Campground Ethics

9 Rules to Live By

Campground ethics. It’s basically another way of saying use common sense and consideration while camping. Noise, pyrotechnics, bad dogs and vandalism all lend to the destruction of the natural environment and can ruin the beauty and enjoyment of the outdoors for everyone.

What can be done to assure that a campground visit can be a positive experience for all visitors? Here are some suggestions:

1. Leave No Trace: Public-land agencies and concerned environmentalists are now mounting campaigns to publicise the principles of “minimum-impact” or “leave-no-trace” camping. In other words, when you leave, it shouldn’t look like you have never been there—or better!

2. Take personal responsibility for back country ethics: When entering a campground, even if only for a night, read the posted rules and observe them closely.

3. Observe quiet hours: Between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. campers should speak softly, use headphones for music, refrain from running generators, and keep children under complete control—in other words, be courteous to other campers. When setting up or breaking down camp, make as little noise as possible and, if it’s dark, try to avoid shining bright flashlights or headlights everywhere.

4. Dispose of litter: Litter is pollution. If you packed it in, pack it out. Properly dispose of your trash in frequently emptied public dumpsters. Even organic refuse, such as apple cores, orange peels, and eggshells (which take months to decompose), is trash. Always leave your campsite in better condition than when you found it, even if it means picking up the litter of those who came before you.

5. Keep rest-room facilities clean: Clean up messes you make when brushing your teeth, shaving, or using toiletries. Do not put any kind of garbage in vault toilets; trash such as plastic bags, sanitary napkins, and diapers, cannot be pumped and have to be picked out, piece by piece, by some poor soul. Always use a biodegradable soap for washing dishes and cleaning up.

6. Respect the land: Leave the foliage and natural setting around the campground intact. Do not cut down limbs or branches or remove leaves from trees. If you want to build a fire, bring your own wood or buy some from a store or concessionaire. Before leaving a campsite, always make sure the fire is completely out.

7. Respect the animals that inhabit the area: Don’t feed or harass animals that visit your campground. Animals need to stick to their natural diets or else they might become ill. Keep your camp area clean, especially if you’re in or near bear country, so you don’t tempt any animals to visit your site. Keep food out of your tent and try to place your garbage away from your sleeping quarters at night. Backpackers often tie their garbage to a tree branch for the night, making it harder for small animals to indulge.

8. Camp and hike in established areas: Camp only in designated campsites, which are usually selected because they are resistant to constant use. Stay on the trails when walking to and from rest rooms, visitor centres, or stores, or when venturing into the back country. This is especially important in desert areas, where the cryptobiotic soil—a black crust that prevents erosion and takes years to form—is easily destroyed.

9. Avoid conflict and respect fellow campers: If a situation arises with inconsiderate or uncooperative neighbours, try to avoid confrontations, which can easily escalate and turn ugly, especially when alcohol is involved. Talk to a campground host, park ranger, or someone with authority and let him or her address the problem. Show your camping neighbours the same respect that you expect from them and everyone will camp happily ever after.

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