Campground CourtesyDon't be a dweeb.

Most campers are great folks to associate with, but it seems that in recent years, we're seeing a greater lack of camping etiquette. I have my own theories about why, but for now I'll attribute it to the fact that there are a lot more new campers out there, who perhaps haven't had the chance to pick up the finer points of sharing a campground with others.

In particular, we spent five years doing some Volunteer Campground Hosting in the Florida State Park system. This has given us a more up-close look at campground etiquette. Let me run through some various categories of problems we've encountered.

Arrival

Be aware that there is generally a reason for a park to have a designated check-in time. It's primarily so that they will have time to clean up the site following the departure of the party that had the site before you. That probably includes policing the site to pick up any leftover trash, cleaning out the fire-ring, and perhaps raking the site. If the site was vacated early in the day and cleaned up early, then most parks will let you register and set-up before the check-in time.

Take a minute or two to do a little recon around your site before trying to back your rig. See if there are any hazards, such as stone or wooden site markers, trees, or even the water/electric hookups. Use a spotter! If you're traveling alone, don't hesitate to ask a neighbor to spot you. I'd be happy to lend you my eyes and help prevent a ding or worse in your rig. I had a fellow one winter try to back his 5th wheel into a tight spot, and he managed to scrape the running board on his truck on a stone. His wife was off talking to someone, so he was on his own. He jumped out of his truck and started haranguing me about the "^&)@# rocks - I've been coming here for years and these rocks are always a problem." "Well," I says to myself, "not much sympathy: you've admitted you knew the rock was there, you shoulda had the DW spotting you, and perhaps you need a little more practice with that big rig."

If you're driving through the campground looking for the best site available, please don't help yourself to an occupied site. A few years ago we went out for the afternoon in our truck camper, leaving chairs, tablecloth, bicycle, and leveling blocks on our site. When we got back, someone had moved all our stuff to another site and was all set up on ours. Not exactly the best way to win friends and influence people. And no, we didn't make them move.

Fires

Use the designated fire ring or pit. Burn only firewood, except for perhaps some paper or cardboard to help get it started. Please don't throw plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and plain old garbage into the fire. A lot of that stuff won't burn, and I, as the Campground Host, have to clean all that out and dispose of it.

Keep your fire under control. And please, never leave it unattended. If you're leaving your site or turning in for the night, make sure the fire is out first.

Trash

Every organized campground we've ever visited has had trashcans or dumpsters for camper use. Your trash doesn't go in the fire-ring, it doesn't go in the bushes, it doesn't get left beside the site marker post, and it doesn't go on the floor in the bathhouse. It goes in the designated receptacle. If there isn't any trash bin, then take your trash out with you.

Bathhouse

Boy - here's a great topic. I'm amazed at how some folks can trash a just-cleaned bathhouse. Do you not flush the toilet at home? If you're at a beachfront campground (like the one we volunteered at), use the outside shower to rinse the sand off your feet before going in. A couple of times this past winter, I just about needed a shovel to clean the sand out of the showers. And think about where all that sand is going…..yeap, down the drain. Then you come find me to complain about the drains being clogged up. I guess it's probably expecting waaay too much that you treat the bathhouse more or less like yours at home.

Noise

This is so simple - just think about your neighbor. And heed the quiet hours posted at the park. I don't mind if your radio is down at a reasonable volume, but I sure don't enjoy needing earplugs to block out 80 dbs of music. And I really don't enjoy it at 2 AM when I'm trying to sleep.

Don't idle that Diesel engine unnecessarily - those old Dodge Cummins can sure make a racket. Please don't stop right in front of my site with your Class A's Diesel running while you hook up your toad. Either shut the motor off or go hookup in the parking lot. I don't care for the noise, and I don't care for the fumes drifting into my RV.

If you have a hobby that involves motorized tools, again, think about your neighbor. Can't say that I find the sound of a scroll saw very relaxing after 2-3 hours.

Lights

Again, think about your neighbor. All those bright lights hanging along your awning and those nice big round spot-lights on the side of your rig are nice……up to a point. Is it really necessary to leave them on all night, especially the spot-light that shines right into the windows of the folks next door? The little amber light by the door ought to be enough for an outside overnight light, if in fact you really need one.

Dogs

This topic is sure to get people pumped up. An awful lot of folks travel with pets, and that's fine, assuming that Fido is well behaved. But you should keep in mind that not everyone is a dog-lover. When you're out walking him, don't let him run up to someone - let the other person, if they are so inclined, initiate an overture to your pooch. Don't assume that they want to have Fido jumping all over them.

By all means, PLEASE pick up after your pet. I have been amazed at how many owners fail to do that. I don't care to step in it and track into my RV, and I certainly don't want my grandchildren walking in it. And why do you bring Fido from your site and let him do his business on mine? And leave it there?

Don't go off for several hours and leave Fido home alone in the RV with the windows wide open. At the park where we volunteered this winter, a couple went off for about six hours and left two small dogs in their RV. The dogs barked and yapped the entire time. Other campers were complaining to me, the Campground Host. I could only call the Office, who talked to the owners when they returned. As far as I'm concerned, they should have been asked to leave. We've been victims of this more than once at other campgrounds also.

Cigarettes

Here's another hot topic: disposal of cigarettes. As a campground volunteer, I pick up hundreds of cigarette butts. What do smokers do at home? I'd hate to see their yard if they treat it like they do their campsite. Butts strewn all over the site, the fire-ring filled with them. Did you notice there were none there when you set up on your site? That's because a volunteer, possibly me, picked 'em all up before your arrival.

Departure

Pay attention to checkout time. It's there for a purpose, as noted above. It gives the park an opportunity to clean up your site before the next camper arrives. Ideally, it shouldn't take much to clean your site; you will have left nothing but ashes in the fire-ring and taken your trash to the dumpster. Leave your site as you found it.

Here's a fellow who thinks only of himself - we saw him a few years on a site across from ours. He's getting ready to leave. The site is small. He has a good-sized 5th-wheel and a big dually Diesel tow vehicle. The first thing he does in his departure routine is to start up the truck and back in to hitch up the trailer. Now, the truck is now straight across the camp road, blocking it. And he has done nothing yet to prepare the trailer. He proceeds to take in the awning, stow his chairs, pull the slides in, unhook his water hose and electric cable, slowly and carefully wiping each clean before putting them away……all the while the truck is idling and blocking the road. It was about 20 minutes before he finally pulled out. And this all began about 7 AM !

Bottom line: please think about your fellow campers…and the volunteers who help take care of the campground. Liz and I volunteer because we enjoy meeting folks and trying to make their stay a bit more enjoyable. Don't get me wrong - most of the campers we encounter are friendly, courteous folks who are a delight to get to know. But it's amazing how one remembers the ones that aren't so considerate. Try not to be one of those. And have a great camping experience!

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