Unwritten Rules of Camping: 10 Ways to Camp Better

 Unwritten Rules of Camping: 10 Ways to Camp Better

When it comes to the rules of camping, we've found that the most important are unwritten.

We’ve put in hundreds of thousands of miles on the road in our RV in the last decade and learned a lot about the RV lifestyle along the way.

Yes, of course, there are rules for camping.

Written rules of camping are straightforward: don’t burn trash, clean up after your dog, don't cut down trees, leave nothing but footprints, etc. Usually, they'll be posted as rules for camping when you check in. You'll see them.

The unwritten rules of camping are those we’ve learned through trial-and-error — and yes, plenty of error. Think of these unwritten rules of camping as common-sense etiquette. 

We’ve put together a list of the top 10 unwritten rules of camping for you to easily reference here;

Rules of Camping #1: Don’t Park Right Next to Another Camper

There are times you're going to have to, especially if you're in a campground and there's just no other room except next to somebody. That’s fine. But if you're in a campground and there are two empty spots on both sides of somebody who's already there and there were other empty spots down the way, take one of those other empty spots.

Sometimes, of course, you are assigned a spot. But often, you can choose.

In these days of social distancing, space between campsites is not good just for privacy reasons, it's also the healthy thing to do.

Let people enjoy that space. And you'll get some extra space too. It's kind of like when somebody is in a fishing hole and you park your boat right next to him or her, it's just not good manners.

Boondocking is a great way to have all the space you wanted. Here are some boondocking resources to help you find non-campground and free spots.

Rules of Camping #2: Don’t Leave Your Porch and Outside Awning Lights on All Night

People want to get in the dark and quiet, see the stars.

They don't want to see your porch light or your cute little flamingo or lantern lights or whatever. Especially all night long.

If you want to leave it on, you know, right after dark for a little bit, when everybody's still up, that's great. But other than that it just causes light pollution all over the place.

Same with those automatic lights. If you are out boondocking and you feel more secure with the light, fine.

But when you have neighbors, please don't.

Rules of Camping #3: Don’t Smoke Cigars

An image of a cigar being lit. One of our unwritten rules of camping is not smoking cigars within 100 feet of other people.
Not smoking cigars within 100 feet of others while camping is one of those unwritten rules of camping that we wish more people would follow! They stink!

If there are other campers within 100 feet of you, nothing fouls the air like a cigar.

Now I know some of you guys do love your cigars. But listen — they stink.

They really do.

If there's nobody around that’s fine, but don't smoke cigars in a campground. The smell is offensive to the vast majority of people. 

And now that it's legal, we should also say don't smoke marijuana near others, either. Smoking weed next to others is really rude. It smells like a skunk, for crying out loud. Be considerate.

If you must, go boondock somewhere all by yourself. But in a campground, your smoke from cigars and marijuana affects the whole community.

Rules of Camping #4: Don't Arrive and Set Up at a Crowded Campground After 10 pm.

This is a big one.  That’s because it's quite rude to come in at midnight, 1 a.m., etc., pop open some adult beverages and start setting up your camp.

Trust me. We've had those experiences from neighbors.

They’re particularly problematic on Friday nights when everybody leaves the city for camp.

You have to think of your neighbors in a campground because a campground is a community.

So one of the unofficial rules of camping is don't disturb your neighbors.

If you're going to arrive after 10, consider staying a Walmart and then come in first thing in the morning.

Here are three more resources that will help you as you read these unofficial rules of camping:

Rules of Camping #5: Don’t Drive in the Left Lane Unless Passing

This is a rule to follow before you get to the campground.

You shouldn't get in that left lane unless you're passing. 

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

So don't drive in the left lane unless you're actively passing somebody. Also, it’s actually illegal in some states.

Rules of Camping #6: Always Park Your RV in the Back Rows of a Parking Lot

Photo of parked RV
A Parked RV like this on a city street could bring a Police Response

This is a really good policy to have. RVs take up extra space. Some small Class B campervans are able to fit in one space. But anything larger in a motorhome (Class C, B-plus or Class A coaches), need at least two spots. 

So go to the edge of the lots.

It's just considerate to everybody else and it'll stop future rules from businesses about prohibiting RVs in parking areas.

If you're fit and able, park in the back row. Besides, you've probably been driving a long time and could use a good walk.

And make sure you get permission first, or you might just get a visit from the local police.

Rules of Camping #7: Don’t Play Music or Watch TV Outside Unless Volume is Low

Yes, we know this can be hard to do sometimes. After all, many rigs have TVs on the outside these days.

But isn’t getting away from the world the whole point of camping?

Blaring TVs, music and entertainment is right up there with cigar smoke. 

We go camping to enjoy nature. 

Anyway, during the day is fine but if you’re up and watching the late shows outside your rig?

Come on.

Rules of Camping #8: Don’t Expect Immediate Service from an RV Dealer (in the event of a breakdown)

Unwritten Rules of Camping: 10 Ways to Camp Better 1
RV Repair

I’ve got to give you a little reality check here: If something breaks on your RV, do not expect immediate service from an RV dealer because they are almost always busy. We've learned this one the hard way to a couple of times.

