With another season of camping upon us, it’s a great time to have a Top Ten Camping Rules list for the responsible camper. It’s our job as outdoor enthusiasts to be respectful of the natural beauty we enjoy. Humans have a very significant impact on their environment, and campers should be very considerate of the campground, the surrounding areas, and other campers.
Here are some camping rules to follow to keep yourself out of trouble along with some camping tips to make your camping trip enjoyable for you and other campers. Keep these Top Ten Camping Rules in mind to make each and every camping trip a success!
#1 – Do Not Litter
Always clean up your trash and leave nothing behind. Not only that, make an effort to clean up any trash that you find. This will leave the wilderness area cleaner and more pristine than when you arrived. Keep in mind, organic trash is litter as well. People think orange peels, peanut shells, and pet food can be left on the ground to break down, but they take a long time to break down, and in the meantime they rot, smell bad, attract insects and animals, and look awful. Leaving these on the ground may harm not only animals, but campers as well. I was appalled at one of the campsites we visited late last fall. There were peanut shells all over the place. Not only was the campsite a mess, but peanut shells are actually deadly to many people with allergies.
#2 – Respect the Universal Quiet Time
Nearly all campgrounds have quiet times, and it is important to follow these. If quiet times aren’t posted, try to keep the noise down from 10 PM to 7 AM. Noise travels easily and far in the outdoors. Keep this in mind because I am sure you don’t want to be bothered by others, and they certainly don’t want to be bothered by you.
#3 – Never Feed the Animals
Some people want to feed animals, either hoping to get a closer look or thinking the animals need help finding food. However, there are many reasons to refrain. Wild animals are just that, and people come away from encounters with bites or other injuries. Chipmunks and squirrels can carry rabies. Animals are used to eating food from the wild. Their bodies are not used to human food, and they may not be able to handle our food, some of which may be poisonous to them. Water fowl can get quite sick eating bread and crackers. Animals will take food that may be allergens to other campers, such as nuts or peanuts, and spread them around the campground. When campers feed bears and other large animals, they are basically sentencing them to death. The park service must kill any of these large and dangerous animals that lose their fear of humans or begin to rely on them. They pose a great danger to humans when this happens.
#4 – Always Tend Your Fires
For many people on a camp out, including myself, the campfire is one of the centerpieces to a camping trip. There is just something magical about a campfire. But that campfire can cause a lot of problems if it’s not treated with respect and responsibility. First and foremost, make sure that you observe all the fire regulations in your campground. With the recent years of drought, many places ban fires early or have other regulations. Know them and follow them! Never, for any reason, leave a fire unattended. There should be someone watching it at all times. If you are going to bed, leaving camp, or your trip is over, please make sure that the fire is all the way out. This means that the fire is cold and not even a single spark is left. Many forest fires are started each year by lazy campers who do not properly take care of the fires. Don’t let your name be a headline. Put that fire out completely. The best way to do this is to separate any burning pieces. Fire feeds fire so it will go out easier if they are separated. Soak the logs down with water, and then soak the coals. Once the first pass is done, stir the coals to uncover any hot ones that may be hidden, and turn the logs over so the underside is now on top. Soak the logs and then soak the coals. Repeat this process until you can no longer feel any heat radiating out of the fire pit after a thorough stir.
#5 – Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints
It’s often tempting to pick a wildflower you see next to the trail. Maybe you find an interesting rock that you want for your garden. Or perhaps you feel a dead and fallen tree stump would make a great yard ornament. However, each and every thing in the outdoors has a place and a purpose in its natural surroundings. Items may have bugs or other animals and even can spread diseases. Leave everything you find. Take a snapshot of it, paint a picture, or record it with video, but leave it there.
#6 – Keep Pets on a Leash
The state law in Colorado requires that all pets be kept on a leash at all times, unless they are confined somewhere on your property, such as inside a house or a fenced back yard. The laws might be different in other areas, but I would suggest that you keep all pets on a leash at all times when out camping. No matter how trained your pet is, and how good they normally act, being in unfamiliar surroundings can be disconcerting and distracting. Your fellow campers don’t appreciate unfamiliar dogs showing up at their campsite. Dogs may run off, chasing animals they have never seen and being somewhere new, they can get lost so much easier. Campers often hear owners calling for their dogs late into the night. And your pet could easily become something else’s meal in the outdoors. Bottom line, keep your dog on a leash and keep them quiet. Oh, and please curb your pet. Thanks!
#7 – Always Bring Survival Gear
No matter where you go, when you go, or how long you intend to be there, always make sure to bring survival gear appropriate for where you will be. If you are a lucky camper, you will never ever have to use it. However, if you are a camper, chances are you will have to utilize this survival gear at some point. Whether you break down on the side of the road, get caught in a storm, or get lost hiking, you don’t want to be without when it is most needed.
#8 – Let Someone in Town Know About Your Camping Trip
This may seem silly, but the unexpected happens to even the most prepared and seasoned camper. Make sure you tell someone where you will be going and how long you will be gone. If you are going to be gone for a while, ask them to check on your house every few days. If you don’t return on your expected date, they can alert the park service of your absence. If you plan to stay a couple more days make sure to let them know. Every year there is a tragic story of a hiker or camper that is found long after they were due back. But since nobody knew to look for them, nobody did.
#9 – Prepare Your Home for Your Absence
This is something that very few people think about, but a little preparation can go a long way to averting disaster. You may be planning to go camping for a few days, but a leaky or broken pipe can cause a huge amount of damage in that time. Make sure to turn off your AC or at least change the temperature. There’s no reason to spend money cooling an empty house. Make sure to water plants, arrange to have pets fed ,or leave them with a pet sitter. Turn off and unplug appliances and computers. Many appliances can catch fire even if they are turned off.
#10 – Keep It to Yourself
Don’t play music, cut though another person’s camp, get too close to them while fishing on the shoreline, or buzz them with your boat. Give every camper room to enjoy their vacation and keep your relaxing in your own space. Most campers head out into the outdoors to enjoy the wilderness, not to put up with what they left behind in the city. Turn the music down and enjoy the bird calls. Don’t walk through anyone else’s camp. Keep children and pets under control. Just let your fellow campers enjoy the time they have while enjoying your own.
Commit this Top Ten Camping Rules list to memory. Make an effort to get everyone you camp with to follow them as well. If these simple things were followed by all the campers out there enjoying the outdoors, everyone’s camping experiences would be better. If you are a good steward of the wilderness, respectful in campgrounds, and a responsible camper, it will rub off on those around you and make each camping season just a little better than the last.