Whether you’re boondocking or paying to stay in an actual campground, certain behaviors fall into “good neighbor” and “bad neighbor” categories. Wouldn’t you rather be remembered as a good neighbor instead of being cursed for being a bad neighbor?
I touched on some of these good neighbor tips in my post on the Fundamentals of Boondocking, but they are important enough to bear repeating. None of these behaviors are difficult, so please take a few extra minutes to do things to make the camping experience positive for everyone in the general vicinity.
#1 Give people space. As I said in the boondocking post, people go out into the wilderness for quiet and solitude, not to be under the armpit of another boondocker. Of course, there’s not much you can do to give your neighbors more space if you’re staying in a campground and you’re within the boudaries of your site. Just be sure you don’t overflow your site and move into someone else’s territory.
#2 Stay out of other people’s campsites. Go around other campsites instead of walking right through them. Teach your children to walk around other people’s campsites too.
#3 Keep control of your dog. Don’t let your dog wander through other campsites either, or anywhere in a campground or boondocking area. A USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture, the governmental agency responsipble for the Forest Service) document states,
National forest guidelines require that dogs be on a six-foot leash at all times when in developed recreation areas and on interpretive trails.
Most privately owned campgrounds are also going to require dogs to be leashed, especially if the city or county the campground is in has a leash law.
Even if you are in an area that doesn’t require your dog to be on a leash, you still have to keep it under your control. Don’t let it wander out of your camp, and for goodness sake, if your dog defecates in a place where someone may stop in the mess, clean it up!
(If you’re worried about bears in particular getting into your food, you might look into getting a bear canister.)
#5 Clean up some more before you leave and pick up all your trash. If there are garbage cans or dumpsters in the camping area, deposit your trash there. If you’re in an area with no receptacles for garbage, pack out all the trash you’ve packed in. Don’t leave trash (even partially burnt trash) in your fire ring; if no one removes your trash from the fire ring, it’s going to be an eyesore and a nuisance for the next campers. Pick up micro-trash! Twist ties, plastic bread bag clips, bottle caps, cigarette butts, and plastic bandages are trash too and need to be removed!
A true steward of the earth will pick up trash left behind by others.
#6 Don’t make a mess in restrooms. Learn how to use a pit toilet before you encounter one. If you do make a mess clean it up. The vast majority of camp hosts and fellow campers do not want to deal with urine and feces that don’t belong to them.
#7 If there are no restrooms in the area and you have to resort to burying your feces, do not bury your toilet paper! It doesn’t decompose as fast as you think it does. (I’ve read it can take a year or more for toilet paper left in the woods to break down, but the author of that blog post does not say where that information comes from.) It’s gross to encounter other people’s toilet paper if it’s dug up by animals or uncovered by rain or wind. When it comes to toilet paper, you should pack out what you pack in.
#8 Drive slowly. If the road is unpaved, driving slowly will cut down on dust. Even if the road is paved, drive slowly for safety’s sake. If a kid or an unleashed dog or a wild critter darts out in the road, you want to be able to stop in time to avoid a catastrophe.
#9 Don’t play music loud enough for others to hear it. Many people go camping to get away from the sound of civilization, including recorded music. If you’re camping, especially on public land, let the sounds of nature prevail.
#10 Don’t fly your drone over other people’s campsites. If you really want to be a good neighbor, don’t fly your drone while other people are around. Remember, many people who are camping want to hear the sounds of nature, not the buzzing of a drone. If you must fly your drone while others are around, at least have the courtesy to fly it away from campsites.
What do you do to be a good neighbor while camping? What do you wish other campers would do to be good neighbors? Leave your comments below.