Instead, try mobile RV repair techs. They are more responsive and usually can fix anything wrong with most RVs.

They come when you call. It's a great service they provide.  And we have found those guys to be incredible. Much less hassle involved than when taking it to a RV dealer.

I don't want to trash dealers. It’s just that mobile techs exist only for repairs and they can usually take care of your problems.

Rules of Camping #9: Your AC has Limitations

One of the great RVing myths is now that we have solar and extra battery capacity, our air conditioners are going to be super more efficient. Sorry, it’s just not true.

It’s like when you’re in a car: It heats up quick.  An RV is like a tin can. I mean, it really is. And even though you can do things like put Reflectex in your windows, keep the drapes closed and run like your roof vent fan, the AC is not going to get you down to the levels of seeing your own breath — especially if it’s humid.

Rules of Camping #10: Finding Camping Spots is Getting Harder

To consistently find an overnight spot, you're going to have to learn how to boondock.

This is another one we’ve learned the hard way.

Why? RVs continue selling well despite the fact that you don't see hundreds of thousands of new campsites opening every year.

That means crowded campgrounds. It’s become more and more difficult to get a campsite without a reservation. And that's why we like boondocking on national forest and BLM land.

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

Those are our 10 unwritten rules of camping. There are probably more, you may have a couple more that you'd like to add. You can do so in the comments below

Also, if you'd like to watch a video version of our Unofficial Rules of Camping, here's one from our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel that has been watched over a half a million times!

What are YOUR unwritten rules for camping – especially for RVs? Let us know in the comments.

Unwritten Rules of Camping: 10 Ways to Camp Better 2
Mike and Jennifer Wendland

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Unwritten Rules of Camping: 10 Ways to Camp Better

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.


  • You left out ther barking dog, left outside all day. Nothing is more annoying that having to listen to someone else’s dog barking ever time anything near it moves.

  • G’ Day,
    This my friends is why, Da!,So Sad Today No Commen Sence any longer, I do not go to camp grounds. it is why I have a 4×4 to camp alone. why would any one go camping to be with people ?
    Cheers Joseph

  • I’d include leaving a campfire burning all day long (and night). Depending upon the wind direction, the smoke will blow right into the open windows of my rig. Never fails!

  • Thank you…someone had to say it.

  • I would also include smoking cigarettes. I would rather smell campfire smoke inside my rig than cigarette smoke.

  • We have been camping for 52 years. Thank you for trying to help people learn camp etiquette. One of our pet peeves is when people move the campfire ring from it’s designated spot. Especially, please do not put it closer to a neighboring camper. Some people have trouble breathing with the heavy smoke. Not necessarily us but grandchildren with Asthma.

  • Motor cycles and four wheelers racing by camper.

  • I would like to respectfully add cigarettes to the cigar and marijuana smoking issues – Secondhand smoke is a health issue as well as unpleasant for non-smokers.
    Thank You,
    Ann PR

  • All good advice, thanks! I hope it spreads far and wide.
    We once awoke to a huge bus parked next to us, in the middle of nowhere.

  • Okay, my 2cents…..
    #2. At certain sites I set up solar lights to keep rodents away, but yes the campsites that look like an amusement park are annoying. With the exception of my rat deterrent, my outdoor lights go to bed when I do.
    #3 Okay, I do smoke cigs, and ganga. Cigs, I don’t smoke anywhere but my space. The other, never outside. Sorry if the smell bothers you, but I try hard to be a polite smoker. And I’ve been told by fellow LTVA campers, that my smell is way better than the jerks subjecting you to their music.
    And I’ll add one. Even though the rules may say it’s okay, running your loud Genny at 6:00:01 is really annoying. Bottom line, try to be considerate.

    • I never smoke herb outside and often use oils which don’t smell or edibles. But then I’m typically boondocking so it wouldn’t apply.

  • Walking through someone’s campsite, especially if you have a beachfront or riverfront campsite.

  • I wish every camper could see this list. Barking dogs and Loud music can really ruin a good camping trip. Outside speakers on RVs are the worst invention ever because some people are not considerate.

  • Agreed on all 10 PLUS the others mentioned in the comments. It really amazes me that with ALL the information and “research” most people do these days with the www at their fingertips these tips are not well-known or applied. They are really simple common courtesies but are still ignored, especially by new campers everywhere. More time is spent on researching what kind of TP to use these days than actually important strategies when camping.

  • Leaving a barking dog inside your rig and leaving for the entire day and/ or evening . There is no way for anyone to try to appease the dog if it is locked up inside . Also if you are leaving super early in the morning pack up the site And do everything you can to be ready to unplug and leave instead of banging around at 5 am

  • All good points! And what about not leaving your generator running all night. That is rude and inconsiderate, especially if it’s cheap and loud.

