Camping Etiquette


If you are going camping this year, you will have company. Being a good neighbor will be an essential skill.

Memorial Day weekend is typically the kick-off for summer camping. It might be a new experience this year with all the new campers created by Covid-19. There are going to be lots of neighbors in our camping lives. I got to thinking about our camping encounters in campgrounds, RV parks and boondocking and I wondered what kind of camping neighbor I have been. I decided to look up camping etiquette on the Web and see what others were saying, and see if I saw myself in any of the complaints.

First, I was relieved to find that while I have not been perfect, I have likely not been overly obnoxious, at least by my own biased determination. As I looked at a dozen or so websites, all proclaiming five, ten or more “rules” for camping behavior, I was amazed to find that most of them listed the same or similar things as campground taboos.

Topping everyone’s list, was observing the quiet hours. Kampgrounds of America (KOA) states that this is the number one complaint that they receive. My wife is a stickler on this, making sure that I turn off the generator at the precise time. If generators are to be silenced by 8 p.m., then by 8:01 I am in trouble if it isn’t shut down. However, there is a lot more to being quiet than turning off the generator. Music, party noise, barking dogs, screaming kids and such also detract from the ambiance. Also, if you are arriving late or leaving early, doing so as quietly as possible is appreciated. Keep headlights on low beam and don’t flash lights into neighboring windows, whisper, and don’t clunk things around.

Respecting your neighbor’s space is the second most common social indignity. When a camper rents a space, it is his or hers for the duration of their stay. Cutting across their campsite to more quickly access someplace else is like trespassing. Kids especially need to be taught to respect their camping neighbor’s space.

Lighting is a relatively new thing for campers. Ten years ago, I don’t think I saw much accessory lighting, but today, it is common to see lights strung up around campgrounds and RVs lit up light city skylines. Some of the lights are pretty cool, but they can be distracting and even annoying when they strobe into your windows. It is worse if you are tent camping and the outside world is lit up like a baseball stadium. If you want lights, be aware of your neighbors and be sure to turn them off before bedtime.

Pets are another hot button on many lists. By pets, it is usually understood to be dogs, but recently we found a family on a trail with pet goats—not pack goats, pet goats. So, pets mean pets. Pets are fun to have camping, but they should be restrained at all times. Cleaning up after your pet is also a must. Stepping on dog (or goat or pig) doo with or without shoes is not on anyone’s list of acceptable activities. Barking (dogs) is nerve-wracking, especially if it is constant. It stands to reason then that you would never leave a dog unattended in camp.

Keeping a clean camp is also on every list. Messy camps quickly spread around when the wind blows, they attract unwanted (in camp) wildlife, including bears, and are unsightly. Keep food and kitchen items stored inside a vehicle unless you are actively preparing a meal or snack and keep trash collected, contained and locked up.

There are a lot more suggestions than these, but it boils down to common sense and the Golden Rule— “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Also, while these “rules” have been developed for campgrounds, they hold true for dispersed camping as well. Unless you are camping alone in the middle of nowhere, consideration for nearby campers is always important.

Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho