Understanding Campground Etiquette and Being a Good Neighbor

Published Categorized as RVs

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I know that once published, you’ll be reading this in 2021 and I’m good with that. However, as I write this, it’s New Years Eve. In fact it’s almost 8 PM…a full four hours for more crap to mess with us this year. Adverse weather, a pandemic, and a Christmas Day bombing by some lunatic in an RV sure has isn’t made it any easier to be an RVer.

With that said, earlier today I was walking down to the local grocery store when I saw a lot of traffic slowing down and weaving to the left and right in the eastbound lane. That’s when I saw it. It was a beautiful turtle with a shell about the size of a basketball. I made my way out into the road to pick it up and help it make its way on his/her journey north and one guy in a huge 4×4 pickup stopped the traffic while I did that. For me, that was an excellent way to put 2020 to rest.

With this pandemic of the past year came a record year for sales in the RV industry. Everyone had the same thought, “let’s take our family vacation on the road”, and so it began. With many campgrounds closed because of the pandemic, those that stayed open were often overbooked or filled to capacity. Many of these people were new to the RV lifestyle and they simply didn’t know the proper etiquette when camping in a campground or boondocking. So, in this article, I’m going to share my top 10 tips for being a good RV neighbor when boondocking or camping at a traditional campground

Keep your trash out of the fire pit

Yes, I sometime use some paper trash to start a campfire, but I don’t use my firepit to dispose of my trash, that’s why the campground has a dumpster. Also, just because you’ve grilled some nice pork chops or some chicken, resist the urge to throw the bones in the firepit, especially if it’s not in use.

Wild or domestic, animals (and bugs) have a keen sense of smell. A few years ago while boondocking in a remote location, when I first arrived, my pooch Lizzie was constantly rooting around in a firepit a couple of sites down from mine. When I went to investigate, I discovered that there were a lot of chicken bones in the pit and some were fresh, meaning uncharred with some meat still left on the bone, others were somewhat charred.

As much as I love my Lizzie, she likes to eat and it doesn’t matter to her whether I give her something to eat, or whether she finds it on her own. Leaving any type of food product in a firepit is an invitation to all sorts of critters, with many being those that you don’t want to meet.

Be quiet

Whether you’re boondocking or staying at a campground, keep the noise down. This especially true for me when I’m boondocking, I don’t want to hear music or TVs off in the distance, I want to hear nature. This goes for campgrounds as well. I know a lot of RVs have TVs and stereos that are designed to be watched outdoors, but you should be mindful of the volume and make sure you know what the quiet hours are at the park you’re staying at.

Keep your distance

Some people like to have neighbors close by, others don’t. I happen to fall into the latter category. I don’t know how many times I’ve been boondocking or at a campground where there were plenty of open sites or places open to park far away from my rig and some doofus pulls their RV into a spot right next to mine. Also, some people work remotely and many of us want to do it outside. I often write or work on a painting outside and I really don’t want to be interrupted at those times. If someone wants to meet you or talk to you, they’ll invite you into their site.

Unless you’re asked, don’t be the “helper”

I’ve been an RVer for 30 years and while I realize some people just want to be helpful, the truth is, if I want your help backing my rig into a site, I’ll ask for your help. This applies to those campgrounds that insist on sending some old guy in a golf cart out to lead me to the site and help me back into my spot. Look, I’ve backed my rig into sites hundreds of times without your help. I don’t someone distracting me by telling me where the tree or picnic table are located, I can see them in my mirrors fine without you pointing them out to me and taking my mind off from the task at hand. If you see someone having difficulty backing up their rig, politely ask if they need help. If they tell you no, move on and don’t stand around acting like an audience at an outdoor concert.

Keep your pets leashed, under control and clean up after them

When I’m boondocking and no one else is around, I’ll often let Lizzie loose to roam around on her own. She’s an old dog, so she doesn’t wander too far away anymore. However, I would never do this in a campground. Also, clean up after your pet. Even if they have an area for your dog to be off leash, don’t think this is an opportunity to leave their poop behind. Pick it up and dispose of it properly.

Turn off your lights at night

I get that many people like to string lantern lights on their site, or use the light by the door to light up the area, but do you really need them on all night? If you’re worried about security, then install a motion sensor light and don’t leave things around that might temp would be thieves. Simply put, that light by the door is bright and if you’re camping near others, it’s probably shing into their rig.

Don’t take the “shortcut”

Don’t walk between campsites just to save yourself a few extra steps to the dumpster, showers or restrooms. If I’m at a campground, I’m paying to rent that spot. For the time being, that’s my lawn you’re invading, and I don’t want you or children in my yard.

Never use the water spicket at a campsite to flush your sewer hose

Don’t clean out your sewer line by holding it up to same water faucet that you were using to supply your RV with water. Sometimes those outlets don’t flow correctly or have high pressure and fecal matter and bacteria can blow back out on you or the faucet. In fact, I always wipe the faucet down with bleach before I hook up to it just in case someone before me has done this. A good solution to this issue is to carry a small hose that you use specifically for this task. One other thing you should never do with your sewer line, is to lay it on a picnic table. Believe it or not, I have seen this done numerous times and it makes me cringe every time I’ve seen it.

Drive slowly

Many campgrounds don’t have paved roads and you’re not likely to find them when boondocking either. Driving quickly puts out a lot of dust and nobody wants to breath that in or have drift into their RV through the open windows. Also, be mindful that other RVers children may suddenly dart out from behind a parked RV and into your path, so keep your speed to below 10 miles per hour.

Don’t pull into a site late at night

A good rule of thumb is that if it’s after quiet hours at the campground you plan to stay at, don’t pull in there to set up camp at some early morning hour like 2 AM. You’re going to wake your neighbors and most likely, you’re going to make some mistakes.

A few years ago while I was work camping in Northern Michigan, a nice couple from the Dallas, Texas area tried to pull into a site directly behind my site at around midnight. They were newbies and they were rushing to set up camp and not disturb fellow campers.

Unfortunately, they cut the turn into their site too tight and their trailer hitch popped out of the 5th wheel. This caused the trailer to drop onto the tow truck fenders and tailgate causing significant damage to their truck. With insurance, they were able to have their truck repaired at a local dealership, but they did have to stay in the area for another three weeks. In short, don’t rush yourself, have a plan and a checklist when arriving at a new site.

You’ll be glad you had a plan. As always, my friends, stay safe, stay healthy, and I hope to see you soon.

By Brian

Born and raised in Michigan, contributing writer Brian C. Noell is a retired hospitality industry professional that now works remotely as a visual artist, writer and photographer as he travels around the United States in an RV with his dog Lizzy, an eighty pound Appenzeller hound dog.