland of RV Lifestyle suggests, “Mobile RV repair techs are more responsive and usually can fix anything wrong with […]

June 05, 2021at7:32 am, The 10 Unwritten Rules For Campers - 2boomersandababy said:

[…] Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 47:17 — 27.7MB) | Embed […]

May 10, 2021at6:03 pm, Dave said:

Great “rules” Mike, that sadly need to be said. I’m sure there are many more we could add on like in the comments already. Thank you!

May 07, 2021at12:39 pm, Laura said:

Don’t cut thru someone’s campsite. Like between chairs and camper. Rude

May 06, 2021at12:03 pm, Allen said:

Leave your barking dogs at home, or take them with you when you leave your RV site. Nothing more irritating than a dog barking continuously when chained outside an RV with no-one around.

May 15, 2021at8:27 am, IrisCamp said:

Amen! Don’t even leave your barking dog in your unit unattended. Nothing worse than having to listen to FeFe bark all day while her person is at work in town.

May 05, 2021at6:42 pm, Shredder J said:

Another rule: Please remember that you are not the ONLY people in the campground or site.

May 05, 2021at11:54 am, The 10 Unwritten Rules for Campers | Book-JC - Book-JC Blog said:

[…] Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 47:17 — 27.7MB) | Embed […]

May 05, 2021at10:24 am, Carol said:

I’ve been camping for more than 50 years and these are great tips. Others would be to leave your campsite cleaner than you found it and teach your children to have respect for nature (no cutting down limbs for fires, etc.).

May 05, 2021at10:07 am, Deborah said:

So why do the RV Campgrounds put people right next to each other. We were just at a campground that had open spots but the campground put them right next to us? What do you do then? Also, 1. never walk on others’ campsite for a shortcut back to yours. 2. Never knock on your neighbor’s door unless it is an extreme emergency and if you do need to knock, then stand back 6 ft. after knocking.

May 05, 2021at9:01 am, Michael said:

Great article

Two things-
About rule 1- could they have parked closer to you so they were not isolated (increase security)

Rule 2- could leaving the lights on be for security reasons

May 05, 2021at9:48 am, Bounding_Joy said:

You guys rock! Thank you for saying what needs to be said. We have been tuning in (YouTube) for about a year now, we were newbies that you’ve helped! Keep fighting the good fight, and happy travels!

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