How to be a Polite Camper

Planning a camping trip can be very exciting. Enjoy yourself, but also be aware that you have a responsibility to be a polite camper and leave your destination as pristine as possible for the next group along the way. Here are some tips to make your camping adventure fun, safe and considerate:

1. Reuse existing campsites whenever possible. Find a clear area to pitch your tent rather than removing or digging up vegetation. Keep your campsite at least 200 feet away from trails and other campsites. Walk around other campsites rather than through them and respect the privacy of other campers. They will also appreciate it if you avoid noisy games, loud music and other disturbances. A little camping etiquette goes a long way.

2. Bring a camp stove if possible, rather than starting a campfire. If you must start a fire, use an existing fire ring and observe all restrictions. Gather fallen timber rather than cutting any standing trees. Be especially careful in dry season and never leave a fire burning unattended. Before going to sleep or leaving the site, douse the fire with water and stir the embers to be sure none are left burning. Shovel the campfire ashes and burnt wood into a garbage bag for the park employees to pick up, or take it with you. Leave any leftover wood by the fire site for the next group of campers to use.

3. Take all of your trash with you. Bring plastic trash bags for this purpose, and leave the campsite as clean or cleaner than when you arrived. Do everyone a favor and pick up any trash left by others and dispose of it as well. Walk around your camping area before leaving to make sure everything is picked up and you haven’t forgotten anything. Recycle whenever you can – many camping areas have recycling programs.

4. Stay on existing roads and trails rather than blazing your own to avoid disturbing existing vegetation. Creating shortcuts can kill plant life and cause erosion. An unspoiled environment makes for a better experience for everyone.

5. Avoid washing in streams or lakes. Soaps, shampoos and toothpaste are destructive to fish and aquatic life. After washing, scatter the dirty water so that it filters through the soil.

6. If no bathroom areas are provided near where you are camping, you will need to build a latrine. Dig a shallow hole approximately 6 to 8 inches deep, and at least 200 feet away from campsites, trails and water sources. Cover over any human waste after use, and make sure you pack out any toilet paper.

7. Wilderness areas are protected – leave them that way. Don’t disturb flowers, plants or animals. Use your camera to create memories of your trip, rather than taking souvenirs.

8. If you choose to bring your dog camping with you, make sure they will be safe and not a nuisance to others. Avoid tying your dog to a tree, as this makes it likely they will be barking and disturbing other campers. Keep dogs in shady areas and make sure you have clean drinkable water for them, and include them on trail hikes while keeping your pet under control. Dogs are often restricted from bathroom and bathing facilities, and picnic areas.

9. If you are hiking during your trip, take a map if one is available. Always stay to the right on a wider trail. Groups should walk in single file, or take up no more than half a wide trail, and yield to single and pairs of other hikers. Many times there are trailhead guidelines which have practical rules for hikers, so familiarize yourself with them. Your courtesy to others who are hiking makes the experience better for all.

10. Make sure children understand their responsibility in leaving the natural environment of the forest or camping areas clean for the next visitors. Being in nature makes it very relevant to teach about awareness, mindfulness, and taking care of Mother Earth. It’s up to us to teach the next generation responsible and polite camping methods.