13/05/2022
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Campsite etiquette: the unwritten rules for camping beginners

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More people than ever are going camping for the first time. That’s great news – there’s no better way to enjoy the great outdoors with your family than a camping holiday but there are some rules you need to follow.

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Words and pictures by Iain Duff


An introduction to campsite etiquette

The camping community is friendly, welcoming and helpful and it’s easy to fit in. But, before you head out with your tent for the first time, it’s a very good idea to make sure you know what you should and shouldn’t do on site. That way you’ll avoid any mistakes and ensure that you don’t upset your fellow campers.

Camping etiquette mostly comes down to a combination of common sense, courtesy and mutual respect. The two main things you have to consider are not disturbing other people and having as little impact as possible on the environment around you. If you follow those two basic rules then you can’t go wrong.


Follow the rules

Campsite rules and etiquette sign

The unwritten rules of camping are based on simply being a considerate person.

The written rules on campsites are usually displayed prominently and should be easy to follow; when you arrive at a campsite, take time to read and understand them and make sure the others in your party are also in the picture.

Follow all of the campsite’s rules rather than picking and choosing what makes sense to you.


Booking and arrival

  • When you make a booking, be clear about what you want and expect and what you are paying, to avoid confusion and disappointment on arrival.
  • Many campsites don’t allow larger tents or charge more, and there can be extra payments for other facilities, so check ahead to avoid any unexpected additional expense.
  • Be sure to arrive at the campsite on time – getting there too early could mean your pitch won’t be ready and you could create congestion if you get there while a lot of other campers are leaving.
  • If you’re going to be early or very late, phone ahead to make sure someone will be there to check you in.
  • Always leave on time; your pitch has probably been allocated to someone else on your departure so the campsite wardens will need time to make sure it’s ready for them.
  • If you’ve got an early-morning departure, often you can settle up your bill the evening before you set off, if you haven’t already paid in advance.

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Safety and privacy

A Tent pitched with a windbreak
  • Always observe the campsite speed limit rules. Having to drive slowly where there are children playing should not be seen as an inconvenience.
  • When you are arriving or leaving, do not leave your engine idling for more than a minute or two.
  • The continual slamming of car doors, especially in the evening, is extremely annoying, so don’t do it!
  • Don’t take a shortcut across other people’s pitches. It is simply bad manners.
  • Know where your children are and what they are up to. The freedom camping gives youngsters, doesn’t mean you can abdicate responsibility. Make sure they aren’t kicking footballs into other people’s pitches, tripping over guylines or crashing bikes into tents. Keep noisy games for the campsite's play area and don’t let them run around the toilet block.
  • Quiet hours are there for everybody's benefit. Voices, music and other noises can carry a lot further than you might think on a quiet summer night; likewise in the early morning.  Most campsites expect noise be kept to a minimum after a certain time, usually around 10pm. It is not only loud music that needs to be considered but also loud voices, laughter and arguments. If your neighbours complain, you might be asked to leave.
  • Large sites may have barrier-controlled vehicle access. If people coming back to their tent at 2am have ever woken you, revving the car engine and slamming doors, you will appreciate why.
  • Campfires are allowed on many sites, but there are usually rules relating to using fire pits and certain types of fuel. Never chop branches from trees to put on the fire. Always respect the site’s rules – and if a campfire is important, check in advance that they are permitted.
  • In case of emergencies, check out where the fire safety alarms and equipment are located as well as being clear about exactly where the site is if you need to ring for a doctor or ambulance in the middle of the night.
  • In case of emergencies, check out where the fire safety alarms and equipment are located as well as being clear about exactly where the site is if you need to ring for a doctor or ambulance in the middle of the night.
A campsite reception


Friends and neighbours

  • Campers are a friendly bunch in general, but don’t impose yourself on other campers – and respect their privacy. Although most campers will happily stop and chat and some will want to socialise, some people prefer to keep themselves to themselves, which is absolutely fine. If your neighbours want to be best friends, they'll soon let you know.
  • Do look out for each other, though. Campsites are usually safe and crime-free, but it’s down to the community to make sure it stays that way. Look out for people behaving suspiciously – keeping your eyes and ears open will help make life on the campsite safer and more secure. Report anything suspicious or antisocial to the wardens immediately.
  • Be tolerant and stay relaxed. Being wakened at 2am by a baby crying in the tent next door might be annoying, but there’s nothing you can do about it so don’t let it stress you out. And spare a thought for the child’s parents – it’s guaranteed that they will be even more stressed than you!
  • Share your knowledge and help other campers out whenever you can – but try not to interfere where you’re not wanted! Likewise, if you’re an inexperienced camper, you should always feel free to ask fellow campers for advice.
  • If you have any problems at all, tell site reception as soon as you can as, in the main, they will want to help make your stay as enjoyable as possible. If you wait until you leave to comment or complain, then it is too late.


Health and hygiene

A communal kitchen
  • Keeping your pitch clean and free from rubbish benefits everybody and there really is no excuse for litter around a tent. Apart from looking scruffy, it might attract vermin and, of course, is inconsiderate to your neighbours.
  • Put all your rubbish in the right bin – most campsites now have recycling bins for different materials.
  • Be sure to tidy up after yourself when using the loos, washrooms and showers. Look out for squeegee mops to wipe down the shower after use and don’t leave empty shampoo bottles behind.
  • Wipe away any soapy water and clean up all food and scraps from washing-up sinks – and the same applies to shared picnic tables and communal cooking areas.
  • Check and double check your pitch before leaving to pick up all rubbish and anything you might have left behind – tent pegs are the most common item. Discarded pegs can damage other campers’ groundsheets and play havoc with lawnmowers.


Camping with dogs

Dog on a campsite

Camping appeals to dog owners because it means their pet can come on holiday, too. But not everyone on site will be happy with pets wandering free around the pitches, so do bear the following in mind:

  • Check in advance that dogs are actually allowed on the campsite you have in mind.
  • Ideally, pick a campsite where pets are positively welcomed and catered for.
  • If pets are allowed, check about any extra charges and specific rules that might apply.
  • Only take a well-behaved pet; dogs that love to bark at strangers – canine or human – will irritate people so it might be better not to have them on site with you.
  • Keep your dog on a short lead at all times.
  • Clear up any mess your dog leaves and dispose of it properly.
  • Do not leave your dog locked in your car. If sleeping in the tent with you is a no-no, have a dog-free holiday.
  • Do not tie your dog to trees or bushes.
  • Make sure your dog does not scare local wildlife or farm animals.
  • Feed your dog in your tent.


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