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Desperate crazy man shouting on the beach
Desperate crazy man shouting on the beach

Campground etiquette — Manners make memorable experiences

A few weeks ago, I posted something on Facebook asking people to provide examples of horrible campground etiquette — those obnoxious actions of others that take the fun out of RVing.

I was blown away by the response. There were close to 1,000 comments posted to the threads. Apparently, I had struck a nerve.

So, in the interests of keeping the peace and helping campers get along with each other, here’s the list of the most annoying, most aggregating things campers do to annoy others.

Top 20 most annoying things campers do

1. Cutting through sites — This was, by far, the most mentioned nuisance. This includes walking through a site, kids biking through a site and adults driving golf carts and ATVs through a neighbor’s site. Its more rude when you’re interrupting a meal or commenting on an activity/conversation as you pass through. Walk around — it’s good exercise.

2. Unattended dogs — There was one vote separating this irritant from No. 1. Dogs who are either allowed to roam off leash, or are tied up and left alone outside, or left alone in RVs without air conditioning for long periods of time so they bark, bark, bark and run into sites.  One person noted that you’re not complying with campground rules to simply attach a leash and let the dog drag it everywhere it goes. Tie up the pets or leave them home.

3. Being loud late into the night — Everyone likes to have a good time, but there comes a point when the party needs to end. Most campgrounds have quiet hour restrictions, and most guests willingly abide by that. Some don’t as they talk, shout, play music, cuss, whoop and holler well after midnight. Even when it’s not during quiet hours, it’s best to keep the noise level confined to your site — not the entire campground.

4. Pooping dogs — It is just gross and irresponsible of dog owners to allow their dogs to poop anywhere in an RV park without picking up after their pet. It’s worse when owners allow dogs to poop in other campsites, and just as bad when they pick it up and drop the little bag in front of someone else’s RV.

5. Barking dogs — Yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip — It’s a modern day form of Chinese water torture and drives EVERYONE absolutely up a wall after just a few minutes. Put a muzzle or bark collar on the dog if it won’t stop yapping or, better yet, pay for it to vacation at someone else’s home that weekend.

6. Kids running wild — Especially for seasoned citizens, children appear to be a major nuisance. I am sure when they were younger, they walked in an orderly fashion everywhere they went and did not allow their voices to rise above a whisper. So, today’s children who are growing up under the watchful eye of helicopter parents are especially noisy when allowed to run free at campgrounds. In fairness, parents should encourage kids to keep voices to a reasonable level, not run into other campsites and not leave toys scattered around the campground. Also, be respectful of others. Say you’re sorry if you bump into someone or if a ball rolls into another campsite.

7. Smoking — Lots of people don’t want to smell cigarette or cigar smoke anywhere outdoors. Some claim they are allergic to it, and others just find it annoying. However, one person noted the irony of people complaining about cigarette smoke as they’re sitting around a campfire. Smokers, to be nice, please be aware of where the smoke is drifting and try to ensure it doesn’t blow directly into open windows.

8. Leaving garbage in fire ring — Lazy. That’s the best word I can think of for people who leave a campsite after dumping all their trash in a fire ring. First of all, campground staff aren’t paid to clean up after guests. They just make sure the site is tidy before the next guests arrive. Pulling bottles, cans, uneaten food, diapers, etc., out of a fire ring is not their responsibility — it’s the camper’s.

9. Being loud during the day — Just as bad as being loud at night, some people are loud all day long, too. Whether its a raucous party or playing the outside stereo too loud or having the game turned to full volume on the outside TV, it’s best to remember that not everyone paid to join your party. They may be looking for a little piece and quiet. Take a walk. If you can hear the music or the TV 40 feet away, adjust the volume.

10. Unsolicited advice  — This one surprised me a bit, but it is understandable. Men — yes, you there mister big mouth — is it really appropriate for you to ask a woman why she is backing up a rig or connecting a sewer hose instead of her husband?  Is it appropriate for people to walk by an RV and comment on the condition of the rig, make or model in a negative fashion? No!  Truly, it’s none of your damn business as to how other people choose to use their RVs. So, if you’re not asked, keep your mouth shut.

11. Burning trash — Okay, as a Boy Scout, I liked to put anything I could find into a fire and watch it burn. But, when you’re camping next to strangers and dropping styrofoam, food, dead leaves and other stinky material into a fire — especially diapers — a reasonable person will realize the stench will follow the smoke. Either take it home and add it to your compost, or pop the garbage into a trash can.

12. Asking to tour the inside RV — It drives some people nuts when complete strangers come up and say, “I saw that RV featured on the Discovery Channel. Can I look inside?” Some people are even bold enough to actually open the door and start walking in to a stranger’s RV.  Remember, friendship first. Build a relationship. Develop some trust. Use common courtesy. Would you let a stranger come into your home as they walked by the house?

13. Selecting a site close to others — This generally doesn’t apply to campgrounds where the sites are assigned, but is more applicable to open area camping on public land. If there are 80 acres of camping space available and two other campers in the same area, is it absolutely essential that you park your rig right next door to someone else’s? Campground managers, if you have room to leave adequate space between two families, please do so. They’ll appreciate the extra privacy.

14. Cigarette butts — Anyone who has camped for any period of time has come onto a new site and found it littered with cigarette butts. It happens to me frequently. Smokers, you really need to exercise some common sense and stop making the world your litter box. If you have to toss the butts on the ground, spend five minutes picking them up before you leave.

15. Family fighting and public discipline of children — Most people who go camping do so to escape the stress of life and to have a good time. The absolute last thing they want to do is listen to some family argument. Trust me on this, if you yell at a child in an abusive manner calling him or her all sorts of nasty names or wallop a child repeatedly, you’re likely to receive a visit from a police officer or child protective services worker.

16. Cars impeding campsites — A common complaint is that people park cars next to their RV in a way that prevents other RVers from entering their site. This is especially true with people who arrive with more than one car. Most campgrounds limit vehicles to one, maybe two, vehicles for a reason. There is likely overflow parking for your friends up by the office.

17. Cluttered sites — It’s amazing how much stuff people can cram into their RV.  It’s possible to know because of what people bring out of their RVs and leave scattered around the campsites. The industry fights the reputation of being “trailer trash” too often without having people prove it by the way they leave their campsites. Yes, kids are messy and will abandon toys and games, but someone should probably pick them up before the site becomes a nuisance to others.

18. Campfires burning feet away from RV — It’s true. Some people have a real life-or-death aversion to smoke. They may be asthmatic or have a lung disease. It’s also hard to sleep with smoke billowing into a bedroom window. Once inside, the smoke smell can linger for weeks. So, before lighting a campfire, make sure the fire ring is not just a few feet away from your neighbor’s RV. It’s likely he won’t want flames and soot licking at his sidewalls.

19. Looking in windows — This is plain rude, and is especially annoying when people are cutting through someone’s RV site and staring into the windows. Others have reported people pressing their hands and face to windows to stare in. These aren’t people glancing at an RV as they walk by. They’re people who actually stop and literally stare into someone’s RV. That’s creepy!

20. Leaving lights on all night — This is easy to forget. Many RVs have porch lights or awning lights that use bright LEDs to illuminate their patio area. Some RVs have lights over the utility compartments to aid in night hookups. Please remember to turn them off when going to bed. The bright lights can be annoying to people who are trying to sleep. Even when their shades are down a bright light can find its way into a bedroom or living area.

Here are the runners up for poor campground etiquette. They didn’t get as many votes as the others, but its good to keep these in the back of your mind as well to ensure that you’re a good neighbor.

  • Dogs rushing people — It’s intimidating to have a dog run up to some people, especially children. Remember, not everyone is a dog lover.
  • Drunks — Nobody likes a loud drunk. If you have to get drunk, stay at home and visit a bar.
  • Stealing food and things from neighbor — Several reported people helping themselves to what’s in others’ coolers or things stored outside at their campsite. That’s a no-no.
  • Unattended laundry — When doing laundry, be sure to get back to the machine before the time runs out. Chances are someone is waiting to use the machine.
  • Speeding — There are too many dogs, children and people roaming the crowded campground for people to barrel through the park at 25 mph or faster. Slow down to avoid a disaster.
  • People rushing dogs — Some dogs are just as scared of people as people are afraid of dogs. Children especially should not run up to a dog without asking owners if it’s okay to pet the pooch. That’s a great way to get bit. Parents, it’s not acceptable at any time for you to pick up a child and place it on the back of someone else’s dog to “go for a ride.”
  • Unattended fires — Before retiring for the evening or leaving a campsite, the safest thing to do is completely douse the fire.
  • Biking with no regard to traffic — Children especially are known for darting around on the street without paying attention to moving vehicles. Remember, many motorhome drivers can’t see 15 to 20 feet in front of them when driving. It’s a big blind spot. Parents chat with kids about traffic safety EVERY time you arrive at a campground.
  • Laying sewer hose over table — My father used to say, “The world revolves around common sense.” Not so at some campgrounds. RVers, NEVER lay a septic hose over a picnic table to “dry out.” Do you really need someone to explain why?
  • Discourtesy — When passing others in the campground, it’s always nice to say “hello.” And, if someone greets you, would it kill you to say “hello” back?
  • Dirty bathrooms — This isn’t just the campground owner’s fault. Mama always said to pick up after yourself. Guys, that includes not peeing on the floor or on a toilet seat. Ladies, too, I understand. Also, any parent who allows a child to poop in a shower stall should be pummeled with molten marshmallows.
  • Generators — When arriving at a campsite, shut the generator off as soon as you plug in to shore power. When boondocking, if you will need to use a generator, consider parking a distance away from others and operating the generator only an hour or so at a time — not all day.
  • Pulling laundry out of a machine — Yes, the people who are washing and drying their clothes should come and pick them up on time. But, they might be running a few minutes late. Keep your hands off other people’s undies. A little grace goes a long way.
  • Idling trucks and RVs — Why oh why do some people insist on letting their diesel RVs idle for 20 minutes or more every morning? Most engine manufacturers recommend that newer diesel engines run for no more than 3 minutes before driving. And refiners have made great strides to prevent diesel fuel from gelling.
  • Uncooperative parents — When someone approaches you to suggest your child is doing something he or she shouldn’t be doing, perhaps they are right, especially if your child is out of sight. Telling the reporter to pound sand may ensure you are reported to campground management.
  • Late night setup — When you arrive at a campsite late at night, the best thing to do is simply pull in and plug in quickly. Drop the levelers and push out the slides in the morning. Also, walkie talkies are better than shouting for helping drivers back into a site at night.
  • Unkept parks — Dirty RV parks with aging unkept units give off the wrong impression, unless you’re looking for the slumlord decor.
  • Repairs late at night — Again, if its during quiet hours, the repairs can wait.
  • Hogging laundry equipment — If there are only three washers available to use, please don’t use all of them at once.
  • Vandalism — It is never okay to break things at the campground or other people’s property.
  • Swearing and coarse talk — Do the kids next door, or down the street, need to hear you drop the F-bomb every 30 seconds all day long?
  • Touching other kids — It is inappropriate for anyone to pick up someone else’s child without permission of the parent. That apparently also includes pushing them on a swing.
  • Emptying tanks during meals — Okay, you’re holding tanks are full. If the neighbors in the site next to yours are enjoying a meal, could you wait 30 to 60 minutes before filling their site with the stench of your tanks?
  • Plugging extension cords in neighbor’s site — Really, weekly, monthly and seasonal campers have to pay for every bit of electricity they use. Don’t just assume you can use the empty outlet on their utility pole.
  • Bouncing balls off other RVs — This could be considered vandalism. But, at the very least, it’s super annoying.
  • Spilling sewage at dump stations — Mistakes happen. Most RVers have experienced that. But, if you dump sewage onto the ground or at a dump station, then hose it off completely. It is NEVER acceptable to dump sewage into a dump site without using a septic hose. EVER.
  • Sitting on neighbor’s furniture — This applies more to kids than adults. If it’s not yours, don’t touch it.
  • Talking to RVers during setup/take down — Hooking up a tow vehicle must be done in precise order or disaster could result. Most people also have specific routines they follow to ensure that everything is done correctly and nothing is forgotten. When you see people hooking up or tearing down, give them a few minutes to complete the tasks at hand before talking to them.
  • Requesting to turn Internet off — Some people are under the mistaken idea that a neighbor’s Mi-Fi device interferes with campground Wi-Fi. They operate on two different channels. Turning the Mi-Fi off will not make the campground connection faster, so don’t even ask.
  • Hogging hot tubs — Doctors say you shouldn’t be in a hot tub longer than 15 minutes or you risk fainting. Be considerate of the time you’re spending in a hot tub, especially if you sense others are waiting to use it. Also, most campground prohibit children from using hot tubs. No, parents, it’s not okay to bed that rule. It’s for their own safety.
  • Leaving personal items in shower — Yes, you can forget an article of clothing by mistake. But, don’t leave all your belongings in one of the few shower stalls available to all campers just so you can come back and get dressed when you’re done using the pool.
  • Brushing teeth at water spigot — This likely applies to tenters more than RVers. Most campgrounds have restrooms or showers.  Use those for personal hygiene.
  • Washing clothes in the shower — Again, most campgrounds have laundry facilities or there is a laundromat in the nearby community. It’s not appropriate to wash your underwear in the sink.
  • Washing dishes in bathroom — Not only does this risk plugging the pipes, it’s just not sanitary to wash dishes in a bathroom.
  • Placing sewer hose over spigot — Some people think its a brilliant idea to place their sewer hose over the fresh water spigot to “clean it out.” Some people are idiots.
  • Kids encouraging others to break rules — Parents of young children (under three) don’t like hearing other children encouraging theirs to break rules by saying, “It’s okay to play in the street,” or “It’s okay to go to the pool without your mom.”
  • Men using women’s restroom — I know society is changing, but most women are uncomfortable to walk into the ladies restroom or shower to find a man doing his business inside. If the men’s restroom is closed for cleaning, go back to your RV. Remember, you brought a bathroom with you. Otherwise find another facility or knock on the door and plead with the cleaner to let you use the men’s room.
  • Leaving bikes in common area — Kids do this all the time and it create tripping hazards of others of all ages. Put the bikes in a rack or leave them at your campsite. Just don’t drop them at the pool and leave them all day.
  • Visiting kids’ tents — Many RVing families set up pup tents for children to enjoy their own adventure. It is not a good idea for any adult to approach any child’s tent, especially at night, even if the kids are noisy. Knock on the RV door and speak to the parents first.
  • Burning painted wood — Some people will burn anything. But, burning wood treated with paint or varnish can give off dangerous fumes.
  • Posting pictures of others online — Yes, that family across from you may be real dunces, but should you really post their pictures with some sarcastic comment on a public forum?  Not if you don’t want to get sued. Also, get permission of parents before taking pictures of another child, even if that child is posing with your kids. Some children are being raised in foster homes and their pictures cannot be posted online for obvious reasons. Also, some parents don’t want their children’s pictures posted online for any reason. Always ask first.
  • Outdoor sex in tents — Enough said. Get a room.
  • Early walkers chatting — I hear it all the time myself. Two people out for an early morning walk stop to talk for 15 minutes right outside my RV. If it’s still within quiet hours, take the chat to the office or agree to meet later.
  • Setting up tents by neighboring RVs — When parents bring tents for their children to use, be sure to sent them up on your campsite so they aren’t overlapping another site. Also, it is inappropriate to tie cords to someone else’s RV or personal property.
  • Fully cleaning tanks during rush periods — When everyone is rushing to leave a campground in the morning, do not take the time to completely flush your tanks. Most dumps can be accomplished in five minutes or less. If there is a line waiting, then dump and go. If you need to deep clean the tanks wait so you are one of the last people to leave the campground.
  • Inappropriate dress — This could be sitting at a picnic table with a plumber’s crack, or children stripping down to change into or out of  a swimsuit, or a fat guy like myself in a speedo. Be nice by being modest.
  • Pick flowers at seasonal sites — Those beautiful flowers sitting outside someone’s cabin or park model may belong to its owner, not the campground. Even if it belonged to the campground, once it’s picked it can’t be enjoyed by others. Smell the roses, then move on.
  • Exploding fireworks — Not only is this a noise nuisance, it’s a dangerous thing to do in a campground. You don’t want a bottle rocket to land near someone’s propane tank or on the roof of the RV. Enjoy the professional show, don’t use fireworks at campgrounds period.
  • Wi-Fi hogs — Campground connections are notoriously slow anyway. Don’t be downloading movies or keeping your laptop connected to the Internet while you are out and about.
  • Too many campground rules — One common complaint is that campgrounds and RV parks have too many posted rules. Do you want to know why? Read the above list.

Most people responding to my impromptu survey said that weekend RVers are often the worst offenders. That makes sense because they don’t have as much experience as full-time, seasonal or frequent RV users.

Remember, an RV park is like being in the neighborhood you just left in order to live the dream of RVing. You’ll encounter all types of people. If complete solitude away from dogs, kids and people is what you prefer, boondocking may be the way to go.

Using a little common sense, being patient with others and extending grace will help everyone get along and enjoy a memorable experience.

About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is the editor of Let's RV and the editor of RV Daily Report. A Wisconsin native and father of three grown daughters, he is now based out of Arizona and travels the country in his Winnebago Adventurer motorhome interviewing industry professionals and interesting RVers alike. He can be reached at editor@letsrv.com

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