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.
- Where to Find Free and Cheap Camping and RV sites in 2020 – This is a mega-post filled with so much free information it could almost be a book
- The Beginner's Guide to Boondocking – The IS our book on boondocking. Everything you need to know!
- How to camp for free and dispersed camping – This is a video expert with a veteran boondocker named Campskunk, one of the best experts we know on finding off the beaten path places to camp with lots of room and at no cost!
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
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:
- Summer RV Trip Challenges for 2020 – Thie summer of 2020 is presenting some unique challenges to RVers besides following the unofficial rules of camping. Here's what to expect this summer.
- 3 ways to minimize light pollution while camping – The folks at the Leave No Trace camping organization has put together this very helpful article on the wise use of lights while camping
- 10 important things the RV Lifestyle is…and is not – We put together this article to provide some very realistic expectations about the RV Lifestyle, its joys, and disappointments.
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
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?
Rules of Camping #8: Don’t Expect Immediate Service from an RV Dealer (in the event of a breakdown)
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.
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