  • People in nearby sites staying up all night outside and talking about their personal problems- even at a normal voice level these conversations are much louder in the middle of the night. I have heard WAY too many personal issues with FAR more information than I would have liked to know.

    • And loud laughter! Loud hee hawing till after 2am last night. I am exhausted this morning…and angry. Feel like banging pots and pans outside their tents because of course, this morning they are sleeping in.

  • I am full time Rv and normally stay at a couple places only I have access to. And when I travel I very rarely take my travel trailer. I boondock out of the back of my truck in areas there are few people. All I need is an isolated spot big enough to park overnight. Then I’m normally back on some lake in my fishing boat. I just like it that way and I can fully avoid the issues of being around a lot of other campers.

  • Make sure you adhere to the park speed limit. Some people seem to always be in a hurry whether they are in tow or not. It kicks up dust, and is unsafe for kids playing and enjoying the outdoors.

  • Mike & Jen, Fortunately, so far most of the time things are good! Those points are spot on! Common courtesy is not so common sometimes! Maybe campers should be required to read and sign off on rules of courteous camping and be subject to fines as appropriate!

    Thank you for all you do!

    Ron & Enid King

  • Thanks for publishing the “Ten Rules.” My additions would be to be sure you leave no trash, pop top tabs, bottles, cans, etc. “Leave it better than you found it!”
    Also, if you have a dog please don’t let it bark repeatedly. Pick up dog waste.

  • Sorry Folks, but it’s RV camping. These types of “violations” have been going on for many years, these rules have been posted on a hundred blogs. If you want old school camping, hit the woods, far away from the crowds. This is no different than living in a side by side residential neighborhood. Back when RV parks were old school, there were block parties in them. People want to get away, but no too far away. It is what it is, and it’s not going to change. Boon docking is the only way if you want the old fashioned “camping” feeling.

  • Unruly children on scooters and bicycles. They play in the drive ways and at the water spigots. Their irresponsible parents are no where to be found. Sorry, being hit by an RV even at 5 mph can cause serious injury. Something is really wrong with the parents now a day.

  • Well, now you’ve done it — you wrote down the Unwritten Rules! When they were unwritten people knew in their hearts that they were the right things to do. But now they are written. You did it. Now how are we to behave properly with our RVs and feel that it is due to our own innate sense of decency? No, we can’t for now . . . “It is Written . . . .”

  • I agree with e everything said except your rule number one about camping next to someone. That is fine if all sites equal so to speak but that is rare outside of private parks. There are reasons why some sites book first e.g. level. Length. Shaded or not. View, isolated or not, close to bathroom or playground or lake or wifi etc etc. So if all things equal your rule works but I have yet to be in campground d where that is so.

  • You forgot a major one. After staying at over 100 campgrounds, parks and resorts across the country our major complaint is dogs. Not everyone cares to clean up after, step over in the laundry room, or listen to the incessant barking of dogs. It’s sad that many dog owners leave them locked inside or tied up for hours while away and they are barking constantly. And not everyone hates cigars. I would much rather smell a cigar or weed than deal with the dogs!

  • How about a little tolerance, a few less rules. If you want a perfect setting stay home.

  • One rule you left out. People who take shortcuts right through your site. Another rule that I have no idea about is, why do men go around talking to lone single women in a campground, but their wives never talk to us?

  • I like your rules. They are simple and easy to follow–kind of like common sense. Some people will never understand what common courtesy is either because they don’t practice it at home.

  • We just returned from camping on a small county lake. One evening a group of locals came in with beer, smokes and took over one of the fishing piers. Their loud language included every cuss word I knew and more. There was a young family with 3 small children just on the other side of us. Thankfully they didn’t stay long but my recommendation would be to not confront a group like this.

  • Rule re smoking: vaping smells awful, too.

  • All good, but you left out the most obvious one about smoking. Cigarettes! Yes cigars are the worst, pot doesn’t actually smell like a skunk and I would rather smell that then cigarettes although I would prefer none!
    The RV Bunch group has many of these rude people. When I pointed out these rules, like large screen TV’s outside of campfires where you know the wind is making your neighbors site into a smoke bomb, mentioning that some people have a breathing problem with smoke, I have been told to go shove it and move if I don’t like it! That they come out to do what they want.
    It’s why, whenever possible when boondocking, I try to stay as far away from others as possible!

  • One more item to add in terms of smoking marijuana. PLEASE do not extinguish your smoking materials and leave them lie on the ground to “compost.” For some reason marijuana is enticing to dogs and can cause a HORRIBLE, fearful reaction if ingested. It may not be fatal but it is awful for the dog and the person who loves that animal.

  • Mike, I am 77 years old and we recently bought our first TT and we are looking forward to this summer. I totally agree with your cigar issue and I am a former smoker. Nobody thinks that you’re barking dog is cute.

  • From working in Oregon State Parks for my entire life. The most complaints we received were created by board and card games in the evening at a picnic table. Usually a few friends together just having fun but don’t realize the impact they are having on others.

  • If you say don’t smoke cigars and weed, please include cigarettes as well. They stink more than cigars.

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