The Ultimate Guide to Camping and Hiking Etiquette

The Ultimate Guide to Camping and Hiking Etiquette

By Danielle Ditzian

Escaping from the city lights to indulge in a night under the stars is nothing short of amazing. The sounds of car horns honking are quickly replaced by the beautiful noises of the outdoors. Those sweet sounds then lull you to sleep, so you wake up feeling refreshed for adventure through forests and mountains, or for an early morning hike on dew-covered ground. Leaving man-made cities to explore everything that Mother Nature created is a spectacular experience, but it can only remain so if everyone is respectful of both the environment, and of each other.

The unfortunate problem is that sometimes we do things that we don’t even realize have a harmful impact on the life around us. Follow these easy tips on camping and hiking etiquette, and you will love your vacation, while assuring that everyone else can continue to enjoy the nature around us.

Respect Your Fellow Campers

Personal space: While some campgrounds have designated sites for each tent, others provide large open spaces where you can camp anywhere you’d like. I recall one experience in which I’d been at a campsite for a week, only to have a woman place her tent less than a foot away from mine, when a giant expanse of open space was available! Try to respect your fellow campers’ personal space, and don’t pitch up directly next to someone else if there’s no need to.

Nighttime: Arriving late? Set up your tent as quietly as possible, and refrain from chatting as you do so. If you don’t think you can be quiet enough so as not to wake other campers, sleep in the car for the night if possible. If you need to walk around at night, be sure to shine your flashlight at the ground, and not to light up anyone’s tent. Those walls are thin!

Quiet Time: Seriously, those walls are really thin. Most campgrounds have quiet hours, so be respectful of those who want to get some rest. Of course you can have a chat and enjoy the night long into the early hours of the morning, just head somewhere far away from any other campers. You’re out in nature, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a fun spot next to a stream where no one else will hear you laughing the night away.

Showers: Often there is a limited supply of water at campgrounds, or at least a limited supply of hot water (a godsend on a chilly autumn morning). Take short showers while you’re camping so that everyone can get their fill.

Make friends: If you see a solo camper struggling to get his or her tent up due to the wind, head over to help out! It’s always fun to make friends while camping, and it’s nice to make a habit of sharing the food you’ve brought, or inviting strangers over to the fire you’ve made.

Respect for the Environment

Rubbish: Your campsite should look exactly as you found it (or better!) when you head home. Leave nothing behind–not even biodegradable items. If the campsite doesn’t have a garbage bin, take all of your waste out with you.

Food: Never feed the wildlife. This should go without saying, but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been tempted on more than one occasion to feed the adorable deer frolicking through the campground. These are wild animals, and they can fend for themselves without chowing down on your leftovers. Let them do their thing, and enjoy watching them from a distance.

Furthermore, no food should be left out at night, and all food for the next day should either be inside your car, locked up in the camp kitchen, or tied up in a tree. Bears are pretty good at opening things, and you probably don’t want to wake up to your food sprawled across the campsite, with a bear perched outside your tent.

Fires: Make sure you’re aware of whether or not fires are permitted where you’re camping, and know if there’s a fire ban in effect. If you’re allowed to make a fire, go for it! Just remember to gather firewood from the ground, rather than hacking away at living trees. The same goes for finding sticks to roast marshmallows–there are plenty on the ground, so there’s no need to snap them off of a tree. Any firewood that you don’t use, leave in a neat pile for the next camper, who will love you for this easy act of kindness.

Added Advice for Hiking

Rock Piles: If you see piles of rocks along the trail, do not knock them over as they are used to mark hiking trails.

Keen to see how big of a rock pile you can build somewhere off the trail? Go for it–just make sure you knock it over when you’re done, so as not to confuse any hikers causing them to get terribly lost in the wild.

Fires: Only have a fire if you know there’s no ban, and you’re in a large enough area that there’s not even the slightest chance of causing a forest fire. I love wild camping on the beach because you can usually make a great fire, while easily being able to return the sand to its previous state afterwards.

Time Your Camping: If you’re on a long hike and will be wild camping, set your tent up at dusk, and take it down at dawn. This is the best way for you to get a lovely night alone in the wilderness, while not disturbing anyone who might live nearby, or bothering the wildlife too much.

Toilets: Wouldn’t it be nice if there were toilets made from tree stumps, complete with proper sewage systems all the way along your hike? Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. If you’ve got to go, make sure you head somewhere far away from the trail and from any running water. Then, dig a hole at least 7 inches deep, and cover it up once you’ve done your business. As unpleasant as it may be, toilet paper must be carried out with you.

Bathing: There are few things in life that feel as glorious as hopping into a cold stream on a hot day to wash away the sweat from a long hike. Just make sure you don’t use any shampoo or soap that could be damaging to the environment! There are plenty of organic and biodegradable products out there, so remember to bring these along with you.

Remember these easy tips, and you’re sure to have an absolutely amazing time escaping into nature, while making sure that everyone else can do the same. Now turn off the computer, load up the car, and hit the road!

Published: 11/16/2015

Danielle is a crazy nomad, wandering through life in a seemingly confident way, while usually totally unsure of her next step. She’s been on the road for three years straight, finding new homes as she hitchhikes along. She once hitched 6,000 kilometres in six days. Danielle is currently exploring Southeast Asia. Her biggest dream is to one day cuddle a platypus.

You can check out her blog (where she delights in oversharing) at Like Riding a Bicycle, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.